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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Fitzgerald2

It is with a heavy heart that we at The Jazz Gallery announce the passing of Dale Fitzgerald. Along with Roy Hargrove and Lezlie Harrison, Dale co-founded the Gallery in 1995, and then guided its growth as executive director until 2009.

To honor Dale’s memory and legacy, members of the Gallery extended family offer their remembrances below.

David Adler—jazz journalist and scholar

The words “Good evening [pause], and welcome to The Jazz Gallery” came to define much of my existence in roughly the years 2000-2007. While covering jazz for a few publications and visiting the Gallery just about every week, I heard Dale Fitzgerald introduce Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Jason Lindner, Orrin Evans, Miguel Zenon, Darcy James Argue, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dafnis Prieto, Robert Glasper, Marcus Strickland, Yosvany Terry, John Ellis, Andy Milne, Mike Moreno and many more. These are of course some of the most forward-thinking and celebrated jazz musicians of our era, but back then they were emerging talents, championed by Dale and given a vital platform early in their careers. Dale knew like few others how to attract, showcase and nurture promising artists, but also how to create a community within those Jazz Gallery walls. The jazz world at large is still feeling the ripple effect of those years, even if many aren’t conscious of it. Before I left for Philadelphia (2007-08), Dale approached me to do some freelance writing for the Gallery, which I did. He was a pleasure to work with: trusting, patient, respectful, clear in his intentions. We talked more often in those days and got to know each other, but fell out of touch after his retirement, something I regret looking back. I’m deeply saddened by the news of his death but will always be inspired by his example. We love you, Dale.

Darcy James Argue—composer & bandleader

Dale made every concert at The Jazz Gallery feel like An Occasion, for both audience and performer—he never failed to create the sense that something momentous was about to occur and we were all privileged to be in the room to witness it. Even after he formally retired from the Gallery he could still often be found there, taking in the music and chatting with the band and the regulars between sets. Though officially retired, Dale could sometimes still be coaxed up to the mic to present one of his legendary introductions, with that unmistakeable voice and inimitable cadence. Dale was a passionate advocate of jazz as a living art and a champion for countless young musicians. He will be dearly missed by everyone who ever experienced a very special evening at The Jazz Gallery.

Johnathan Blake—drummer

It’s hard for me to imagine life without Dale Kelly Fitzgerald in it. I know that it sounds cliche, but it’s true. He played such a huge part in my development as a musician, man, and later on as a father. I feel like I grew up in The Jazz Gallery. I starting going there in the mid 90’s to rehearse with Roy Hargrove’s Quintet. This is before the Dale and Rio began booking music there. I always remember Dale greeting me with a smile, and when he found out that my father was Jazz violinist John Blake Jr. He would tell me stories of how he use to see my dad perform with McCoy Tyner in the early 80’s.

Dale watched me grow from a young twenty-something to a father of two. My kids literally grew up at the Gallery—my daughter used to sleep in her play-penn that was situated in the office. Dale always made you feel like family when you were at the Gallery. He wasn’t afraid to KEEP IT REAL with you. I loved that about him.

He watched as I made the transition from sideman to band leader, and he did it while standing in the back of the Gallery with his big grin and his occasional YEAH and BAP. I’m truly gonna miss that. I’m truly gonna miss him.

I Love you Dale….Rest In Paradise

Alexis Cuadrado—bassist

Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I just found out of the passing of the beloved Dale Kelley Fitzgerald. He was so genuine, so generous, so passionate, so authentic. I’ve always looked up to him as someone who set an example on how to live life fully. The last time I hung out with him we had some coffee at a sidewalk cafe in the West Village. After saying goodbye I was elated, inspired by this man’s vitality. I love you Dale! I miss you already.

John Ellis—saxophonist

As a young musician new in NYC, I used to go to The Jazz Gallery filled with excitement and anticipation. There, as the lights dimmed, I remember the force and weight of Dale’s voice, the way it made you sit up straight in your seat. His spirit, his gravitas, revealed the depth of his love for the music, and demanded the same intensity and investment of the lucky few in the audience before him.  Dale made you feel like you were participating in a rite, in a sacrament. I am truly grateful and honored to have known him.

