Wayne Pedzwater, 1956 – 2005

On Thursday, the 24th of March, New York City’s musical family assembled at the Church of the Tranfiguration on East 29th Street to say goodbye to the gifted bassist Wayne Pedziwiatr (a.k.a. Pedzwater), who had died the previous week after a long and grueling struggle with gastric cancer. To know Wayne was to love him, and since pretty much every professional musician in New York knew him, the gathering was not small.

Wayne was a remarkable figure; he seemed to glow from within. He was tall, athletic, and strikingly handsome, with the sort of physical presence that one might imagine could only be the result of a carefully managed eugenics program. He had a dazzling smile, a nimble, curious and capacious mind, and a splendidly pungent sense of humor. Above all, though, were his extraordinary musicianship and his dedication to excellence.

I probably did more sessions with Wayne than with any other bassist. I first met him when I was starting out as a staff engineer at Power Station Studios back in the late 1970s, and from then until my semi-retirement from studio life in the last few years I worked with him on hundreds of recordings. During the bustling 1990s, as I went from studio to studio for different sessions, there were many weeks when I would find myself working with Wayne on almost every date.

Wayne was the caring engineer’s dream: a perfect tone, round and clear, an impeccable feel for the “pocket”, and the technical ability to play whatever was put in front of him, even when it was some keyboard-written bass line that looked fine as a MIDI display but was an ungainly monstrosity on a stringed instrument. His greatest gift, though, was his faultless good taste. He never overplayed, never showed off — though he certainly had the chops — but instead always managed to understand, and then play, whatever was exactly right for the track. Often he would ask to do “fixes” on what he had played — even when everyone involved already thought it sounded wonderful — and sure enough, he would find and repair some little weakness, some slight divergence from his idea of what the perfect performance ought to be, and make the track even better.

Bass can be one of the hardest things to get right in a mix, and whenever Wayne was on a session I always knew that I would have one fewer problem to solve. As our friend, the engineer Michael Golub, said at the memorial service: when Wayne was on your session, he just made everything better.

Many of us, given Wayne’s good looks and abundant talent, would have succumbed to the egotism that is such a common spiritual pitfall in the performing arts — Lord knows the music business is full of insufferable narcissists — but Wayne, far from indulging such weakness, had a keen eye for such types, and an equally sharp tongue, when the occasion arose. Often during our sessions, in the presence of some preening popinjay, I would glance over at Wayne; he and I would exchange a look that was a conversation in itself about the foolishness of human vanity, with an unspoken joke or two thrown in about the particular jackass at hand. It always made things more bearable. I think I miss that more than anything else about him: his ability to say so much to me with just a raised eyebrow, a loaded grin, or a weary shake of the head.

As befits such an ubermensch, Wayne had also found the perfect companion to be his wife: the beautiful Patty Forbes, tall, blonde, warm-hearted, intelligent, and charming. All of us who joined them at their wedding were surprised not to see the Valkyrie in attendance.

I was sitting at my computer on a Sunday night last November when I suddenly thought of Wayne. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year or two; the recording industry having fallen on some difficult times, I had decided to do something else for a while, and had been working at a friend’s startup company as a software developer. But suddenly, there he was, in the forefront of my mind, as if he had just walked into the room. The impression was so strong that I was quite startled, and resolved to get in touch with my old friend the next day.

When I got to my office the following morning I found an email; the subject line said “Wayne Pedzwater”. I was shocked by this remarkable coincidence, and took a long breath before opening the message. What I read was, as I feared, bad news: Wayne, that glittering exemplar of health and fitness, had been stricken with stomach cancer shortly after I had seen him last. Chemotherapy had not halted its advance, and he had resorted to drastic surgery — the removal of his stomach — to halt the disease’s progress. This had seemed to work, though, and he had gradually put his life back together, had begun riding his bicycle again, and was beginning to take up his career once more, when the cancer reappeared.

Wayne fought grimly, but his foe was relentless. His medical insurance was soon exhausted, and he and Patty were faced with financial ruin. The email I had received was an announcement of a fundraising party and concert — “Pedzwaterpalooza”, to be held at the Cutting Room in Chelsea on November 22nd.

