Though there's been no published obituary or other official announcement, StLJN has learned that longtime St. Louis jazz pianist Eddie Fritz has died at age 69. The news of his passing comes from guitarist Steve Schenkel, who on Tuesday posted a message on Facebook with remembrances of Fritz. The pianist, who lived in Eureka, apparently had been in poor health for some time, but no cause of death was mentioned. (Note: See updates below.)
Eddie Fritz's career stretched back to St. Louis' Gaslight Square era, where as a young man in the early 1960s he worked at clubs including the Black Horse and the Crystal Palace. From the 1970s through the 1990s, he had long running gigs leading the house bands at two local hotels, spending 20 years at the Breckinridge Inn in Frontenac and another 10 at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. In 1998, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story by Patricia Corrigan about Fritz' plans to launch a big band after purchasing a book of arrangements from retiring bandleader Jack Engler, but it's not clear if the group ever actually got off the ground.
Fritz had a reputation as a versatile and technically accomplished pianist with a well developed sense of harmony. His band provided early gigging experience for many St. Louis jazz musicians, including drummer Dave Weckl, bassist Tom Kennedy, clarinetist Scott Alberici and Schenkel. Eddie Fritz also was known for his sometimes bawdy sense of humor, and no doubt will be fondly remembered by his many friends, fans and musical colleagues.
StLJN currently has no information on surviving family members or funeral arrangements, but if more details are made public or an obituary published, this post will be updated as necessary.
UPDATE - 1:30 p.m., 3/2/12: A visitation for Eddie Fritz will take place from 10:00 a.m until noon next Monday, March 5 at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road. After the visitation, a service will be held at noon.
UPDATE - 2:30 a.m., 3/3/12: The Post-Dispatch has published a detailed obituary for Eddie Fritz, written by Calvin Wilson. It has details on the cause and place of death ("of a liver ailment at St. Anthony's Medical Center") and on survivors, who include his wife, Deborah; two sons, Eddie Fritz, Jr. of Los Angeles and Matthew Fritz of St. Louis County; a daughter, Jennifer Thissen of Wildwood; two sisters, Rosemary Wilson of Little Rock, AR and Carolyn Gleason of Des Peres; and two grandchildren.
(Edited after posting. Edited again to correct Fritz' age at death and add to information on funeral arrangements. Edited again to add a link to the Post-Dispatch obituary and to correct place of residence.)