Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Jazz Forum lofts and their legacy – 30 years later

Mark Morgaanelli had producing events in his genes even as a 24-year-old trumpeter. For four years, starting in 1979, Morganelli ran the Jazz Forum – initially at 50 Cooper Square in New York City’s East Village and later at 648 Broadway at Bleecker Street - to offer more opportunities for emerging and established musicians and their groups to perform in a relaxed loft setting.

Initially, he rented the space one night a week to Barry Harris, where the pianist held music classes before relocating to his own Jazz Cultural Theatre. From Morganelli’s own rehearsal big band grew steady, weekly large ensemble presentations of Chuck Israels’ National Jazz Ensemble, Jaki Byard’s Apollo Stompers, and Charli Persip’s Superband. There were jam sessions, hundreds and hundreds of concerts, National Public Radio broadcasts, benefits for ailing musicians and several recordings.

On June 22, Morganelli will celebrate the Jazz Forum legacy at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. He is gathering some 20 artists from the old Jazz Forum lofts for the concert. They include Kenny Barron, Jimmy Cobb, George Coleman, Lou Donaldson, Ray Drummond, Al Foster, Slide Hampton, Barry Harris, Donald Harrison, Louis Hayes, Jon Hendricks, Joe Lovano, George Mraz, Rufus Reid, Claudio Roditi, John Scofield, Clark Terry, Cedar Walton, Buster Williams and Leroy Williams. It should be one whale of an evening.

Two years after the lofts closed, Morganelli established Jazz Forum Arts, a nonprofit arts-presenting organization whose events include the 15-years-strong Jazz at the Music Hall series in Tarrytown NY. He has produced numerous jazz festivals and concerts as well, including a piano series at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Dizzy Gillespie 75th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall, and the "Jazz Beats Breast Cancer" concert at Avery Fisher Hall.

Mark continues to perform with his Jazz Forum All-Stars. The band’s Brazil Project is scheduled to appear June 27th at Freihofer’s Jazz Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where the two-day schedule of talent is strong and wide-ranging, headlined by George Benson and Patti LaBelle. Besides Morganelli on trumpet, the Jazz Forum Brazil Project includes John Hart on guitar, Nilson Matta on bass, Adriano Santos on drums and singer Monika Oliveira.

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