In January of 1976, a 10-member Board of Directors was formed consisting of a cross-section of musicians and jazz-loving citizens. The Board included Monk, Jay Cameron, Frank Gagliardi, Ken Joy, John Lindner, Sari Phillips, Tom Severns, Dan Skea, Judy Tarte and John Unrue. A support team of renowned musicians titled the “Jazz Ambassadors at Large” was also assembled to spread the word, the music and the dream, far and wide. Included in this group of Ambassadors were Joe Williams, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Marlena Shaw, James Moody, B.B. King and Carl Fontana.
The Jazz Society was Monk’s passion and kept him extremely involved. He not only organized and performed in concerts and clubs, but he spearheaded a political movement to designate the month of May as Jazz Month in the state of Nevada. In addition, he chaired LVJS board meetings, wrote a feature article, “Monk’s Corner”, in Think Jazz, the society’s newsletter and hosted parties and jam sessions in his home. He was also host of a late-night jazz radio broadcast where he not only played recordings of the genre but also interviewed jazz celebrities who were performing in Las Vegas. Think Jazz was the show’s motto as well as the model for his life.
During this time Monk discovered that he had bone cancer. Despite the knowledge of his illness, he never slowed down. He died in Las Vegas on May 20, 1982. His dream, however, has been kept alive by dedicated individuals and organizations up to the present time. One man, one dream and JAZZ, America’s unique art form, lives on
THE EARLY YEARS
Compiled and contributed by Judy Tarte
Jazz bassist Monk Montgomery (who introduced the Fender Precision Bass to the genre in 1951 and was the elder brother of jazz guitarist Wes and vibraphonist, pianist Buddy) moved to Las Vegas in 1966. Upon his arrival, he found the jazz scene sadly lacking, even though the town was full of fine musicians who were looking to play this kind of music. His dream was to provide more outlets for them to be able to play their music and to also draw nationally renowned jazz musicians to major venues on and off the “Strip.”
By 1975, he convinced several local musicians, jazz fans and notable Las Vegas residents to share his dream and the Las Vegas Jazz Society (LVJS) was formed. It was incorporated as a nonprofit organization on April 22, 1975. In August of that year, the Society held its first concert which featured Joe Williams and the Freddy Hubbard Quintet. The venue was the Judy Bayley Theater on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). In subsequent years, his dream became a reality when major hotels such as the Sands, Stardust, Hacienda, Desert Inn, Landmark, Tropicana and the Dunes began to headline many legendary players, including Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Max Roach, Louis Bellson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Cal Tjader on their properties.