The party was all that anyone could have hoped it would be. The club was jammed beyond capacity, with people spilling out into the street. I can’t imagine that there was any music played anywhere else in the city that night, because every musician in town turned out to show their love (and turned out their pockets as well) for Wayne and Patty. In various combinations, the cream of New York’s players and singers took the stage, and nobody was “phoning it in” that night, I can tell you.

Wayne couldn’t be there; he was too sick to make it. He saw it all on video. I hope he had some sense of the love that accumulated in that room that evening — love not just for Wayne, although that was offered up in abundance — but also for the entire community of musicians, a family that is slowly breaking apart as recording passes from the communal activity it has always been to a solitary one. Until recently, making a record meant going to a studio and gathering together players, singers, engineers, and producers; music-making was as much about the interplay of personalities as of instruments. Now, though, it is almost entirely a solitary craft — the studio is a computer in a tiny room, the basic tracks are collages of pre-recorded samples, and human players, when needed, are added one at a time. I felt the hunger for our vanishing collaborative family in everyone I saw at Wayne’s party; it is a tremendous pity that it takes such tragic circumstances these days to bring us all together again.

My friend Wayne Pedzwater died peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of March 17th, 2005, in the company of his loving wife and those closest to him.

He was a gift to us all, and he is irreplaceable.

Related content from Sphere

35 Comments

  1. Patty Forbes says

    What a beautiful tribute to my husband Wayne. Thank you for sharing your love and admiration of him – he was a true gentleman.

    Peace

    Patty Forbes-Pedzwater

    Posted May 20, 2005 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  2. Deborah A. Sweeney-Faiola says

    Patty Forbes Pedzwater is my cousin and dearest friend. I loved Wayne as did so many others; one of whom is my daughter, Briana. She turns 18 today. She adored Wayne as did I, and everyone who knew him. Patty’s loss is unbearable as her family copes with ways of finding something to ease her pain, but sadly, to no avail. They were the most beautiful couple in so many ways and that is what makes this all the more tragic. I know that the kind words of others helps to soften the pain for all of us, as you so eloquently wrote in your tribute. I am putting together a memory book for my daughter for her graduation from high school next month. I would be remiss if I did not include something in it about Wayne. As I told Patty many times, Wayne was a positive male figure in Briana’s young life. And so I thank you for your wonderful words. I am going to print them and include them in her memory book.

    Thank you, God bless.

    Posted May 27, 2005 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  3. malcolm says

    Thanks, Deborah.

    Here’s a note I wrote to Patty after she posted her comment – I hope she won’t mind my reprinting it here:

    Hi Patty,

    I’m glad you found my remembrance of Wayne. I miss him a lot, and think of him very often. I still can’t believe he is gone; it makes me want to shake my fist at the sky.

    Life and death, and time, are such profound mysteries. I’ve lost some very close friends in the last few years (one of my wife Nina’s dearest friends just took her own life on May 17th), and I find myself reflecting more and more on these bottomless and persistent questions.

    One thing for sure: everything, everything under the Sun, even the Sun itself, has its time, and when that time is over, it is over. But in another very real sense — and this idea is found not only in Eastern traditions, but also in Augustinian Christian philosophy, and in relativistic physics as well — the passage of time is an illusion, and there is another, all-encompassing, Time in which everything that has ever been, or ever will be, simply IS: simultaneously and eternally. In this view the time that we have spent with those we have loved, and who now are gone, is still there. The time that we shared with Wayne, in that sense, is always, always ours, and can never be taken away. Augustine said that this was how God sees the world.

    I know that the pain of such a loss never really goes away; but I also know that with time the pain becomes less sharp, somehow, and that gradually there begin to be longer and longer intervals when it abates enough to feel somewhat normal – even happy! – again. Sometimes one can feel rather guilty about that – when you get to the end of a carefree few hours and realize you haven’t felt that sorrowful ache at all – but it is so important not to, because it means we are healing.

    I hope that you have been able to find some peace now that your long ordeal is over. I know that you have many friends who love you.

    Wayne’s memory will always be a part of me, as long as I live.

