SEMPRONIUS, N.Y. — Bruce Yaw, of Big Hill Road, Sempronius, N.Y., died on Sept. 12, 2019, at Cortland Hospital surrounded by family.
Bruce was born in Jersey City, N.J. on July 26, 1946 to Sheldon and Jeanette Yaw. He grew up on the grounds of the historic Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital where his father worked. He attended Eastern Kentucky University and graduated from Montclair State University summa cum laude.
Influenced by his father’s appreciation of jazz and the live Americana music he heard in the home of his beloved neighbor, Foster Noble, he picked up the guitar as a teenager. Bruce quickly moved to the bass guitar and became known as an inventive RnB groove player. His professional playing started as a college student. Stints with psychedelic rock band, “Clockwork Orange,” churned out short run 45s. In the 1970s, his playing became more progressive as he experimented with jazz fusion and world music. These forays resulted in much success as a member of “The Everyman Band.” Beginning in 1975, “The Everyman Band” toured the world and recorded with Lou Reed. Bruce performed on the iconic albums “Coney Island Baby,” “Rock And Roll Heart,” and is heard on “Street Hassle.” “The Everyman Band” then toured Europe and the United States with the renowned avant-garde trumpet player, Don Cherry. Bruce was known for his intense “groove” playing and sudden shifting melodic explosiveness that enriched all his performances. “The Everyman Band” recorded two highly acclaimed albums on the German record label, ECM. During this eclectic musical period, “The Everyman Band” performed at the Berlin and Zurich Jazz Festivals. He later played and toured with an East Coast bop band, “Blow Daddyo,” featuring his dear friend, Grover Kemble. As touring became more demanding, he cut back his musical career and played locally for fun and artistic fulfillment.
In 1986, he pursued his career as a French and Spanish teacher in the Moravia Central School District. Teaching was an equal passion to music for Bruce. When asked what he taught, he said, “character.” He led guitar and fly-fishing clubs at the school that had significant impact on students.
In the early 1970s, Bruce and other New Jersey friends made their way to upstate New York, where land was cheap and plentiful. Bruce and his first wife settled in the town of Sempronius, N.Y. where they lived in a school bus with their six-month old daughter, Sarah. They cleared the land and built homes and cabins that are still in use today. In 1976, Bruce met the love of his life, Geraldine Germano-Yaw, and together they lived off the land on Big Hill.
Their homestead has been a playground and haven for family and friends. As with all things in Bruce’s life, his family defied convention. Bruce, Geraldine, his first wife Gilda, and her husband, Robert Brower created a blended family that collectively raised two children and extended to include many who gathered for decades at parties and Sunday dinners on Big Hill. Bruce was an adventurer. He and Geraldine hiked the Adirondacks, the Alps, and loved canoe camping and mountain biking. Bruce was an avid fly fisherman, hunter, accomplished chef, mentor, and friend and ally of children.
Bruce was predeceased by his parents; his brother, Christopher Yaw; and his daughter’s stepfather, Robert Brower.
He is survived by his wife, Geraldine Germano-Yaw; his first wife, Gilda Brower; daughter, Sarah Yaw (Doug Lloyd); Gilda and Robert’s son, Patrick Brower (Erin Brower); and grandchildren, Ella and Jed Lloyd, and Celia and Avery Brower.
Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21, 2019, at Pettigrass Funeral Home, 196 Genesee St., Auburn.