Takao Fujioka—visual artist and graphic designer

 

私は2007年1月に初めてニューヨークを訪れた。
帰国前に現地で描きためたアートを
「The Jazz Gallery」に持ちこんだ。
この時、初めてデールさんと出会った。
言葉ができなくてもアートを通して、
通じ合えたことが嬉しかったし、
この出会いがあったからこそ、
今日まで“ジャズ”を描いてこれた
といっても過言ではない。
翌年、「The Jazz Gallery」で個展を
させてもらった。
デールさんと、小さい息子のガブリエルくんと
3人で搬入作業したのを
まるで昨日ことのように覚えている。
いつも、その大きな手で背中を押してくれた
デールさんには感謝の言葉しかありません。

My first visit to the New York City was in January of 2007. I had drawn a number of pieces during my stay, which I brought into The Jazz Gallery. I met Dale for the first time then. It was great to be able to communicate through art although my English was lacking. This encounter with Dale was what kept me expressing jazz through my visual arts. He offered me an opportunity for a solo show at The Jazz Gallery the year after. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was hanging the show with Dale and his then toddler son, Gabriel. Dale has always been supportive and encouraging. I still feel his large hand patting me on my back. I have nothing but gratitude.

Translated by Rio Sakairi.

Vijay Iyer—pianist

“Good evening. Tonight is a very special night.”

Dale Fitzgerald’s professorial gravitas was fun to imitate, but more importantly, it was a joy to be around. He was open to the world; he radiated kindness, wisdom, erudition, soul and grit; and he genuinely, passionately felt the music. In his memorable onstage introductions, in the tales he shared with us backstage, and in everyday life, he helped us remember what the music has always been: a way for us to commune, to be in the moment together, to shed our egos, to align our collective experience around rhythms that connect this plane to another. A very special night, indeed.

The Jazz Gallery gave me some of my first opportunities to make music in public in New York. I suppose it had to have been our dear Rio Sakairi who convinced Dale to give me a try, but once he did, he took me as seriously as anyone ever has, and I found myself coming back more and more. For a while I was playing there so often, a fellow musician described it as my “home.” Back then I flinched at this, worried about being pigeonholed. But in the long run, I feel only gratitude that Dale helped to bring about, nurture and sustain such a strong sense of place—a safe, peaceful, dignified home for so many musicians in this big, loud city.

Because of Dale, The Jazz Gallery maintained its rare identity as a non-profit jazz venue in New York City. Because of him, it became a place for nourishment and healing through music, art, and community. We were lucky to have the chance to bask in the beauty of those three elemental forces, night after night, week after week, year after year—with Dale standing proudly in the corner, beaming, jovial, majestic.

Farewell, good sir. Thank you for all that you gave us. We’ll see you soon, in the music.

Adam Larson—saxophonist

As a freshman in college, I remembering venturing out to the Jazz Gallery for the first time. The atmosphere of the room was unforgettable; I was anxiously awaiting the start of the show. As I would soon come to find out, before every show, the house lights would dim and a tall man with an uncannily deep voice would come up to introduce the band. This man was Dale Fitzgerald. Dale was someone who lived to serve the music and went out of his way to give young musicians like myself the opportunity to perform and grow in New York City, when he certainly did not have to; when it wasn’t financially rewarding, it didn’t matter; he was only concerned with the music. Dale’s impact on the jazz community in NYC is deeply felt now, and will continue to be felt for generations to come. Thank you Dale, for everything.

Christian McBride—bassist

I first met Dale in 1989 when I was a member of Roy Hargrove’s band. I will forever remember Dale’s big, booming voice, his Paul Bunyan physique and his eclectic tastes in music and art. He was quite a sophisticated man and a true lover of the music. He always had a full time job keeping an eye on all of us—Roy, me, Antonio, and Stephen—and he always kept an eye on us with such grace. He will be missed dearly by all of us in the jazz community.

