Even after six months I am beside myself with disbelief as I begin to write this. My memories of Shimrit Shoshan are very dear and special. She was my neighbor and a close friend for four years. I remember bumping into her on the C train often, sometimes sneaking up behind her to whisper a ridiculous comment in her ear, just to get a laugh. Other times I’d see her at one of our favorite coffee shops or walking down the street in our neighborhood. It’s funny, I rarely saw her at any jazz clubs in town. Mostly it was just the two of us somewhere around the city when we saw each other.
The day I met Shimrit, I was loading my gear into a car outside my building on my way to go to a gig in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She knew someone in the car, who introduced us. We were both surprised to learn that we lived right around the corner from each other, so we said we’d stay in touch. I went on MySpace and listened to her music the next day, and was blown away by a particular trio composition that was on her playlist. It was a very deep approach to playing piano and writing. It seemed to me that she was coming out of Greg Osby, Monk, Andrew Hill and Jason Moran, more so than most pianists her age, mixed of course with some Israeli influence. I was genuinely impressed, and sent her an e-mail saying how much I liked her writing. After a few e-mails and chance encounters on the train, we became good friends. We always kept in touch after this, even if it was just a text hello. “Good morning, it’s a nice day out, wanna go for a walk and lunch?” was a pretty regular text between us as neighbors.
Shimrit loved long walks through Harlem. She took one most days. Often, she would ask me to join her when I was in town, or I would extend the invite. Those walks were always filled with laughter, conversations about music, plans for the future, where we came from and relationships, etc. Shimrit would sometimes play me things she was working on, talk about her writing, her concerns about the business and recording her new album, which she’d been working on the past couple of years. Although we never played together-something I regret more than anything-I feel like I knew her playing so well, simply from those conversations.
At one of the last lunches we had together, she mentioned some health problems she had. I was surprised. She seemed so healthy, so alive and beautiful. It was hard for me to imagine that she was having any problems. But she didn’t make it seem serious, so I never got the feeling she was worried. Maybe she knew, but just didn’t want to worry anyone.
I will forever remember the last time I saw Shimrit. It was in July last year, a month before she passed, and she had come to see me play the early set at the 55 Bar. It was one of those amazing summer nights where everyone just felt great to be out. I remember Shimrit was wearing a blue summer dress, almost as if she wanted everyone to remember her that way. I actually met my girlfriend that night, thanks to Shimrit for putting in a good word. We had a great time at the bar during the break, and then the three of us went to dinner afterward. My girlfriend and I will always cherish the memory of her looking so happy and alive, and of course it was also the night we met.
I left town a week later for one month. The day after I arrived back in town, we went to Shimrit’s memorial at Smalls Jazz Club. It was surreal. I still have her number in my phone. And I have a hard time even thinking about erasing it, because it reminds me of her each time I see it.