Geneva, NY – March 31, 2014 – On Friday, April 4th, Geneva, NY will be throwing a city-wide celebration to honor the life and legacy of Geneva native and jazz legend Scott LaFaro. Events will include the dedication of Scott LaFaro Drive, the establishment of an annual Scott LaFaro Day, and a very special Geneva Night Out, the city’s monthly art-crawl.
Born on April 3, 1936, Scott LaFaro began playing music while an elementary school student in Geneva, eventually moving to the bass. After a few semesters at Ithaca College, LaFaro left college to pursue his musical career. LaFaro was quickly recognized as one of the best young bassists in the country, playing with such jazz greats as Chet Baker, Victor Feldman, Stan Kenton, Cal Tjader, Benny Goodman, and Ornette Coleman. It was as part of the famous Bill Evans Trio that LaFaro developed and expanded the counter-melodic style that would come to characterize his playing.
Days after recording two seminal records with the Bill Evans Trio, LaFaro died in an automobile accident in the summer of 1961 in Flint, NY, between Geneva and Canandaigua. Though only playing for a few years, LaFaro’s innovative style influenced a generation of bassists and he is considered one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century.
On Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 (the 78th anniversary of the birth of Scott LaFaro), the City of Geneva will declare April 3rd to be the first annual Scott LaFaro Day.
The work to establish Scott LaFaro Day, and the renaming of the street, has largely been done by Jim Meaney, the coordinator of Geneva Night Out. Meaney states, “LaFaro was a revolutionary and singular musician, but his contributions to the music world aren’t widely known to many Geneva residents. This effort aims to give recognition to LaFaro’s short but stellar career, while creating a platform for future jazz tribute concerts, festivals, and events in Geneva that will honor LaFaro’s legacy.”
For Geneva Night Out on April 4th at 5:30pm, a special dedication and street renaming ceremony will take place at the south corner of Seneca Street and Linden Street (next to the Seneca Street parking lot). The portion of Linden Street from Seneca Street south to South Exchange Street (also known as Carter Union Alley) will be renamed Scott LaFaro Drive. Guest speakers at the dedication will include Helene LaFaro-Fernandez, LaFaro’s sister and author of his biography Jade Visions, via a video recording; Nicholas Walker, Associate Professor-Performance Studies at the Ithaca College School of Music; and Steve Palumbo, representing the Geneva High School’s Music Department and the long-running Scott LaFaro Memorial Award for graduating seniors.
As Meaney notes, “No other city in the world can claim Scott LaFaro as its own. Spotlighting a Geneva resident whose talent, ambition, dedication, and novel approach to his craft propelled him to alter the course of jazz history before his untimely death at age 25 inspires a sense of pride and possibility for residents of all ages throughout the city.”
After the dedication, a number of the venues participating in the Geneva Night Out celebration will honor LaFaro. The Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge will host the Cool Club Quartet, who will perform the music of Scott LaFaro. At Absolute Dance Geneva, a specially-assembled jazz collective, featuring Sebastian Bersani, Chuck Leo, Steve Palumbo and Bryan Flood, will perform.
At Stomping Grounds, Kelly Walker of Finger Lakes Public Radio will be on hand, playing select recordings from Scott’s storied career. Stomping Grounds will have copies of Jade Visions for sale, as well as a limited number of Scott LaFaro posters featuring a painting by Manny Fernandez (husband of Scott’s sister Helene LaFaro-Fernandez), which will be sold for $10 each to benefit Geneva High School’s annual Scott LaFaro Memorial Award. Bethany Haswell, co-owner of Stomping Grounds, states “Formally recognizing Scott’s influence on Jazz is a way for the City of Geneva to honor the value of the creative arts in our community. Exhibits, concerts, and plays provide opportunities for neighbors to come together, enjoy each other’s company, and discover each other’s talents.”
The organizers of Geneva Night Out hope to see Scott LaFaro Day grow in the years to come. As Meaney states, “I’d love to see Scott LaFaro Day become an annual celebration featuring jazz performances and other activities that will celebrate Scott’s life and legacy, ideally drawing jazz fans from around the region to Geneva in the coming years.”