Jazz Forum at 35!

Jazz drummer Billy Hart.
Photo by John A. Lacko

Jazz may have birthed out of slavery but over the years it has taken on many forms. While some say jazz is difficult to define, most agree its key component is improvisation. A music that took shape from the repetitive call and response hollers of African American slaves working on plantations to embody their blues, jazz has grown into a force to be reckoned with. Eventually, Dixieland jazz was conceived in New Orleans, and then the swing era brought in the big bands, although later bebop shifted the music back to small groups. Cords and rhythms changed offering freedom of composition as various harmonies and rhythms developed that defined the altering styles that denote jazz as a truly American creative art form defying boundaries.

On Saturday, June 28 at 8:00 p.m. nearly 30 jazz greats will come together to offer one of the greatest tributes to jazz experienced on a single stage. Trumpeter, Executive Director and Jazz Forum Founder, Mark Morganelli, is bringing together jazz alumni to honor the Jazz Forum he established on June 29, 1979 in the East Village in Manhattan. This collection of renowned jazz musicians consisting of artists the likes of Lee Monitz, Larry Willis, Michele Rosewoman, John Burr, Marion Cowings, Chari Persip, T.S. Monk, Candido, David Amram, Bobby Sanabria, Wallace Roney, Steve Turre, Robbie Cuber, Valery Ponomarey and Bob Mover, to name a few, will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Jazz Forum via Jazz Forum at 35! as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival held at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, located at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square in Manhattan.

“When I established the Jazz Forum back in 1979, which is almost 35 years to the date of the June 28 show, it was to create opportunities for musicians who at the time weren’t playing many gigs in more established clubs like the Village Vanguard, Fat Tuesdays or Sweet Basils which were booking the likes of Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakely and the Jazz Messenger and major artists like that. When I first opened, I started off with trumpeter Dizzy Reece the first weekend and booked Clifford Jordan the second week. Before long I had jazz going seven nights a week, a Sunday Singer’s Brunch and even had Barry Harris conducting a jazz workshop at the loft that contained the Jazz Forum for three years before we moved to a bigger loft on Bleeker Street,” recalled Mark who later established Jazz Forum Arts.

“I plan to open the Saturday, June 28 show with a quartet comprised of Sonny Fortune, Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond and Billy Hart, which is just about the finest quartet you can assembly in straight ahead jazz. These are legends still playing at the top of their game. Vic Juris and Dave Stryker will play as a guitar duo. Dave will remain on stage where Cameron Brown and Michael Carvin will join him with base and drum afterwards. And 92-year-old John Hendricks will collaborate with pianist Steve Ash,” promised Morganelli, who also presents free summer concerts in Westchester.

Morganelli features 33 free concerts in 6 venues on Wednesdays evenings in Dobbs Ferry and a show in Tarrytown on a 67 acre site for 8 Thursday evenings in July and August. He does a musical series at Pierson Park on Fridays in August, as well as shows in White Plains, Greenwich, CT and at John Jay College in NYC. Interested parties can find out more about these shows by visiting www.jazzforumarts.org

I am delighted to participate in the Jazz Forum at 35! event,” said T.S. Monk. “You know financially a career in show biz does not leave individuals, especially jazz professionals much to lean on because they are farther down on the financial ladder. There is a misconception that fame comes with great wealth. This is show business. People see the show but they do not see the business. The business is tough and will continue to be tough. On the positive side, Mark through the Jazz Forum, has been a launch pad for so many great artists with many wonderful evenings at the loft. There were so many great events at the Jazz Forum it’s difficult to isolate one particular evening. There is a great deal of room for so many wonderful memories,” stated the famed drummer/vocalist/composer.

“I was a child of the 1960s and a young jazz musician of the 70s. As the jazz clubs diminished in number there were no places to work so we did the boogaloo gigs which were basically R&B gigs. It was the infusion of the young jazz musicians that created the classic era that culminated with bands like Earth Wind and Fire. The music expanded exponentially as the result of Herbie Hancock bringing the electric piano to the music, the likes of Wes Montgomery bringing a whole new kind of rhythm sound and by the harmonic innovations created by the likes of my father, Thelonious Monk. The most influential period for jazz on American music actually came during that period some believe was the dead period for jazz,” continued Monk who started his career as an R&B artist during the period that jazz artists found work in jazz scarce. T.S. Monk’s most recent recordings is entitled Verbiest and Monk, Father and Son.

For additional information on Jazz Forum Arts, call 888-99-BEBOP or visit www.jazzforumarts.org.

The jazz trio of Kenny Barron, piano, Ray Drummond, bass, and Ben Riley, drums, performs the Erroll Garner classic “Misty,” to a sold-out crowd at the 42nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival.
AP Photo/Richard Green

More from Around NYC