Bob Perkins Remembers Jimi Odell

Dec 1, 2018

It is a strange phenomenon that oftentimes, very likeable and talented souls can go somewhat unnoticed, as far as broad notice and wide appeal is concerned. But thank goodness for those gifted with 20-20’s, big ears and acute senses who can spot good folks with talent, right off.

The Philadelphia-area and the world at-large lost a fine gentleman; very good guitarist, and an even better singer a few days ago, when Jimi Odell passed away.

Despite once being an insurance salesman, Jimi wasn’t into trying to sell himself as an entertainer through gimmickry, whether singing and accompanying himself on guitar, or when putting the guitar aside and just flat-out singing the stuffing out of a ballad. He sang love standards with so much soul, and gut-feeling, one would think he had honed his secular-self  in the black church.   

He began to concentrate more on singing later in his career, after a pretty fair singer named Billy Eckstine heard him in a nightclub, and congratulated on his voice.

Jimi was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. One of his childhood friends was Doug Wilder, who grew up to become the nation’s first African-American Governor. He later moved to New Jersey, and had made Philadelphia his home for the last several decades. But wherever he called home, he was sure to be where the jazz jam sessions were. This is where he polished his craft: making music with a variety of musicians—often including jazz greats appearing in locally or just passing through.

Philadelphia has long been a cradle for homegrown jazz talent, and an adopted home to transplants the caliber of Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Granville “Mickey” Roker”: they, and other non-natives came, and breathed the same rare, inspirational and creative air of brother and sisterhood that more than a few jazz aficionados have ascribed to the artistic atmosphere in this City. (These fortunate surroundings may have been helped along in part, by the partaking of such local gastronomic delights as hoagies, cheese steaks, soft -pretzels and Philly scrapple. (All--with a wink of an eye—were alleged to have beneficial properties.)

Jimi Odell migrated to Philadelphia and became heir to all of the aforementioned—and, he became  a contributor: When news of his passing was noted on Facebook, his fans and fellow musicians in the area were quick to respond with glowing testimonies about the man, his manner, and his music.      

One fellow musician, summing up the words and emotions of many others, offered: “Oh no...So sad to hear this news; he was a beautiful man with a kind and gentle spirit. …Loved his playing and his voice. …Sending love to his family.”

Lots of folks missed hearing Jimi Odell…but not those with more finely-tuned ears.