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3:25PM

"Jazz On The South Side" - Lorraine J. Yarborough 

In the summer months of 2008, I had the opportunity of meeting Lorraine J. Yarborough Executive Director of “JOTSS” – Jazz On The South Side. This organization was started as a non-profit Scholarship Foundation committed to support Jazz and Cultural Arts students in the Philadelphia area. 

She asked for help and my assistance for promotional ideas in order to pursue the proposed idea to the next level. At various meetings we discussed numerous ways of making this proposition a success for the Jazz students within the area. With the cooperation of my friend Steve Romano plus other colleagues and associates, we were able to initiate and collaborate with various senior Jazz musicians within the Philadelphia area to showcase younger jazz students from neighboring schools in the area. 

We produced Jazz concerts that took place at SJNP a chapel setting at St. John Neumann Senior Residence. The response from the attending audience from the first production generated interviews with local newspapers plus radio interviews with Lorraine talking with Bob Perkins at WRTI –FM Jazz station at Temple University.

 

 

 

The media exposure plus the radio interviews generated much interest from local sponsorship that we continued the shows monthly to the end of the year.

Currently, Lorraine and her staff have been consulting on various projects within “The Avenue Of The Arts” section of Broad Street in Philadelphia, plus other areas in the Tri-State vicinity to help enhance the future of “Jazz and the Cultural Arts.”

Jazz On The South Side

A Jazz and Cultural Arts Initiative, was the brainchild of Lorraine J. Yarborough, Management Consultant. After attending Jazz Vespers and Philadelphia’s most notable musical venues, where accomplished and well known Jazz artists were featured. The venues helped  Lorraine to accelerate the efforts for establishing an organization that would help keep Mainstream Jazz Alive.

The “JOTSS” Mission is to collectively “Pass the Baton” bridging the gap from the old to the new through the venue of Jazz and the Arts. Our ulterior motive is to help keep “Mainstream Jazz and the Cultural Arts” alive.

Footnote

by Lorraine

In the summer months of 2008, I approached Danny Luciano and his colleague Steve Romano for assistance in promotional ideas to take “Jazz On The South Side” to another level.  With their cooperation we were able to produce jazz shows, promotional ideas, posters, radio and media interviews which helped contribute to our success.  They have created a website that enhances international visibility for jazz musicians around the world.  This strong collaboration of Steve’s IT background and Danny’s many year’s in the music industry has allowed this unique website to be respected by jazz musicians and the general public.   

10:23AM

"The Fortunato - Gagliardi Duo"

I was contacted by a mutual colleague of mine,  who recently recorded  and collaborated  on a CD with Joe Fortunato (Fortunato & Gagliardi Duo).   This recording consists of five popular standard songs featuring the unreleased version of “Moonlight in Vermont” – “Body & Soul” plus others including the romantic lush sounds of a Saxophone & Guitar duo to be enjoyed.  We have made available these tracks for your listen pleasure and encourage feedback.

During the early 1990’s there was a place called “The Balligo Inn” located on Balligomingo Road in Conshohocken, PA. The Balligo was a weekend quaint rustic Inn that featured a limited menu of sandwiches & salads plus a bar that served many-imported International Beer labels that were not able to find in other places.  The Philadelphia Inquirer and other local newspapers ranked and acclaimed this place as one of the best venues to hear live JAZZ in the tri-state area.  Every Friday & Saturday night the Jazz entertainment consisted of a House Trio or Quartet lead by saxophonist Joe Fortunato that featured Papa John DeFrancesco, organ – Eddie McFadden, guitar – Mike Anthony on drums. The entertainment policy was to have a “Jazz Open House” each weekend in order to give a creative musical outlet to aspiring young musicians and experienced musicians that were traveling through the Philadelphia area.  On many occasions, you were able to witness a major Jazz musician or vocalist stop-by just to say hello and sit-in with the band members for an impromptu performance that would generate standing ovations from a 200-seat capacity crowd.

