Meghan Stabile, who linked jazz and hip-hop, dies at 39

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Meghan Stabile, who linked jazz and hip-hop, dies at 39
Meghan Stabile, a concert promoter, during a radio interview in Manhattan on June 15, 2013. Stabile, who saw jazz and hip-hop as genres that could cross-pollinate and who, hoping to bring jazz to younger audiences, started a shoestring business producing concerts that explored the intersection of the two, died on June 12, 2022 in Valrico, Fla. She was 39. Piotr Redlinski/The New York Times.

by Neil Genzlinger

NEW YORK, NY.- Meghan Stabile, who saw jazz and hip-hop as genres that could cross-pollinate and who, hoping to bring jazz to younger audiences, started a shoestring business producing concerts that explored the intersection of the two, died on June 12 in Valrico, Florida. She was 39.

Maureen Freeman, her grandmother, said the cause was suicide. She said that Stabile had recently relocated to Valrico hoping that might help in her struggles with depression.

Stabile began producing shows while still a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She took to calling them Revive Da Live, a name that, at a time when turntablists were dominant, captured her interest in backing hip-hop artists with jazz musicians performing live.

“It’s an organic hybrid,’‘ she told The Boston Globe in 2012. “Jazz is in hip-hop’s DNA.”

Once she relocated to New York in 2006, she continued to organize Revive Da Live events and formed the Revive Music Group, which produced shows, created an online forum called the Revivalist and released several albums in partnership with Blue Note Records, the noted jazz label.

Stabile generally worked outside the jazz mainstream, booking shows in small clubs, but she gradually became something of a force in New York.

“In the last year and a half,” The New York Times wrote in 2013, “she has emerged as a presence around the city — booking, promoting, cajoling, advising and herding young musicians, many of whom are still finding their way.”

Don Was, now the president of Blue Note Records, told The Times then that he had first encountered Stabile two years earlier, when he joined the label as chief creative officer and went looking for the hot new things in jazz.

“I started going online, four or five hours a night,” he said.

“And invariably,” he continued, “every thread I was following led back to Meghan’s site. So night after night, she appeared to be at the center of the energy.”

She was also producing shows in Boston and elsewhere. The goal, as she explained to The Globe, was to energize the jazz scene and connect it to audiences schooled on hip-hop. A Revive Music show at Berklee in 2012, for instance, was called “Hip Hop 1942” and featured ensembles playing jazz tunes, then showing how they had been sampled by hip-hop artists.

“It’s important to honor the tradition of the music, and we still have shows that do that,” she told The Globe. “But we also have to honor the music of today and make it more relevant.”

Blue Note posted a tribute to her on Twitter.

“Beloved by the musicians she worked so hard for,” the post said, “she was a passionate advocate for jazz who built a vibrant scene around the music & gave a platform to so many deserving artists.”

Meghan Erin Stabile was born on July 26, 1982, in Grand Prairie, Texas, to Gina Marie Skidds. Her father was not part of her upbringing, and she was raised largely by Freeman and an aunt in Dover, New Hampshire. Her relationship with her mother, who died last year, was difficult, she told The Times in 2013, and that gave her a certain irascible quality.

“I got kicked out of four schools — three high schools and a middle school,” she said. “For fighting. I went through a lot, and I made it through. It didn’t break me. So always having that strength has been able to pull me through any type of situation.”

She entered Berklee as a singer and guitarist, but, Freeman said in a phone interview, she could not overcome stage fright and soon focused on the business of music. She also got a bartending job at Wally’s Cafe, a jazz club in Boston, and began absorbing the jazz scene.

She started producing, her grandmother said, “with nothing except her brain and pencil,” adding that she especially liked to help up-and-coming musicians, even though she never had much money.

“She did everything she did,” Freeman said, “but it was always a scramble.”

As Stabile’s reputation grew, some of her shows were in good-sized venues. In 2013, for instance, she booked the 19-piece Revive Big Band into the Highland Ballroom in Manhattan and lined up the dancer Savion Glover to appear with it. But an event like that belied her staff-of-one operation.

“The outside illusion is great,” she told The Times. “Everyone thinks we’re this huge business. But look — it’s me sitting right here.”

In 2013 Stabile struck a deal to produce and curate records for Blue Note, resulting in “Revive Music Presents: Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1,” released in 2015.

“The idea of a strain of modern jazz that’s conversant with hip-hop — as a matter of course, rather than calculation — holds sway over much of this music,” Nate Chinen wrote in reviewing that record in The Times.

Stabile had reduced her producing activities in recent years, focusing on her own health. But in a 2017 interview with the website CQP, she said that she thought her work over the years had helped connect two disparate worlds.

“When I first started promoting shows, I had to learn how to promote specifically to the jazz heads and specifically to the hip-hop heads,” she said. “I had to find ways to lure them in. If I called it a jazz show, then the hip-hop heads wouldn’t buy tickets. If I called it a hip-hop show, jazz heads wouldn’t buy tickets.

“So I had to create a new narrative early on. Once we got them in the room, once they heard the music, there was just no denying how fresh it was.”

In addition to her grandmother, Stabile is survived by a brother, Michael Skidds, and a sister, Caitlyn Chaloux.

Freeman said that though Stabile had reduced her producing activities, she had a long-term goal inspired by her own difficulties.

“She wanted to promote a wellness center for jazz musicians,” she said, “so when they didn’t have a gig and they were struggling, they could go to her center.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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