Tarrytown’s Mark Morganelli Brings Jazz to Local Audience

by Maria Ann Roglieri

Mark Morganelli is a jazz trumpet player, a producer, Executive Director of Jazz Forum Arts, and owner of the new Jazz Forum Club at 1 Dixon Lane in Tarrytown. He boasts an impressive biography (see his website http://jazzforumarts.org/mark-morganelli/) and has contributed much to the cultural life of Tarrytown and Westchester.

He began enriching the Westchester arts scene 25 years ago, when he brought his Jazz Forum Arts, a nonprofit arts program which he had established seven years prior, to Tarrytown. Designed to bring jazz to a wide audience, to promote appreciation of an understanding of jazz and to support emerging as well as established jazz artists, the organization offers performances in all different types of jazz (progressive and bebop, Latin and Brazilian, world music, rhythm and blues, New Orleans, traditional, swing and contemporary jazz).

Jazz Forum Arts has presented concerts in various venues all over New York City and Westchester with many of those concerts held at the Tarrytown Music Hall. It has presented jazz greats such as Billy Taylor, Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Dave Brubeck, and the Count Basie Orchestra.  Jazz Forum Arts also presents a free summer concert series of 34 outdoor concerts every summer in a number of Westchester towns and villages. 

Morganelli’s new, long-awaited Jazz Forum Club is finally open. Every weekend the club will present jazz artists on Fridays and Saturdays (sets at 8 and 10 p.m.) and Brazilian groups on Sundays (sets at 4 and 6 p.m.). The club offers Italian wines, local draft beer, a full bar, light food, a lounge and pool room, and a contemporary art gallery. Ticket prices for most performances are $20 per person (plus a $10 food or beverage minimum). The club will also be a wonderful community resource, sponsoring school events, jazz workshops and master classes.

Below is a transcript of a recent question-and-answer session with Morganelli:

 

How and why did you become a jazz musician?

“I was inspired especially by my dad who would play drum sticks on the floor to big band records. I basically grew up listening to Count Basie, Glenn Miller, etc. I began studying trumpet at an early age and then in 10th grade joined the high school jazz stage band. A year later I had my own small group called the Moonlighters and we got gigs. We played a variety of music. Once we played at a ‘50s themed dance at a high school on Long Island and then we played for my parents’ friends 25th wedding anniversary.

I went to college at Bucknell to study chemistry and decided that I hated chemistry. I quickly switched my major to music and made a conscious choice to become a professional musician. At Bucknell, I was able to widen my repertoire of music. I formed my own band called Quadrant, playing originals and tunes by Chick Correa and Chuck Mangione, learning jazz standards and improvisation. Immediately after college, we went on the road playing gigs six nights a week for six months in Pennsylvania and Florida. At that point, we went more into bebop in the style of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk.

I eventually got into all kinds of jazz while performing, recording, and producing concerts. My favorite kind of jazz is Brazilian.”

 

Why did you choose trumpet and flugelhorn and which do you like better?

“In fourth grade when it was time to choose an instrument I took violin because my best friend took violin. But I couldn’t make a sound on it! My dad told me to trade it in for a trumpet– that was a cool instrument because Louis Armstrong and Harry James played it.

I love to play trumpet but I actually like flugelhorn more than trumpet. Flugelhorn has a more mellow, round, and dark tone than trumpet– I find my real voice on flugelhorn. Plus it’s great for Brazilian music which I play a lot. Three quarters of the gigs I play, I play flugelhorn.”

 

Who are your favorite jazz musicians and why?

“Definitely Miles Davis! He signed an album for me and it’s hanging in the pool room at the club. Miles changed the course of music four to five times. It’s amazing what he did. I’m completely enamored of his work in various creative periods: in the mid-40s when he played with Charlie Parker; The Complete Birth of the Cool in 1951; when he worked with Bill Evans on Kind of Blue; his orchestral work with Gil Evans; his work with Wayne Shorter in the 60s. I’m also inspired by Art Farmer on flugelhorn, Chuck Mangione, Clark Terry, and Chet Baker (with whom I actually got to play– before he stole money from me!)”

 

Why did you choose Tarrytown for your club?

“My wife, Ellen Prior, and I were living in Dobbs Ferry and decided to downsize. We went around with realtors and found this great commercial building in Tarrytown that used to be a bakery. The minute I walked in to the place, I immediately had a vision of transforming it into a jazz club. My wife and I moved upstairs and we’ve been enjoying Tarrytown ever since. It’s great that we can walk to everything and we’ve made a lot of friends who come to our concerts and we bump into at the farmers market.”

 

What has it meant for you to be part of the Tarrytown and larger Westchester arts community?

“It’s been great to network and collaborate with business folks and jazz musicians. There are actually many jazz musicians who live in Westchester including Gary Smulyan (baritone sax), Andrew Beals (alto sax), Gil Parris (guitar), Ron Vincent (drums)… I could go on and on! ” Also, Ellen is on the board of  RiverArts and I’m an advisory board member so we feel very connected to our local arts community.”

(L-R:) Vic Juris, Mark Morganelli, Ron McClure, Tim Armacost and Tony Jefferson performing at the Jazz Forum Club.

(L-R:) Vic Juris, Mark Morganelli, Ron McClure, Tim Armacost and Tony Jefferson
performing at the Jazz Forum Club.

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