SOMERVILLE, NJ - All that jazz started here ten years ago, and has since found a home in two other central New Jersey locations, a three-day festival of live music, visual arts and fine dining expected to draw thousands of jazz fans from throughout the tri-state region.
Founded in 2008, the Somerville Jazz Festival has grown in sophistication, drawing top-flight talent and a loyal following that attracts people from throughout the tri-state area and beyond, with its popularity spawning even more success in New Brunswick and more recently, Flemington.
Opening night for the Central New Jersey Jazz Festival will be in Flemington, Sept. 14, moving to New Brunswick on Saturday, Sept. 15 and concluding in Somerville on Sunday, Sept. 16. All events will be held rain or shine. Lawn chairs and umbrellas are recommended. Food and beverages will be available at nearby restaurants.
There is no admission charge at any of the three venues.
Flemington Line-up, Sept. 14:
Day One of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival will be held from 6-10 p.m. in front of the Historic Courthouse in downtown Flemington on Main Street.
(6-7 p.m.) Lakecia Benjamin is a dynamic saxophonist/bandleader who electrifies the stage with her fiery sax work. She has shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and other greats of funk and soul music though her band "Soul Squad" is equally immersed jazz as well. This New York City native not only fronts Gregory Porter’s group, she also is the arranger for comedy star Craig Robinson and the Nasty Delicious.
(7:30-8:30 p.m.) Sachal Vasandani is recognized for his singular voice with a tone and unique phrasing that marks him as one of today’s most compelling voices. Thoroughly rooted in jazz he has the swagger to front a big band and the vulnerability to present definitive takes of classic ballads. Vasandani's improvisational skills is in full force that can be heard on his new release, Shadow Train, a collection of modern jazz compositions such as Abbey Lincoln and Bill Evans.
(9-10 p.m.) Born in Omaha Nebraska, Don Stryker moved to New York City in 1980 only to land a plum job working with Jack McDuff which led him to a ten-year gig with Stanley Turrentine. The Village Voice calls Stryker "one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years." NEA jazz master, Pat Metheny,has followed him from his early days and said, "he just gets better and better with one of the most joyous feels around." With 28 CD’s under his belt as a leader this praise is well deserved. On the heels of his latest release, Strykin Ahead (strikezone label) he will be performing with his quartet featuring Jared Gold, McClenty Hunter and a special guest.
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. The young jazz musicians will perform in between sets.
New Brunswick Line-up, Sept. 15
Day Two of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival will be held from 1-6 p.m. on George Street, between Liberty Street and Bayard Street.
(1-2:15 p.m.) Born in 2001 in Hackensack, NJ, Matthew Whitaker grew up surrounded by music. His love for playing music first began at the age of 3, after his grandfather gave him a small Yamaha keyboard.
At 9, MWhitaker began teaching himself how to play the Hammond B3 organ. Four years later, he became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond—in its 80+ year history. He was also named a Yamaha Artist at 15, becoming the youngest musician to join the stellar group of jazz pianists.Whitakerhas had years of music instruction, currently studying classical piano and drums at The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School of the Lighthouse Guild in NYC. It is the only community music school for the blind and visually impaired in the US. He also attended the Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Jazz Program.
He’s already toured both here in the US and abroad, performing before The Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in NYC, and on other world renowned stages, including: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, and Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC; SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC; The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts & Ali Cultural Arts in Florida, and at international venues in France, Italy, Morocco, Japan, Germany and the U.K.
In 2010, Whitaker was a winning participant in the "Child Stars of Tomorrow" competition, as part of Amateur Night at the Apollo. A year later, at just 10 years old, he was invited to perform at Stevie Wonder’s induction into the Apollo Theater’s Hall of Fame. He returned to the Apollo for FOX TV’s revival of SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO in 2016, where he won the audience over with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s classic "I Wish." Matthew has been seen on national and international television, which includes the TODAY SHOW, where he was featured in their series, "Boys Changing The World," the Harry Connick Jr Show and an appearance on the nationally syndicated Ellen! DeGeneres Show.
(2:45-4 p.m.) New York City's most versatile musician, Eddie Allen brings THREE trumpeters and an all-star ensemble to pay tribute to the legacy and music of jazz great and American icon, "Satchmo." Featuring iconic hits, such as, Struttin' With Some Bar-B-Cue, Rockin' Chair, Mack The Knife, Hello Dolly, Do You Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans and many more!
Eddie Allen: trumpet, composer, arranger, educator, clinician and author. This Milwaukee, Wisconsin native has worked with Joe Henderson, Art Blakey, Billy Harper & Steve Turre. He has recorded with Mongo Santamaria, Louis Hayes, Chico Freeman, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, Joe, Olivia and Muhal Richard Abrams to name a few. He's a graduate from William Paterson University. Currently leading several of his own groups. He currently teaches at Long Island University and the Stevens Institute of Technology as well as clinics and workshops around the country.
