Joe Freyre Remembered
He was the voice of jazz in a time and place. For more decades than many of us may wish to count, Flint was honored by the personal and musical presence of Joe Freyre, a man whose warm smile and love for jazz touched thousands of people.
Joe, who died last month at the age of 70, was often referred to as Flint's Godfather of Jazz. He was widely known as the founder and producer of the Flint Jazz Festival, a yearly event he oversaw and maintained with dogged determination until a severe stroke made it impossible for him to continue. Joe was also respected in the community as a jazz educator. His teaching history included stints with Mott Community College, where there will soon be a scholarship in his name, with the University of Michigan - Flint Music Department as well as with the Flint public schools.
But Joe was best known as a jazz musician. I met Joe many years ago when he lead a jam session on Monday nights at a place in Flint on Dort Highway called The Short Horn a place that had seen better days. Joe was on drums, with Felton Sparks on piano and Kurt Krahnke on bass. After Felton died Pat Cronley played piano. Somehow, the gig lasted for years. Those nights were often a kind of jazz magic. Everyone came to play with Joe.
Sometimes local legends like Floyd Moreland, Sherm Mitchell or Kent Wilson would sit in. Other times younger players such as Roger Jones, Nick Calandro, Dwight Adams, Ennix Buchanan or Shawn Wallace would show up. But no matter who came in, at some point during the night Joe always made room for less experienced players. And on the breaks, after the gig, or two days later on the phone, this kind, sensitive man would always make himself available, fielding questions from those nervous novices who had wandered onto his stage. He offered comment, critique, confirmation and encouragement lots of encouragement.
I miss the man, and I miss his music. With Joe's passing the spiritual essence of jazz in this region has been altered.
One of Joe's last requests was that sometime after his funeral his friends and loved ones get together for a party. Those arrangements are not firm just yet. Georgeann Freyre, Joe's wife, will determine the date, time and place for the tribute. She can be reached at (810) 736-7017.