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In Memoriam: Jack Arthur McCray (1947-2011)

Charleston has lost a legend, and many of us have lost a friend. Jack McCray, a native son and the Lowcountry authority on jazz, died yesterday.


Photographs by Ben Williams

November 10, 2011

In Memoriam: Jack Arthur McCray (1947-2011)

written by Darcy Shankland

Charleston has lost a legend, and many of us have lost a friend. Jack McCray, a native son and the Lowcountry authority on jazz, died yesterday.

Jack made innumerable contributions to the city, among them his book Charleston Jazz (Arcadia, 2007) and his cofounding of the Charleston Jazz Initiative, Jazz Artists of Charleston, and Charleston Jazz Orchestra. The epitome of cool, the model of kindness, he shared his expansive knowledge of and infectious love for the genre with anyone who’d listen. I remember him speaking to my son’s Buist Academy class (the very school where Jack first learned to play trumpet) about the incorporation of jazz in their summer reading book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Jack talked with these then-seventh graders about jazz as music, but more importantly as a way of life—interacting, improvising, improving, and taking leaps of faith. In everything he did, Jack had a special way of imparting knowledge without making it feel like a lesson.

For me, this gorgeous day is not feeling particularly “jazzy” knowing I won’t catch Jack cruising down King Street, heading to a show. But I am heartened by the fact that through his great works, Charleston jazz and his spirit will live on.

Rest in peace, friend.


Jack was both a subject in and contributor to Charleston magazine. Click on the links below to learn more about this remarkable man:

All That Jazz
Local musician, promoter, writer, and scholar Jack McCray illuminates the Charleston music scene
By Stanfield Gray

He’s the hepcat with the cool brim and the warm smile; a raconteur ready to regale anyone within ear shot with tales of Charleston’s jazz men. The total embodiment of musician, promoter, writer, radio host, advocate, and scholar, Jack McCray is an alchemist who has distilled the elements of an art form into lifelong discovery. In short, Jack McCray is jazz.

To read more, click here.


Odes to the Lowcountry: Jazz
By Jack McCray

What I love about Charleston is, well, Charleston. I have never not loved the place. Oh, I’ve had all kinds of reasons to dislike this little jewel of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. But even when I’ve tried, I couldn’t stay angry. Even when I was living in another town long enough to call it home, I never disconnected from my city by the sea.

To read more, click here.


To learn more about the Jazz Artists of Charleston and Charleston Jazz Orchestra, click here.


Date: 
Thu, 11/10/2011