    Your friend,

    Malcolm

    Posted May 27, 2005 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Patty Forbes says

    Malcolm – I didn’t realize this was your site –
    Wayne adored you too.
    Thanks again for writing about him.
    XX
    Patty

    Posted May 20, 2005 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Anna McCarthy says

    Please tell Patty we are sorry to hear about her loss.Jackie passed away two years ago of pancreatic cancer. Would love to hear from her.

    Posted November 22, 2005 at 10:19 am | Permalink
  6. jonathan auerbach says

    Sometimes you get an urge to google and so see how well an old friend that you have not seen in years is doing and tonight I am very sad to learn of Wayne’s passing. Wayne, you were a treat to know in the early eighties…RIP old friend…Jon Auerbach

    Posted January 9, 2007 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  7. Steve Swanson says

    Patty,

    I knew Wayne well from Berklee, and also when I played with Buddy Rich. While at Berklee we played together in a weekend “funk/soul” show called “The Fabulous Trends”. I played trumpet and we had a small horn section as we played around New England and Canada on weekends. We actually made decent money then $400 apiece for two nights. He got me into Buddy’s Band, and then I got him back in, after he had done BST and needed to work again. He was a great guy and friend as we shared a lot of similar interests. Recently I had been trying to track him down, and unfortunately I was too late, as I would have loved to have talked again with my friend from Pittsburgh. Wayne Pedziwiatr. God bless. Steve Swanson/Seattle, WA

    Posted January 23, 2007 at 5:38 am | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Hi Jonathan and Steve,

    I’m sorry you had to find that your friend is gone; he will be missed forever by a great many people.

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your memories.

    Posted January 23, 2007 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  9. Hi, Malcolm. This has been one of those nights when I think of Wayne (it’s been 3 and a half years since his passing; unbelievable!), so I Googled his name, and up came your blog. Nice to read such wonderful words about my/our buddy and colleague. He was truly one of a kind. I’m still missing him every day.

    Best to all,
    Ira

    Posted October 23, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  10. Don says

    I just understood mr Wayne is gone. I am fan of his bass playing from Italy. This make me sad…

    Posted January 19, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Hi Don, and welcome.

    As you can see, it makes a lot of people sad. We all miss our friend Wayne very much.

    Posted January 19, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  12. Paul says

    I saw Wayne with Buddy Rich back in the late 70s/early 80s. He had stunning talent, and I’ve remembered that night and his name ever since. I was very surprised that he didn’t become better known subsequently. The interplay between him and Buddy that night was simply dazzling. Both were getting standing ovations in the middle of songs, and firing each other up for greater efforts. Truly a jazz night to remember.

    I’m sad to hear about his passing — I had hoped to hear him again one day. It’s also sad to hear how medical bills in the US can bankrupt people.

    Posted February 14, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Hi Paul, and thanks for visiting.

    Wayne was indeed an enormously gifted player. One of the things that always impressed me the most about him was that even though he had the dazzling ability you describe here, he always played whatever was just right for the music, and for the occasion.

    Posted February 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  14. Johnny says

    Wow. Here it is four years later up here in Boston and I just learned of Wayne’s passing while talking to a musician friend in NYC. I had no idea.

    I still tell people the story of how Wayne was playing with Tommy Campbell, Kevin Eubanks, and a keyboard player from the Conservatory on the air on WERS at Emerson College’s live music weekend on Beacon Street. While I was very much a punk rocker I squeezed into the tiny studio having seen Kevin and Tommy play many a time at Pooh’s Pub.

    Halfway through an already amazing set Kevin and the keyboard player lost power on their side of the room so Tommy and Wayne took over. I believe Tommy soloed first and when it was Wayne’s turn (as radio staff were frantically trying to remedy the power problem) he took off on what I can only describe as a journey, at least five minutes of the most beautiful and soulful bass playing I’ve ever heard with harmonics and eastern-influenced modal passages.

    The show was being piped live through the building and pretty soon a crowd had gathered at the window in the door I was sitting up against, faces all scrunched up against the glass trying to see who this amazing bassist was.

    Eventually the full power went back on and they finished the set. Afterward I asked Wayne his name and he gave me his card saying “you’ll never be able to spell it.” I kept that card for years and knew about Buddy Rich and that he played on the Honeydrippers sessions. But beyond that I didn’ really know what happened to him until tonight.

