Richko remembered: 'There Will Never Be Another Steve'

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“He was like my right arm. I thought we were supposed to play together for the next 30 years,” bassist Paul Keller said on the phone the other day about his recently lost friend and band mate Steve Richko. And in a long piece that Paul wrote and has circulated he said it just a little differently — he was looking forward to 40 years of Steve’s piano alongside his bass. Either way, you get the picture. It’s a loss that’s felt across the jazz community, as evidenced by more than 25 musicians who’re coming together next month to play a tribute to Steve and raise funds for his children (he leaves a wife, Elizabeth Richko, and three kids, ages 9-14, among his survivors). Steve died in a freak accident — head injury in a fall at his mother’s house — earlier this month, according to Paul. The pianist, at 32, was on the move. An Oct. 8 concert at Kerrytown was slated to introduce at Nat King Cole Trio tribute CD, his fifth CD with Keller in their six-year musical association. (An earlier disc, To Oscar with Love, was a salute to his major piano influence.) There’d been a recent trip to perform in Tel Aviv, and there were plans to record two DVDs. Writing about his times with Steve, Paul said:
Our last concert together was last Sunday, September 26 when we performed our Swingin' the Praise jazz/gospel concert at First Presbyterian Church of Farmington. Just before we played the title-song “Swingin' the Praise,” I read from the Bible — Psalm 150, “The Musician's Psalm," to set up the piece. When I finished, I saw tears in Steve's eyes. I knew these words really meant a lot to him. I whispered, "Are you OK?" He said, "Yeah, let's go." And he proceeded to play the most amazing version of “Swingin' the Praise” ever. I'll never forget the moment, that concert, that special day with Steve.
There’ll be plenty of memories like that shared when musicians gather on Nov. 7 at Schoolcraft Community College on Nov. 7 from 4-6 (though looking at the lineup, it sure sounds like it’ll run longer). Richko’s bandmates and others are on board, including Ralph Tope, Pete Siers, Sean Dobbins, Ben Jansson, Johnny Trudell and Mr. B. [UPDATE: This Nov. 7 event has been canceled since the original posting.] There’ll be a later benefit at a date yet to be determined at Cliff Bell’s where Steve played often. In his memory, Paul also wrote a set of lyrics to the standard “There Will Never Be Another You.” And if you need some refreshing on how the melody goes, scroll down a bit and hear it played by Steve’s hero, Oscar Peterson.

There Will Never Be Another Steve

There may be many other nights like this

And I’ll be standing here with someone new

There may be many songs to sing

Another Fall, Another Spring, but

There Will Never Be Another You.

There may be many other licks I’ll dig

But they won’t thrill me like yours used to do

Oh, I may hear a million riffs from

great cats, yes, it’s true;

But there will never, ever be another you.

***

The future may bring real fine gigs, indeed,

from wedding jobs to shows on New Year’s Eve.

We’ll share the stage with players who will

swing until their face turns blue but

There Will Never Be Another Steve.

***

He knocked us out with every phrase he weaved

And tho’ we hate it that he had to leave

He plays upon God’s Steinway now

with Oscar at his sleeve. So,

Even as we feel bereaved and

sorrow makes it hard to breathe,

These three things I do believe:

Angels comfort those who grieve, we’ll

celebrate and be relieved that

Joyful living was achieved, and

There will never, ever be ano—ther Steve!

Oscar Peterson plays "There Will Never Be Another You"
Steve Richko at Cliff Bell's with Paul Keller on bass and Sean Dobbins on drums, recorded last July.

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