By Sarah Pittman & Andy Gensler
To artists and fans, the contributions of the late promoter, producer and social activist Meghan Stabile to the live scene go beyond simply booking shows. She is credited with creating community, helping new audiences fall in love with contemporary jazz, in particular where the genre meets hip-hop, while spotlighting groundbreaking acts before they broke. And although she struggled with her own issues related to mental health, Stabile made the effort to lift others up including promoting a concert at 2020’s Winter Jazzfest headlined by this week’s cover artist Robert Glasper called “Revive Yo’ Feelings: A Wellness Benefit for Musicians.”
Stabile died on June 12 in Valrico, Fla., at age 39.
“Meghan was my sister. She was the backbone of the modern creative force in NYC which was spreading all over the world! We are going to miss her,” Glasper said in a statement.
Virtuoso bassist Thundercat, now on tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers, posted news of Stabile’s passing with a photo of him and Stabile in a warm embrace.
“To my lovely Meghan, thank you for everything you did while you were here,” he wrote. “Without your work, care and love a lot of us musicians wouldn’t be in the places we are now. Wish you could have experienced the love and care that you treated everyone around you with. You will forever be in our hearts. Rest In Peace.”
Stabile studied singing and guitar at Boston’s Berklee College Of Music but switched her focus to music business because of stage fright, her grandmother, Maureen Freeman, told the New York Times. Stabile got into the jazz scene after being hired as a bartender at the Boston jazz club Wally’s Cafe and began producing shows while still a student called “Revive Da Live.”
Winter Jazzfest founder Brice Rosenbloom, who is also the artistic director at World Music Institute, met Stabile at a show some 15 years ago and from the get-go one thing stuck out: her passion for live and her curatorial vision.
“She would pitch me these incredible ideas,” he told Pollstar, “not just specific artists, but well-curated shows where she would have a theme. There was the playlist party show with Pharoahe Monch with hip-hop and jazz artists, the Hip Hop 1942 show with Phonte, GE-OLOGY, Mark Ferry, Ben Williams, Casey Benjamin, Ambrose Akinmusire.”
After relocating to New York in 2006, Stabile began booking gigs for friends, including trumpeter/composer Igmar Thomas and MC Raydar Ellis.
“They came together and started putting together shows and showcases,” Rosenbloom says. “There was a jam session at Zinc Bar every Tuesday called Revive Sessions. Igmar had his own group, The Cypher. They launched The Revive Big Band, which was a lot of these young jazz musicians that came from Berklee but also other cats they met on the scene. And we started presenting the Revive Big Band.”
Stabile became close with Glasper, promoting the musician’s birthday parties including one year Rosenbloom recalls that featured a double drum set with Glasper, Chris “Daddy” Dave and Questlove at the now-closed Sullivan Hall in New York.
“I was immediately intrigued by her passion, her ideas – her energy was infectious,” Rosenbloom says. “Starting in 2009, I dedicated a stage at Winter Jazzfest to curate which she did every year. She pitched Hiatus Kaiyote, BADBADNOTGOOD, Kamasi Washington in 2012 – no one knew who Kamasi was in 2012. Early on Esperanza Spalding was a guest at her shows.
“Her legacy is real,” Rosenbloom added. “Her legacy is all those musicians who recognize what she did and it wasn’t just her as a promoter, it was her as a friend, a coach, a mentor, to not just musicians, but aspiring promoters. People seeing her and her role as a woman in the industry, definitely inspired other women.”
Bikbaye Inejnema, Stabile’s counselor who spoke on behalf of Stabile’s grandmother, said the producer’s cause of death was suicide. “She wants Meghan’s memory to be honored in the way that reflects who she really was,” Inejnema told NPR, “not what she went through.”
Stabile’s influence will live on in many ways including Revive Big Band, which is preparing its debut album.
The band’s co-founder, Stabile’s longtime friend and collaborator Igmar Thomas, told Pollstar, “Meghan was a fighter; determined, she climbed mountains. The more you told her she couldn’t do something, the more motivated and empowered she became. I am proud of her, the work we did together; how we inspired and protected one another, and everything she accomplished. Meghan was a prodigy; a shooting star that we were lucky enough to be in the presence of. It’s really magical how she really did unite us all.”
Promoter and producer Angela Gil also paid tribute: “Meghan was a huge influence in my life. When I moved to New York, she took me under her wing and became my mentor, my guide, my protector, my friend. I am eternally grateful, inspired, and in admiration of just how unique she was. A powerful force and the most generous soul.
“Meghan created a movement that she led with love, care, and passion; it’s hard to describe the enormous impact she had on all of us. She was a true visionary and her legacy will continue to shape our community for generations to come.”
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide call 988 to be connected to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, offering free and confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.