Leon Bibb: An ode to "The Sax Man"

When I was growing up, one of the hot songs rising quickly up the charts was the MoTown hit, “Dancing in the Streets.” The lyrics were, “All you need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere. They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing. Dancing in the street.”

There is a Clevelander who kept his own music in the streets and kept us swinging and swaying. He passed away this week. He was nicknamed " The Sax Man,” because he blew a mean and mellow saxophone on downtown Cleveland streets. His name was Maurice Reedus Junior. I knew him. I also knew his father, Maurice Senior, who was also a sax man and well-known in jazz circles. But this story is about Maurice Reedus Junior, a man who made an impact and who perhaps touched your life, even if you didn't know his name.

Maurice Reedus Junior died earlier this week at the age of 65. He was not rich with money, but he was rich with his music, which he gifted to all who walked along the Playhouse Square theater district, especially before a play or music performance inside one of those palatial showplaces of entertainment. You may have even found him outside the ballpark or court before Indians, Cavaliers or Browns game.

When I heard of his death, I felt a personal loss. You see, I looked for him whenever I walked the downtown streets, especially just before a Cleveland Playhouse performance or Cleveland sports team game. Maurice lived in a small apartment, where his family found his body.

Just as years ago he had served this country in the U.S. Army, he also served this city, giving of himself. He often stood in the chill of Cleveland’s late autumn and winter scenes, or the heat of the summer where heatwaves bounced on the asphalt, along with his musical notes which bounced melodically off them, too. Maurice was a true Cleveland personality.

In this age where so much is said of entertainers who charge big money for tickets to hear them play, you did not have to pay to hear Maurice – " The Sax Man.” He played for free. He would take any contribution you wanted to make as he played on the sidewalk, but it was not necessary to pay him.

A few years ago, there was a documentary made about Maurice. I was interviewed about how I felt about him. I saluted him for being a treasure in this community. He was that.

So many of us look for harmony in our own lives. So many of us chase dollars, hoping we will find happiness. Maurice Reedus had a harmony in his life. And a rhythm. It flowed through that sweet saxophone sound his laid out on Cleveland streets. I will miss his sweet saxophone sound on the streets. I will miss his welcoming smile. I will miss Maurice Reedus Junior, “The Sax Man," the man who, in his wonderful way, brought his own harmony and his heart to Cleveland streets.

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