 

One night a young guitar player named Lou Gagliardi stopped by to sit-in with the house musicians and played for most of the evening.  Ironically, Eddie McFadden former sideman to Jimmy Smith for many years would be taking time off to fulfill prior commitments and would return after a few months.  It was at this time that Joe Fortunato enjoyed playing with Lou Gagliardi and felt that he could be an important asset to the vacated position and offered the spot to Lou until Eddie McFadden’s return.

 

Lou Gagliardi Biography:

Lou was born in Philadelphia 1959.  He began studying guitar at age (8) at the Granoff School of Music.  At age of (13-16), he performed at Classical Guitar Society Annual Student Recitals (14-16). 

In 1977, after graduating from Council Rock High School, Lou attended Drexel University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering 1982.  After working (4) years as an Aerospace engineer for the US Navy, he decided to quit engineering and went into music full time.

He studied Jazz guitar with for many years with three prominent teachers Robert Wall, Dennis Sandole and Tom Giacabetti.

Lou’s notable performances included the 1990 Philly Fest and Mellon Jazz Festival.

His other duet performances with Joe Fortunato included various concerts at the Kimmel Center, located in “The Avenue of the Arts” located on South Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA.

Footnote:  Since I retired from playing – My only regret is that I never had an opportunity to play with this extraordinary duo.

4:14AM

GEORGE SARKIS - "The Doctor Of Horns"

In 1956, I began studying the saxophone while I was in my senior school year; the first saxophone was a borrowed instrument a vintage early 1940's Buescher Big B tenor sax from the school’s music department. Since it was an older model that needed minor repairs and adjustments, little did I know at the time, the instrument repairs were being sent to a repair shop in center city Philadelphia.  

A few months later, during this time while I was working a part-time job at a neighborhood sandwich shop I was able to save enough money to buy a used Martin Tenor Saxophone that was in excellent playing condition for a novice like me. 

I was fortunate to meet George Sarkis during the later part of 1958 when a musician friend suggested that I should take the instrument to a repair shop in center city for a routine check-up. Since my friend acknowledged that, the shop was associated for doing work for the Philadelphia Orchestra on a regular basis.

George Sarkis was a friendly person that always spent time in conversations explaining many aspects about the saxophone and the necessary repairs to keep the instrument playing well.  

 

He recognized that I was eager to learn how to play and kept an open invitation to the shop for repairs many times free of charge. It was during one visit we had a conversation about some of the contract work with various schools in the Philadelphia area. He talked about some of the vintage saxophones that he had repaired in the past. Ironically, he mentioned that a certain tenor sax made by Buescher had a distinctive beautiful tone was frequently brought in from a high school’s music department. Surprisingly, I borrowed the same vintage early 1940 Buescher Big B tenor sax from the music department a few years earlier.

Through the years, we remained friends and always kept in contact with each other.

George Sarkis:

Repairing Instruments for the Jazz Legends.

The name George Sarkis belongs to a man who is internationally known. The many musicians that play reed and brass instruments and have come to him for help call him the “Doctor of Horns.”  Since 1928, many legends of jazz and classical music have, at one time or another,  come to George Sarkis for repair work to be done on their clarinets, flutes, saxophones, and even trumpets and trombones.  Not only did he repair instruments, he also played them - saxophone, clarinet and flute. He told me, “When I was a young man, I worked all the dance halls and small clubs in Philadelphia with many of the big bands that were around at that time. Those were the days.  I really enjoyed playing with the big bands. Later when my friend Eddie Lang, who lived in South Philadelphia was playing guitar for Bing Crosby he introduced me to Frankie Trumbauer who specialized on the C-Melody saxophone.  Did you know Trumbauer inspired Lester Young?”

There was a time back in the big band era of the 1940's, 50's, 60's when Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Bunny Berrigan, Count Basie and others would come to Philadelphia to play engagements at the Earle Theater, Palumbo’s Restaurant and dance halls throughout the area. Each of these leaders had a number one item of priority of their things to do for their musicians. That item was to make sure that George Sarkis checked-out their horns prior to the play date whenever possible.

