[EVG photo from 2013]
Free-jazz legend Giuseppi Logan, a onetime East Village resident and fixture in Tompkins Square Park, died Friday at the Lawrence Nursing Care Center in Far Rockaway. According to his friend Matt Lavelle, Logan died from complications of COVID-19. Logan was 84.
Here's a brief overview via an extensive obituary at WBGO:
Logan leaves behind a small body of recorded work, but his standing in the improvised avant-garde is considerable. He emerged just as free jazz was beginning to crest as a movement, and even amidst a crowded field of iconoclasts, he distinguished himself as an original.
An April 2012 feature in The New York Times delved into Logan's mysterious past, in which he disappeared for decades and spent time in a mental institution.
His long journey eventually brought him back to the East Village, where he was a regular in Tompkins Square Park, playing a setlist heavy on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Matt Lavelle, a trumpeter and clarinetist, helped Logan get back into music with his first proper gig in some 40 years at the Bowery Poetry Club on Feb. 17, 2009, per WBGO's report. They also recorded an album for Tompkins Square Records titled "The Giuseppi Logan Quintet."
“The main thing for me, to be honest, was just to make Giuseppi feel good and to give him some money and some CDs to sell in the park,” Josh Rosenthal, founder of Tompkins Square Records, told WBGO. “He made his first record in 45 years, and that was enough. But the record was surprisingly well received.”
[Photo from 2012 by Bobby Williams]
Logan had hip problems, and sometimes got around with the assistance of a walker. The 2012 piece in the Times provided a snapshot of his typical day:
To get from Tompkins Square Park to his room on East Fourth Street, a trip of just a couple of city blocks on foot, Mr. Logan hobbles west to a northbound bus on Avenue A, then gets on a bus at 14th Street that drives east to Avenue D and then turns south. It can take half an hour. Most days, this is the extent of Mr. Logan’s universe.
Through the years, many East Village residents pitched in to help Logan. For instance, in September 2013, residents collected money for Logan after he was jumped on Ninth Street. A resident also gave Logan a spare tenor saxophone.
In 2014, someone stole his saxophone, which left him with a different instrument...
He said that he played the flute in the 1960s in Paris, but was a little rusty. Neighbors eventually secured him another saxophone.
By the fall of 2014, he was no longer spotted in Tompkins Square Park. Several years went by before we learned that he was living in a senior residence in Far Rockaway.
Logan is served by two sons, Jaee and Joe.
Here's a short film from 1966 by Edward English that shows Logan in Tompkins Square Park...