MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Fedoras were out in force Saturday, August 15 and sprinkled the Green of Morristown with lawn chairs and the smiling faces of music lovers. While the center of Morristown is legendary for its beauty, shopping, dining, and its historical significance, this year’s annual Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival was yet another homage to the allure of this Morris County jewel. In its 5th year the festival’s backdrop is Morristown, which is easily converted into a festive atmosphere, and is a credit to the city, the residents, the musicians, and the event itself.
Mayor Dougherty said it best, “We were blessed with another great day of beautiful weather. Swingadelic is a phenomenal band to open the festival with, and I’m so grateful for the support of the people that make this event so special. Without the residents, local businesses, and the help of the city, this festival wouldn’t be a success.”
The two people behind the scenes that have made this event possible are Linda Kaiger Smith and Don Jay Smith, who happen to be the co-founders of MPAC. Their love of the arts and music has driven this event and it has been a huge success in its fifth year. The couple work hard to make the festival run smoothly as they see to all the details of the event and the comfort of the musicians and the audience that comes out to hear the headliners. Their enthusiasm for the festival is contagious and their youthful exuberance is much needed energy as they plan and execute this day. Don is most proud of the performers that come to the festival because they are A-list players and accomplished musicians. The quality of the event is something that both Linda and Don take pride in, and it is obvious while watching the performances. Don’s aspiration for this festival is for it to become “a major destination jazz and blues festival.”
The soulful musicians displaying their love of music, and the people gathering to take it in are equally enamored with the backdrop of the city as the perfect canvas to display the festival in all its glory. As Swingadelic opened the show with what can only be described as a perfect preamble to the festival, 89-year-old Bucky Pizzarelli sat in his suit smiling and waiting his turn to take the stage. The Bucky Pizzarelli Guitar Summit featuring Frank Vignola, Vinnie Raniolo and Ed Laub, is a cacophony of four masters of jazz guitar. While their fingers work magically across the necks of their guitars, it is something to marvel with Bucky at 89 years young at the center of it all. When I asked Bucky if he likes coming out to this event he replied, “I would come to this event in the pouring rain. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Ed Laub, who also plays the 7-string guitar like Bucky, is such an affable and pleasant person that when he takes the stage his music is an extension of his personality. Ed also loves this festival and the duo of Pizzarelli and Laub were a force on that stage. Both Ed and Bucky will be performing at Shanghai Jazz this Wednesday night, August 19th from 7-930PM.
It was a beautiful day for the event, and the stream of musicians and people that were in attendance were the lifeblood driving through the veins of the city. As the music soared above the crowds of smiling faces, and ears were bent to listen, the energy of the people created the atmosphere and the musicians fed from it. Bria Skonberg had taken the stage next and she was nothing short of excellent. With each act the stakes got higher, and with each passing hour, the musicians rose to the challenges of their predecessors. The trumpet played like an extension to her soul as Bria marveled the crowd with her performance.
Locals Tom and Carol Graham come to the event every year since its inaugural performance. They come to eat lunch on the green and dine in Morristown at night. They love great music and especially like to support the local businesses. Like everyone in attendance, Tom and Carol were filled with smiles and happily enjoying this beautiful day.
Jeff Corsi came from Springfield with his friends from swing dancing to watch, listen and dance the day away. “I’m just waiting for the shade to move in a bit more before I get up and dance.” Later on Jeff was dancing the day away in the sun. I guess the music was just too inviting for him to stay in the shade.
Families and friends stood happily on the green and set up seating in a manner that resembled a stadium. The peaceful tone of the event makes it inviting to all people as the background music kept the atmosphere afloat. This festival is something that should continue as an attraction and family event.
The nighttime portion of the festival ended with the sounds of Roomful of Blues followed by the Charlie Musselwhite Band. The Green was converted into yet another atmosphere of a quaint blues café. Once again, the artistry and sounds of soulful music was second to none. The blues was alive and kicking in “Motown.” As these final two acts played the nighttime sky faded to black and the stage lights to blue. The scene was the perfect ending to a beautiful event that has earned its place in the heart of Morristown.