Music: This Joint is Jumpin

Mark Morganelli of Jazz Forum Arts

Twenty years ago, a group called Jazz Forum Arts blew into Westchester.  At the time, Westchester had very little “jive.”  But when Trumpeter Mark Morganelli arrived, things changed.  Jazz buffs began to come out of the woodwork to see and hear legends like Dave Brubek and Chuck Mangione and, of course, the Jazz Forum All Stars.

Now, so to speak, “the joint is jumpin” with live jazz in concert halls, on grassy nooks, in cafes and even in prestigious places like Caramoor.  It’s not clear whether there was an influx of cool folks moving to Westchester, whether the cool folks were hiding or whether Mark Morganelli, a one-man band and marketeer got the word out like no one had before him.

But truth be told, Morganelli developed this county’s appetite for live jazz, which is now burgeoning.  Another early booster is the Reverend Clinton C. Glen, who started the Presbyterian Jazz Society (PJS – www.pjsjazz.org) in Mount Vernon to showcase local talent and give local audiences an affordable way to hear live music. The Presbyterian Church is still the place on “Second Sundays” to hear trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (February 13) and the all-female jazz group, Sage (March 13).

ArtsWestchester (www.artswestchester.org) also has some gigs going on with its NewUrbanJazz series, co-produced by Bob Baldwin, featuring local talents such as vocalist Lynette Washington and pianist Dennis Bell celebrating the music of Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Horn & Carmen McRae (January 22); composer/pianist Bob Baldwin’s tribute to Michael Jackson (January 29th); Peekskill saxophonist Ray Blue and his quartet (February 12); and Gil Parris and Friends (February 26th).

Then there’s the fabulous Westchester Jazz Orchestra (WJO – www.westjazzorch.org), which always hits the high note with their 18-member orchestra. They put a modern spin on the big band concept by combining the energy of jazz with symphonic power.  A WJO concert can include anything from the jazz greats of the 20th century (Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk) to surprising treatments of works by popular songwriters like the Beatles or Paul Simon.  Not to miss is the WJO’s tribute to Herbie Hancock at the Irvington Town Hall Theatre (January 29). Another place to put on your radar is the Tarrytown Music Hall, which always offers a great jazz menu.

And for the big surprise, just lend an ear to Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, whose plan for an International Jazz Festival in Harbor Island Park (www.mamafest.info) is being hatched for the weekend of June 16-19.  Patrick Sciarratta, the Festival Director, has tapped guess who for the Artistic Director role?  None other than Mark Morganelli.  How smart is that?!

So, call the Mayor and tell him what you want to hear – smooth, cool, Dixieland, straight ahead, ragtime, be-bop, or Latin – on the Sound Shore this summer.

For more information, visit www.artswestchester.org/newurbanjazz.

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