Memoir shared in Carson City for jazz festival |

Memoir shared in Carson City for jazz festival

Claire P. Gordon's novel covers her experiences working with jazz composers Duke Ellington and Nat Cole, and her marriage with songwriter Irving Gordon.


- “My Unforgettable Jazz Friends” paperback is $35 and $40 for hardcover.

- Purchases can be made through Joe Peel at the Sierra Place Senior Living, 1111 W. College Parkway or at 775-888-9804.

- Books also can be purchased at the Deep Groove performance, a Jazz & Beyond Festival concert, held at the Sierra Place Senior Living 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18.


The session started. I was the only visitor and was put into service as the timekeeper. Sitting on a high stool just behind Nat and Lionel, I had an unobstructed view of the clock on the wall. It was assumed they might be so busy playing that they would not be watching the clock. It was my duty to signal them, after they had played for about two and a half minutes, that they should come to an end. That’s because those ten-inch shellac records only held about three minutes worth of music.

I listened, but I never took my eyes off that big clock on the wall. At the correct moment I got off my stool and stood where I would be visible to both of men. As had been suggested, I waved my arms vigorously — the signal that time was up. Nat saw me and began an ending but Lionel went right on playing. He was too involved in watching his moving fingers to look up. What to do? I waved again frantically and this time Hamp lifted his head and brought his solo to a close. Two endings! The powers-that-be didn’t ask for another take. There was only the one version made that day which, because of having two endings, runs nearly three and a half minutes. It was released with the title “Jack the Bellboy.”

The Jazz & Beyond Festival is in full swing and one husband is driven to share his late wife’s story about her friendships with many well-known jazz musicians.

Claire P. Gordon died June 3 at the age of 97 in Arroyo Grande, Calif. Since her death, Joe Peel, 84, has resided at Carson City’s Sierra Place Senior Living.

“My Unforgettable Jazz Friends” is a 286-paged memoir written by Gordon about her experience serving as secretary to jazz composer Duke Ellington, and her marriage with Irving Gordon, a songwriter. He’s best known for writing the song, “Unforgettable,” which Claire encouraged Nat King Cole to record.

She also shares memories about her bond with saxophonist Benny Carter, her attendance of Cole’s recording sessions, and reflections of jazz music from the 1930s and 1940s era. The book published in 2004.

“They were close. He was such a jewel of a man. His library would knock your eyes out .”Joe Peel on Benny Carter

“I didn’t listen to a lot of jazz but I met a lot of people in the genre because of her,” Peel said. “Anyone who loves jazz would love reading her stories. She certainly changed my life.”

Peel is selling her memoir $35 for paperback and $40 for hardcover. Although he will be selling them in person and through, he plans to display her books during the Deep Groove performance Aug. 18.

Peel said many of Gordon’s experiences inspired him, however, he’s most fascinated with her friendship with Benny Carter, in which she covers in many chapters of her novel.

“They were close,” he said. “He was such a jewel of a man. His library would knock your eyes out — he was intelligent.”

Peel met Gordon in a program through the American Mensa organization. He was living in Reno at the time when he sent her letters, as she resided in Brentwood, Calif. They married in the early 1990s, many years after she divorced Irving and the death of her second husband, Ken Williams, a television announcer.

After their wedding in Las Vegas, the couple moved to Los Altos, Calif., to be closer to Gordon’s children.

Gordon is also the author of two other books, “Boy Meets Horn” and “The Color of Music,” and a co-author of “Marshal Royal: Jazz Survivor.”