ST. PETERSBURG — He was a jazz musician, so they said goodbye like it was a jam.
They gathered outside a bar at 662 Central Ave. at 8 p.m. Tuesday The first musician to arrive had a saxophone. Then came someone with a tuba, someone with drums, someone with a trumpet.
Without a parade permit, they intended to march down Central Avenue to honor Bruce Arkin, a longtime local musician who died recently.
About a dozen musicians lined up. Fans of Arkin who did not play formed a line behind them, including Gillian Stevens, who met Arkin at the Garden restaurant nine years ago.
"You're in for a good time," Stevens, 62, said.
This might have been the city's first New Orleans-style jazz funeral. No one was sure. It was organized online. The musicians also included an amplified guitarist and vocalist. Many were members of the local group Lounge Cat, which Arkin was a member of for three years.
They decided to stick to mostly jazz funeral standards. What better way to pay tribute than to play When the Saints Go Marching In?
"He was one of the best sax players that any of us got to know," said trumpeter Jim Morey, 31.
"He was just a cat who came on the scene who could play circles around anyone else," said Jeremy Douglass, 36, a pianist who rattled a tambourine.
"He'd want to be celebrated like this," said Calan Ree, another member of procession.
With that, they started slowly walking, belting out the slow Just a Closer Walk with Thee.
Outside St. Pete Brasserie, strangers raised their glasses. In front of Central Avenue Oyster Bar, people danced. At the Garden Restaurant, where Arkin jammed with local jazz lion Buster Cooper, a guitarist shunned his own tune and joined in.
Born in Connecticut, Arkin left St. Petersburg for Barcelona, Spain, about five years ago, said his mother, Maxine Arkin, 74, of Venice. He died there of natural causes on Aug. 30, his mother said. He was 42 and is survived by his parents and two brothers.
"I think that we are finding out," Maxine Arkin said, "that Bruce influenced a lot more people, both musically and with his marvelous sense of humor, than we ever knew."
Contact Luis Perez at (727)892-2271 or [email protected]com.