Thomas W. Jacobsen, OffBeat contributor and author, died at home in St. Louis of lung cancer on January 15. Jacobsen was devoted to jazz music since he was a teenager, playing both clarinet and saxophone.
Born on March 18, 1935 in Mankato, Minnesota, Tom eventually spent 26 years on the faculty of Indiana University.
Upon his retirement from Indiana University in 1992, Tom moved to New Orleans, where he lived for over 25 years. While living in New Orleans he became involved in the local music scene, including writing for OffBeat Magazine.
He was also the New Orleans correspondent for the traditional jazz and ragtime monthly The Mississippi Rag. And he served for more than a decade on the editorial staff and was a columnist and feature writer for the magazine The Clarinet.
He published several books on New Orleans jazz, including The New Orleans Jazz Scene Today: A Guide to the Musicians, Live Jazz Venues, and More; The New Orleans Jazz Scene 1970–2000: A Personal Retrospective and Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversations with the Men Who Make the Music—all reviewed in OffBeat Magazine.
Tom, along with others (including myself), was a music advisor at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, which is also known as the Jazz Church. The music committee at the church was instrumental in presenting local jazz music to the congregation.
In March 2011 Tom responded to an OffBeat editorial criticizing New Orleans leaders for ignoring music. Tom’s letter said: “I quite agree that the importance of music to our city is neglected by our benighted leaders. Our city is recognized throughout the world as the birthplace of jazz, but it has been my experience that more Europeans are aware of that than most Americans (who are largely clueless about the music). Consider for example the number of European jazz bands with ‘New Orleans’ in their names. Remember, too, that the Society of American Travel Writers named New Orleans the country’s top music city in 2009. What did our unenlightened tourism officials—or any other local officials, for that matter—make of that? Too many people locally who make decisions about music know virtually nothing about music and, seemingly, have no interest in learning.”
Jacobsen and his wife Sharyn moved to St. Louis in September, 2014, to be near their two youngest grandchildren.
He is survived by Sharyn, his wife of 20 years; her daughter, Deborah; and several grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned in New Orleans at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in March. Memorial donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, or Habitat for Humanity.