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Dennis Irwin

(11.28.51 – 3.10.08)

Dennis Irwin (bottom right)

Dennis was a fountain of knowledge. He had so many different areas of expertise and sometimes it came out at the weirdest moments on the road. But because he wasn’t a showoff at all, you wouldn’t realize that he knew about these arcane, obscure things until the subject would come up somehow, and then he could launch into a discussion. You might be in Europe with him, in Hungary or somewhere, and he could tell you all about the country’s culture and history and everything. He was a real scholar that way. The guy was just so well versed in so many topics because he had this kind of amazing mind.

On the road, Dennis would carry with him a little library of tapes and CDs and he would always turn you on to something new. His knowledge of classical music was very extensive. Before he picked up jazz he had been a classical clarinet player and he taught all of us so much about classical music. He was a Mahler expert. He’d play Mahler for you every day if you wanted to hang out with him and listen. One of the other things that we all knew about Dennis was that he was an authority on [beatnik jazz monologist] Lord Buckley. I mean, he could do “The Nazz” and entire 10-minute Lord Buckley bits from memory. He was also an expert on Jerry Clower, the hillbilly comedian, and he did all these bits in complete accents.

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Originally Published