A few hours after law enforcement called off its search for the owner of The Jazz Corner on Monday, pianist Martin Lesch kicked off his band's set with Hindustan, a Bob Masteller favorite.
The 76-year-old's body had been found that morning.
Throughout the evening, Lesch's group -- the Martin Lesch Band -- worked in "La Vie en Rose" and a few more of their friend's signature songs.
Though most of the diners at the Hilton Head Island jazz club were from out of town, the band's drummer, Chris Russell, said he didn't have to look around the small room to know the waitstaff and regulars picked up on their subtle nod to Masteller.
"It was just something that kind of gets you in your gut a little," Russell said.
While several musicians said they were not aware of long-term plans for Masteller's Tuesday night slot at The Jazz Corner, they were hopeful the venue will remain a fixture on Hilton Head for years to come.
"So far it's going strong," Russell said. "(Bob's) got a lot of people who shared his vision."
Masteller had not been playing his recurring Tuesday show with his All-Star Quintet since early fall because of complications with his health, according to trumpet and trombone player Danny Dennison, who was filling in for him. Dennison -- also a member of Lesch's band and a Jazz Corner musician for about 15 years -- said Masteller had long had a pacemaker but recently experienced a medical setback.
He was not playing shows while he recovered, Dennison said.
It was a major change of pace for Masteller, who made a habit of playing with nearly every group that graced the stage of his 16-year-old jazz club.
"He was like a little kid in that place," Dennison said. "He just loved sitting in with everybody. It didn't matter what act came through there, whether it was a big national act or a local yokel like myself."
Masteller's enthusiasm was infectious, as was his devotion to fostering a supportive environment for jazz musicians to thrive, club regulars said.
For area musicians, working The Jazz Corner started out as an appealing alternative to bar and wedding gigs.
It eventually became a family.
"Without that place, I wouldn't have been able to survive being a musician," Russell said. "I didn't have to live in New York or Nashville to fulfill a lot of dreams."
'TOUGH WITHOUT BOB'
Now they say they're determined to keep The Jazz Corner open.
Perhaps more importantly, R&B and Motown vocalist Reggie Deas said, The Jazz Corner family will continue the work of Masteller's Junior Jazz Foundation -- passing on the music tradition to the next generation.
"He wouldn't want everything to stop," said Deas, who's performed Sundays at the club for the past 15 years. "All the musicians are going to do whatever's in their power to make sure (the club) stays open, because it is a wonderful place and it's what Bob would have wanted."
On Sunday, Deas played the club for the first time since March 10, when Masteller's wife, Lois, woke up to discover her husband missing and then found his car parked atop the Charles E. Fraser Bridge.
Deas, leader and singer of Deas Guyz, said it was difficult to return to the stage that night.
"It's tough without Bob, because he was kind of the king and the prince of that establishment. He's going to be dearly missed," he said.
On Monday, a fisherman found Masteller's body under a dock on Broad Creek.
One of the club owner's friends, pianist John Brackett, had been searching the waters in his own boat, though the man who ultimately found Masteller was a stranger.
BELIEVING IN MUSIC
By Monday afternoon, Masteller's family released a statement memorializing the jazz enthusiast, saying "he lived life as a devoted husband, father and friend to all."
"He lived a life of kindness, vision and love. He lived a life built around nurturing countless musicians and individuals young and old with his passion for music."
Celebration of life arrangements for Masteller are being planned, according to a spokesperson for the family. No details were available Tuesday, though Dennison said knowing Masteller, it should be "a helluva party."
Service arrangements will be made by The Island Funeral Home & Crematory.
Donations may be made to the Bob Masteller Memorial Fund at P.O. Box 23019, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925, spokesperson Charlie Clark said Tuesday morning. The fund is associated with Masteller's Junior Jazz Foundation.
"(Bob) was a special person," said Russell, who plays drums in the All-Star Quintet. "He had a vision and he wanted to give something back and he worked tirelessly at it. He didn't do it for the fame or the fortune or for, 'Hey, I'm Bob Masteller,' but (it was) just something he believed in.
"He believed in the music."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.