I got the call this morning.
I knew his health hadn’t been too good since he broke his hip in a bicycle accident a little over a year ago. When I saw him a few times around Christmas, he was thin — as always — but he was very happy.
For the first time in many, many years he was in love. He excitedly talked about buying a ring for his girlfriend, Charlene. If you knew Kurt, as I had for almost 30 years, that was deeply surprising — to put it mildly.
Still, there could be no questioning his enthusiasm for his new relationship. At times it was all he could talk about. And there was no questioning his genuine affection and love for his girlfriend, despite surprising differences between them.
So it was especially saddening when one of our mutual friends called me this morning to tell me Kurt had passed away less than 24 hours after checking into the hospital. We still don’t know the particulars of his passing and, really, it’s hard to feel like they really matter much. He was not young, at 53, but not old, either. Still, his health had been increasingly precarious, especially after the bike accident knocked him off his feet for the better part of a half year. The last time I saw him, he was still using a cane. (I used a cane, myself, for five years after a motorcycle wreck when I was 29, so it’s never something I like to see one of my friends leaning on. I kept hoping he’d be throwing it away soon but… ah well.)
Anyway, I’ll be writing more about Kurt, who was a very good painter and graphic artist (the hurriedly photographed picture above that he gave me as a housewarming gift almost 20 years ago only hints at his skill and vision… I hope to share more with you over coming months) as well as a fine percussionist (he was part of my all improv ambient ensemble Drift in the mid-90s, along with clarinetist/guitarist Steven (Caz Camberline) Becker and violinist/vocalist Ann De Jarnett).
He was a witty, often wildly funny man. At times he lived a little large and maybe a little wobbly — but he was a hell of a guy and a hell of a friend and — damn it — I really miss him already.
Here’s the memorial site Kurt’s sister and friends and I came up with for Kurt.
Below are some songs featuring Kurt Schnyder:
Kurt plays all the percussion on this wild and woolly workout. We recorded in two passes, with me on guitar and him on a handful of his percussion toys on both tracks. And I later went back and added some keyboard parts (no, that’s not really a sax section, back there).
Kurt is joined on congas on this track by our mutual friend Michael Bay on shakers. The two conga tracks and the shakers were actually recorded for one of the songs on Mike’s unreleased first album that he recorded a number of years ago in my old project studio and he graciously allowed me to swipe them and build a whole new track around them.