Tim Eyermann, 60; Headed Up D.C.-Based Jazz Fusion Band

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 14, 2007

Tim Eyermann, 60, a Grammy-nominated musician who led the Washington-based jazz fusion band East Coast Offering for many years, died May 1 at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Miami of complications from lung cancer. He lived in North Miami Beach, Fla.

Mr. Eyermann, a versatile woodwind player proficient on nine instruments, was also known as an upbeat bandleader and dedicated teacher who taught for several years at Washington's Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

He arrived in Washington in 1974 as a member of the Airmen of Note, the premier jazz show band of the U.S. Air Force. After six years with the Airmen, Mr. Eyermann settled in Bowie and later in Bethesda and became one of the busiest and most respected musicians in the region.

He was comfortable with almost any kind of music -- he played everything from classical music to polkas -- but was particularly adept at jazz fusion, the high-energy blend of rock and jazz popularized in the 1970s by Weather Report and Chick Corea. Mr. Eyermann adopted the name East Coast Offering as a subtle tribute to another of his models, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express.

"He was one of the guys who really broke ground in this town," said guitarist Phil McCusker, who performed in East Coast Offering from 1978 to 1981.

Mr. Eyermann headlined at local clubs for years, toured the East Coast with his group, made about 10 albums and was nominated for two Grammy Awards, but he never quite found breakthrough national success.

"He made a comment, sort of scratching his head, that Kenny G was the warm-up act for him once," McCusker recalled.

Always on time and full of energy, Mr. Eyermann was known for his "zest and optimism," said trumpeter Vaughn Nark, who had known him since 1976. "He performed every gig as if it was his last."

Mr. Eyermann worked with a varied cast of leading jazz and pop musicians that ranged from Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson to Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Anita Baker and the Spinners. He toured with guitarist Larry Coryell and, in 2001-02, was a member of the orchestra of Three Mo' Tenors, a classical and pop vocal ensemble.

He practiced each of his instruments -- "from piccolo to baritone sax," McCusker said -- every day. Some considered the alto saxophone his finest instrument; others praised his work on bass flute. On his tour-de-force concert piece, Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Manha de Carnaval," Mr. Eyermann played all nine of his woodwinds.

"When he would go on a job, he would take suitcases," said his sister, Lynn Iezzi.

Mr. Eyermann's father, a sheet-metal worker, once made a special stand on which he could rest his array of instruments.

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