A documentary video produced by Brooklyn resident, actor/producer Rome Neal highlights the importance of Jazz 966, a haven of social and cultural life for mostly black senior citizens since 1988. Located in Brooklyn at 966 Fulton Street the community centers’weekly Friday night jazz event is still going strong, with a mission to get older people swinging. Sponsored by the Fort Greene Senior Center, its programs create an affordable venue that encourages quality jazz performances and evoking Brooklyn’s rich jazz history.
The current economic and cultural renaissance blanketing Brooklyn has accelerated the pace of gentrification. At times the process of re-building and community renewal has meant displacement of families, and businesses no longer able to afford rising cost for rents or leases. Sadly, demand for prime real estate in Brooklyn as with most areas undergoing expansion can often result in disregard for preserving hallowed institutions and traditions passed on through generations. Brooklyn the citys’most populous borough offers a patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods with hallowed traditions and rich cultural histories. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Brooklyn welcomed a wave of black residents, recently arrived in New York City in search of better lives. In those pre-integration years, the black enclaves of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights stood out as self-reliant cultural strongholds, with music integrated into every aspect of community life. A remarkable number of jazz musicians were nurtured and schooled in these neighborhoods, notables like Max Roach, Randy Weston, Cecil Payne, Duke Jordan to name a few. By mid-century, jazz venues in central Brooklyn out numbered those in Harlem. From the decades of the boroughs grand theaters to the era when jazz clubs proliferated and into the twentieth-first century with its coffee houses, community centers, and collectives where jazz flourishes today.
The documentary Jazz 966 provides us with a glimpse of black communal life up close and personal by tapping into a well spring of emotions and cultural pride shared by many older citizens whom rely on the venue and organizers to provide marquis jazz performances at an affordable price served up in a friendly, hospitable and familiar up-south atmosphere. The musicians and acts perform weekly from September to June each year before a welcoming diverse audience, the audience comprised of retired teachers, judges, physicians, sanitation workers, grand and some even great-grand parents, clergy, bus drivers, artists and civil service employees. These are not folk side-lined by the normal frailties of aging, they come as eager participants. Many know jazz as “social music, melodies and rhythms that compel dancing and socializing. Even more so their listening is rapt and appreciative but nimbly shifts from concert mode to full throttled swing, bop, jitterbug and Chicago Step. Their personal stories reveal the singular importance Jazz 966 has meant in their social and cultural lives, that’s why, lest we forget, it becomes crucial that the legacies we create and nurture are not only preserved but celebrated. The documentary Jazz 966 serves us well to just that end. D.Day 2016
Jazz show including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis at Jazz 966 (senior center) Fulton St. between Grand and St. James Fort Greene Brooklyn NY (photo: Stefano Giovannini) 2014
Jazz 966 (senior center) Fulton St. between Grand and St. James Fort . Greene Brooklyn NY (pictured Grace G. Harewood (photo: Stefano Giovannini)2014