PETER MARTIN (Original Associate Producer)
For the past 15 years, Peter Martin has been owner of the Triad Theater. The Theater was the original home to two of the ten most successful shows in Off-Broadway History: FORBIDDEN BROADWAY and FOREVER PLAID.
As a producer, Peter’s credits include the Drama Desk Award winning CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY STRIKES BACK, Drama Desk nomineeGERSHWIN’S AMERICAN RAPHSODY, LOOSE LIPS (which starred Bebe Neuwirth and Peter Boyle), FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD, and Frank McCourt's A COULE OF BLAGUARDS (the basis for his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir ANGELA’S ASHES). In 1995, Peter producedDUTCH WEISMAN’S which was the first burlesque show produced in NYC in 30 years.
Peter began his career in the music field as the owner of Club Dead, which was the first NYC venue to present Jam Bands, when that music genre was just becoming established. Peter was also the owner of Dark Star Lounge, which became a hot spot for musicians while attracting artists as diverse as Slash, Greg Allman, George Benson, Phoebe Snow, John Waite, Billy Squier, Marc Cohen and other luminaries.
Peter's first job in the theater industry was as the original company manager for "Forever Plaid", the most successful show in the history of Off-Broadway. Since then, Peter has taken over the theater where he began his career and transformed it into the Triad/Stage 72, which, after a three year renovation, recreates a smaller version of the resplendent cinema-palaces of yesteryear, and is the NYC host to "Celebrity Autobiography".
COBI NARITA (Original Associate Producer)
Nobuko “Cobi” Narita’s tireless devotion to the jazz community has spanned more than forty years. Every artist she has presented or assisted becomes part of her jazz family, which means that her extended family has thousands of members. Born and raised in California of Japanese heritage, she was fifteen in 1941 when the U.S. Military Police abruptly took Japanese- American Narita from her high school classroom in California to the Gila River Detention Camp in Arizona. There she and her siblings (two brothers and two sisters) and parents were detained until the end of World War II, living in a room 20x20. Despite the oppressive conditions, Cobi started a detention camp newsletter to let detainees know what was happening throughout the camp, including pregnancies, marriages and always-positive messages. Following the Narita family's release from detention, Cobi completed high school and received a scholarship to Gettysburg College (in Pennsylvania) where she majored in theater.
While in college she married and gave birth to seven children, eventually dropping out of college to work when her marriage ended in divorce. On Fourth of July weekend in 1969 at the age 44, Cobi moved to New York City. Upon arriving in New York, she discovered the bass player Gene Taylor, an old friend who told her to go to Saint Peter’s Church and volunteer for Pastor John Garcia Gensel’s jazz ministry. Shortly after, she volunteered to write grants for Jazz Interactions, an organization devoted to the preservation of jazz, founded in the 1960s by jazz trumpeter Joe Newman and Rigmor Newman (later to marry Harold Nicholas). Jazz interactions did educational programs, concerts, and a community service line, Jazz Line, that listed every jazz gig in the New York area for the week: you could call up from anywhere, listen to who was playing where, and make your plans.
In 1972 Cobi went to work as Executive Director of Collective Black Artists, a repertory orchestra directed by Reggie Workman, Jimmy Owens and Kenny Rogers. While working with the Jazz Collective where she was organizing weekly gigs for a 13-piece orchestra in St. Albans, Queens, Cobi met Paul Ash, who would become her life-long partner. Ash, the owner of the most renowned music store on 48th Street in Manhattan was smitten with Cobi.
In 1976 Cobi founded the Universal Jazz Coalition to present and provide technical assistance to jazz artists with embers of the Board that included Betty Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, Melba Liston, Clark Terry, George Wein, and Abbey Lincoln. The Coalition’s first jazz festival was presented at the New York Jazz Museum with jazz saxophonist Billy Harper and jazz dancer Pepsi Bethel. By this time, Cobi had solidified The New York Women’s Jazz Festival, which began as the Universal Jazz Coalition Salute to Women. When a jazz artist needed money, Cobi’s organization helped.
