We pass on the very sad news that Jerry Granelli, long-time sangha member and jazz legend, died early morning of July 20 in Halifax. Jerry had been in poor health for much of the past year.
Jerry led the class shown in this video on Sunday, July 18, 2021, just two days before his death.
A remembrance of Jerry was in the Seattle Times today. He taught at Cornish College here in the 80s and was greatly appreciated. Here's an affectionate blurb from guitarist, John Schott, one of his students: “'Oh man, I just loved him so much,' recalled Schott from his home in Berkeley. 'His tall, thin, lanky body that just undulated when he played. His listening behind the drum set was so tangible and physical, like when he’d listen, rear back, then decide to not play anything. He changed my life. And I think he changed the way I walk down the street.'”
I remember Jerry recounting to me with total delight the game he and Mose Allison played that Mose might have called “I bet you I can fake you out of the downbeat.” When Mose played a familiar song he usually stretched out the final phrase for effect. “Your mouth is working………………………overtime”. He never faked Jerry out. Jerry might have been laughing during the game, but he always hit it ….perfectly! Basically Mose had a tell (as poker players would say)
Ah, dear Jerry,
The compassionate tender heart that radiated, infused and penetrated everything and everyone around you.
The presence that inspired and showed that all states of mind offer opportunities. Mistakes were dissolved in laughter.
The music, immediate, spontaneous or composed. Boisterous or soft spoken; always conversations with the joyful magic of being.
Thank you, my wild wonderful friend.
1971 Mishap Jazz Haiku
Jerry......you were my Kagyu
Don Quijote--tilting at emptiness
and then laughing when your hands
came up full of Blessings.
Your insatiable, caring smile
Will have good head and shoulders
In the Bardo.
After all these years, you and Mose are still singing in my ears.
Jerry and I met at the faculty meeting of the first Shambhala Institute in Halifax in 2001 (which then became the Authentic Leadership in Action-- ALIA). We became instant co-conspirators for how to provoke my students (who had come to study leadership) to new levels of insight-through-disturbance. We were very good at that over many years teaching together at ALIA. In 2015, Jerry and I joined together to train leaders, activists, and citizens as Warriors for the Human Spirit. More than 300 people from 30+ countries joined our in-depth training and committed to a lifelong path of service defined by our Warrior vow, (taken from the Vidyadhara): "I cannot change the way the world is, but by opening to the world as it is, I may discover gentleness, decency and bravery are available not only to myself, but to all human beings." In becoming a teacher of warriorship, Jerry felt he was fulfilling his samaya to Chogyam Trungpa. With his clarity, vulnerability and crazy wisdom spirit, he became a master teacher. One Warrior wrote in tribute: "His teaching and his very being opened up entirely new and sacred ways for me to see the world and live my life."
We last taught together July 10th, an extraordinary session with our senior students where Jerry's spiritual depth from his hospital ordeal was palpable. Two weeks prior I had interviewed him about his experiences with his mind, his practices for maintaining a stable mind in the midst of unending physical and psychological suffering. He said that he could always find his mind and experience stillness, even if he had to work his way out of panic and terror from having no control over what was happening to him physically. Because of what he shared in that interview, my view is clear that his sudden departure was not a failure of his body, but a transcendence of his spirit. In our last times together, I knew that I was in the presence of a Bodhisattva.
The night I finished the mantra portion of my ngondro, a friend and I went to Jazz Alley in Seattle to hear Jerry play with Mose Allison. In the middle of one number, Jerry's drumstick broke. There came a slight smile, he tossed aside the remaining stick and just continued on with his bare hands. During the intermission he told me - laughing at the memory - that when he'd finished his own mantra practice, the Dorje Loppon had made him do them all over again.
About ten years ago I was writing a screenplay adaptation of the jazz pianist Hampton Hawes' memoir Raise Up Off Me. Toward the beginning of the project, I was on my way to L.A. to do research, and was in a jam-packed security line at Kennedy Airport, when I was suddenly seized by a fit of doubt. "What was I doing? This is not a dharmic subject - he was a heroin addict! etc", when suddenly I sensed a field of energy behind me. I turned around, and standing directly behind me in line was Jerry Granelli, radiant in a light red satin shirt. I said, "Are you Jerry Granelli?" And he said, "Yes." I introduced myself (we had met briefly years earlier) and I told him I was on my way to L.A. to do research on Hampton Hawes. His mind seemed to kind of stop and he said, "Are you kidding? Hampton Hawes was a good friend of mine! We used to play together all the time in San Francisco." We kind of stood there dumbstruck, but before parting I got his contact info, and later interviewed him. Jerry gave me hands down the most profound insights I received from anybody regarding Hampton Hawes' character, which was given from the incisive perspective of a long-time dharma practitioner. But that day at Kennedy, the universe provided me with exactly the person who embodied both jazz and Buddhism, which set my mind at ease about what I was doing. And turned out to be accurate, and for which I am also eternally grateful for the opportunity to make a brief but powerful connection to Jerry Granelli. Who I'm sure is playing the music of the spheres at this very moment.
