Each year since 1976, the New Jersey Jazz Society has presented Jazzfest, one of the best mainstream jazz festivals in the entire metropolitan New York City area. This year is no exception as this popular jazz picnic pays tribute to recent New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees Count Basie and Les Paul. Jazzfest will take place on the campus of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey on Saturday, June 5th from Noon to 10:00 p.m. with a free concert on Friday evening, June 4th.
Headlining Jazzfest 2010 will be the great Bucky and John Pizzarelli with the Statesmen of Jazz, featuring Harry Allen, Rebecca Kilgore and Martin Pizzarelli. Also on the bill will be Frank Vignola's Hot Club, Cecil Brooks III CBIII Band, Harry Allen's Four Others, the George Gee Swing Orchestra, the Aaron Weinstein/Joe Cohn Duo, the Madame Pat Tandy Band, and a special solo piano appearance by the legendary Marty Napoleon, who performed with Louis Armstrong for many years.
The music takes place in two venues, the Concert Hall in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts, and a spacious jazz tent located on the lawn area adjacent to the arts center. There will be a variety of vendors offering a wide selection of food, hard to find records, jazz CDs, art and crafts of all kinds.
The gates open on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. and the music begins at noon with the duo of violinist Aaron Weinstein and guitarist Joe Cohn. Weinstein is one of the hot young players in mainstream jazz circles. A recent graduate of Berklee College of Music, Weinstein has performed at numerous jazz festivals, both here and abroad, and has appeared with the likes of Les Paul, Houston Person, Annie Ross, the Pizzarellis and Warren Vaché. He is an Arbors recording artist. Also a Berklee alumnus, Joe Cohn is much in demand on the festival circuit and has recorded extensively. Their set will include a tribute to the great Les Paul.
Also kicking off at noon in the jazz tent, tenor saxophonist and Rutgers graduate Harry Allen will lead his Four Others Band in a tribute to the legendary Woody Herman Four Brothers. Joining Allen will be Grant Stewart and Jeff Rupert on tenor sax, Lisa Parrott on baritone sax, Rossano Sportiello on piano, Hassam Shakur on bass and Chuck Riggs on drums.
Following Allen in the tent is the always swinging Georg Gee Swing Orchestra. Gee will be including many charts made famous by the Count Basie Orchestra in recognition of Count Basie's recent induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Gee always surrounds himself with top rank New York City players, and that will be the case at Jazzfest. If you like Count Basie, you will love George Gee!
Rounding out the afternoon sets is New Jersey drummer Cecil Brooks III and his CBIII featuring guitarist Matt Chertkoff and organist Kyle Kohler. Brooks is the owner of Cecil's Jazz Club in West Orange, and is one of the most in-demand drummers on the scene today. Brooks has recorded extensively with a long roster of jazz stars, including nine albums under his leadership on the Muse and Savant labels.
In the late afternoon, Newark's own Madame Pat Tandy will bring her bluesy vocal talent into the tent with her long time musical group including Tommy Grice on tenor sax, Radam Schwartz on organ, Gerald "Twig" Smith on guitar and Gordon Lane on drums and percussion. Tandy's most recent CD, "The Madame Remembers Irene Reid," has remained popular with jazz radio stations across the country since its release last year.
For the evening sets, Jazzfest will present guitarist Frank Vignola who leaves even his most talented peers in awe at his technique and musicianship. He is a versatile player who has an impressive catalog of recordings, and an equally impressive performance history. On this occasion he will bring his Hot Club Group featuring Vinny Raniolo on guitar, Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, Julion Labro on accordion and Zach Brock on violin playing music in the gypsy jazz tradition of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. In addition, they will salute the great Les Paul, also a recent New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee, and a close friend of Frank's.
Pianist Marty Napoleon has been on the jazz scene since the mid-1940s. He has played with the likes of Charlie Barnett, Gene Krupa, Charlie Ventura, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Shavers, Coleman Hawkins and Henry "Red" Allen. An exciting player, he has been in semi-retirement since the early 1980s, and the Jazz Society is pleased that this venerable jazz great will perform a brief set between Vignola and the Statesmen of Jazz.
To top off a day of spectacular music, Bucky and John Pizzarelli will take the spotlight with the Statesmen of Jazz, a project of Arbors Records. The Statesmen of Jazz is an all-star group consisting of Harry Allen on tenor sax, Aaron Weinstein on violin, Larry Fuller on piano, Martin Pizzarelli on bass, Tony Tedesco on drums and Rebecca Kilgore on vocals. Bucky Pizzarelli has been the most frequent performer at Jazzfest through the years. Over 30 years ago, Bucky and the then teenaged John appeared at Jazzfest in Waterloo Village, the home of the event for almost two decades. John has gone on to great fame on his own, currently selling out appearances with his quartet with Fuller, brother Martin and Tedesco throughout the world. Rebecca Kilgore is widely regarded as one of the finest vocalists in jazz today.
For those interested in seeing the future of jazz, there will be a concert in the tent at Drew University on Friday June 4 featuring the winners of the three division of the New Jersey high school jazz band competition. This concert is free and will start at 7:00 P.M.9 Jazzfest is made possible through the generous support of RXR Realty, Toyota of Morristown, Jazzmobile, WBGO Jazz99FM, Hot House Magazine, the Madison Downtown Development Commission, Jazz Inside and Arbors Records. The Best Western Morristown Inn is the official festival hotel and offers a special discount room rate for attendees of the festival. The Morristown Inn is located just two miles from Drew University.
Drew is on Route 124 (Madison Avenue) just a couple miles east of Route 287 in downtown Madison, New Jersey. Tickets for Jazzfest are only $50.00 in advance, and $65.00 at the gate. Students are only $10.00 and kids 16 and under are admitted free. For more information on tickets and directions visit the New Jersey Jazz Society website (www.njjs.org) or call the NJJS Hotline at 800-303-NJJS (6557).