Ode to Eric…

Jayn Pettingill | September 17th, 2022

Woke up this morning to the news of the passing of the great Eric Jackson, the ‘Dean of Boston Jazz Radio’.
I am devastated and heartbroken. A swirl of emotions and memories overcome me.
Eric was my mentor, my colleague, my friend.
We knew each other at WGBH in Boston in the 80’s, when he was the host of “Eric in the Evening”, a nightly 5-hour sojourn through the music of jazz and improvisational music, and I was a broadcast engineer.

I was a fan of Eric’s dulcet tones, his infectious laugh and his eclectic open-minded awesome mind-blowing programming.
Eric not only taught me how to be a music announcer, he taught me that “jazz” could include the likes of Aretha and Ray Charles and many other artists who were previously relegated to the “Soul/R&B” box.
He gave me permission to bring all of myself to my music programming.
And when he asked me to fill in for him on “Eric in the Evening” on numerous occasions, I was gobsmacked, honored and privileged.

Eric came to visit me in California in 2006. On the night of December 1st, I told him to meet me at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley because I wanted to turn him on to my favorite vocalist, Kenny Washington. Eric and his wife were late because they went to the North Berkeley BART station instead of the Downtown Berkeley BART station. The only reason he forgave me was the fact that Kenny was so extraordinary.

Eric had an open heart and open ears. He was a mensch.
He gave of himself, his music and his experience and talent freely.
His passion and exuberance were infectious.
We shared roots and stories that were based in our home state of New Jersey…Eric from Camden, me from Newark.
We had many boisterous fun conversations with our friend, Camden native and poet extraordinaire, Kate Rushin.

I will take Eric with me wherever I go.
And every time I program a set of music or segue between two unsuspecting artists, I will hear his voice and feel his inspiration and support.
And of course every time I hear the strains of Horace Silver’s composition “Peace” performed by pianist Tommy Flanagan, Eric’s theme song for over 40 years, I will think of him, shed a tear, smile a smile, and bow to his genius and kindness.

All praises due to Eric Jackson…one of a kind and unique!
Heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and many listeners.

Melanie Berzon

*Pix are from August 8, 2015, when Eric and I hung out at the San Jose Jazz Festival. KCSM was broadcasting live and Eric came to participate in a panel.

3 Responses to “Ode to Eric…”

  1. Jackie ryan says:

    Oh no! I can’t believe this! This is a shock. I met Eric years ago in Boston. He was such a sweet gentle soul. Beautiful tribute to him, Melanie. So sad. So sorry for your loss of this wonderful soul in your life.
    Jackie Ryan

  2. John Spallone says:

    This is devastating news! Having regularly listened to Eric in the Evening while living in Boston, over 40 years ago, and having been able to stream WGBH for the past 15 or so years, his insights into the music, and his mix of classic and new jazz (weighted mostly toward the new) have been touchstones in my life. Yes, I will also be grateful to Eric Jackson, for as long as I live. Farewell, Brother Eric.

  3. Suzette Ciancio says:

    “Eric in the Evening” was the soundtrack to so many of my evenings for so many years. His voice, his knowledge of music and jazz, the music itself is forever ingrained in my head and heart. I temporarily stopped my donations to WGBH when they took his show off the daily evening programming. Rest in peace and music Eric Jackson. You memory will always be a blessing.

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