A Soul-Stirring Tribute Filled with Love, Memories, and Timeless Jazz
On a beautiful sunny day, the ethereal presence of family, friendship, love, jazz, community, remembrance, legacy, and cherished memories enveloped us as we joyously celebrated the beloved Phil DiRe. Guided by the emceeing of Don Angelo, the audience embarked on a journey to rediscover the profound legacy of Buffalo’s jazz legend, Phil DiRe. The centerpiece of the celebration was the performance by a magnificent ensemble breathing life into DiRe’s original compositions.
This extraordinary ensemble, thoughtfully assembled by Tony Zambito of JazzBuffalo, exhibited unwavering devotion as they graced the stage, performing six remarkable originals featured on the CD release, Legacy. Comprising of George Caldwell on piano, Sabu Adeyola on bass, Preston Brown on drums, Wendell Rivera on percussion, Rick Strauss on guitar, Nelson Rivera on saxophone, John Hasselback, Jr. on trombone, and Tim Clarke on trumpet, each musician brought their distinctive brilliance to the forefront, undoubtedly drawing upon their fond memories of Phil DiRe.
In a surprise and deeply touching appearance, Jay Beckstein, the revered founder and leader of Spyro Gyra, stepped forward to pay homage to Phil, his original mentor from the early ’70s. After sharing heartfelt words about their shared journey, Beckstein graced us with a soul-stirring solo performance of the Charles Mingus classic, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” emanating from his soprano saxophone. As the enchanting melody reverberated through Slee Hall, it infused our ears and hearts with breathtaking beauty, leaving hardly a dry eye in the audience.
Under the exceptional musical direction of George Caldwell, the ensemble embarked on their musical odyssey with DiRe’s most celebrated composition, “Nighttime.” This enchanting piece, with its captivating Latin tinge and melody, became a song Phil cherished and frequently performed. The ensemble’s rendition of “Best of Friends” resounded with echoes of Phil’s enjoyment of collaborating with friends and sharing the stage. Another notable highlight was their rendition of the melodious tune, “Touch,” where the ensemble’s harmonious energy touched the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to witness this enchanting performance.
Although Phil may not have been present physically, his spirit most certainly graced the event. No doubt marveling at the outpouring of love and support from everyone who attended. Imagining his described warm bear hugs filling the room, we were deeply moved by heartfelt words from Phil’s brother, Vinnie, as well as the heartfelt acknowledgment of the DiRe Family. Moreover, the poignant appearance of Phil’s three daughters, standing united in gratitude, brought tears to our eyes. Yet, perhaps the most profoundly emotional moment of the day arrived when the song, “Phillies Trilogy,” featuring Phil’s studio recordings of three tracks (two tenor saxophone and piano tracks), intertwined with a poignant slideshow tracing Phil’s lifelong journey, eliciting an overwhelming surge of emotions.
This remarkable day of music and remembrance could not have been possible without the unwavering dedication of Phil’s lifelong friend, Don Angelo, who tirelessly labored to breathe life into Phil DiRe’s story and his music. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Gerri DiRe for her unwavering love and guidance, Michelle DiRe-Peters for her organizing efforts, Bobby Militello for arrangements, photographers Jack Zuff and Frank Priore for capturing the essence of the event, video recording by Jim Saffe of DGI Video, the exceptional sound provided by JazzBuffalo contributors Mark Percy and Bill Ross, the generous support of UB’s Eric Hueber and Phil Rehard, and the overwhelming support from Phil’s cherished grandchildren.
This resplendent afternoon stands as a memorable chapter in Buffalo’s illustrious jazz history. It is a moment that not only Phil DiRe would have reveled in, but one that we are certain he embraced wholeheartedly from above, filling him with immense pride and joy.
What follows is a gallery of magnificent photos by JazzBuffalo contributor (and winner of the Jazz Crusader of the Year award in the annual JazzBuffalo Poll), Jack Zuff.