Buzz- Jazz-in: Friends and fans rally around local icon
He's known as the "Groove Master" to friends, fans, and colleagues. His affinity for jazz, swing, and R&B, life-long career as a pianist and Hammond organist, and mentorship of recent Charlottesville greats–- Carter Beauford and the late LeRoi Moore, among others–- has cemented George Melvin's iconic status in the local music scene.
But it is the care and concern the artist has for his fellow musicians that has resonated within the community; so when Melvin began facing serious health issues and struggled with the mounting hospital bills, those same friends and fans rushed to his aid–- and thus the Jazz-In for George was born.
"It's just been an unbelievable outpouring of desire to help," says Chris Munson, a local booking agent and Jazz-In organizer. "Seeing how generous people are with their time, it's really a testament to the community, of how strongly everybody's rallied."
Despite battling Type-II Diabetes for fifteen years, Melvin stayed dedicated to his work in the local music scene, including a long-running Monday night show at South Street Brewery. But in 2005, he began a rigorous round of dialysis and began experiencing side affects that eventually led doctors to conclude that only a kidney transplant could bring him back to optimal health. Unfortunately, the years of disease and treatment caused his insurance to drop his coverage, leaving him alone with the growing cost of health care.
"It's a problem, in general, for the country," says Munson. "but musicians are usually self-employed, so it's harder and more expensive to get insurance."
The Jazz-In for George brings together local "jazz all-stars" to perform, provides dinner from various restaurants, and hosts a silent auction to raise money for Melvin's medical bills and transplant. By giving him a bit of financial flexibility, his friends are hoping he won't feel pressured to overwork to pay his bills.
"He was fine until he got sick; then everything evaporated for him," says John Carden, longtime friend and founding member of Melvin's Greenwich Swing Time band. "There's not a day that he doesn't go to work, but he does need a kidney transplant– if he can get it, it'll make a big difference in his life– and that's where we come in."
Classically-trained Carden credits Melvin with expanding his own musical training
"I had the opportunity to be taken under his wing– he's pushed me to evolve as a jazz artist," Carden says. "He's definitely the Yoda of Charlottesville music. We all look up to George."
Various artists perform at Jazz-In for George, Saturday, November 7 at Fry Springs Beach Club. The show starts at 6 pm and tickets are a suggested donation of $20.