A Fond Farewell: Georgia Urban, Jazz Journalist, 93

A tip of the hat* to the late, great jazz journalist Georgia Urban who died July 30 at 93. My friend Mike Spain, forever of the Times Union, told me she’d passed some days ago, but I waited for her obituary in part because I didn’t want to believe she was really gone. 

Her voice had long been silent from area and national newspapers and radio as illness sequestered her in the Troy nursing home where she passed.  

georgia urban
Georgia Urban with Tony Bennett. Photo provided.

In her long heyday, Georgia Urban wrote and spoke of jazz here with a clarity and power that proclaimed high standards without compromise. In this, she inspired all of us who write about music. She knew what was good, she told us clearly why it was good, and she did this for decades.  

That’s what I’ve tried to do. And once, in a letter I still cherish, she told me I’d succeeded. Hearing her tell me I got it right meant the world to me and still does. 

Let me close this deeply respectful – in fact, awed – ode to Georgia by relating an episode I wish I’d seen and cherish anyway. See, the Duke Ellington Orchestra was playing hereabouts one night. Georgia arrived late – maybe she’d been playing organ in her church or volunteering in a political or social-justice campaign. The Duke spotted her from the bandstand and waved his crew to stop in a flurry of truncated chords and fractured notes. 

He re-started them, grinning down at her. He played “Sweet Georgia Brown.” 

* Digression warning: One time – maybe several times – I met up with fellow Nippertown jazz-bos Rudy Lu and J Hunter, so similarly be-hatted that one of us hailed us as the Flat Cap Club. We could have swapped toppers and nobody there would have noticed. But everybody noticed, in the crowd or on the bandstand, when Georgia Urban was at the gig.

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