Buffalo, New York doesn’t get nearly enough press.
Or, I should say, it gets far too much of the dreary kind: Snow Belt Capital of The Rust Belt. The End. Thank you for coming.
But, nestled between the heart and soul of the big Buffalo is a bird. A song bird. His name is Joe and, if I had my way, he’d be the household word where everybody else calls home.
Granted, there are enough televised competitions already presenting the freshest young talent. And, occasionally, hidden gems have found their way to these stages. But, for a legend in his own time, there is no Tv show. That is because a Tv show could never do justice to a legend like Joe Rozler.
I met Joe in the halls of Fredonia State University, in 1980. He was probably loading equipment from a practice room to the trunk, heading off to a gig at the Jumping Frog on Route 5 for the weekend. All I remember was that voice, and a pair of legs that went on forever. And, his rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon.
To say he seduced me is an understatement. I was completely overtaken, mesmerized by every sound he made and the way he made it. That, and the faint scent of Royal Spyce: he had me, with a warble and a hook, for life.
We were both the odd ones, returning after a two year absence – me, to earn enough to fund myself across the finish line, he to follow his bliss. Mark that last phrase; Joe never did anything but follow his bliss.
And, we’d both converged in the midst of completing that last bastion of fallback options, the Bachelor of Music in Music Education, a certificate that told the world in official terms that we were qualified to do what we were already born to. We were creatives; college was just where we came of age.
Or, I did. Joe was already the oldest soul on the block, caught in a body that bounded around like a nine year old at summer camp.
I’ll never know what precise configuration of DNA, or momentary inspiration, drove Joe to be who he was, but I do know this: Joe always knew. And, that was enough for Joe.
A natural rebel, he never wasted time submitting to any authority, or system, or institution that prevented him from living out his life’s intention. In school, he was already writing arrangements and selling them to a studio in Utah; in the summers, a metal band from Germany enlisted his keyboard wizardy for their tour.
But, the only thing Joe ever intended to do was sing, or play, or sing and play, the song.
Oh sure, we completed the requirements to obtain the degree. He played a piano recital; I played one for cello. Mine took six hours a day, and four months of those, committed to two works of music. Sitting in the audience for his, I remember thinking about hearing him do two straight sets at the Frog, engine revving until I thought he’d just pop right there in front of everybody, and deciding that this lone piano recital was just a parenthesis, merely the half time show of what would become the totality of his life.
As it turns out, thirty five years hence, I was right.
By now, there is no tune ever written that Joe has not sung. He, at the age of something like sixty, is the oracle of the American songbook. He has become the song.
So, while lesser mortals steamroll through their days, clamoring for their piece of the greedy pie, bowing at the feet of expectation and the promise of reward, Joe Rozler will still be singing. And, you’ll swear you never heard anything else quite like him in your life.
All you have to do is find your way to Buffalo. You can shuffle, or you can hustle but, however you make the trip, Joe will be there when you arrive, just a couple blocks shy of Elmwood, at the piano. With his guitars and synth, and even a ukelele, nearby. And, if you’re lucky enough to catch his solo act, he’ll play them all, nearly simultaneously, just for you.
The song will be yours. You’ll recognize it. You’ll remember it. You’ll know it. And, he’ll be bringing it on the most dazzling silver platter your eyes and ears could possibly behold.
The American songbird.
Buffalo Hall of Fame.
Buffalo, New York.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/8/16 Please share, liberally. Thank you!