Jerry was the most amazing man I met in my life. He let a life full of life. He loved people, in the last month he would drive with his little 4 wheel scooter into the public gardens and chat to anyone making them smile , laughing with the kids, all of that in a condition of pain, tiredness, shortbreath and month full of suffering behind him. I am honored that he loved me so deeply. I loved him deeply. He was a real warrior and bodhisattva, being generous, kind, having a great sense of humor, and helping people to open up to life, to change, to be courageous and soft at the same time. We lost not only a beautiful man but a piece of history, the best stories about the vidyadhara, about being with him, which will never be told again from this storyteller Jerry Granelli. His merit is endless. Let go my love, my sweetheart
I ran into Jerry in Italy - quite a few years ago - in Lucca. We practiced the Sadhana of Mahamudra with them - the Italians chanted in Italian, and we in English. It took longer for the Italian but we all synchronized at HUM HUM HUM. Jerry loved being in Italy.
It was always a surprise and delight to run into you, occasionally, unexpectedly, everywhere in Halifax. Thank you for the dharma art transmissions, for actually living art in everyday life, and for being such a gentleman, with sense of humour.
So full of present moment, elegant and quirky, making ensembles of art play and creative delights wherever you went, and the music, always the sound and the emptiness, oh dear friend from those times ago, the last time I saw you you told me how to make almond milk in a blender. How to say farewell......
I remember once in Seattle Jerry told me "you can never escape a Shambhala Level unscathed." I remember the fear and relief I felt. His humour and his music were mercurial. He had a twinkle in his eye. I'm so glad that I knew him, sad to say goodbye. I remember the look on his face when his ex-wives all stepped up at his wedding and roasted him, a little.
Everything out of Jerry felt like a spark, hitting me every which-way as a reflection of the truth (and my teacher). I love this quote from Jerry lifted from The Coast today, "Jazz is just a reflection of life….Life is improvised, life is uncertain. It's not solid. It's not permanent," he told the CBC in December 2020. "The art I choose disappears after it's played, it goes off into the ether. I love that."
Jerry manifested so much of what CTR was teaching with His whole Being, ... Jerry was never afraid to go way out there, and push further, ... Just Do It. Thank You!
I was often surprised by the fairly outrageous things you told me,
Can you whisper what it's like now?
I can hear it still
On that saddest day:
Your drum's fierce heartbeat
Carrying us up the hill
To the phurkang.
We always know we'll either precede our good friends in death or they'll go before us. Yet it remains a shock full of sadness having to say good by to someone like Jerry. We went back a long time. Jerry had, I'd guess, what was the most beautiful garage/shrineroom in Berkeley. That space was the real deal. I'll miss you Brother.
Jerry "Milarepa" Granelli—that's how he seemed to me. Musician of the dharma heart beat, at play in the space within both rests and notes, openness and scintillating energy, celebration of give and take. His Light Sound Dimension group pioneered new forms of ambience, empty and full of light. He co-founded Berkeley Dharmadhatu, with his shed at 802 Camelia Street serving as its first shrine room, open 24x7. As he looked out I could always feel his guru looking out, inseparable. Always. Immediate unlimited devotion and service—yes.
The beat goes on. See you at the dathun in Shambhala orbit nr the Crystal Palace galaxy out there.
Among the monumental accomplishments of his extraordinary life Jerry was a founding faculty member at Naropa bringing music, creative process and the personification of devotion, fierceness and humility to generations of students as well as to faculty and staff colleagues. Not limiting his brilliance to students of music Jerry was a key teacher and collaborator in the Authentic Leadership Program, which evolved from Authentic Leadership in Action born in Halifax. Naropa will plan a celebration befitting this wonderful warrior
Jerry was a great human being, and I have no doubt that that will continue.
I saw Jerry playing here in Seattle. A great drummer and musician.
The music, the sound, the sound, unbound never found always around, drumming in rounds, and rounds and rounds echoing on the way out.
Always in good company gently with sound.
I am so grateful to have met Jerry. He was such a warm and genuine presence. I remember him telling me about young drummers and how he helped them become good drummers by reminding them of the importance of doing one thing over and over and over again. It was such a beautiful transmission. Deepening the practice of one simple rhythm becomes the foundation for everything else. May his journey in the bardo be accompanied with excellent drummers.
Bless this man in their journey.
Jerry, I’m in shock that you left us. I always thought of you as built of iron, wiry and full of charm and wit. Enough so that maybe you could outsmart the Lord of Death himself. But that’s a silly notion, of course, as you would be the very first to proclaim. Good journeys, Jerry, no doubt your unassailable devotion will carry you through.
Jerry always welcomed me with an enthusiastic warmth as I know he did everyone else. He was a model of devotion to the Dharma manifesting in a crazy warm & wirey musicians bhav.
Go beyond, well beyond, completely beyond with Love and Tenderness.
Meet you soon on the other shore.
Jerry was the coordinator of the first weekend of CTR teachings that I attended on San Francisco in 1974. Needless to say he was skilful, inviting and friendly. He did great work for many many years, so should have a good rebirth. May we all meet again.
Jerry will be sorely missed by all of his sangha bothers and sisters, and all his musical friends and collaborators. Jerry was one of kind; bigger than life and fiercely devoted to the Vidyadhara.