"Ronny Elliott and John Coltrane."
Two names you really don't expect to hear in the same sentence. The question had been, "Who have been your biggest musical influences?" I had just gotten into the car and the radio had just come on. I recognized the voice answering as Ray Villadonga.
I wasn't alone in the car and I didn't know whether to get out and run away or to bust with pride. As nearly as I can remember I tried to drive while shuffling my feet, talking loud, changing the subject and blushing.
The key to the mystery here is that I'm the "older kid." Ray grew up in his beloved Tampa with the fire of rock'n'roll in his soul. I was already out there doing what I do. For him it was all about the bass. Always has been for me, too.
The most recent recording release from my friend was Ear Flixs from a year and a half ago. My expectations are always big with anything that Ray does. This record just knocked me flat, though. I remember hugging him and telling him that I knew that I was going to like it but that I had not been expecting art. That is not a very good description of his masterpiece but I just didn't have the proper vocabulary to describe it. I still don't.
I've lost quite a few friends lately. Now I'm sitting here waiting for the call that everything is okay for me to come to tell my sweet brother goodbye. I never talk to him without him reminding me that he loves me. I wish I believed in heaven. It's hard for me to consider living in a world without Ray Villadonga.
I love you, Ray.