By all accounts, jazz is America’s preeminent indigenous musical art form. Just saying the word “jazz” brings to mind soulful jam sessions with intricate melodies and breathtaking improvisations. It is a genre that has produced such masters as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae to current keepers of the flame like Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, William Menefield, Nnenna Freelon, Jonathan Butler and Regina Carter.
At a time when musicality and training among vocalists and musicians may not be as celebrated as in the past, when music education and arts-appreciation programs in schools have been annihilated, one may well wonder how jazz will survive in the 21st century. One way is through Jazz Forum Arts, an organization that is passionate about ensuring the survival of this musical genre and which celebrates its 30th anniversary this
year. JFA was founded in 1985 by jazz trumpeter Mark Morganelli, with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall.
Morganelli “may not be a household name, but he has been a familiar and influential presence in inner New York jazz circles for more than 25 years,” writes Abraham Streep in The New York Times. “He started a popular underground performing space in a Greenwich Village loft in the late 1970s and has presented concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Beacon Theater and Lincoln Center.”
Today, Morganelli’s JFA is on a mission to present top-quality arts events to the public at little or no cost, while enhancing the appreciation of jazz. “It’s hard to believe that thirty years have passed since I opened my Jazz Forum loft at 50 Cooper Square in New York City’s East Village,” says Morganelli, whose formal title is founder/executive director. “Presenting the greatest emerging and established jazz and world-music artists and groups was my aim right from the beginning and continues today through our Jazz Forum Arts not-for-profit arts presenting organization.”
The goal of any new jazz artist is to have the opportunity to be seen by an audience that appreciates their craft. For 30 years, JFA has presented both well-known and emerging jazz artists in a high-quality manner. Through innovative and strategic collaborations and partnerships, it works tirelessly to bring jazz to traditional and nontraditional audiences. From producing concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center to its series of free summer concerts throughout Westchester County, the organization is guided by its founder’s belief in the power of jazz music to bring people of all ages together.
“Mark brings a consistent energy and love of the music to his concert promotion. As a musician, he also brings a deep knowledge of the music,” says Marsalis, fellow jazz trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Across the United States and around the world, artists and presenters are keeping jazz alive, not for financial gain but out of a true passion — rather, compulsion — for jazz music. Morganelli performs with his Jazz Forum All-Stars on Wednesdays at Castle-on-the-Hudson in Tarrytown, N.Y., and at many venues around the New York metropolitan area.
Tyrha M. Lindsey, MBA, is a professional jazz singer.