Jimmy Cook, 78, a trumpeter and pillar of the Toledo jazz scene for more than 40 years, died Friday in his West Toledo home of cancer.
Celebrated for his taste and technique, Mr. Cook had not performed in public for more than two years because of heart problems and other health issues, including cataract surgery that left him blind in one eye. His cancer was discovered only about two weeks ago.
Still, he practiced every night, his wife, Jan Cook, said.
"Jimmy was a legend, a living legend. Everybody knew who Jimmy was," said jazz musician Gene Parker, who played with him in many settings and for years in the Parker-Cook Quintet. "Jim was just a natural musician. He had a beautiful sound, he had a beautiful style. He understood music very deeply and understood people very deeply."
Mr. Cook, a native of Flint, Mich., was transferred to Toledo in 1963 by the AC Delco division of General Motors, for which he was a traveling salesman.
He already had decades of music behind him. At 7, he tap-danced on a Coca-Cola box and played vibraphone in his father's band. His first paying gig on trumpet came at 16, playing with a drummer at a wedding for $17.
He answered an ad after high school and was hired by a band touring the Midwest by bus.
Mrs. Cook yesterday recalled seeing these three words on his first postcard to her when he was on the road away from her: "I love this."
She said the second postcard said the following: "I don't know about this."
The third: "I'm on the next train. I can't take this."
His distaste for endless travel in cramped quarters, combined with family responsibilities, dissuaded him from chasing big-city stardom.
Not long after moving to Toledo, "he walked into my club with trumpet in hand," said Margaret "Rusty" Monroe, proprietor of the former Rusty's Jazz Cafe, whose first club in the 1960s was in the Westgate area.
"That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted all these years. He was one of the big stars."
And playing with Mr. Cook "was liking playing with a star, he played so good," said bassist Clifford Murphy, co-owner of Murphy's Place.
That star appeal shone everywhere. The Toledo Jazz Orchestra, in which he played, would appear at jazz festivals, and "when Jimmy had a solo, the guys in the next band who were getting ready would turn their heads because he could play," said trumpeter Scott Potter, who played with Mr. Cook in the orchestra.
Mr. Cook retired from GM as a supervisor of a battery distribution warehouse about 1990.
His days as a salesman fed his toy collection.
Another town on the road meant another antique shop to explore, and his home overflowed with his finds - toy cars, trucks, and tractors lining shelves, bi-planes and bombers hanging from the ceiling.
His collection of experiences was vast too.
Mr. Cook liked to tell people of the time in 1947 when he played Miles Davis' horn. Mr. Davis was a relatively unknown trumpeter performing at a Flint nightclub back then.
And Mr. Cook also enjoyed relaying a story of how he came to play with bebop master Charlie Parker.
"So many stories," Mr. Cook said to The Blade in 1999, "but that's life, isn't it?"
Surviving are his wife, Janet Cook, whom he married Nov. 3, 1951; sons, Jim, William, and Scott Cook; daughter, Suzanne Kaye; 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Newcomer Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. tomorrow.
The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Jazz Society, of which he was a founder, or the Toledo Federation of Musicians.