    I hope this message gets to some that knew him. I feel very lucky to have cadged my way into that studio on live music weekend where I was rewarded with true magic thanks to a balky power supply and Wayne’s incredible talent.

    Rest in peace, my friend –

    Jon Seamans aka Johnny Black
    Boston, MA

    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    Hi Jon, and thanks for sharing your remembrance of our friend. I don’t suppose we’ll ever stop missing him; he was one of a kind.

    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  16. Patty Forbes Pedzwater says

    Hi Jon
    I log into Malcolm’s site every once in a while and just saw your post. I loved the story and wanted to let you know that it brought a smile to my face.
    Patty Forbes Pedzwater

    Posted May 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink
  17. Regi Hopkins says

    It’s a very small world and a close community. I met Wayne when we both first attended Berklee in the 70’s. As is usually the case we both left for gigs me first to the city and then Wayne a year later. I’m writing this because yesterdays New Times (5/17/2009) pg 25 has an article about his roommate Terence Conley. They were a pair Wayne, from New Kensington PA & “T” from Detroit. Without question 2 of the most positive vibrant and energetic people you will ever meet. I remember running into Wayne on the road with BST and visiting him in the city when I was on the East Coast. He was just becoming a fixture on the NY Recording scene and I think had just come off the road with Paul Simon. We spent the morning laughing about the Berzerklee days and pledging that no matter what we would always be the guys from Gary Indiana and New Kensington PA. I’m heart broken, first Wayne and now “T”. My life has been enriched by knowing them.

    Posted May 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  18. I was deeply saddened to hear of Wayne’s death. I taught at Berklee in the 70’s and Wayne played in one of my bands. He blew the socks off of every chart I put in front of him, and I knew that he was going places. What an amazing soul he was. A true gentleman… something this world needs more of!

    Posted October 1, 2009 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  19. Bruce McDaniel says

    Malcolm –

    Thanks for this insightful tribute to Wayne. I was lucky to play with Wayne many times and if anyone’s presence ever made every musician around him sound better, it was Wayne. More importantly though, he made us better people. As you said, Wayne didn’t suffer fools, and as soon as any of us started playing the fool, you could be sure that there would be a cock of the head or a gentle, verbal dagger (delivered with a twinkle of the eye) coming your way.

    As you said, Wayne cared about making music the best it could be. I recall a situation, shortly after Wayne first got sick, where I was subbing for him. The parts that he played were so good and so integral to the music that I felt something would be missing if I didn’t play it his way. So I transcribed his parts from record note for note in order to do it. When Wayne was feeling well enough to return to the gig, I brought over the charts I had written just in case he wanted them. He looked at me and said “You are insane! What on earth would make you do this? Oh, and this should be a triplet, not a dotted 8th figure.”

    Man I miss him…

    Posted January 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink
  20. Malcolm says

    Hi Bruce, and thanks for your comments. Over the years a lot of Wayne’s friends have stopped by here and have commented or emailed about how what an amazing man and musician he was, and how much they miss him. I still can’t believe he’s not around anymore.

    That last quote is pure Wayne!

    Posted January 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  21. Pat Caddick says

    I was a friend, bandmate and schoolmate of Wayne’s at Berklee. I was so sad to hear of his passing, but while at Berklee, he became like a member of my own family, often spending time with us in RI.
    I have been blessed to work with some of the greatest artists and musicians in the world, and somehow always held Wayne as a watermark as a musician and kind and gentle human being. I grieve his loss, but also know that Earth deals no sorrow that Heaven can not hold.
    With Love and respect,
    Pat Caddick

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  22. Pat Caddick says

    My hope for peace and joy go out to Patty, family and friends of one of a kind.

    Posted March 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink
  23. Guy says

    I saw Wayne many times with the Buddy Rich big band. Being a Buddy Rich fan for many years and seeing Buddy’s band live with many other bass players I would say by far that Wayne was the best bass player Buddy ever had! Buddy & Wayne Rest in peace….

    Posted June 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  24. Anthony Lyle says

    Wayne was my Friend in Hi School, a true pure sole, we were jamming buddies a many a weekend. I’ll always remember the willingness to play every style of music thrown at him, we would tackle it, then tack it outside the groove, but leave the door open so we could come back inside. I miss his sense of humor and laughter. He will always be a superstar in my hometown. VHS NK.
    I think about him often, with tears and smiles.

