On November 20, 15 days ago, I saw Jack Rose’s final performance in NYC. I first saw Jack on March 11, 2004 at Washington Square Church on W. 4th St. He graciously contributed to three compilations on Tompkins Square, and over the years we stayed in touch. Jack stayed on my couch a couple times, played with my older daughter Emma, and sorted through my record collection. He knew all the nuances of all of the different versions of all my John Fahey early pressings. He’d usually send me an email invite when he was coming to NYC to play. I remember early on he picked me up at the Phili train station and we went back to his house, of course we rifled through the records, and later he performed at a Fishtown space where Harris Newman played as well. I hooked Jack up with Peter Walker and they toured. I remember his gig with Michael Chapman at Knitting Factory, and his one with Bridget St. John at Tonic. He played a show I organized at Housing Works in NYC with Glenn Jones, Sean Smith, and Max Ochs. I flew him in for a Tompkins Square show at SXSW one year. Earlier this year he contacted me to possibly put his new record out. I am so grateful to have worked with him some.
Jack was a sweet person. He would always let you know what was on his mind, even if it was not particularly what you wanted to hear. His vast knowledge of pre-war blues and post-war guitar was immense. His playing felt like it channeled through him from somewhere else. At times it seemed effortless. Jack was an experimental player but he was also very formal, disciplined and traditional as well.
At the last show, I got to slip Jack a new gospel comp I put out, and he gave me his new album with the Black Twigs. After the set I gave him a hug and said see you next time. We exchanged emails a few days ago – he said he really dug the gospel set, and I said what a joy it was to see him play, and how much I enjoyed the Twigs. I am really grateful that I had that interaction that now feels like closure, whereas I am sure many many people would have liked to hug him or say goodbye somehow.
I remember one long conversation we had about his trajectory as a player years ago. He said when Fahey died, he and other musicians said “Now what?”. I’m sure plenty of folks will now pose the same question about Jack. He leaves behind a fantastic body of work, and a legacy that is indeed larger than life.
- Josh Rosenthal, NYC