(4:30-6 p.m.) Celebrating 40 years in music, three-time GRAMMY® Award-winning drummer, producer and educator, Terri Lyne Carrington started her professional career at ten years old, being the youngest person to receive a union card in Boston, MA. She was featured as a "kid wonder" in many publications such as People, EBONY, and Modern Drummer magazines, among others. After studying under a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music, Carrington worked as an in-demand musician in New York City, and later moved to Los Angeles, where she was a late night TV drummer for the Arsenio Hall Show and Quincy Jones’ VIBE TV show.
Throughout her extensive touring and recording career, she has worked with luminary artists such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, David Sanborn, Woody Shaw, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, Esperanza Spalding, Yellowjackets, and countless others. Carrington is also the first female artist to win a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. In 2005, Carrington returned to her hometown where she was appointed professor at her alma mater, Berklee College of Music. Currently, she holds the position of Zildjian Chair in Performance, Berklee Global Jazz Institute. She is also the Artistic Director for both the Beantown Jazz Festival and Berklee Summer Jazz Workshop, and Co-Artistic Director of The Carr Center, Detroit, MI.
To date, Carrington has released eight albums, most recently The Mosaic Project: LOVE and SOUL, which features a leading cast of superb female instrumentalists and vocalists including Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Nancy Wilson, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Lizz Wright, Ingrid Jensen, Meshell Ndegoecello, Linda Oh, Patrice Rushen, Regina Carter and others. In addition to The Mosaic Project, Carrington recently combined forces with David Murray and Geri Allen to form the MAC Power Trio. Their current release is a tribute to Ornette Coleman, entitled Perfection. She is also currently touring with her latest band Social Science, featuring Aaron Parks and Matt Stevens.
New Brunswick Jazz Band will perform in between sets.
Somerville Line-up, Sept. 16
Day Three of the Central Jersey Jazz Festival will be held on East Main Street adjacent to the Somerset County Historic Courthouse Green at the corner of East Main Street and Grove Street.
(1:30-2:40 p.m.) Riza Printup is a jazz harpist, based in New York. Among many others, she has recorded with acclaimed jazz trumpeter and husband Marcus Printup, Grammy nominated pianist and composer Kenny Werner, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Chick Corea. Her live performances include collaborations with Paquito D'Rivera, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kathleen Battle.
Printup studied classical harp at the Indiana University School of Music under the instruction of Susan McDonald and jazz with Professor of Jazz, David Baker. She continued her studies at Columbia College and Georgia State University's School of Music. Printup is currently on faculty at Jazz at Lincoln Center's WeBop (early childhood jazz education program) located in Manhattan.
(1:30-2:40 p.m.) Marcus Printup, born and raised in Conyers, GA, credits his musical roots to Peeks Chapel Baptist Church where his family (mother Annie, father Bobby, sister Angela and paternal grandfather 'Big Deddy') all sang in the church choir. In 5th grade he had an interest in playing the drums. His band teacher noted that because they already had plenty of drummers, Marcus try the trumpet instead. He hasn't put the trumpet down since.
He met his first mentor, Marcus Roberts while attending the University of North Florida. During his final year at UNF, he was invited and began touring with Roberts acting as both road manager and bandmate. In 1991, Mr. Roberts introduced Marcus Printup to renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. In 1993, Printup was invited to join the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (of which Mr. Marsalis is the Director) and has remained a member to this day.
Printup has released fourteen solo recordings and appears as a sidemen on a host of others and is in demand as a composer, arranger and educator.
(3:05-4:15 p.m.) A 35-year veteran of the New York music scene, Monte Croft is a multi-instrumentalist, playing six instruments and counting; drums, vibraphone, keyboards, chromatic harmonica, bass guitar and guitar. A brief stint in the 80’s, at Columbia records, produced two highly acclaimed albums - A Higher Fire and Survival of the Spirit.
(4:45 -6 p.m.) Carla Cook, a Grammy-nominated, jazz singer/songwriter sings standards beautifully also puts a jazz spin on songs not written by traditional jazz composers. This Detroit native grew up in a musically rich and diverse environment. She gives a jazz flavor to pop classics from Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye to Neil Young. In 1998 her debut MAXJAZZ recording, It’s All About Love, earned her a Grammy nomination in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance category.
Sunday will also be the second day of the Arts on Division Jazz Festival Art Market in Somerville, featuring live performances and visual art displays on the pedestrian mall beginning at noon on Saturday, Sept. 15 and Sunday, Sept. 16. There will be interactive displays for children. Available for purchase will be hand-crafted jewelry, ceramics, clothing, drawings, paintings and clothing.
The CC Coletti Acoustic Trio will perform all day Saturday on Division Street, returning on Sunday from 1:15-2:45 p.m., followed by John Busse from 3:15-4:45 p.m. and The Bob Lanza Blues Band from 5:15-6:45 p.m.
Editor's Note: All biographical information on the talent featured in the Central Jersey Jazz Festival was provided by the management of the featured performers.