Community Members Mourn the Passing of Iconic Jazz Musician Jim Cullum

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Members of the San Antonio community continued to weigh in this week on the legacy of legendary jazz musician Jim Cullum, who died Sunday.

As leader of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, the cornet player was both a local musical institution and recognized worldwide as a champion for traditional Dixieland jazz and swing.

Kory Cook
Music Director/Chief Announcer
Jazz 91.7 FM KRTU

"Jim Cullum, Jr. was a brilliant man who stayed true to his life's work as a musician. He was also a walking encyclopedia for early jazz and swing. I will miss our conversations and hearing him play. When Jim and I began to discuss early, major jazz figures like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke or Sidney Bechet, his eyes would light up and he'd crack a big smile before launching into a story of said artist's significance. Jim lived and breathed the music, and it showed in how he walked, talked, played and interacted with people. An appreciation of jazz and improvised music begins with an understanding of what the forefathers created and how it relates to the music today. Jim was a student, educator, researcher and historian of jazz as much as he was a consummate musician. San Antonio's jazz and music scene would not be the same without Jim Cullum. Aside from his leadership and performance skills, Cullum's work within all aspects of the music industry (recording, production, booking, promotion) was inspiring as a role model for musicians of all genres in SA and beyond."

Hector Saldaña
Music Curator for the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University.

“It’s hard to imagine San Antonio without Jim Cullum. He’s part of the fabric like the Tower of the Americas or the Alamo. On his property in the River Road neighborhood is an adobe structure, a jacalito, from the 1850s that once sat on the Alamo grounds. Jim often used that little one-room apartment to practice his cornet. He was that spiritually connected to this place, this town. He embodied jazz and was a tremendous soloist with a beautiful tone. His knowledge of jazz and SA was encyclopedic, but he was down-home, too, and loved Blanco Café and late nights at Mi Tierra after his old Tucker’s gigs — my favorite place to see him and the band. He will be remembered as the cherished, living breathing bridge to the golden age of jazz and to the legendary figures he knew and performed with, as well as, (with his father) being the first to operate a night club on the River Walk. I’ll never forget seeing him treated like jazz royalty at Pete Fountain’s funeral in August 2016 and seeing him greeted by so many musicians and seeing him walk and dance and play in the second line behind the horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket from St. Louis Cathedral through the French Quarter. He was very happy that day. We drove back from New Orleans together, and he talked about his childhood, traveling in an un-airconditioned car with his musician father. We drove fast to make it to City Market in Luling before closing time because he loved the barbeque so much. He was a character, a dapper rascal storyteller, loving dad and a loyal friend.”

Doc Watkins
Musician and owner of Jazz, TX

"Jim's legacy will not soon be forgotten. He was the type of person who wasn't content to stand on the sidelines but went out into the community and made things happen. He built a band, a club, a radio show and ultimately contributed to our city's culture in a way few have, or ever will. He was the true artist, who never stopped honing his craft and perfecting his music, but kept on playing 'til the very end."

Pieter Sypesteyn
Chef at the Cookhouse

"Jim Cullum was a close friend to the Cookhouse family. His music livened up our dining room every Friday night, over the five years we've been open. There was no one better for the job. He played cornet with my kids when they came in, shared many great stories of the old days playing in New Orleans, and always loved to show me the new cornets that he added to his collection. One guest even brought a beautiful, hundred-year-old cornet to the Cookhouse, which he ended up buying. I remember the excitement in his voice as he showed me all the parts that made it so special. A San Antonio legend, who I'm so proud to have called a friend, will be sorely missed, but will live on forever in my record player and my memories. I'm so glad to know that he loved God, and loved people. Heaven just got a lil' more jazzy! I'll cook up an order of BBQ shrimp, no green onions, extra toasty bread, just for you Jim."

Diego Bernal
District 123 Texas State Representative

"I never told him, but Jim was a role model to me. Compassion, service and music. He balanced it beautifully, and did it exceptionally. He made it look easy."

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