New Orleans band Cha Wa held a memorial show for Steve Malinowski, the band’s pianist who recently passed away. The tribute took place at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street on Wednesday, June 22.
Malinowski controlled stages with ambidextrous skill and an infectious grin. The New York native died on Friday, June 17, less than a week before his 26th birthday.
Steve Malinowski, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, was an established pianist in Boston and New York City before moving to New Orleans three years ago. Once here, he formed an organ trio with Chris Alford and fellow Berklee graduate Joe Gelini called Solar Strut. Malinowski and Gelini would play again in the band Cha Wa. Malinowski also made a name for himself playing with Ana Popavic.
In the middle of the show, Gelini had a heartfelt message for the crowd about Malinowski. “Everyone should be smiling like Steve,” Gelini said. “I’m going to try and smile like him.”
Gelini reflected on Malinowski’s uncanny abilities on the pianist: “He has a killer left hand. He could play bass just with his left hand he could play everything else with the tunes. It was just great… Steve has a better left hand than a lot of bassists that I’ve played with. He would literally lay the most solid groove down.”
Gelini recalled that it was Malinowski’s attitude, in combination with his abilities, that made him special.
“Just from on stage, he had the most infectious grin and he had this amazing groove. He was just so happy. I’ve seen happy people that weren’t as good as him,” Gelini said. “He’s like super talented, he was super talented. I hate referring to him in the past tense. His legacy is huge.”
The Heart Attacks, who lost their trumpet player, Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill last year, were part of the tribute show. There was an additional memorial at Frenchy’s Gallery next door with a slideshow of pictures of Malinowski.