These are the words I posted on social media on Dec 18th:
"I was so fortunate that Don Palmer came into my life when he did. I was 17 when I began studying with him in Halifax. I already had a fair amount together from a technical and theoretical perspective but he taught me about Music, particularly the importance of owning the melody of the song on which you are improvising. Much of Don’s teaching philosophy came from his long time teacher, Lee Konitz, (and Lee’s teacher, Lennie Tristano, with whom Don also studied). Don reminded me of that lineage a few years back when he referred to my former student Tara Davidson as his “granddaughter”.
Another aspect of Lee’s philosophy that Don emphasized was the importance of committing to being an improviser, rather than a regurgitator (easier said than done!). Don impressed on me that as jazz musicians we are artists, with the unspoken words being that there is a responsibility that comes with that designation. Years later, I related my time with Don to another one of my mentors, Dave Liebman, who said, “how lucky were you”… to have had a teacher who emphasized these things at that time in my life. It is so true, as I am sure Kirk MacDonald, Dani Oore, and many other musicians from NS would agree.
Don and Skip Beckwith were pillars of the jazz scene in NS when I was growing up. In the late 80s another pillar arrived in the form of Jerry Granelli. Their “Alive and Well” trio was a joyous, creative and spontaneous group that represented all that is best in this music.
Heartfelt condolences to all of Don’s family and friends, especially his beautiful daughter Leanna, who loved him so much, her husband John, and their two children, Pearl and Ronan, who brought so much joy to Don’s final years. The man had a lot of love in his heart and his amazing spirit is reflected in his family, his music, and his teaching. Rest In Peace, Donnie, and thank you for everything. Love you!"
Condolences as well to Don's sister Barbara and his extended family in Cape Breton.
Don was more than my teacher. We had a life long personal and musical friendship, stretching from summer tours with the "Meet the Navy Show" 1980-82 to concerts at the Halifax Jazz Fest to club gigs in Toronto.
Here are a few pics from recent years:
with PJ Perry at the Jazz Bistro
on the Rex patio
with Dani Oore and Jerry Granelli at the Jazz Room in Waterloo
with David Occhipinti and Neil Swainson at the Pilot