In memoriam: Norman Edge

Phil Orr, 2014

w/ Warren Vaché, 2018

Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, date unknown


Morris Nanton, 1964

Houston Person, 2018

My mighty friend died this morning, June 4, after a brief medical struggle. Norman Edge loved life an awful lot: loved his family, his students, friends and colleagues of all stripes; loved music of several intense flavors; loved fishing. Those last two are my ordering, and what may actually have been true is open to debate. He read widely, thought about and consulted with authorities on several subjects involving science, philosophy and history, and believed that music has power to heal and transform people and their relationships. Norm and I performed together far less often than we just talked at tables over food (such treasured times): six annual concerts 2004-2009 opening the Holidays at Westminster (Choir College) season as members of the Cool Yule Jazz quartet, a few private events, and a few duo concerts. This past winter/spring was the most concentrated time we’d ever managed in 14 years, six gigs backing up Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin, Houston Person, Warren Vaché and Jerry Rife, with others planned for September.

Following is a brief biography adopted from one of our 2014 concert programs:

“Norman Edge’s far ranging career evolved from his roots in a son/grandson lineage of string musicians, to studies and collaborations with some of the world’s most renowned musicians: William Chartoff, Fred Zimmerman, and Gary Karr for bass studies; Paige Brook for flute; recordings with Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Gene Ammons, and Manhattan Brass Choir. For 38 of their 53-year association he performed six nights per week with his distinguished friend, the late pianist Morris Nanton, also recording seven albums as part of the Morris Nanton Trio. During the decade of the 1970’s Norman introduced K-12 children to jazz, Renaissance, and string music through Project Moppet/Project Impact in his various roles as producer, director, performer and emcee. From 1970-1972 he was the music producer for the Sing, Spell, Read: Fun Indeed recorded phonics reading program. From 1983-2000 he taught strings and conducted both middle and high school orchestras in the Edison, N.J. school system. An active orchestral performer, he performed with the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, and was principal bassist with Eastern Concert Opera Company, the Livingston Orchestra, and the Jersey City State Orchestra.”

Although not a shy man, Norm was no braggart, telling stories of his successes reluctantly and modestly. Last winter after Gary Karr's Princeton University recital, he told a small group somewhat bashfully that he called when Karr first moved to Plainfield, NJ a few decades ago to inquire about taking lessons. He was surprised that Gary answered the phone himself and when he splutteringly reported why he was calling, Karr replied, "YOU'RE Norman Edge?? Can we meet? Everybody is talking about you!" They had dinner for several hours and played a while afterwards, trading tricks.

A favorite memory is of packing our cars, Norm with his upright, me with my keyboard rig, at the end of an afternoon’s posh jazz reception in our formal attire. Following about ten minutes later I found him standing beside his car parked just past the little bridge over the estate’s brook, still in his tux, getting into the waders he carried with him, eager to put his lined-up rod, reel and tackle to use in the golden hour. He was beaming.

All this and heaven, too.

Philip Orr, 2018