Rome Neal celebrates Jazz Jam

Rome Neal performing at the Nuyorican Poets Café.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

In Numerology, the number nine represents attainment, satisfaction and accomplishment. All words easily attributed to Rome Neal, as he celebrated the ninth anniversary of his popular Banana Puddin’ Jazz series on April 7, 2012.

The Banana Puddin’ Jazz Jam and Open Mic was launched by Rome on April 7, 2003 at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Neal wanted to create something of his own, that would spotlight seasoned and up and coming talent.

“During my research for the play ‘Monk’ I was frequenting jazz clubs and I wanted to bring that energy to the lower eastside,” said Neal.

“There was a spot on 125th St. that made the best banana pudding. They inspired me to make my own, and I made it a part of my theme. I offer it along with the ticket price, and it’s been a huge hit with my audience!”

This show kicked off with a set of “Nothin’ but Love Songs” rendered by the host and backed by some of NYC’s top musicians, Lafayette Harris, Paul Beaudry and George Gray Jr.

In the house on this anniversary production, besides the grateful audience of music lovers were Cobi Narita, pianist Frank Owens, choreographer Mickey Davidson and entertainer Eric Frazier.

Those who signed up for the open mic included professionals such as Frank Senior and Michal Oversteet and novice Wendell, (who was promoted to sing by his cousin.)

And though only the musicians are compensated, the chance to work with and meet the caliber of people in the room, makes it all worthwhile!

Each session includes the “Banana Puddin’ Jazz Poem” in which all audience participants write a short thought and all are combined and read to the audience.

Rome’s recent e-blast listed more than 100 sponsors since the jam’s inception, which included individuals, friends and corporations.

Vocalist Sheryl Renee.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

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