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Elliot FineElliot Fine at PASIC 2011Elliot Fine, a nationally known drummer and lifelong Minnesotan, demonstrated that there can be a link between classical music and jazz. Fine mastered all genres of music in his career and was a prime mentor to the generations that follow him.

In A Tribute to Elliot Fine, an Evening of Music and Remembrance at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul on Sunday, July 15,  many of those disciples will honor Fine, who died of cancer May 4, 2012 at age 86. The event will be hosted by the Marv Dahlgren Quartet, led by Fine’s longtime Minnesota Orchestra colleague and friend; the McNally Smith ensemble, led by David Stanoch, and the Wolverines Trio, featuring Jendeen Forberg. Other musicians are invited to sit in at the tribute, which begins at 7 p.m.

Fine, a Minneapolis native, started playing drums at age 11. Along with drum and bugle corps, he became proficient  in Dixieland and big-band styles and also worked in small jazz groups, show bands, burlesque and pop music, then spent 41 years with the Minnesota Orchestra. Along the way he dipped his toe into free improvisation with his son, Milo Fine.

Fine also taught -- private lessons and at the University of Minnesota – and wrote several drum instruction books including, with Marv Dahlgren, the seminal "4-Way Coordination" (1963) and two volumes of "Accent on Accents."

Terry Bozzio, a nationally known drummer (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons), wrote on his website (www.terrybozzio.com) that without what he learned from 4-Way Coordination, about using arms and legs together, he "would not know what I know or be able to do what I do. He was a dear man who I was blessed to know and lucky to have had some time with. I last saw him at the DRUM Mag. Fest in San Jose last summer. He was his usual self: sharp as a tack & intensely funny. For him to have acknowledged my work was one of the greatest achievements of my life."

Nashville drummer Bart Elliott, who runs the DrummerCafe.com, interviewed Fine along with David Stanoch and fellow drummer Allen Herman at the 2011 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis and said an online video tribute to Fine is in the works. To see his 2011 interview, visit his tribute page at DrummerCafe.com.

Dahlgren and Fine joined the Minneapolis Symphony in the 1950s under conductor Antal Dorati. Dahlgren said they became friends and on tours hung out off the concert stage as well as in the rhythm section, although both usually roomed with bass players. They had lunch together most days and loved to visit pawn shops in cities they visited, Dahlgren said, looking for bargains on quality instruments of any type.

Fine was famous among the orchestra members for his sense of humor, Dahlgren said: "Elliot had a flock of jokes and kept us laughing on the bus."  After one European tour, he said, the Musicians Union local surprised the returning orchestra with a welcome-home band at the airport. As the plane door opened, Fine – who was at the back of the cabin – started yelling, "Let me off! Let me off! I’m playing this gig!"

Dahlgren said that toward the end of his life, Fine would answer questions about his age with "I’m 86 — should be 88, but I was sick for two years."

Elliot FineFine and Dahlgren didn’t know each other well in their youth, Dahlgren said, because they grew up in different parts of town. But Dahlgren was aware of Fine when both of them were only about 16 and already teaching other drummers.  "He probably taught more drummers than anybody," Dahlgren said. "He loved teaching." Dahlgren later taught at the MacPhail Center for Music and both taught at the U of M.

Reflecting on the financial difficulties and labor-relations struggles of many symphony orchestras these days, Dahlgren said, "Elliot and I lived through the glory days. As the economy got better, our jobs got better. We had a good time" in four decades of working together.

Fine passed his talent and energy along to his only child, Milo, who’s well known today for his Free Jazz Ensemble and his no-holds-barred approach to music. Father and son were recording together once in a studio with an open window, Dahlgren said, and a bus could be heard going by in the middle of a piece. Normally that would ruin the take, but Milo Fine said, “Leave it in!”

Milo Fine will be on hand to greet guests at the tribute and will have recordings that include his father available for sale: "Lucid Anarchists (Meat With Two Potatoes)"  (LP), "Surges/Suspensions, Comme Toujours" (triple CD), "Percussion Music; Improvised - Milo Fine/Davu Seru/Elliot Fine" (Double CD), "Second Meeting (Percussion Music; Improvised) - Milo Fine/Davu Seru/Elliot Fine" (CD).

The Artists’ Quarter is in the Hamm Building on 7th Place at St. Peter Street (651-292-1359).

Fine is survived by his son and a brother, Leo. His wife, Agnes, preceded him in death.


From CODA, the monthly online newsletter of the Twin Cities Jazz Society in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, www.tcjs.org. Used by permission.


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