Sarkis’ store was a quaint little repair shop located in the heart of Philadelphia’s center city at 18th and Arch Streets. If you are visualizing a spacious shop area with isles of counter space filled with instrument parts and accessories well, you have the wrong picture.  Unbelievably, the shop was only approx. 16'×20'!   Inside it had one antique glass display off to the right side cluttered with cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling, saxophone and clarinet cases, old music sheets, and sections of unorganized plastic holders and containers filled with instrument parts.

On the walls hung a collection of autographed pictures of many of the jazz musicians and big band leaders who have come to the shop for repairs. Some of the pictures were of Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Ventura, Buddy DeFranco, Benny Goodman, Roland Kirk, Clarence Clemens, and Paul Desmond.

One would think that with such a clientele the shop would have had a more formal interior and definitely been larger.

Wrong!  - There was barely enough room for two people to stand side by side while waiting for repairs to be completed. George’s worktable faced the large store- front window he enjoyed watching the passing cars and people.  He sat in a secretarial chair as he worked on the instruments. Normally, the customer would sit on a stool by his side making conversation as he fiddled away. Strange as it seems, at any given time of the day you were able to see jazz legends who had come to get their instruments repaired, standing and waiting,  inside or outside by the curbside, if it was a nice day.

   George remembers one occasion when Charlie Parker came to Philadelphia to play at the famous Blue Note Club at 15th and Ridge Avenue. He showed up one afternoon looking like he and a companion had driven through the night, and explained frantically that he had no money and no instrument. He asked if he could borrow an alto sax and mouthpiece to play his club date. Sarkis not only let him borrow the horn but also made sure that he had enough money to get by for the rest of the week.

 A typical day for Sarkis might have been like this: Gerry Mulligan would appear in the doorway, his baritone sax in one hand, and start explaining to Sarkis with the other hand what was not functioning with certain keys of his saxophone. Meanwhile, Cannonball Adderley would have driven up to the curbside and double-parked for a moment in order to drop off his alto sax!

 One summer day in the early 1960’s I had stopped by the shop to pick up my newly repaired tenor saxophone. While standing in the doorway talking to George, I saw a familiar face leaving the Musician’s Union Hall (Local77) that was located a few doors down. It was Woody Herman!  He was walking toward the shop (eating a ham and cheese sandwich) he stopped in to pick up his clarinet and alto sax because he was leaving for a tour in Europe. That was the first time I had ever met him. We talked for a while about the music business and about his recordings with tenor man Sal Nistico, who played all the solos at that time. He, George, and myself all started joking about the limited space in the shop but Sarkis reminded us that he was. . .   “at this same location since 1928, I don’t have to get any bigger than this, and it’s more fun this way, I get to spend more time in close contact with all these great jazz musicians who are my friends. What more can you ask for?”... George Sarkis no longer works at this quaint little store. He is retired and enjoying everything else life has to offer him. 

On many occasions, I have been in contact with my good friend saxophonist Stan Ross who also remembers George as a close friend and a special person that always had an open door to young musicians such as us . . . whether we had money or not to pay for the repairs on our horns.  A special thanks to Stan Ross & dudovpi©s for sharing these memorable photos from his archives.

 

 

8:26PM

A true gentleman of Jazz Has passed - Joe Fortunato

Joe Fortunato was a Jazz legend in the Philadelphia music scene for over 70 years. His contribution to Jazz has always lived-up too the old standard song title cliché “It Don’t Mean a Thing . . . If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”  I honestly can say that, because for more than 50 years he was my best friend and brother in the field of music and everyday life.

I would like to share some memorable thoughts plus experiences that I was fortunate to incur and pay homage for a real “Gentleman of Jazz.”

Joe was Born: May 5, 1930 and died of natural causes on October 28, 2011.

