Thu Dec 16 08:21:10 EST 2004


When 41 year old Almeta Mattis signed off the air from her popular Monday night WHCJ jazz radio program this week, she reassured her fans that she would be back at her usual time on Friday night. She also reminded us at six p.m. that we were "now in the International Dinner Hour."  And as always, at the end of her show, she admonished her audience to treat jazz like old furniture: "Preserve it."  

I spoke briefly with her by phone that Monday night.  Stephen Lugar asked about her Christmas plans when he came in to relieve her shift at eight.  She told him that she had been planning the holiday for some time.  


Ms. Mattis died in her sleep that night.  


She had been a volunteer at the radio station for as long as I can remember. Apparently, she began doing her radio program as a student at Savannah State University and stayed on after she graduated.  


I enjoyed listening to her mix of all different kinds of jazz on her program.  She stayed above the various arguments about what is or isn't jazz, or which jazz is best.  She seemed to enjoy it all.


On her last show on Monday night, the mix was even more eclectic than usual.  Being the holiday season she mixed and matched just about every type of music imaginable.  There was the jazz, such as Denny Zeitlin, Fourplay, Donald Byrd, The Paul Brown Quartet, Branford Marsalis, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, thrown in the blender with heaping portions of James Brown, Melvin Sparks, and the Temptations - all mixed in with a little Natalie Merchant added to spice things up.


Almeta had a very distinctive voice and unique style of delivery.  She would always introduce the songs with a witty prelude that transitioned into the title ( I hear her voice: "Miles Davis wants to take you to Dear Old Stockholm, I hope you enjoy the ride"). She would also let you know what events were happening in the coastal area.  She loved radio; you could just tell.


Almeta will be missed.  Not only by me, or by people who tuned in regularly to her radio programs-- but also by people who maybe didn't even know her.  Because she was always moving the music forward.  


Services for Ms. Mattis will be held at the Second Arnold Baptist Church, 1427 E. 37th Street in Savannah at noon on Saturday, December 18th (912-234-5500).

Larry Dane-Kellogg, WHCJ
Savannah, GA

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