I have been a fan of the live bands presented at the restaurant, The Chambers in Niles, Illinois (6881 N. Milwaukee Avenue) and one of the mainstays of music there was "Buddy Charles" (a.k.a. Charles J. Gries), jazz piano man of the Great American Songbook. A resident of Morton Grove, IL, 81-year-old "Buddy" passed away December 18th, 2008. He had been battling leukemia. I did not personally know him well but was a listener/fan in the crowd there from time to time when I found myself in town. Good live music is hard to come by these days including venues that host it, as musicians well know. Here is a reprint of a couple of articles (from ChicagoJazz.Com) on rememberances of Buddy and his music from some Chicago Musicians. He will be missed on the Chicago music scene. Included is a clip from YouTube.com of Buddy Charles in a July 2007 session at Chambers:
Buddy Charles Remembered
Date Posted on ChicagoJazz.Com: December 19 2008
Written By: Steve Hashimoto
I’m very sad to have to inform you that the great pianist Buddy Charles has moved on.
For those of you who somehow don’t know who he was (and there aren’t many of you; you’re probably young, because what Buddy did wasn’t considered au courant of late; an indictment of our culture if ever there was an indictment), he was a marvelous pianist and probably the greatest living repository of knowledge concerning American popular music of the Golden Age of Songwriting, and I don’t mean Bob Dylan or Buddy Holly, as much as I admire those artists.
Mr. Charles knew more about Harold Arlen and Cole Porter and Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin and Yip Harburg and Lorenz Hart and Duke Ellington and hundreds of other composers than anyone except for, perhaps, the late Bobby Short or the late Dave McKenna who, ironically, also died last week. I won’t pretend that I was pals with Buddy or that I even knew him very well, but I did have the good fortune to play a gig with him once, and it was a humbling experience indeed. I didn’t even recognize, let alone know, any of the tunes we played (well, that he played and that I tried to catch) until he took mercy on me well into our second set and called a couple of Ellingtons.
And yet he was extremely gracious about the whole thing, as he was about the gig in general, which, due to the criminal cluelessness of the venue and the venue’s audience, was about as nightmarish as a gig can get. The man was a scholar and a gentleman, and there won’t be many like him anymore. Following is information concerning services for him, courtesy of Anne Burnell and the Cabaret Society people; thanks for passing it along. I believe that Buddy’s true name was Charles Gries, in case his obituaries are not listed as Buddy Charles.
Buddy Charles Remembered
Date Posted on ChicagoJazz.Com: December 23 2008
Written By: Anne & Mark Burnell
Most everyone has heard that we lost Buddy Charles very early Thursday morning.
To us, he was a father figure, friend, mentor, and beloved Buddy.
Anne and I both knew Buddy before we met each other, hanging out in the wee hours at the Acorn on Oak. Then we went to hear him on our first date at the Drake.
He had a vast repertoire, more than any musician we know of, he could play one composer all night, or surprise you with novelty songs, or rarely heard tin pan alley tunes. Buddy had such a strong life force, he never seemed to take a break. He would play long sets, his energy and fingers never fading.
Buddy later dubbed us the "Flying Burnells - the last great erotic trapeze act". Where this came from we don't know, but he always introduced us on stage that way.
In person, he called us "his babies". He recommended songs and arrangements for us both, was our director for some highly creative cabaret shows, and mostly he inspired us to be better, dig deeper, give more, learn everything we possibly can, laugh often, and to love and serve God. His family is just like him. I have never heard people laugh and love so deeply, fully alive in every moment, but for the Gries family. Chris, Tabby, Mandy, Terri, and dear Pat, his wife.
Many a night these past few years, after Buddy came out of retirement to play again at Chambers in Niles,we would linger with family members, musicians, singers, and his fans and friends.
Everyone felt as though he was their friend once they met him, because he had an uncanny memory for folks,
and he was so warm and genuinely personal. And we, in turn, became friends.
He communicated on so many levels...the surface level of what he was singing or joking about, the musical artistic level, and the philosophical level all at once. He was the deepest man we ever met.
We hope to be going where we know he is now. It is said,
"He whom we loved and lost is no longer where he was before; now, he is wherever we are. "
Buddy will never leave us, he remains in our hearts, that are forever touched by his spirit.
-Anne & Mark Burnell