MADISON  --“If there is such a thing as a ‘jazz center’ in New Jersey,” The New York Times’ John S. Wilson wrote in 1972, “it must be here.” The “here” was Chester, NJ, where every Friday and Saturday night, live jazz was heard at two spots  -- the Chester Inn and the Hillside Lounge. The attraction at the Chester Inn was Chuck Slate’s Traditional Jazz Band; the Hillside Lounge often featured ‘name’ guests such as cornetist Wild Bill Davison and alto saxophonist Rudy Powell and guitarist Al Casey, both of whom had played with Fats Waller.  Slate, a 39-year-old drummer, was, Wilson said, “the founding father of both jazz rooms”, and that advocacy for jazz in New Jersey coalesced into the New Jersey Jazz Society, which was founded during that same year.

On Sunday, October 22, the New Jersey Jazz Society will celebrate its 45th anniversary with a special concert, “Big Band to Bebop and Beyond”, from 3-6 p.m. in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at Drew University here. An all-star lineup of New Jersey-based jazz musicians will celebrate the NJJS’ rich jazz history and will honor the 75-year career of the legendary 91-year-old guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, a resident of Saddle River, who will perform at the event.

Music director for the program will be tenor saxophonist/flutist Don Braden, a resident of South Orange, who has played with such jazz luminaries as vocalist Betty Carter, trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis, and drummers Roy Haynes and Tony Williams. Braden is also a world renowned educator, having spent more than two decades giving master classes at countless schools and universities. 

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Mistress of ceremonies will be WBGO-FM midday host Rhonda Hamilton, and a special guest will be “Newark’s First Lady of Jazz”, Dorthaan Kirk, WBGO’s special events and community relations coordinator.  The rest of the music lineup:

  • Trumpeter Nathan Eklund, a resident of Bloomfield.
  • Trombonist Jason Jackson, South Orange
  • Guitarist Ed Laub, Wyckoff
  • Guitarist Dave Stryker, West Orange
  • Pianist Tomoko Ohno, Tenafly
  • Bassist Martin Pizzarelli, Saddle River
  • Drummer Bernard Purdie, Edison
  • Vocalist Danny Bacher, Cliffside Park
  • Vocalist Alexis Morrast, Plainfield
  • Vocalist Antoinette Montague, a Newark native
  • Vocalist Marlene VerPlanck, Clifton
  • Pianist Leonieke Scheuble and drummer Nick Scheuble, Rockaway
  • Bassist Tim Givens, Montclair
  • William Paterson University “Little Big Band”

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the NJ Jazz Society’s scholarships and its educational program, Generations of Jazz. Ticket prices are $30 in advance and $35 at the door for NJJS members; and $35 in advance and $40 at the door for non-members. Balcony seating is available for students (with ID) for $15.

There are three ways to order tickets:

  • Online at njjs.org
  • By phone at 1-800-383-3006
  • By mail by sending a check payable to NJJS, including a $3 per order handling fee, together with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: NJJS, c/o Kate Casano, 158 Cotton St., Philadelphia, PA 19127

Tax-deductible contributions over and above ticket prices are always welcome. NJJS is a qualified I.R.C. 501(c)(3) dedicated to the performance, promotion, and preservation of jazz. Ticket price is not tax deductible.