The American musician and writer, Anthony Weller, has died at age 63, as a result of complications from primary progressive MS, which he’d battled since 2006. A longtime resident of Gloucester, MA, Weller also lived on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and in coastal Italy.
Born on September 18, 1957 in Macon, Georgia, Weller was the son of a British ballet scholar and an American war correspondent and novelist. A jazz and classical guitarist, he first studied the guitar at Phillips Exeter (class of ’75) with Walter Spalding, and began playing professionally at 18. He took a degree in music at Yale, then moved to New York, where he was active in both genres. Weller also trained extensively as a composer with Julián Orbón, and wrote works for piano, orchestra, voice, and chamber ensembles, as well as for solo guitar. He left NYC to live in Amsterdam and Paris, before settling in the Boston area.
On classical guitar Weller was a longtime disciple of the virtuoso Rey de la Torre, one of the great guitarists of the 20th century and the most eminent disciple of Miguel Llobet. He performed and taught the world over and premiered the work of composers Julián Orbón, David Erlanger, Steven Kinigstein, and Robert J. Bradshaw. He also performed with the Boston Artists Ensemble, and with flamenco guitarists Valdemar Phoenix and Peter Regis in Guitarramania. He contributed a master class and a concert to both the 2004 and 2006 Newport Guitar Festivals.
Weller’s main jazz studies were with Allen Hanlon and Ike Isaacs; he also studied with Pat Martino and Tuck Andress. A greater influence were his friendships with London guitarist John Etheridge, with whom he gave concerts in the USA and the Middle East, and with legendary solo guitarist Tommy Crook of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He regularly collaborated with Turkish Cypriot pianist Arman Ratip, playing a hybrid of jazz and Turkish folk music.
While often performing solo, Weller was also part of four prominent groups. As a member of the Jon Jarvis Trio he recorded with violinist Stéphane Grappelli and appeared in New York’s JVC Jazz Festival and at Birdland. He was a co-founder of Chamber Jazz, with trombonist Philip Swanson and reedman Michael Rossi. Starting in 1995, he was the guitarist with the trio of eminent trumpeter Herb Pomeroy. More recently he joined forces with vocalist Maggie Galloway and bassist Bob Nieske. He also performed frequently with clarinetist Billy Novick and bassist Thomas Hebb.
In all, Weller released fifteen CDs, both classical and jazz.
While in New York he began to work as a journalist, traveling extensively throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, the South Pacific, Central America, and the Caribbean. Over the years he wrote more than one hundred and fifty articles for National Geographic Traveler, The Paris Review, Forbes, GEO, The New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, and many other periodicals. He received a Lowell Thomas Award for foreign reporting in 1993.
In 1996 Marlowe & Co. published Weller’s novel, The Garden of the Peacocks; the next year they released a travel memoir of India and Pakistan, Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road: Calcutta to Khyber; and in 1998 another novel, The Polish Lover. A third novel, The Siege of Salt Cove, was published by W. W. Norton in 2004. His last published novel, The Land of Later On, appeared in 2011.
Weller edited and wrote a long essay for First into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War (Crown, 2006, introduction by Walter Cronkite). This was the reporting by his father, George Weller, which had been blocked by censors at the time [September 1945] and thought lost to history until Anthony found copies among his late father’s papers. Acclaimed by historians, it was named by Kirkus one of the best books of the year. In 2009 Weller edited an enormous follow-up compilation for Crown of his father’s finest 1941-45 reporting, Weller’s War: A Legendary Correspondent’s Saga of World War II on Five Continents.
In 2021, Weller’s first book of poetry appeared, a set of forty sonnets to his wife, Sonnets of Death and Love, with images by artist Mary Heebner.
Weller is survived by Kylée Smith, his beloved wife of 24 years, and by a large community of friends and fans for whom his absence leaves a gap that will never be filled. The grace, determination, and courage with which he endured his cruel disease was an inspiration to all who knew him. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please contribute in Anthony’s name to the charity of your choice.