MORGANTOWN — From Clarkburg’s Orlando Columbo in the 1940s and ’50s to Pittsburgh’s Joe Negri in the ’60s and ’70s to Morgantown’s Mark Cappellini today, there is a strong tradition of 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 in Clarksburg’s Washington Square, and Saturday 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 Friday performance will begin at 7 p.m. and run until 9:30 p.m., one of three shows scheduled in a Cabaret Night In Clarksburg promotion. Admission to all three venues will be through a $10 bracelet purchased from the event sponsor.
The band will play from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. Saturday.
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.”