Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Gone Too Soon - But It's All Good and His Melody Lingers On"

         Yesterday, Friday, August 5 at about 6 AM, my girlfriend Yvonne Alsup called me on the telephone and gave me the worst news ever..."I'm sorry to call you with such bad news, but I just heard that your friend Michael Cerrone was involved in a terrible automobile accident and that he passed away early Wednesday morning. I knew you would want to know."  Needless to say how stunned I was.  In my mind, I was asking myself if this was a dream...praying that it was, and that Michael was alive and well.  Unfortunately, it was not a dream; it was reality.  

        On Friday evening, Yvonne and I attended a memorial for Michael at the First Unity Church of St. Petersburg.  It was exactly how Michael would have wanted it ... "A Home-Going Celebration." Several friends and family had beautiful stories to share about their relationship with Michael, and I was tempted to say my piece, but decided to write a blog and to share with as many people as I could.

        So, if you didn't know him, this blog, which is really a review of a Christmas CD he made, will tell you enough about him that you'll understand why he was loved by all those that knew him.  It's always a injustice when you cannot say "Goodbye" to a dear friend when the Lord calls, but that is why we should let our loved ones know how much they mean to us before either of us passes on.  I hope you'll get as much out of this piece as I did while rewriting it.

                                                                     “It’s All Good”

            It was during the day of Christmas Eve while I was standing in front of the kitchen sink cleaning ten pounds of collard greens.  As I’ve done many times before, I had started playing a couple of Christmas CDs to listen to while preparing for the big holiday feast.  I had no idea that by the time I finished rinsing off the greens, I’d be struggling to hold back the tears.  I was filled with the spirit as I listened to a CD sung by Michael Cerone. 

            Last year, you readers may recall that I listed several Christmas CD albums that I recommended you to purchase.  I find myself recommending only one this season.  The title of the CD is “It’s All Good” by Michael Cerone.  It is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of music that I’ve ever listened to.  The songs on the CD are of spiritual comfort and inspiration.  Cerone says on the CD cover “I offer this music, in grateful praise of my loving and beloved God, who is nearer than our own hearts, and from whom, all grace flows, and, to all my sisters and brothers everywhere.  Each song, in its place here, and with its message describes my journey on the path thus far.  The songs tell of the challenges in life, and of the questions I ask in my prayers.”

            A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Cerone at a Theo Valentin and Friends jazz concert promoted by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, Inc.  Ms. Valentin invited Cerone to sing a couple of tunes.  It was then that I realized that this vocalist had the sound of Sinatra, and the stage presence of Tony Bennett.  At that concert, Cerone sang several jazz songs, and sang them quite well and, I remember that the audience was quite enthusiastic and Cerone well-received.  However, I did not know that Cerone was also a Spiritual and Gospel vocalist.  But, on this Christmas Eve day, I learned that not only is he a Spiritual and Gospel vocalist but also a devout Christian possessing an uncanny skill to compose meaningful tunes.

            As an example of Cerone’s song writing skills, listen to the words of the first song on the CD, “Mary Did You Know”.  A few stanzas of the song go like this, ‘Mary did you know, that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?  Mary did you know, that your Baby Boy would someday save our sons and daughters?  Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?  This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.’  Cerone delivers a song with words so distinct that you can actually understand what he is singing, so unlike a lot of vocalists out there today.  Much of today’s music is hinged with excess – instruments that are so loud, mega effects, huge productions – Michael Cerone does not follow the leader but does his own thing in a way that is humble and, can and does touch everyone that takes time to listen.  Cerone actually demonstrates to his audience that less is more on this his first and only CD.

            The CD begins at a leisurely pace with selected Spirituals and Gospel songs, such as ‘Mary Did You Know’, ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Crying In The Chapel’, ‘I Am Listening’, and several others.  He follows these tunes with a few recognizable and popular upbeat tunes like ‘On A Clear Day’, ‘If I Ruled The World’, and the CD title song ‘It’s All Good’.  I like this later tune, when Cerone sings “Well things can’t make you happy, they just get old; and maybe someone left you flat, people come and go.  The sun is up, shining bright outside, get in your life, go for a ride.  It’s all good, it’s all good, it’s all good, it’s all good.”  As one can immediately see, Cerone isn’t afraid to mix it up.  The CD’s best track is the beautiful ‘There Is No-One in The World Like You’, (and the beauty that you are, this world has never seen before.)  Or, it may be ‘The Promise’, where Cerone sings, “There’s a voice within every one of us that gently leads us on. There’s a voice in every one of us that guides us on our way. There’s a promise given to our very soul that we can never lose or even toss away, it’s that voice we hear between our laughter and our tears from day to day… Be still and know that God is Love, and the truth will set you free.”  

            Something about the vocalist…Michael Cerone hails originally from Harlem, New York and the South Bronx.  As a youngster, he attended the New York High School of Performing Arts, where he acquired a strong foundation for the music that he loves.  He shares stories of visiting on many, many occasions the famous jazz club Birdland, listening to the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, and a host of other famous and popular jazz artists.  Cerone as a young adult landed in Hollywood, California and worked in Media Production, sometimes as an Audio Engineer or Production Assistant; he continued to meet many of the heavy hitters in the music industry.  However, it was sometime in the 70’s that Cerone decided to follow a more spiritual path in life.  He had become disenchanted with the social happenings in his life and the lives of his close friends.  One day he found himself asking “Jesus, put me where you want me to be.”  And, the rest is history. 

            On a trip to St. Petersburg to visit his parents, Cerone decided to make the Tampa Bay area his home.  He started his own business in photography, and found himself a church to continue seeking the truth.  Cerone says he is non – denominational, and is at home anyplace where people worship the Lord.  On this CD which is Cerone’s first song album attempt, there are a total of 16 songs; 5 of which he wrote.  Kevin Wilder, keyboardist and well-known jazz artist in Tampa Bay collaborated with Cerone on the tune ‘There’s No-One In The World Like You’.  Handling the musical arrangements was Mark Dye, who worked along-side Cerone for a period of 2 years to complete the musical project.

            There’s an abundance of holiday music available this season, but Cerone’s CD is one that’s worth seeking out.  You can purchase his CD in St. Petersburg at: First Unity Church Bookstore,
469 – 45th Avenue, North
; St. Jude Cathedral,
5th Avenue
and 58th Streets, North; or Unity Christ Church,
6168 First Avenue, North

          Michael Cerrone & Best Friend Kevin Wilder  
* * * * * * * *


1 comment:

  1. What a nice article and tribute to Michael. My son told me about the horrible accident when I visited St. Petersburg last month. I was very saddened and my sympathies go out to his family. I lost touch with Michael about 10 yrs ago when I married and moved to Roatan, Honduras. I first met Michael shortly after he moved to St. Petersburg. We met at a meeting, but he had gotten hurt on his motorcycle on the way. I insisted he let me take him to the hospital. Anyway, we became close over the next decade and I hired him often for photography jobs at the large corporation where I worked. We played cards once a week and he even brought his dad to my mom's house in the late 1980s for card games. My mom is also Italian and from NYC and we all had a lot in common. My whole family loved him. Michael was such a wonderful, caring person - - so spiritual, talented and full of energy. I know he had many many friends and will be sorely missed by everyone.
    Marcia Quinn