Charles von Nordeck, jazz guitarist

Charles von Nordeck

Charles Louis von Nordeck, a jazz guitarist who led a quartet and was later a wine salesman, died of cancer Dec. 25 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 66 and lived in Stoneleigh.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Royden Blaine von Nordeck, a Martin Marietta engineer, and Elizabeth Mary Bell, a homemaker. He grew up in Gardenville and attended City College from 1960 to 1963, when he earned his General Educational Development certificate.


Mr. von Nordeck joined the Air Force and became an airplane mechanic. He was stationed in the Philippines, where he worked on planes flying missions in Vietnam.

He then used his GI Bill of Rights benefits to study music at what is now Towson University. He studied with Walt Namuth, a guitarist who played with Buddy Rich.


"He began playing guitar, keyboard and saxophone when he was 15," said his brother, Royden von Nordeck Jr. of Edgewood. "He was attracted to Fells Point in its early days."

He formed a group, the Charlie von Nordeck Quartet, and played at Fells Point's Bertha's, Cat's Eye, Dead End Saloon and John Stevens Ltd. on Friday and Saturday nights. Friends said he played the rock that patrons liked but with tinges of blues and jazz.

In later years, he appeared at the Cafe Troia in Towson.

"People loved him," said Lisa Troia-Martin, an owner of the business. "His music was smooth, but it had a lot of energy to it."

He also immersed himself in jazz recordings, initially at the old D&H Distributing on Russell Street, where he worked. He became the manager of the Record and Tape Collectors shop on Cold Spring Lane, after living from 1975 to 1977 in San Francisco, where he was manager of the jazz department at Tower Records.

Friends recalled how he later went into music distribution and met with artists and representatives of their label.

"Charles von Nordeck worked in the record distribution industry for over 25 years. He interfaced with record stores from Washington to New York City in supplying and stocking LPs and CDs in all genres," said a friend, Peter Gouzouasis, a University of British Columbia professor who lives in Vancouver. "He was one of the most knowledgeable people in the USA when it came to jazz recordings, on LP and CD."

He supplied radio stations with promotional materials and got to know jazz program hosts throughout the country.

"He loved jazz, and he knew the good from the bad," said WYPR program director Andy Bienstock, a friend. "He had a real passion and he loved presenting the things he was passionate about. You could talk to him about music. And he was a great reader of noir mystery books."

Mr. Bienstock recalled that one night he played a track on the radio and remarked that the selection was a favorite of Harry Bosch.

"I immediately got a call from Charlie," Mr. Bienstock said. "He knew who Harry Bosch was — a dysfunctional, loner detective in Los Angeles created by writer Michael Connelly."

"Our bond was music," said jazz guitarist and recording artist Carl Filipiak, who lives in Timonium. "He was a walking encyclopedia of jazz. He knew more than you are supposed to know. He was as enthusiastic about the history of jazz as he was about what is current. He knew the business side of it, too."


As sales of compact discs fell, he changed careers.

"The opportunity presented itself to get into fine-wine sales. He took it," said his employer, Jeff Sarfino, director of operations at Lanterna Wine Distributors. "He was a huge asset to us. Charlie was a straight shooter and didn't hold back. I could count on Charlie to keep me on my toes. He was a fan of Old World wines, and he knew how to figure where the best values were. His clients loved him."

Nelson Carey, co-owner of Belvedere Square's Grand Cru, recalled him as "an incredibly talented jazz guitarist and fellow wine aficionado."

Mr. Carey said he went from being one of his entertainers — Mr. von Nordeck performed at his bar — to one of his suppliers. "Wine with him began as a hobby, and he turned it into a career," Mr. Carey said.

Mr. von Nordeck's wife, the former Anne Therese Rich, an Institute of Notre Dame art teacher, said he was a self-taught wine collector. "He was sophisticated and was a gentleman," she said. "He was also a great cook. His cooking was like his jazz. He loved to improvise with disparate elements."

She said her husband read widely and his collection of crime noir filled several bookcases.

A private memorial service will be held Saturday in Towson.

In addition to his wife of 35 years and his brother, he is survived by a daughter, Marianne von Nordeck of Richmond, Va.

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