I thought long and hard about posting this. My friend and colleague Take Toriyama was put to rest last Sunday. Take passed away last week in his apartment. We in the jazz community were devastated by the loss. Take was a warm, fun loving person with an immense amount of musical talent. I have had the pleasure to perform, travel and be friends with him.
It has been more that 20 years since I last went to a funeral. I am happy to say that I have not had to attend many. Take’s funeral and memorial service was an important one for me and for many others who loved him.
On Sunday, June 3rd at 1:00pm there was a memorial march that began from Prospect Park in Brooklyn to Barbes ( a music venue and bar that Take performed at regularly). There must have been about 200-300 people at the park and I knew many more who wanted to attend but could not. I was so moved and yet not surprised by the numbers. Take’s family flew in from Japan and I was devastated to see his family in so much pain. I was overwhelmed with sorrow and even now as it has been almost two weeks, I still cry when I think of Take. Slavic Soul Party (a band that Take was a member of) with a few other musicians, played as we marched and I was moved by the beauty and the sorrow that I saw in everyone. We all had different relationships with Take, whether we performed with him, saw him play, hung out with him or didn’t know him personally but was an admirer of his music, everyone was there to pay him hommage. I was so glad that his family witnessed the love and respect that was paid to him. While at Barbes there were computers with photos of Take performing, hanging out and pics from being on tour. I saw a picture of myself playing with Take and it gave me a warm feeling inside even though I was weeping. Later on that day I went to a Buddhist funeral for Take and it was beautiful and healing for me to attend. Take was in an open casket and that was the first time I had experienced something like that. It really brought the harsh reality to me that he was gone and that I would never bump into him on the street and chat or I won’t hear him honking his car horn when he sees me in the neighbourhood and I won’t ever see his name written in the live show listings or hear him perform and I won’t see him smile or hear him laugh again. All those things came rushing into me and when I laid a flower in his casket, I could no longer weep quietly and politely anymore. I saw my best friend in the aisle way and a wailed on his shoulder until I was too tired to do anything else. It’s funny, Take and I were not close like his other friends and colleagues were but his presence was important to me and I always loved seeing him and talking to him and joking around and playing music with him.
I spoke with my good friend Vinnie that day and we both agreed that the one thing we need to remind ourselves is that we should never take anyone for granted and that our community is important and we are all in this life together and we should love and embrace each other always.
I have countless thoughts about this experience but I feel that some should remain with me only. Take was my friend and colleague. He gave me inspiration in music and in life and I will miss him dearly.
I will never forget you.
Peace to you Take, my friend.