In 1983 Cobi rented a space on Lafayette Street and called it Jazz Center of New York. If the musician could not afford it, Cobi handed out "scholarships." Artists presented at the Jazz Center included Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Ahmad Jamal, Billy Harper, George Coleman, and Harold Mabern, along with the first Max Roach Double Quartet.
In 1995, Cobi was asked to sit on a panel with Lorraine Gordon from the Village Vanguard, writer Leslie Gourse, and singer-organist Sarah McLawler to address the issues facing women in jazz, hoping to attract women artists to come and complain, and vent about how underrepresented women jazz artists were. Out of that panel, International Women in Jazz was born. Cobi served as President for the first three years, Chairwoman of the Board for the next three, and on the advisory board. She also served on the boards of the Flushing Council of Culture and the Arts, Japanese American Association of New York, Asian American Arts Alliance and the advisory board of Y’all of New York. For seven years, she provided Asian American groups for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, when they do their cherry blossom festival every year, and for Arts Connection, winning prestigious awards from the Kennedy Center, the Government of Japan, and Jazz Foundation of America's first Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2005 the Tap Extravaganza’s Flo-Bert Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day. Cobi’s support of tap dancing has been a constant in her life-long support of jazz. Cobi’s Place, right above Sam Ash on 48th Street in New York, was the stronghold ofSaturday, concerts, films, tap history, and tap jams, presenting such notable historians as Delilah Jackson and Walter Taylor, and pianist Frank Owens, “the tap dancer’s best friend.” Though Cobi’s Place was forced to closed by the New York Fire Marshall due to the lack of public assembly zoning) she found a new space for the tap community.
In 2010 Cobi founded the Queens Tap Extravaganza at the elegant Flushing Town Hall, expanding the public’s awareness of tap dancing across the boroughs. She has been a constant supporter of tap jams at Small’s Jazz Club; hosted by Michela Marino Lerman, the jams feature a live trio of jazz musicians and allow young dancers to improvise within the musical form.
The legendary Duke Ellington was known to greet his close friends with a kiss on each cheek, but when greeting Cobi Narita, he would three times kiss her cheek in affectionate recognition of the queen of our jazz community.
HER HUSBAND, PAUL ASH, OWNER OF SAM ASH MUSIC AND A GREAT SUPPORTER OF THE ARTS PASSED AWAY IN EARLY FEBRUARY 2014. THE ENTIRE COMPANY GIVES ITS SYMPATHY AND MOURNS MR. ASH.
MARYA COBURN (Original Associate Producer)
After studying at the High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard, Marya began her professional entertainment career during the NY World’s Fair performing vignettes of South Pacific, Kingand I and Cleopatra in the Hollywood Pavilion.
She danced with some of the all time great choreographers including Peter Gennaro, Bob Fosse, Joe Cassini and Bob Herget.
On Film and in Television she performed with legends, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Yul Brenner, Jon Voight and Jack Lemmon to name just a few.
Returning to New York from Los Angeles, Marya turned her attention to supporting the arts and artists by opening her home for fund raising events, while raising money for various causes from theatre projects to animal welfare. Marya has contributed greatly to the Broadway and NYC cabaret scene, contributing to the Drama Desk Award-winning Ma-Yi Theater Company; productions such as Broadway Ballyhoo, 54 Below Presents; the Drama Desk Awards and various fund raisers.
In addition to her involvement with this fabulous show On Kentucky Avenue, she is always ready to bring a crowd of friends to see and support her favorite performers at her favorite NYC venues. On any given evening you can find Marya at the latest hot Broadway Show or at local spots like the Metropolitan Room, 54 Below, Stage72/The Triad, Town Hall, St. Luke’s Theatre, or the Laurie Beechman.
In late 2014 to 2016, Marya will be returning to the stage, film and television arenas as an actress, as well as thrilling audiences with her phenomenal singing voice with a fabulous new cabaret act, a preview of which was recently seen at Broadway Ballyhoo @ 54 Below, NYC.