The music industry and especially the Coachella Valley music community was recently faced with the sad news that one of our music giants had passed. We lost the incomparable and mega-talented Ron Kalina. Ron was considered one of the finest Jazz harmonica players in the world. And when it came to playing standards, Ron was simply the best that I have ever heard. He often told me "My sweet spot is playing and singing the beautiful ballads of the"Great American Songbook". I think it was far more than a sweet spot for Ron. For me, he was one of those rare instrumentalists that could bring a beautiful lyric to life without a word being spoken. Ron spoke with his Harmonica and everyone who ever heard him was touched by his musical brilliance. The other sweet spot for Ron was playing in a supportive role for vocalists who understood the beauty of some of the greatest American songs ever written. There was no one better at filling behind singers than Ron. In my years listening to great music here in the Desert, I was fortunate to hear Ron playing for every great singer performing and he was always asked to sit in whenever he entered a music venue.
Ron's talents were not just limited to his Harmonica, he was a wonderful Singer, Pianist, Composer and Arranger. He also was a talented Tap dancer but I never got to see him dance. As a pianist, Ron accompanied hundreds of performers including lovers of the "Great American Songbook" like Linda Ronstadt, Joe Williams, Gloria Lynne and the great Johnny Hartman.
I will always be thankful that I had the chance to hear and know Ron Kalina, a true American musical genius! I loved everything he ever played, but his recording of "The Nearness of You" is unforgettable for me. You can hear Ron playing this song by going to iTunes and look up Ron's Cd's.
Ron Kalina, rest in peace, the joy and brilliance of your music will be with us for the rest of our lives!