On Thursday, August 24, 2017, the New Orleans City Council again declared a Proclamation of “Tim Green Day” in the city. This second honoring of the musician, educator, activist executive once more came at the request of Nadine Ramsey, District C’s Councilmember.
Tim passed away three years ago on August 28, at age 58. His contributions to music in New Orleans and around the world are multi-fold. Arriving to New Orleans off a bus in 1978 after only two years of formal training on the saxophone (encouraged by Grover Washington in New York City, discouraged by his parents in Connecticut), Tim soon began to work with legendary musicians in the “Northernmost port of the Caribbean”: Walter Wolfman Washington and his Mighty Men, Irma Thomas, Johnny Vidacovich, James Singleton, Cyril Neville, the Neville Brothers. His interests encompassed ever-wider circles of music at the same time as his engagement as a social activist in his adopted city increased.
He performed with the tabla-player Badal Roy—while also serving as General Manager of WWOZ. He toured with Peter Gabriel, bringing a peak to the singer’s 1994 Woodstock Anniversary show with his solos and accompaniment—while also serving as General Manager for WRBH, New Orleans’ radio-station for the blind and print-handicapped, and raising funds for WRBH’s new building. He declined pay for one year of his stint at WRBH. “I was touring with Peter Gabriel and could support myself with my music,” he later explained.
Tim embraced new collaborators in New Orleans as he himself had been welcomed. He worked with Jonathan Freilich in the Naked on the Floor Quartet; with Helen Gillet in duos, trios, and larger configurations; with Morikeba Kouyaté, Thierno Doubate, Jeff Klein, and more in the Kora Konnection; with tabla-player Andrew McClean and sarodist Aashish Khan and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis in Shringar. He toured for 13 years with leader Anders Osborne, Kirk Joseph, and Kevin O’Day.
His peers mourned Tim Green by the hundreds in New Orleans at his 2014 funeral, and they continue to extol him. Helen Gillet, cellist and singer noted for her experimentation, said at a 2015 City Council ceremony: “For Tim, it was always about the music and more than the music. Everyone who played with him talked about how spiritual the experience was. His playing was transcendent.” Claude Bryant led a reggae band that featured Tim. “It didn’t matter what kind of music it was, Tim got into it and gave it his stamp, his soul,” Claude said. Johnny Vidacovich, the drummer with a bevy of memorable musicians, including Professor Longhair, James Booker, Alfred Roberts, and Mose Allison, summed up: “Whatever music you were playing, Tim made it better.”
A poster done for the 2017 Tim Green Day let others pay their respects.
Natalia Gonzalez, Executive Director of WRBH since 2002, said: “What a wonderful man. It’s my honest belief that WRBH would not be in existence without Tim Green.”
Kirk Joseph remarked from his tour-stop with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band: “Such a sweet, giving, over-the-top talent. Tim would have walked to the moon, or tried, for something he believed in.”
Peter Gabriel sent his memories from overseas: “I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Tim, not only because he was a legendary part of the New Orleans music scene, but he was also a kind, thoughtful, and very musical soul.”
The New Orleans City Council Chambers saw expressions of gratitude that reached the stage of quiet tears.
Anders Osborne talked about his and Tim’s and Kirk’s immediate, magic, musical rapport and their years of touring. “Tim was such a student that he became a teacher to us all. Because he was such a student he brought us to greater understanding.
Pat Hunley of WRBH spoke of what an unstoppable force was Tim Green when on a mission. “A soft-spoken dynamo,” Pat said.
Andrew McLean spoke of the spiritual tone that Tim brought to their playing with Indian musicians.
Don Paul, who designed a tribute poster and led in facilitating with Lena Stewart steps that led to Councilmember Ramsey requesting the Proclamation, admitted that he scarcely knew Tim, but that others’ responses made something “universal” clear to him: that Tim Green always “elevated” those around him.
Dianne Greenrainey, Tim’s “kid sister” by a mere 2 1/2 years, drew portraits of Tim for the assembly. “He was always my guide—even though I was taller than him by the time I was 11—and he always took his own path.”
Councilmember Ramsey, the sponsor again of the Day, and Councilmembers Jason Williams and LaToya Cantrell, praised Tim for his example of giving and the lessons that he continues to provide.
Qué viva, Tim Green! For a long, long time, many will be glad to know you!
Don Paul recently published this story in remembrance of Tim Green, a celebrated musician, educator, and activist who worked with WWOZ and WRBH. Tim was also the recipient of OffBeat‘s Best of The Beat Award (Best Saxophonist) for three consecutive years in 2001 through 2003. Originally published on the WWOZ website, OffBeat has been given permission to reprint the story.