The importance of keeping “Jazz in the Neighborhood”

Mario Guarnieri playing with The Guarneri Jazz Quartet


The city of San Francisco has always been universally recognized as a city of great artists and musicians, and among different kind of music styles, jazz has certainly played a first class role.
With the exception perhaps of the historic Fillmore district, over the last years jazz music has slowly disappeared, and many of the famous places where it was possible to enjoy its notes have sadly closed their doors.
The Bay Area is still home of many talented jazz musicians, that's why only few months ago the project “Jazz in the Neighborhood”, founded by trumpeter Mario Guarnieri, was launched with the aim to support local musicians, starting from the Italian district of North Beach.
Mr. Guarnieri is a second generation Italian-American, both his parents' families came from Sicily (Taormina and Corleone), grown up in Berkeley where there used to be a big Italian community, represented by the Fratellanza Club.
Music at that time was all around the places. His father had a famous barber shop close the University,  but in the weekends he played banjo and guitar in the Dixieland band, and of course during family celebrations.
  Trumpeter Mario Guarnieri

  Trumpeter Mario Guarnieri

“In the past there were many clubs for music and jazz in North Beach and San Francisco,” says Mario Guarnieri.  “For example the Black Hawk, where I could listen to Miles Davies when I was a kid, or Pearl's that was the last jazz venue in North Beach where they had a big band with local musicians playing every week. But now it's all gone, except for performers inside the restaurants where people doesn't really pay attention to music, that is only something they hear in the background”
While gladly remembering the time when he used to play with an Italian Brass Band in the Bay Area and wine County, Mr. Guarnieri shows us the photos and articles from La Voce di Cesena and Il Resto del Carlino, documenting his participation in La Spezia and Montiano in Musica in July 2012, when he performed with local jazz musician Carlo Atti.
The purpose of his project is clear: “Jazz in the Neighborhood is trying to get the tradition back. People should be able to come whenever they want paying low prices and listening to good music.”
The main concept that will hopefully inspire everyone, is that adult and experience musicians will monitor young people and new musicians. As a matter of fact, the tradition of jazz has always been a sort of monitoring, a kind of teaching received while listening and playing with other performers.
“In the big cities nowadays you are supposed to go to big centers to assist concerts,” Mario continues.  “Like this, the vibe of the small neighborhoods is lost, even if it's slowly coming back in particular in food culture with campaign as 'eat local'.
It's important to establish the idea that there are plenty of people interested to listen and learn yet, even if usually inside the academic classroom more than in the real classrooms of life.”
What it's very interesting about Jazz in the Neighborhood is this idea of monitoring students and playing with them at the same time, as a concrete way to involve and encourage the community to support musicians, providing them the possibility of a guaranteed salary.
Professionals at the top of their musical fields will get together and collaborate, creating an environment where these accomplished professionals can nurture a great American art form with dignity and respect, receiving a respectable living wage.
JITN is creating a project run by the same musicians, “a bottom up organization,” with even a little office space located in the heart of North Beach.
“We should be closer to the people of the neighborhood, and we hope to do this in other part of the Bay Area. In fact we would like to return the tradition also in Oakland, Berkeley and Marin. That's why in the future we are planning to organize a fundraiser as well.”
Concerning the recent opening of a modern Jazz Center in San Francisco, Mario Guarnieri, who in the past played music in Los Angeles for fifteen years in motion pictures including the opening trumpet in F.F.Coppola's The Godfather III, believes that “…the new SF Jazz is a great venue to listen to amazing performers, but maybe is not helping local musicians and small cultural places.”
He goes on to say that “For the health of the music we have to go to the neighborhood and play with the people. Currently we are already gathering musicians from all the Bay Area to create a roster, and we're asking to schools what they can do to help them. Because musicians will mentor students and then they will play together in future shows: it's a new-old idea to support these professionals. We should change the existing concept and convince people to really come for the music.”
With the collaboration of local galleries in North Beach, Jazz in the Neighborhood has already started playing with a regular concert every second Friday of the month at the Emerald Tablet Gallery.
JITN is also a member of the Intersection Incubator, and a program of “Intersection for the Arts” providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting to artists.
Hopefully, in the future others local businesses  will collaborate and support this project that was started only five months ago, but that has been in founder Mario Guarnieri's head for many years.
To support Jazz In The Neighborhood visit:
Erik Jekabson and the SF All-Stars
Friday April 12th 2013. 7 pm doors, 7:15 pm opening act, 8 pm main show.

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