Honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music

Honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music

Whitaker during soundcheck

Matthew Whitaker Quartet Concert Report

Posted October 29, 2021

John Stites was dedicated to producing the best possible sound from every recording he made. The last recording he did was a Gilmore Rising Stars concert in December 2015. On that day, even though his illness was impacting his dexterity, he was walking across the stage with his typical long strides as though nothing was wrong, and he could keep setting up microphones and recording music forever. Recording and listening to music was his passion, and he had a deep appreciation for all types of music.

It was his love for music that inspired John to create the John Stites Jazz Artist Organization (JSJAO) to encourage and promote other musicians. Since his last recording was a Rising Stars concert, it is especially fitting that the first collaboration of the JSJAO and the Gilmore was the October 10 Rising Stars concert featuring the Matthew Whitaker Quartet.

John loved recording the Rising Star concerts because these young musicians put a contemporary spin on the classics in a way that makes sure the genre remains relevant to the next generation. John would have been impressed by Matthew Whitaker’s high energy yet humble performance, his incredible virtuosity exemplified by playing two instruments simultaneously, the tight proficiency of his ensemble, and the soulful delivery of his solos. What a great start to the JSJAO’s partnership with the Gilmore!

These photos from the concert show how John would have viewed this concert – through the eyes and ears of the recording engineer. The JSJAO thanks John’s close friend and protégée, Doug Decker, who recorded and live streamed the concert for the Gilmore for his contribution to the event.

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This world needs more of him, not less.

Ray Kamalay

The John Stites Jazz Awards (JSJA) are funded by the John Stites Jazz Artist Organization, honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music.

The organization funds:

  • Advanced studies for emerging and established professional jazz musicians
  • Concerts, competitions and projects that expand jazz audiences and the appreciation of jazz in or near communities in Southwest Michigan