Grammy-nominated jazz musician George Mesterhazy dies at 58.

Worked with Shirley Horn, Les Paul, Bernadette Peters and many jazz greats

Georgw Mesterhazy

George Mesterhazy

He was as beloved as he was revered by his peers.

The Sudden death of renowned jazz pianist and friend to so many leaves the jazz community shocked and deeply saddened.

Mr. Mesterhazy, who was about to celebrate the release of his latest recording with singer Paula West, Live at The Jazz Standard, with four shows at the Manhattan jazz club scheduled with West (May 10 to May 13,) was nominated for a Grammy for his work as a player and arranger on Shirley Horn's 1997 album Loving You.

"It's a huge loss," Nick Regine told Atlantic City Weekly. Mr Regine is president of the Somers Point Jazz Society, and close friend of Mesterhazy. He said he found out around 6:00pm that Mr. Mesterhazy had passed away, just about 24 hours after seeing him perform at Sandi Pointe; "I just saw him last night. I gave him a kiss. Not only from the jazz standpoint is this devastating, but he was just the sweetest individual … "

George Mesterhazy, 58, of Cape May, was a Hungarian-born, Grammy-nominated jazz musician, who died at home in his sleep early Thursday of what longtime life partner Vicki Watson called natural causes. Mr. Mesterhazy's selfless attitude when playing and composing music made him the perfect fit for renowned jazz singers for decades. He translated this musical quality into everyday life, leaving a legacy of generosity on and off the bandstand.

"He is, by far, the most inspirational piano player I've ever worked with," said cabaret and jazz singer Paula Johns, with whom Mesterhazy worked for more than 20 years. "He could hear me breathe and knew where to take the song."

After his family fled Europe because of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Mesterhazy moved to Hudson, N.Y., and attended high school, Ms. Watson said. Mesterhazy met Watson about 15 years ago, when her Cape May hotel, the Merion Inn, brought him as a pianist to accompany a singer.

His musical career took him across the world and on tour with celebrities such as Broadway singer Bernadette Peters, guitarist Les Paul, and in recent years, jazz singer Paula West. She described playing with Mesterhazy as "the best thing that ever happened to me musically … I'm going to miss hearing him create," said West, who plans to release an album on which Mesterhazy played.

In what Watson called "one of the great honors of his life," Mesterhazy accompanied his longtime mentor, jazz singer and pianist Shirley Horn, up until her death in 2005. The pair had worked on two Grammy-nominated recordings, "Loving You" and "May the Music Never End."

Mesterhazy was not only a musician, but a teacher. He headed the jazz piano program at Rowan University, gave private lessons, and played with friends."George was a very expressive person," said New Jersey musician Matt Hayden, one of Mesterhazy's favorite students. "He was very good at painting a picture with his sound."

Dan Anderson, who owns and operates Sandi Pointe with his wife, is stunned. He told Jeff Schwachter of Atlantic City Weekly: "It's kind of strange for all of us right now, really bizarre," says Anderson, who recalls Mesterhazy as being his "own self - fun-loving, entertaining, joking with the audience in the dining room, telling stories" and playing his powerful brand of piano per usual Wednesday night.

"I've only gotten to know George over the past few years, but he's become part of the family here," adds Anderson.

"There are a lot of musicians who we get to know through events with the Somers Point Jazz Society, and he got to know everybody here and everybody knew him.

"There are some musicians who people get really, really pumped up [to see perform] and he was certainly one of them."

Brilliant jazz pianist Jon Weber said: “George - we just played duets on your piano in Cape May. Man. I can't believe this. Vicki, he was blessed to know you. I just played one of your charts.... sad news. You were one of a kind.”

Commenting in the Atlantic City Weekly on Mr. Schwachter's article, the renowned, Oscar-nominated composer/musician Richard Rodney Bennett said: “The fact that Shirley Horn chose him to play for her when she was incapable of doing so, tells us all we need to know. He was a great, warm, expressive pianist and a lovely man.”