    A.Lyle

    Posted January 28, 2012 at 12:16 am | Permalink
  25. Andrew Chaplowitz says

    I just listened to the incredible display between Buddy Rich and Wayne on Mike James site. from a concert in ’81, so I googled to see what was up.

    I am deeply saddened by the news he is no longer with us. I caught him with BR back when and he just flat out ignited the rhythm section. On “good news”, he just raised the roof, pushed even Buddy.

    48-49 years of age–way too young. I will listen to his work and remember him forever.

    Posted March 8, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  26. Jimi says

    music,parties,weddings,events

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  27. Jimi says

    I never met Wayne, and wish I did. I have a great story for you. Somtime in the late 70’s early 80’s Wayne was on tour with Buddy, they played a lot of high schools through out the south. In 1984 I was getting back to drumming after a tumor was found in my left wrist. I saw an ad fro a small set of Pearl drums and went to look at it. I right away noticed an autograph on the front of the 20 inch bass drum. I asked how much for the kit and the boy said I don’t know, how about 35.00 and I asked who the autograph was and he said Buddy Rich and some other guy ( Wayne Pedswater ). I said don’t you want the bass drum head he said no and told me where he got the autograph. Buddy went to a High School in Florida and His dad brought the bass drum head to the show. After the show he met Buddy and Wayne and they signed the head. Getting back to the kit. I told the boy I would give him 65.00 for the kit and left. that was in 1984, I still have the signed head, it’s one in a million. R I P…Wayne and Buddy

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink
  28. Mo says

    Last night I went to a BST’s concert in Pittsburgh. I have been a fan of the group since 1969. I knew Wayne before he left for Berkeley as a friend of the family and then met him and Patty in NYC for dinner years later. I had forgotten that Wayne had played with BST in the 70’s so when the music started last night I had this overwhelming feeling of Wayne presence and could not figure out why. I thought that since I am not a frequent concert goer that when the bass player began I just naturally thought of Wayne.

    This morning I decided to google BST’s since 1969 and OMG I found a clip with Wayne playing with the group. This literally gave me the chills and produced many tears.

    Now I know why he was so present with me last night. Patty, you are both in my thoughts.

    Posted August 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  29. Malcolm says

    Thanks Mo. It always gladdens my heart when people find this post, and stop by to share their memories of Wayne.

    So many people still miss him.

    Posted August 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  30. Andrew says

    I met Wayne once only; at Ronnie Scotts when he was on the BR band recording The Man From Planet Jazz album. I got hold of him as he came off stage, pumped his hand like mad and said “Man! Dynamite playing!”
    Which it was. Waynes part in that band at that time equaled BR’s musicality, taste and drive. I’ve only just found out the news, 7 years late.

    Posted September 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  31. Simon Clark says

    I’ve just found this site. I’m sad to hear that Wayne is no longer with us.I feel terribly guilty for not knowing of his passing till just now.
    I was just 12 when I first heard him in Buddy’s band. I saw him 3 times i think it was.Iremember when my dad took me to see Buddy for the 4th time and Wayne wasn’t in the band.We were disappointed.
    He was a Great bass player.

    Posted December 25, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  32. Lou Pomanti says

    I know this is late but…i played with Wayne in Blood Sweat and Tears in 1980 and 1981. I was only 22, and when I joined i had never played in a rhythm section like that. Bobby and Peter and Wayne. He was the greatest bass player i had ever played with at that point by far. Amazing. You know, when we played in LA in 1980, we all went swimming at the beach, and we almost lost him that day. He swam a little further out than the rest of us, and started yelling for help. We swam out and got him..and all was well. But it was close. Miss him.

    Posted March 22, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  33. Malcolm says

    Never too late, Lou. Thanks very much for sharing this.

    Posted March 23, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  34. ray says

    i really miss wayne. he was an impossibly gifted artist and the definition of a gentleman. this is a beautifully written tribute. (i miss you too, malcolm!)

    Posted April 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  35. Malcolm says

    Hi Ray! I hope you are well…

    Yes, Wayne was all that and more. What a loss to us all.

    Posted April 1, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink