NEWBURYPORT — Lifelong local resident and accomplished jazz musician Darryl Bosteels, described by a former bandmate as "an artist, a true artist," died Aug. 23 after a long illness. He was 62.
Les Harris Jr. and Marty Ballou, lifelong friends and former bandmates of Bosteels, remembered him as "a very soulful musician" and "a 100% self-taught pianist and vocalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of the great American songbook who just exuded swing."
He was born on March 30, 1957, to Ann Bosteels, a well-known jazz vocalist and pianist, and Bob Bosteels, a drummer.
Ballou said Bosteel's mother "was a great jazz singer and piano player and he just came right off of that."
"He learned through osmosis with his parents," Harris added.
Bosteels learned to play the piano before he was even tall enough to reach it.
"He didn't play with his thumbs, and I think it was for that reason," Harris said. "He could hardly reach the piano, so he could just reach it with his fingers."
Bosteels was a 1975 graduate of Newburyport High School.
In 1982, he founded the jazz band Puttin' on the Ritz, later known simply as The Ritz. The band had many members over the years, ranging from a five-piece to an eight-piece ensemble. Bosteels was a constant, bouncing between pianist, vocalist and scat singer. Harris played drums from 1983 to 1996 and Ballou played bass from 1985 to 1996.
"He was an artist, a true artist," Ballou said of his late friend and former bandmate. "He had tons of material, influence and stuff that he studied. He presented it in a full-formed way. We were lucky to be around him, no doubt."
The Ritz found international success performing at shows such as The Sea Jazz Festival in Finland, The Blue Note Jazz Clubs in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Jakarta and New York City, The New Morning Club in Paris, The Village Vanguard and the Newport Jazz Festival in Japan.
They recorded seven albums and performed across the U.S. Locally, The Ritz played at Yankee Homecoming and the first Portsmouth Jazz Festival.
Bob Martin, a former vocalist for The Ritz and now the musical director for Jimmy Fallon's Ragtime Gals, remembered Bosteels, noting, "Throughout my music career, I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with many music and show business titans, including Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Questlove and Sting, among others. I had the honor of working with Darryl Bosteels as a member of The Ritz.
"I learned so much from him and I cherish that time," Martin said. "In my view, Darryl’s unique talent and singular musical point of view puts him in the same category as these other industry greats. He is sorely missed!"
One of the band's original vocalists, Sharon Broadley-Martin, noted in a statement, "Darryl had the kind of natural effortless musical ability that many respected. He played piano by ear, could hear and copy just about anything, and loved to sing classic material from The Great American Songbook. In The Ritz, I had the pleasure to collaborate with Darryl on most of the material we recorded. Since then, I’ve gone on to teach writing and arranging at Berklee College of Music. I’ve auditioned and taught budding musicians from around the world but never have I come across anyone like Darryl: Intensely intuitive, deeply perceptive, obsessed with detail, and one of the most creative, resourceful, self-taught musicians I’ve ever met.
"I will miss him dearly, and can still hear his voice counting off the band," she wrote.
Another former vocalist for The Ritz, Rebecca Hardiman, wrote in an email, "When I was a young girl, new in The Ritz and nervous, Darryl would often turn to me while performing and say humorous things, or tell me he liked my scatting. ... It helped me relax and feel confident."
Harris' sister Melissa Moore has set up a GoFundMe to help celebrate Bosteels' life: gofundme.com/f/darryl-bosteels-burial-fund. All money collected beyond the goal will be donated in his name to Newburyport High School's music program.
A boat from Captain's Fishing Parties will disperse his ashes into the sea Oct. 7. Friends are welcome to meet at 10 82nd St. at 4 p.m. The rain date is the same time on Oct. 8.
Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.