Jason Moran—pianist

Dale Fitzgerald dedicated his life to the support of great music. He ushered The Bandwagon into existence by repeatedly inviting us into The Jazz Gallery. He was a model for his panoptic view about Jazz culture. It was a thing you felt in every word he uttered, and his total support of young musicians finding solid footing within the culture. But I am certain that he has left me with a great deal of insight and inspiration, and that I may continue to carry on his work within mine.

Renee Neufville—vocalist

As I recall my fondest memories of Dale, I think of an intellect firmly rooted in culture, tradition, history, and integrity. He loved great music and the musicians that nurtured it. His towering stature and commanding tone of voice was the perfect compliment to the warmth of his heart. Dale Fitzgerald’s unending dedication to the world of arts and culture could not be disputed. You see once you earned his respect, you had his loyalty for life. The last time I saw him was only a few months ago. We all broke bread together, laughed together, talked about music, and thanked one another..for EVERYTHING from the beginning. From this day on I will always remember this “Gentle Giant” Dale Fitzgerald as a stalwart in the culture of New York Jazz . He was “family.”

Miles Okazaki—guitarist

I had seen Dale at The Jazz Gallery, mysterious fellow in the leather vest, but I never had really hung out with him or understood who he was until I began to play there as a leader around 2005. I didn’t have any expectation of the guy introducing the band—I figured that he would say a couple of things about upcoming gigs and bring us on. But Dale began weaving an intricate portrait of the music as if he had already seen us a bunch of times. He went into great detail, above and beyond an “introduction,” with that baritone cadence. I realized then that, without even knowing me, Dale was on my side. Or rather, he was on the side of all of the musicians that the Gallery invited into the fold. I hadn’t played enough venues at that time to understand how unusual that was, that level of commitment form someone presenting the music. Later, as I learned more of Dale’s story, I understood that creative music was no trivial matter for him.

I still have tapes of all my gigs at the Gallery. On most gig tapes, I edit off the beginning so that the music starts right away. But on the Gallery tapes I always left Dale’s introductions, because they were really part of the thing. He was a true character, a singular personality. Thank you Dale for supporting this music, creating a community, and gracing us with your everlasting hipness.

Jason Palmer—trumpeter

I didn’t get to know Dale as well as I would have liked to, but I do remember how kind he was when I first met him, as well as any other time I was graced with his presence. When he first introduced me and my band at The Jazz Gallery, I remember how well he knew of me and what I had done in my career up to that point. He made the announcement with no notes as well, which really struck me. He made me and the band feel at home, giving us the space to perform to our potential. I remember that night Dale mentioning the Trumpet Speaks series that Roy Hargrove put on at the Gallery for several years before I had a chance to present music there. Dale said that if Roy was still doing them, he thought that it would be a nice idea for Roy to present one with me. That was very kind of him and I’ll never forget that! You are already missed!

Luis Perdomo—pianist

At some point, The Jazz Gallery became for me a sort of laboratory and second home, where for years I had the pleasure of developing and trying new music with some of my peers. It was a period of constant growth for myself, playing week after week with some of the best musicians in NYC; and a big part of this was due to the forward thinking vision of Dale Fitzgerald, who not only gave us an opportunity to have our music heard, but created an atmosphere where musicians could come and create in a worry-free environment. He was also very kind and supportive: when I did my first record, I couldn’t think of anyone else but him to write the liner notes, having been a witness to my musical process year after year. After his initial apprehension to write the notes, he was glad that I had thought of him, but I was especially happy since I had thought of him as being a part of the CD, and a perfect complement to the music. I will miss his laugh and wit, seeing him walk around wearing his beret, his low voice, those “Good Evening, Welcome to the Jazz Gallery” introductions, and hearing him yell “Yeah!” after the last note of the last set.

