Andrew Speight Obituary, Death – The news that Andrew Speight had passed away earlier today in Burlingham, California, as the result of a terrible car accident has left us in a state of shock. We are utterly heartbroken; not only have we lost a wonderful brother and son, but the entire world’s jazz community has also lost a giant of the genre and a force who was brimming with enthusiasm for his music and the events he organized.
Andrew Speight, the saxophonist, kicked off the first of his Live at Five sessions in March of 2020, streaming the sights and sounds of lively bop and post-bop jazz to newly locked-down musicians and fans all over the world. The weekly Sunday sessions over a subsequent couple of years featured a world-class house band as well as luminary guest musicians dropping in. This past June, during the early hours of a Sunday afternoon, just before Speight started his 116th consecutive session, he invited six of his high school horn students to join him at the House of Bop. At his home in Burlingame, he has an expansive living room that also functions as a venue and a studio, and he has given it the name “The Studio.”
The preparatory talk that Speight, who is also a longtime faculty member at San Francisco State University, gave to the visiting adolescents was similar to a jazz sermon on Sunday. He proclaimed, “I want you to be great musicians,” and then he cautioned them about teachers in high school and college who, in his opinion, represent “two full generations of academics who can’t play,” and who ultimately “block” the creative spirit of their students. “I want you to be great musicians,” he said.
The call to stand up and jam immediately followed the conclusion of the sermon. Participating musicians included Speight on alto saxophone, Ralph Moore on tenor, pianist Matt Clark, bassist Essiet Okon Essiet, and Roy McCurdy on drums. Speight counseled the young people, telling them, “If you’re nervous about this, trust your ears.” Also, keep in mind that you are not merely competing to be the best copy. The children’s solos became increasingly assured as they moved from “Bags’ Groove” to “Blues in F,” which was aided by “shout choruses” played by Speight and Moore.