In Memoriam: Jef Jaisun

Jef Jaisun passed away peacefully early Monday, November 18, 2019 after bravely battling three cancers over two years.

Jef’s home was in Seattle, Washington; but his home away from home was New Orleans.

But even while in Seattle, Jef lived and breathed New Orleans, embracing our music, food and culture.

Jef had tirelessly worked to help many of our dearly beloved musicians with his fundraising on behalf of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, and also donated his time and electrical expertise to help restore the homes of Irma Thomas, Roscoe Ernest, Spencer Bohren and many others after Hurricane Katrina.

Jef was dearly loved by everyone who knew him. His intelligence and wit were unsurpassed, and he uplifted every soul he ever came in contact with. His list of talents is endless but he was well known locally, especially for his music performance photography. OffBeat has published many of Jef’s photos over the years, and we are especially grateful that he contributed to the magazine.

Jaisun had the honor of being the featured artist in the Grand Stand Exhibition for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  His artful photographs of Jazz Fest musicians brought to life the essence of their music and spirit; so much so, that he was chosen to be featured a second time. In 2001 he also had a photography exposition at the Hanson Gallery in the French Quarter, and at Eddie Bo’s Piano Night.

Jef was a talented musician and writer. He played guitar and piano, and composed numerous songs.  His parody tune “Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent” was a favorite on Dr. Demento in the ’70’s. In the early 80’s he cut an album Brand New Rose, and recorded a couple of albums in Europe and Denmark while on tour there. As a solo artist, Jef opened for many great bands and musicians such as The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, B.B. King, and many famous blues artists.

Jef had collaborated with numerous musicians over the years across America, from the South to the Pacific Northwest. Many of these musicians came to Seattle yearly to join him for his famous Birthday Celebration, usually held at the Highway 99 Blues Club on Seattle’s waterfront, and also for “Fiesta del Jefe” in the summer.

Over his 73 years Jef had careers as a radio personality, journalist, music reviewer, organic farmer, musician, electrician, photographer, and a tireless fund-raiser. He was also honored with the prestigious “Keeping the Blues Alive in Photography” award from the National Blues Foundation in Memphis. Jef was exceptionally talented at anything he endeavored, and with his work ethic, never demurred from a request for help.

Jef was just in New Orleans and provided OffBeat with beautiful photos of the 2018 Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival. We could only wish that there were more people like Jef in this world. Everyone who knew him was blessed to have him in their lives, and we will forever remember and miss him.

Jef was the oldest of four children. He is survived by seven siblings, five sons, eight grandchildren, and his loving sweetheart of 26 years. He was buried in Seattle on Tuesday November 19, 2019 and was given a joyful Second Line sendoff as he had wanted.  A memorial is being planned for summer of 2020 in Seattle.

Donations can be made in his memory to The New Orleans Musicians Clinic.

Here’s Jef performing at Highway 99 Blues Club. RIP, Jef.