RIP Gerry Niewood and Coleman Mellett

Saxophonist Gerry Niewood was among those who perished aboard Continental Flight 3407 on Thursday night. I had the good fortune to have Gerry perform my music in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop and in a few Secret Society rehearsals he was gracious enough to sub in. Others — like Society saxophonist Sam Sadigursky, who has posted an excellent tribute on his own blog — knew him far better, but in our brief interactions he seemed a selfless, stand-up guy, in addition to being true to his rep as a consummate pro. Deepest condolences to his son Adam (also a saxophonist) and the rest of his family and loved ones.

34-year old guitarist Coleman Mellett was also aboard that flight — he and Gerry were both heading to a scheduled performance with Chuck Mangione and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Again, my sincerest condolences to those who knew him.

Other places…

Gerry Niewood on MySpace
Coleman Mellett on Myspace
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Sam Sadigursky (The One Seat)

I went to college with Niewood’s son Adam and got to know Gerry a little while in school, and even took a lesson with him after finishing college. A few years later, I found myself sitting next to him when subbing in the orchestra for the Radio City Christmas Show. Over a period of three years, I played about seventy shows sitting next to him, and he was always a great source of warmth, encouragement, sound, professionalism, humor, and a real woodwind guru. He seemed to do things his own way, which isn’t something I’ve encountered much playing on Broadway. I always felt that I emerged a better player after sitting next to him, and he always had something nice to say to me after the show, which meant a great deal to me being so new there.

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