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Revisiting Jazz Roots – NYTimes.com

Revisiting Jazz Roots – NYTimes.com




Dizzy Gillespie at a jazz loft performance in 1982. Credit Mitchell Seidel

Thirty-five years ago, the trumpeter and impresario Mark Morganelli opened the first of two jazz lofts in Lower Manhattan. Nineteen years later, he began presenting a series of free summer concerts in Westchester County.

The lofts, at Cooper Square and on Broadway, long ago succumbed to rising real estate values. But the Westchester summer series survives, and will reap the proceeds when the loft scene comes alive for one night, on June 28, in a benefit concert at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, not all that far from the lofts’ onetime locations.

“This gets us back to our roots,” Mr. Morganelli said.

For the concert, part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival, Mr. Morganelli has commitments from over two dozen leading jazz artists, all loft veterans. The performance could yield one of the biggest assemblages of jazz musicians on a stage this summer.

It may rekindle the camaraderie fostered by the lofts during its four years, said the bassist Cameron Brown. He recalled a snowy night in 1983 when he trudged the length of Spring Street, double bass on back, just to make a loft performance.

Since then, the connections may have loosened a bit, with musicians like Mr. Brown decamping to the Hudson Valley. But, he said, the Skirball concert will be a chance to renew the bonds, especially among those who play his instrument.

“It’ll be wonderful for all the bass players to see each other,” he said.

Harvie S, another bass-playing loft habitué who moved to the Hudson Valley, recalled the lofts as spots where he nurtured an expertise in Afro-Cuban rhythms, which he will call on during the Skirball concert, joining the guitarist Vic Juris, the percussionist Candido Camero and Mr. Morganelli, among others, in a planned tribute to the percussionist Chano Pozo.

Such multicultural fare has also been a focus of the summer series, which began on June 18 and will end on Aug. 29 after 33 concerts, in Connecticut and Manhattan as well as in Westchester locations in Dobbs Ferry (the Masters School) and Tarrytown (Pierson Park and the Lyndhurst Estate).

Under Mr. Morganelli, the concerts — which are produced by his Jazz Forum Arts— have often explored the music of Brazil. But this year they will do so with a slight twist: Headlining a July 31 sunset concert at the Lyndhurst estate will be the harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens, a German who leads a samba quintet.

“Mark has always been ahead of the curve,” Harvie S said. 


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