Jazz teacher, artist and musician Ed Larkosh passed away peacefully at his home in East Providence, RI on March 14, 2021, with his son Dan Larkosh and grandson Oliver Larkosh by his side.
Ed was born March 2, 1936 in Pawtucket, RI He liked to joke that he was born in home to be near his mother. He was one of four children in a first-generation family Polish and French-Canadian immigrants. His father was employed as a tile cutter; his mother worked in a lace factory.
Ed started playing drums in elementary school and by the age of 16 he was a jazz professional. drummer. After graduating from North Providence High School in 1953, “Fast Eddy” Larkosh and its steady rhythm has become a fixture on the Providence jazz scene. By day, Ed also attended the Rhode Island College of Education, where he earned a teaching degree. Ed then transferred to Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he met his future wife, Dorothy Ann Lenotti, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree.
After completing his stint in the US Army, Ed came to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time playing a drum gig at the Edgartown Yacht Club in 1963. As parents of two little boys, Ed and Dorothy thought the vineyard “would be a good place to raise a family”. Shortly after, Ed got a job as the manager of the Island Craft Center in Vineyard Haven, and he moved to the island with his family.
The first jazz band Ed joined on the island consisted of Dave Whittemore on piano, Art Sylvia on bass and Orbie Tower on tenor sax – the first of many sets that Ed would promote as “the local band”. Other featured members of the group were Edson Rogers and Ed Wise.
Ed’s first teaching job on Martha’s Vineyard was as a traveling science teacher for the whole Isle. His classroom was contained in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer called “Travel Lab”, which he driven from school to school, having obtained a class 1 license to drive it. This fully equipped classroom contained a laboratory and a planetarium; it was exciting and fun for school children to have their science lessons in the “Travel Lab”.
In 1969, Ed took a one-year position as Vice Principal of High School at Collegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. On weekends, he took his sons to bullfights; at night, Ed and Dorothy would host teachers and friends at dinner parties, entertained by the local street musicians Ed had met while exploring the city.
After Ed and his family returned to the island in 1970, Ed established a stained glass workshop in a old bungalow on Union Street in Vineyard Haven. At some point in the 1970s and 1980s, many the Main Street windows featured one of Ed’s handcrafted stained glass windows. The Martha’s Vineyard National Bank lobby featured Ed’s magnum opus, a stained glass window from the Gay Head cliffs that was also a postcard sold in bookstores and souvenir shops.
Ed continued his career as a jazz drummer, backing Jeremy Berlin, Jimmy Burgoff, and Lenny Yancey as a member of the Tisbury Jazz All-Stars. In the early 1980s, the group open for jazz luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis during a series of jazz concerts at the Hot Tin Roof. The band also performed in Variety magazine.
In the 1980s, Ed founded a company, Educational Developments, with the slogan “Dedicated to the pleasure of learning. Ed designed, manufactured and marketed a “music decoder”, which was a tool for teaching, studying and understanding the structure and relationships between music chords and keys.
An avid cyclist, for many years Ed rode a Bianchi racing bike; later you could see it everywhere island on his recumbent bike. He always wore his own bespoke t-shirts with his slogans like “My road too” and “Bike off”. He has championed the right of cyclists to safely share the road with automobiles for many years.
Ed Larkosh was not a powerful man, but he always stood up for what mattered: his family, art, beauty, justice, etc. It didn’t make much noise, but its pebbles created many ripples. For example, when Eddie lived in Hillside Village in Vineyard Haven in the 1990s, he decided he didn’t like the bright red color of his front door. (The doors have all been painted uniform shade of red for safety reasons.) Ed decided to paint his door hunter green, without ask permission from the owner. But the residents all agreed that the red doors were ugly, and Ed’s the hunter’s green door looked much nicer. If you go to Hillside Village today, you’ll see that every the door is painted hunter green. Many other details in the circles in which Ed traveled were changed and improved thanks to him.
American poet and musician Sidney Lanier wrote, “Music is love in search of a word.” Ed’s mode of expression was his art and his music. Music in particular was a real language allowing Ed to express complex feelings and emotions. Eventually, Ed made the transition drums in favor of the chromatic harmonica as the preferred musical voice. After playing a stationary, bulky instrument his whole life, Ed finally had a portable mode of musical expression. He carried his chromatic harmonica everywhere; it was with him almost all the time. Ed would often spontaneously reach into his coat pocket, pull out “Hot Lucy” (as he called his harmonica), and perform to the delight of audiences and passers-by. He also gave lessons.
Ed was a minimalist before that was a thing. He never cared about material possessions or financial success. Ed never made a lot of money playing the jazz chromatic harmonica, but he enjoyed playing it for the rest of his musical career. He did it to express his feelings and emotions “in search of a word” and because it was his way of making people happy. Ed was a true original, an island character. He had an irreverent sense of humor. He had his own flair and sense of style. He rose above his situation. He always pursued his studies and his love of history, music, literature, art and astronomy. Ed was very smart, but never pompous.
Ed moved from the island to Cedar Dell’s residence in North Dartmouth in 2010. In his later years, Ed loved road trips to Deer Isle, Maine to visit his sister Anne, traveling with his sons, movies, sporting events, music (of course), discussions of politics and current affairs, and hearty meals shared with friends and family. He returned frequently to the vineyard and especially enjoyed spending birthdays and holidays with her grandsons Oliver and Xavier.
Anyone who has ever known Ed also knows that there were few things he loved more than a good conversation over a cold beer. He was a real bon vivant. In 2011, shortly after leaving the Vineyard, Ed wrote this little tribute to his past:
mishin’ some mash,
Speaking of garbage,
Spoofin’ and joshin’,
A funeral mass at St. Augustine’s in Vineyard Haven was held in 2021. Ed is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs with his ex-wife, Dorothy Larkosh Roberts, and son, Christopher Edward Larkosh, who are both died before him. He was also predeceased by his brother Jim Larkosh and his sister Edna Davenport. Ed is survived by his son, Daniel James Larkosh, his son’s wife, Judit, his grandsons Oliver and Xavier of West Tisbury, and his sister Anne Burton of Deer Isle, Maine.