John Alkins tribute page

The recent news of the murder of my musical friend John Alkins came as a total shock to me, and I’m sure many of those who knew John (for as long) as I did feel the same way!  I had been “away” from him for quite a few years, mostly due to movements with the U.S. Army, but for other reasons, too. What I never forgot, and never will, is the beautiful talent he had for “seeing” music that others didn’t even know was there.  I first met John in a (now sadly) defunct Coffee House called the Gnu Deli (in Olympia), way back in 1980 or so.  He (& many others in that environment) encouraged me to perform spoken-word, and eventually to play keyboards live, too.  I was never “photo-oriented”, so I don’t have many pictures of him (if anyone DOES have pictures they’d like posted on this tribute page, please send them to me as a .jpg attachment and I’ll make sure they get posted; please use my email address).. what I do have are several recordings that he and I performed on together, as well as several of his solo efforts.  That’s what you’ll find here on this page… on the other hand, if you think he should be remembered in other ways, just send  me what you have, or send me links to pages that have things about John that you believe are significant.  So, without further ado, here are a few of the projects/recordings that John and I were involved in together.

I was on a cruise through Olympia on my way back to Korea after a whirlwind tour of the U.S. while on a two-week vacation with my wife. We set things up so my old playing pals Harlan Mark Vale, John Alkins & a whole host of others from the local Olympia scene would be available for jamminâ down & out. This is one of the gutsiest jazz jam sessions youâll ever hear. Much fun for all (including you, the listener, of course)!  Here are 3 of the songs from that session, titled “Rogue Sea Merchants”:

                                                          “Bye, Olywa

                                                   “Strange Arrangements


This trio (John Alkins, Harlan Mark Vale and Dick Metcalf) has been playing experimental music since the early 1980â²s.  On this outing, they were (about) 50 yards away from the edge of the Puget Sound, listening to (and watching) the waves roll in on a beautiful sunset evening. This music will soothe and excite you (at the same time).

                                                 “Tsunami Approaches

                                                   “Somewhere Other

                                                          “Trio Talks

The Mad Metcalf Ensemble was formed as an offshoot of the Trillium grouping that included Mark Vale, John Alkins, Dick Metcalf & Bob Cerelli. This group did some HIGH-end art performances, & a few of these tunes, from the CD Resurrection Reservations Only are captured here for you to listen to.

                                                                 “Boogie 2

                                                            “Funk Keys, Please

                                                                “Camel Pact

I will just put these three up for today, but will be digging through the archives and will put up several others, as well as several of John’s solo pieces (that he had me doing distribution for).  Again – if you have material you think belongs here, just contact me at  to let me know.

Here is a CD that features John doing solo piano – there is no question but what that is where he truly SHONE as a player – the CD is titled CONTINUUM:


                                                                       “Lamb of God

                                                                        “Laura Lee

Please share this beautiful work with others who want to know about the best parts of John Alkins!!!

14 Comments so far:

  1. I wanted to share this page with our ’72 class facebook page. His music was wonderful back then and obviously he became a bigger talent. We will miss him.

    • Hi, Debbie – hope you do share it… we truly WANT to hear from those folks who knew how cosmic John’s playing was!

  2. I knew John through BHR. He was my son’s caseworker for many years. Came to our home and did music therapy with him, to try and help draw him out of his autism. I am still in shock about his death, how tragic. I will always remember his kindness, his caring and gentle spirit.
    Thanks for sharing this page for those of us who didn’t know him in his younger years. God Bless

    • Bonnie, it’s just my hope that all those 100’s (if not 1000’s) of folks who were touched by his musical abilities (whether through his CD’s, his “drum circles”, or other musical events) will visit here and pay tribute to his memory. Hope you’ll spread the word to others you know who may have known John! Thanks for your comment!

  3. John & I met in the spring of1989 hanging out at the Asterisk Cafe (now Vics Pizzeria) in Olympia.
    We had many long conversations about death, loss & grief as my life partner had recently died unexpectedly. He shared recordings of his beautiful music with me which I found so healing!
    I shared my grieving and healing process with him. In my grief I was finding my path back into living life fully. John seemed to struggle with finding his path.
    He celebrated my finishing my Masters degree with my community of friends that same spring. We were briefly intimate and then I never saw him again.
    He came into my life at a very special time and I am forever grateful for knowing him.

    • Beautiful story, Laurie – thanks for sharing it… hoping lots more of the folks who knew John will visit here & share their stories, pictures and ideas about him and his music!

  4. I met John years ago through my cousins Keith and Cheryl and friend Bud. We were immediate friends. His music and talent were amazing. He had a way of making you lose yourself in his wonderful works of music. I went to several of his performances at Whitman College. I teased him about cutting that long beautiful hair, and he was ready to have me cut it. I never did. He was one of my most favorite people. I wish we would have stayed in touch through these years.

    • Mary – you’re so right on with your comment about “losing yourself” in his music… the track titled “Tsunami Approaches”, above, is one of those pieces… John at his strongest, in my many years of experience playing with him!

  5. My heart aches with the sadness of this terrible news. John and I attended Evergreen State College, and studied music together. I have not seen or spoken to him in at least two decades, but when I close my eyes I can still recall his music clearly. His was an old and wise musical soul, and I have always been grateful for the kindness he showed me on our mutual musical journeys. Farewell John.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michael… I remember you from some of the shows in the Gnu Deli that John encouraged me to be a part of… also where I got my first exposure to his wonderful piano work!

  6. I knew John since the late 1960’s – I love that you put up a Picture I took of him in the early 80’s – I was in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, reeling from a divorce, he was on the road doing some gigs and he stopped by to check on me. He said, let’s walk out to Camp – (A church camp we went to as kids) – so we did, its down the lake, and it was closed for the season…I took this picture of him in the chapel and it has sat in my photos ever since. I don’t think I ever showed to anyone…forgotten until a few days ago. John had such a way of connecting with people, and was probably why for so many decades he was such a good counselor, and why he was able to see music and express such emotion through those vibrations…he had demons, yes, we all do, but I Loved Him very much!…Travel Well Brother John!

    • Mark – so glad you had that pic; I’d never seen that one before… if you have any more pics, or know of anyone who does, please email to them to me at so I can post them – or anything else you think would help to emphasize the positive side(s) of John (& there were many things that I know from my own personal experiences with him)!

  7. Thanks so much for posting this. John had so many friends and admirers! His good qualities and music needs to shine through all the other press.

    • Lisa – I agree totally… as I said earlier, I have have some solo work that John had me responsible for distributing… I will be putting some of those pieces here, too! You’re right, some of the other press is only dwelling on the “bad side”, and that’s really unfortunate! Please spread the word far and wide about my tribute page! Thanks! Dick Metcalf