Wendel Werner met singer Sharon Mosby for the first time when she recruited him to play piano in her band more than 20 years ago.
“Apparently she had heard me playing at the Knoxville Museum of Art once and had said to my wife at the time that I was the person she wanted to play piano for her,” Werner says. “I had heard of her before that but had never worked with her. I knew a couple players that had, and they both said she was really great to work with, a real joy. And they were right.”
Mosby died on July 30 at the age of 70. Her last performance had been at KMA’s Alive After Five series in 2010. She also appeared on the 2010 album Tenors and Satin, which featured performances by most of Knoxville’s best jazz players, including Donald Brown and Rocky Wynder.
Mosby was already one of the most popular local jazz and R&B singers at the time. During her partnership with Werner, which lasted into the 2000s, she became even more popular. Werner says her professionalism won her praise from the musicians she worked with as much as her talent as a singer won over audiences.
“She was clear that she was in charge,” he says. “But she did it in a manner that made the gig itself feel so easy and so fun. She made sure her musicians were sufficiently recognized. At the same time, when she needed to deliver, she never failed. Not once. Never. What does that say about her? ... And even with that kind of pressure, she made every gig feel as fun as a family picnic should feel—for the audience and the players. Her band loved playing for her.”