by Charles Dion Springfield
Despite the joyous celebration of jazz and blues music at “A Great Night in Harlem,” there was something painfully missing that evening: the music and presence of Max Lucas.
The man and his music were unfortunately silenced on May 15, just days prior to the fundraising show in which the Jazz Foundation of America planned to celebrate his upcoming birthday. He would have turned 100 years old on September 13, 2010.
The legendary saxophonist and jazz icon was born in Nova Scotia, Canada to a family heavily influened by music. His mother was a singer and beautician and his father played the tuba and mandolin when he wasn’t working on the railroad.
Mr. Lucus played jazz for more than 80 years of his life. He began playing the saxophone when he was 14, two years after he was introduced to a family of musicians in Washington, D.C. and inspired to give music a try. Max and his mother eventually moved to Harlem.
He’s had the opportunity to play with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and the list goes on and on. And Mr. Lucus had a regular night at the Lenox Lounge on Wednesday evenings with his son Nathan Lucus, a jazz organist.
While I never had the pleasure to sit in on one of Mr. Lucus’ shows in Harlem or meet him, it was an honor to celebrate his upcoming birthday with his friends and family. Thank you Mr. Lucus for all your contributions to my favorite style of music. Through fans like me, your music and legacy will continue to play on for several years to come.