He was born and raised in South Philly along with other notable musicians in this close-knit neighborhood part of town. Joe also had a friendly relationship with another jazz saxophonist who was a few years older,  his name was Charlie Ventura, and his brothers Benny and Ernie Ventura, who also were musicians within a small radius of city blocks of South Philadelphia.

During this time in the 1940’s listening to the radio was a primary part of entertainment which many households were tuning in to Comedy shows such as Burns & Allen, Milton Berle, Edgar Bergen & Charley McCarthy also the mystery shows included “Inner Sanctum,” “The Shadow” “Superman” and others were heard nightly.  The distinctive baritone voice of Brace Beemer - the voice of “The Lone Ranger” series for many years was heard weekly.

Joe’s inspiration to Big Band music and Jazz was when he listened to a late night disc jockey on WIBG-AM a Philadelphia station hosted by Doug Arthur when he played a recording by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins’ classic jazz rendition of the popular song “Body and Soul.”

This is when he definitely wanted to learn how to play the tenor saxophone and pursue a musical career, even though he did not have any knowledge of jazz until later years.

With this in mind, his Jazz Workshop always stressed to students this important fact “when you communicate musically with your listening audience, it has to be enjoyable in every aspect of your performance."

When I was a senior in high school, my personal interest in commercial art and music became evident because many DOO-WOP singers surrounded my neighborhood plus various musicians that formed small combo bands and playing in local musical lounges & nightspots during February of 1956.  

During this time, I wanted to learn how to play the tenor sax and tried-out for the high school marching band in order to be exposed to the musical surroundings.

I learned the basic knowledge of reading music from the Rubank instructional book for saxophones. The schools’ music teacher who was an accomplished violinist – but new very little about the saxophone and reed instruments gave this to me. As I was making progress with the rudiments and advancing at a quick pace, he suggested that I should seek a private teacher that specialized in teaching the saxophone.

Fortunately, a short time after I found an excellent instructor by the name of Mike Guerra the former Granoff Music School teacher, of John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, and many others around Philadelphia, he also had his private studio in the Presser Building located 18th & Chestnut Streets in center city Philadelphia.

The many months of instructional lessons and practice advanced me technically also to be a pretty good site-reader from the manuscript as well.

During this time, I would always purchase newly released record albums & single records of popular music, rhythm & blues and instrumental recordings of saxophonists such as Georgie Auld, Sam “The Man” Taylor, Illinois Jacquet, and Red Prysock.

The record store manager had brought to my attention a new 45rpm release that was being played on the radio and getting much exposure in the Tri-State area as a theme song for a local radio show. The title was “Go Joe Go” by Joe Fortunato playing the saxophone. 

Ironically, within a few months, a musician friend who lived on my same city block invited me to a rehearsal at his house in order to see how a group of professional musicians conducted a rehearsal.  To my amazement – The saxman was Joe Fortunato and I had the opportunity to personally meet Joe to express what admiration I had for his style of playing the saxophone.  Joe was a generous person and knew that my eagarness to learn was obvious. He extended his generousiity by having a lenghty conversation that shared some pointers & ideas regarding the topic of jazz improvisation with the saxophone and the music business in general. - It was on a Sunday evening in 1957 that I could recall, when I was invited by three older friends who were members of an after-hour weekend private nightclub called The El Rancho located in Chester, PA. They wanted me to experience the excitement of a final closing-night live performance of major performers.  This place always presented Big Bands, and top male & female vocalists of the day.  Appearing on this performance was Lionel Hampton and his orchestra, alternating with Lloyd Price and his band and tenor sax man Red Prysock and his band playing his hit recording of “Hand Clappin.’”  As I was witnessing these acts generating standing ovations of crowd enjoyment throughout the establishment, it gave me an insight of the many conversations I had with Joe Fortunato; that “when you communicate musically with your listening audience, it has to be enjoyable in every aspect of your performance.”  

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