REPORTS: The Jack Massarik Memorial Service

Brian Blain reports from the Memorial Service for Jack Massarik on July 30th 2014

As far as these occasions ever can be, the Memorial Service at the pleasingly airy Essex Unitarian Church in Notting Hill Gate last week for Evening Standard and Jazzwise critic and journalist Jack Massarik (1940-2014), who died of cancer recently at the age of 74, was an enjoyable as well as a moving occasion

The celebration was led with well-researched and sensitive insight by Humanist celebrant Debbie De Vito. During it, we heard Tom Waits’s Picture In a Frame,sung by Liane Carroll, and I Thought About You from Claire Martin accompanied by Julian Joseph, both of whom worked with him regularly on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line Up. Jack Massarik's adult children Nina and Mark gave us insight into the Jack most of us never knew, and his sister Vicky told anecdotes fom his early childhood: he had a natural gift for words and an ability to pick out tunes on the piano from an early age.

Old colleagues from his days on the sports desk at The Guardian were present, and his Jazzwise editor, Jon Newey had warm words, in addition to those from Peter Maguire, an old friend from University days, (who has also written a tribute- below) . The assembly was studded with people from the jazz media, such as Helen Mayhew, and the business sector of the music as well as musicians, all of whom generated a real feeling of warmth and affection. Praise then to Julian Joseph who, in his eulogy was not afraid to draw attention to the elephant in the room, Jack’s ability to be quite cruel in his comments when he felt the need: for Jack blandness was never an option. I took a bit of stick from him myself,but like all of us present I believe the scene will be the poorer without his presence.


I met Jack when he was at Manchester University. We were both jazz musicians on the local scene - which was at that time very dynamic.

In the years following we kept in touch and when I went to work of the publisher George Allen and Unwin in the Seventies we would meet up three or four times a year when I was in London.

We did in fact - over the years following on from this - see each other on a fairly regular basis and often had long telephone conversations.

Jack telephoned me out of the blue and said he would like to come to Brussels for the weekend. This was just two weeks before the diagnosis of cancer. We had a great weekend with good meals, Belgian beer, and a jam session on the Sunday.

After he had received the prognosis we had a long chat on the telephone and he asked if I could jot down some memories of our gigs and the gig scene in general all those years ago in Manchester. Sadly he deteriorated so fast that I was unable to do this. I had intended to get over to London to see him but was advised that such was his condition that he was in a state where he had become unable to communicate.

It was a memorable day last Wednesday. The kind of send-off he would have approved of.

There are more tributes and memories on our original report. RIP Jack. 

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