Arts & Entertainment

Jazz Musicians Take Center Stage in Somerville Sunday as 3-Day Music Fest Concludes

Percussionist Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché will close out Sunday's Central Jersey Jazz Festival in Somerville.

SOMERVILLE, NJ -The Central Jersey Jazz Festival wraps up Sunday with continual performances on East Main Street adjacent to the Somerset County Courthouse Green from 1-6 p.m.

The signature event, originally known as the Somerville Jazz Festival, has grown over the past several years to include performances on by jazz musicians over three days including Flemington on Friday night and New Brunswick Saturday night.

The concert is a free event, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis. Jazz aficionados and veterans of this event know to bring lawn chairs, blankets, umbrellas – the show goes on rain or shine – and coolers with food and beverages.

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Thousands are expected to attend.  

Here’s Sunday’s line-up, with profiles and superlatives provided by the promoters:

Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché - Never one to disappoint, Sanabria is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting leaders in Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Jazz, this drummer and percussionist will perform with his highly acclaimed quartet. The son of Puerto Rican parents, born and raised in the "Fort Apache" section of New York City's South Bronx, Bobby Sanabria was inspired and encouraged by maestro Tito Puente, another fellow New York-born Puerto Rican. Sanabria has played with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, and Chico O’Farrill and has been featured on TV, Radio programs. Multi-nominated Grammy artist, Sanabria and his Quarteto Aché toured Armenia in June of 2007 being personally invited by the President of Armenia and the U.S. Embassy to represent the United States in a series of concerts. His recording, ¡Quarteto Aché!, released in 2002, on the ZOHO label, documented his virtuosity in a small group setting and was hailed a "classic" by Modern Drummer magazine and critically acclaimed by the New York Times.

Javon Jackson Quartet - Tenor Saxophonist Javon Jackson is not one to be pigeonholed as he swings hard no matter if it is funk, soul or hard bop. He came into international prominence touring and recording with the legendary drummer Art Blakey as a member of his band, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Symbolizing a new generation of musicians that blended tradition with neo-jazz, Jackson went on to release 14 recordings as a band leader and tour and record over 135 CDs with jazz greats including Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, Betty Carter, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Donald Byrd, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Richard Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Curtis Fuller, JoAnne Brackeen, Stanley Turrentine, and Ben E. King. His most recent recording, Expression (Smoke Sessions), is a hip CD that features Stevie Wonder songs as well as originals. Jackson puts “Fun” back in “Funk”! According to C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz “…Jackson and his band are steeped in the 21st Century Groove… Easy Does It is exactly what Dr. Jazz ordered.”

Vanessa Rubin with special Guest, Don Braden - Endowed with the kind of liquid phrasing and sheer wisdom that comes from depth of experience on the jazz performance campaign trail, Vanessa Rubin is an ever-evolving classic singer. A true storyteller, she sings songs of life that she’s lived; the ups and downs, joys and pains. Capable of employing the gamut of emotions, Ms. Rubin can range from whisper to shout in the blink of an eye; from honey-laden ballads purring like a kitten, to up tempo swinging and scatting like a fluent saxophone, she delivers the goods. Joining her is the renowned saxophonist, Don Braden, “a jazz musician of the highest caliber”, with a beautiful and joyous sound who comes out of the blues tradition. Their collaboration is reminiscent of the great pairing of Etta Jones and Houston Person. On the heels of a new CD, “Full Circle” (Creative Perspective Music) Vanessa Rubin and Don Braden swing!

Isaiah J. Thompson Quintet - From West Orange, Isaiah began studying piano classically at the age of five, eventually branching out to other styles. After discovering how much fun it was to play jazz, he began to focus on private jazz studies and was soon performing with Jazz House Kids and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. Isaiah is a 3-time winner for Outstanding Achievement from the Music Educators Association and an Outstanding Soloist at both the Essentially Ellington and Mingus competitions. In recent years he has participated in the 2014 Vail Jazz Workshop, the 2015 GRAMMY Jazz Combo, was invited to participate in the 2015 inaugural Summer Jazz Academy at Castleton by Wynton Marsalis and was a jazz piano winner for the National Young Arts Foundation. Thompson is currently in his second year at Julliard School.

“Jazz House Kids” - Jazz House Kids, incorporated in 2002 by its founder, Melissa Walker, is the only community arts organization in New Jersey exclusively dedicated to educating children through jazz: America’s home-grown art form. They ensure that every student has access to music, education, mentoring, and apprenticeship. This is the 5th year that these talented students will join CJJ Festival.

Here’s the schedule of performances:

1-2 p.m., Isaiah J. Thompson Quintet;

2-2:15 p.m., “Jazz House Kids”;

2:20-3:20 p.m., Vanessa Rubin with Special Guest, Don Braden;

3:20-3:35 p.m., “Jazz House Kids”;

3:40-4:40 p.m., Javon Jackson Quartet;

4:40-4:55 p.m., “Jazz House Kids”;

5-6 p.m., Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché

Further information is available online at

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