Dafnis Prieto—drummer

Dale was one of the first people in New York that opened the doors at The Jazz Gallery to my music. These memories are very meaningful to me because they were the beginnings of a complete new musical chapter in my life. Dale had an intense and elegant passion for the arts and specially for music. He loved art, but most importantly he loved, respected and supported the people that created art, and that’s unforgettable!

Matana Roberts—saxophonist

Dale Fitzgerald was really just one of a kind. He was an irish-blooded, hard working New Yorker who exuded a realm of true old school American grit and class… He had a respect and reverence for art that is quickly disappearing in Gotham. Quite the imposing figure he cut! The first time I met him I remember being slightly taken aback by just the sheer positive strength he exuded upright. And when I visited him in the hospital, I was afraid that this strength would be gone.

Not so! He sat up in that rather frail looking bed still looking every bit as strong as the ox that I remember from that first meeting. Smiling that ocean-wide, Dale Fitzgerald smile, bubbling out that laugh that seemed to come from a place so deep, you’d think the earth just shook… I will miss him madly… He gave me confidence to be out here to be who it is that I am now as an NYC genre bender, because he was one of my staunchest NYC defenders. Rest in Power Dale, rest in power! You did so much for too many to really count and not only New York City, but the world was made all the better for it.Your legacy will live on for an eternity.

Jaleel Shaw—saxophonist

When I first moved to NY, one of my biggest fears was how I was going to work or get a “gig”. I tried and tried and tried for a couple years while I was in grad school. Right when I felt like giving up, I went to The Jazz Gallery to hear Robert Glasper’s trio play. Knowing I was coming, Rob told me to bring my horn and sit in with him.

Well, I went to Rob’s gig and sat in on the last song. Immediately after that, Dale Fitzgerald came up to me, asking if I had a band, and told me he wanted me to play at the Gallery. He wasn’t thinking about how much money I would bring the Gallery or how many people would come. He cared about helping me get my music out there and giving me an opportunity to play with my band. He felt it was important.

For so many years, Dale would introduce my band when I played at The Jazz Gallery. I have many, many recordings of my performances that always start off with Dale’s extremely low voice giving these grand introductions, complimenting the band and giving the band’s history. His introductions became as much a part of the show as the music did. I really missed them when he decided to stop doing it.

In time I’ve learned that people like Dale Fitzgerald are extremely rare. Today, it’s hard to find people that are willing to take a risk and give a new artist a chance to be heard… People that really care about the FUTURE of this music. Thank you Dale for giving me and so many other artists a chance to shine! We are all very thankful for you! Your encouragement and “ears” got the ball rolling for so many of us. You will truly be missed and will forever be in our thoughts!

Miguel Zenon—saxophonist

I first met Dale about 15 years ago through Yosvany Terry, when the Gallery was starting to run the “Jazz Cubano Series.” Shortly after that (and through Yosvany’s recommendation), Dale gave me my first chance ever to present an ensemble as a leader. As in my first gig as a leader ANYWHERE. Little did I know that this gig would be the first step towards one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. The Gallery not only became a place to play, but it became our second home in NYC. At one point we were spending so much time there that my wife jokingly mentioned that we should set up sleeping bags in the back and just sleep there 🙂

Dale was unique in many ways; not only did he turn The Jazz Gallery into one of the best jazz venues in the world, but was also a true champion for this art form, always happy to be around music and extremely proud to be part of what would turn out to be such an integral part of our scene.

I visited Dale at the hospital a few weeks ago and was blown away about how sharp his mind was. Even thought he was in obviously in a lot of pain and discomfort, he was as gracious as ever, speaking passionately about music and even picking up the phone himself to chat with the many friends and family members who wanted to check on him. It was uplifting to see him in such good spirits, even at the darkest of times.

We’ve lost a great one in Dale Fitzgerald, and I for one considered myself lucky to have met him and will forever cherish everything he has left for us.

In lieu of flowers, you may contribute to Dale’s son Gabriel’s education fund. Also check out these T-Shirts in Dale’s honor, featuring artwork by Takao Fujioka.