From Clarkburg’s Orlando Columbo in the 40s and 50s to Pittsburgh’s Joe Negri in the 60s and 70s to Morgantown’s Mark Cappellini today, there is a strong tradition of great Italian jazz musicians in the Mon Valley who have made significant contributions to the region as performers and educators.
Mark Cappellini’s Jazz Italiano, a project to pay tribute those great Italian jazz musicians, was so popular in its first year that it will be repeated Friday, August 24, in Clarksburg’s Washington Square, and Saturday, August 25, in Morgantown’s Waterfront Marriott Hotel’s restaurant and lounge, Bourbon Prime, and billed as “A Musical Kickoff To the Italian Festival Season” in the I-79 corridor.
The Jazz Italiano ensemble which features Cappellini on drums and saxophonist, Mike Tomaro, will be the second iteration of an all-Italian ensemble organized by Cappellini last year in cooperation with the West Virginia Jazz Society.
Two Pittsburgh area musicians complete the ensemble, Ben Brosche on piano, and Ben Cardine on bass. Each member of the band shares Italian ancestry with at least one set of grandparents from Italy.
The performance will begin at 7pm and run until 9:30pm, one of three different shows scheduled in a Cabaret Night In Clarksburg promotion on August 24. Admission to all three venues will be through a $10 bracelet purchased from the event sponsor.
Cappellini, a prolific jazz drummer and veteran music educator, said the project has two primary purposes.
“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to all the great Italian jazz artists who helped and inspired me us a musician,” he explained. “I wanted to create something that can be repeated, which is also a great way to stay active in jazz performance.”
After 37 years teaching music in Monongalia County schools, Cappellini continues to educate through Cap’s Drum Studio, his teaching salon in Morgantown.
“Music has been my life since I was nine years old,” reflected Cappellini, “And that is not going to change.”
“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to all the great Italian jazz artists who helped and inspired me us a musician.” – Mark Cappellini
Jazz Italilano’s first performance was in August 2017 in Clarksburg, the night before that city’s traditional Italian Heritage Festival’s Pasta Cook Off.
At that time, Cappellini thought it would be a one-time-only show, but after a recent conversation with Tomaro, also a veteran music educator and native of the Mon Valley, Cappellini decided to give it a go one more time.
“Mike and I hit it off really well and had a lot of the same ideas about what we can do with (the Jazz Italiano concept),” explained Cappellini, who is known professionally as “Cap”.
“In addition to the swinging jazz you’d expect, we are going to take some very traditional Italian music and work that in to the overall mix. People will love it.”