Al Stauffer was a giant musician but a gentle and supportive human being. Someone asked me recently what was it about Al that was so important to me. I must admit that no one ever asked that question of me before. It wasn't difficult to answer but it was important that I got the words right.
Al was strong, creative, encouraging and rock solid. That not only describes his music but also his character. He was always ready for something new but also valued tradition. His ability to respond musically to the moment was legendary. Whatever I played, he had a spontaneous musical reaction to it. He was the proverbial team player and yet a completely original voice.
Al taught for me at my school Modern Music Studios in Berwyn, PA for 5 years. Every night after teaching, we would go to a local pub where he would eat a roast beef sandwich and drink a couple of beers. My weakness leaned toward ham sandwiches and birch beer. Late into the night, we would talk music, sports or anything else two friends would talk about.
Al kept a distinct line between his musical life and his personal life. I realized that after he was gone, that I knew nothing about his personal life. I didn't know where he lived except in a very general way. I didn't know much about his family or his life outside our music. I didn't know where he went school or where and how he trained musically. Despite this, I always felt that we were remarkably close.
I'm always disappointed that when I see any mention of Al in print, that it never mentions our collaboration. We did concerts, taught together and recorded for 5 years at a critical point in my musical development. Fortunately, our work continues on through the recording, The Vintage Tracks.
I owe a great debt to Al for his support of my music.