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Thoughtful and Musical Pianist and Arrangerby Dan Kassell
Copyright © 2002 Dan Kassell
Dennis Moorman was a musician, a father, a York College Professor, a gentle man with an infectious smile and a thoughtful studied approach to classical, contemporary jazz piano, arranging and composition.
Amira Baraka expressed it best, "Moorman's sweeping arpeggios and big blocks of dazzling chords and his extensive pianistic talk to us of his extensive technical preparation. But one is made quickly aware of the musicality and artistic relevance of what he plays. His considerable technique is the given and the catalyst by means of which his musical aesthetic is expressed," in liner notes for Circles of Destiny, a 1982 India Navigation album.
"At an early age, he demonstrated his talent in playing the piano," Linette Moorman explains, "When Dennis lost his mother Edna he was able to continue his music studies surrounded by a rich musical life, and an enriching cultural life through the presence of his pianist father Clement and his percussionist uncle Wilson Moorman with whom he developed a close musical and intellectual bond.
After his father remarried, Dennis became part of a family that eventually grew to five children surrounded by musicians in the entertainment business. During his high school years, he kept a busy schedule as a church organist, Newark, NJ pianist and teamed up with sister Melba Moore playing summer jobs in the Catskills.
He entered college with dreams of becoming a conductor, but soon realized that the pull of the piano was stronger. He left the conservatory life and served in the United States Air Force as a member of the Rocky Mountain Air Force Band stationed at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado."
Dennis returned to New York with Linette and son Russell to resume a classical education at the Manhattan School of Music from which he earned B.M., M.M. in 1773 and a Ph.D. at New York University in 1984.
Mr. Moorman was also an exceptional pianist/conductor for vocalists like Sammy Davis, Jr. at Caesar's Palace, Dakota Staton, Melba Moore, Brock Peters, Thelma Carpenter, Novella Nelson, Thelma Carpenter on the Merv Griffin Show and with Bette Midler in Fiddler on the Roof. Broadway credits: Ain't MisBehavin', Sophisticated Ladies, Uptown It's Hot, The Wiz and Timbuktu solidified his reputation.
While working on a professional brochure, Dennis carefully chose these performances to display his musical accomplishments: "Wilpan's Walk", "C & M", Contemporary (OJCCD-799-2) from the Chico Freeman Recording Session with Wynton Marsalis-trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson-vibes, Chico Freeman-saxophone, Cecil McBee-bass (Contemporary OJCCD-799-2); "Hit IT!","Grovin' High", Neo-Bass Ensemble with Lisle Atkinson-bass, leader, Al Harewood-drums, others (Inspire IPCD-0003); "Monks Dream", "I'm Confessin', "Light Blue", "Reflections of Earth Light", Dennis Moorman Trio with Lisle Atkinson-bass, Eli Fountain-drums; "John" String Duet with Don Minasi-guitar (CED-999168); "Three to Go", Solo piano, on Circles of Destiny (India Navigation IN-1055) album.
"One of my favorite pianists, his playing - always beautiful . . . his own conception . . . his own style of playing," Lisle Atkinson, an extraordinary string bassists and leader of the Neo-Bass Ensemble.
He continued studying with Mildred Dassett. Throughout the seventies and eighties Dennis kept a dizzying pace playing, composing, recording, teaching - always studying new music and practicing the piano until his untimely death.
Dennis Lee Moorman was the second child of Clement Moorman and Edna Allen-Moorman. Dennis is survived by his wife, Linette Moorman; son, Russell Moorman; daughter-in-law, Gislene Moorman; daughter, Dana Shorte and son-in-law, Steven Shorte; grandchildren Taylor and Jayson Moorman and Gavin Shorte; father, Clement Moorman; stepmother, Kristen Moorman; sisters Clementine Bettis and Melba Moore; brothers Elliott Moorman and Gerard Moorman; cousins: Wilson Moorman, David Moorman, a host of loving relatives, friends, students, colleagues and Brooklyn neighbors.
York College, The City University of New York, has scheduled a Memorial Concert for Dennis Moorman on February 16th, 2003 at 2:00pm. Info: 718-262-2400. Those wishing to contribute to the Dennis L. Moorman Scholarship Fund checks should be made payable to the York College Foundation and sent to: York College, City University of New York, 94-20 Guy Brewer Boulevard 2H03, Jamaica, New York 11451
A "Memorial Celebration" will be held Friday, December 20, 2003, 7:00-8:30pm, and Funeral Service, Saturday, December 21st at Bethany United Methodist Church, 1208 St. Johns Place between Albany and Troy, Brooklyn, NY (718) 774-5689. Internment at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn to follow.
Dan Kassell is a swing-jazz fan, member of The Duke Ellington Society-New York City, Jersey Jazz Society and Director of Authentic Marketing.