The Jazz.com Blog
June 24, 2009 · 2 comments
The jazz stars were out in full force at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick Rose Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jazz Forum. At least six NEA Jazz Masters were in attendance, and a few individuals who will no doubt have that honor in the future. Jazz.com’s arnold jay smith was also on hand to cover the proceedings. T.G.
The year 1979 had jazz magic written all over it. Among the mojo births were NPR’s Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, Newark Public Radio station WBGO, even my first foray into education, “Jazz Insights” at the New School, which breathed its last in 2005. Notably in 1979 the Jazz Forum loft opened its doors above a birdseed company on Cooper Square in N.Y.C. Loft Jazz, as the phenomenon had come to be known—in reality artists who needed rent money for their converted factory warehouses so they invited musicians of every stripe to play—was also waning. The lofts had become eponymous breeding grounds for the avant-garde.
In the case of Jazz Forum—the name stemmed from a Polish Jazz Organization—the music was mainstream with some twists. It’s founder, Mark Morganelli, a trumpeter who quickly learned that competition made his efforts better placed elsewhere, gathered musicians to “rehearse” together in woodshed fashion. Morganelli morphed into a full-fledged promoter as his loft became mobile due to increasing rents and the need for space. It seemed that the landlords of said lofts saw dollar signs and evicted the lease-less artists after they renovated and made the spaces not only livable but luxurious, with kitchens and bathrooms no less.
After Cooper Square came the more popular “Bleecker and Broadway” location with its access through an alley in the dark days of the Apple. “The elevator was quirky, at best,” Barry Harris said in an interview on WBGO. “But once up there and the door opened you were among friends.”
My personal moments were when pianists performed in tandem: Harris, Tommy Flanagan, John Hicks, Cedar Walton, Ronnie Mathews, Albert Dailey, Junior Mance, Kenny Barron, Dr. Billy Taylor, Walter Davis, Jr., Walter Bishop, Jr. and more. The visitors heard musicians who, whether established or neophytes, came to play.
Morganelli took the Jazz Forum format and created Jazz Forum Arts for concerts in and around New York City, especially in Westchester where he rented space in—and saved—an old theatre with concerts including dedications to and with Dizzy Gillespie and David Amram. The Amram do’s began with a 50th birthday celebration at Bleecker and Broadway which still reverberates with its guest list of star power from radio, television, the movies, the arts replete with paparazzi, movie and TV cameras and microphones. Amram, who was at a warm memorial for Blossom Dearie, will become an OctoJAZZarian in a couple of years, and is expected to celebrate at a Morganelli affair. (A complete bio of Mark Morganelli and his multitude of accomplishments may be found here.)
On the night of June 22 some of us came out to shout hosannas at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall. All of the 17 participants played at one or more of the Jazz Forums or Morganelli’s later incarnations. Harris opened the festivities by “addressing” his instrument. I mean he actually spoke to it as if warning it that it had better behave. His trio mates, Ray Drummond, bass, and Leroy Williams, drums, looked on in amazement if not bemusement. He used a Monkian forearm device on “Like Someone In Love” and some Bud Powell echoes on “All God’s Children Got Rhythm” before bringing up Lou Donaldson. Sweet Lou played and sang two of his trademarked blues including a vocal on “Whisky Drinkin’ Woman.” We’ve heard it a hundred times before, but it still gets a laugh.
I should point out that no new ground was broken here; the entire evening was reminisces in the talking and the playing. Donaldson closed with “Wee” which he noted was dedicated to bebop as played at the 79th St. Boat Basin concerts that Morganelli produced.
Earlier in the evening Annie Ross also sang at that Dearie memorial. Now it was her former partner’s turn. Jon Hendricks & Co.—daughter Aria as Annie, and Kevin Burke as Dave Lambert, plus rhythm that included guitarist Paul Meyers—did a brooch of tunes which ranged from bossa to Basie with a stop at Horace Silver. Two questions: can “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” get any faster with its extended “blowing” interludes? And will Aria ever stop smiling? Her face must hurt.
Walton’s trio included Drummond, who was doing double duty due to the absent Buster Williams, and drummer Louis Hayes. He chose the original “Time After Time” (Sinatra from It Happened in Brooklyn) and glancing at his watch—Rose is a Union Hall after all—intro-ed George Coleman, who began hesitatingly but dug in after his opening chorus.
After the interval Joe Lovano, George Mraz and Al Foster broke the mold by dedicating “Fort Worth” to Ornette Coleman. The set was the highlight for me as John Scofield juxtaposed the lead with the unusual choice of “Days of Wine and Roses.” Lovano returned to trade some 4’s on “Budo.” Some nice fire and ice there.
It was obvious when Barron’s trio took the stage—Rufus Reid, bass, and Jimmy Cobb, drums—that time was fast becoming an issue. Surprisingly, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” did not become “Hot House” or “Subconscious Lee” although it had its moments. Claudio Roditi, flugelhorn and Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet joined the final blow on “Ow!” as Morganelli, also on flugel, and new guy Gregory Rivkin on trumpet added some fireworks. Hendricks had the final “words.”
I hasten to add that Morganelli and I worked together at Birdland, the Second Coming on 105th St. and Broadway, and on other projects over the decades. From this perspective, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we can safely say that the jazz world would have been significantly different if Jazz Forum hadn’t existed and that Morganelli hadn’t persisted.
This blog entry posted by arnold jay smith