Nancy Nelson, well-known at the Watchung Arts Center as a vocalist with Marty Eigen’s Beacon Hill Jazz Band, and as one of 2014’s “Three Jazz Divas” will sing “Favorites from the American Popular Songbook” at the WAC on Saturday, May 14 at 8PM. Ms. Nelson will be joined by Fred Fischer on piano, Liz Fischer on guitar, and bassist Ron Naspo. In addition to Nancy’s solo numbers, the evening will also feature songs by the NFL Vocal Jazz Trio, a collaboration of Nancy, Fred and Liz. The performance will be followed by a special dessert reception to honor Nancy, with an opportunity for the audience to meet the performers.
Nancy has just announced that she and her husband Dom will soon be moving to Florida. The WAC invites Nancy’s friends, fans and public to celebrate with her at what might be her last concert in New Jersey.
Nancy Nelson has been known throughout her career for her elegant style, magnificent lyricism, the ability to deliver a song with pitch-perfect precision and her interesting commentary about the music.
In her own words: “I have an affinity for the repertoire from the American Popular Songbook because the songs say something that I couldn’t convey using ordinary words. I have always enjoyed searching out details about the songs and composers, and telling audiences those little tidbits that enhance the songs. I know people like to hear familiar songs, but I also really enjoy presenting songs they haven’t heard written by the composers they know…or telling them more about a composer whose songs are well known, but whose name is not. I think it’s so important to keep bringing this treasure trove of great music and brilliant composers to the public, in the hope that people will still be listening to Gershwin, Porter and Berlin and the others a hundred years from now.”
Ms. Nelson was the first vocalist asked to do a concert when WAC started its Jazz Series back in 1989. Since then she has performed at the Center almost every year and more frequently since she’s been with Marty Eigen.
Nancy grew up in Summit, NJ, and began singing jazz professionally at age 17. Her jazz engagements have included the world-famous Rainbow Room in New York City, as well as many clubs in the New York area. Nancy has performed many times for the New Jersey Jazz Society, at several Newport Jazz Festival picnics, and numerous concerts at the Watchung Arts Center and the Bickford Theatre in Morristown. Locally, Nancy performs regularly at Shanghai Jazz Restaurant in Madison, and freelances with many other jazz groups and big bands throughout the area.
A classically trained singer, Nancy studied music at Ithaca College and Kean University. She is a choir member and soloist at the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge, where she and bassist Hal Slapin have co-led the annual jazz worship service for 24 years. Nancy has two recordings available: “Sweet and Low Down,” with the Keith Ingham Quartet, featuring songs by Berlin, Porter and Gershwin, and “Songs for the Journey,” a collection of sacred jazz and spirituals with Hal Slapin and pianist Jerry Vezza.
Nancy also teaches piano in Bernardsville, where she and her husband Dom have lived for 32 years.
NFL (Nancy, Fred, Liz) is a close-harmony vocal jazz trio influenced by the great singing groups – the Boswell and Andrews Sisters, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and Manhattan Transfer – singing Fred Fischer’s brilliant jazz and swing arrangements. The group’s repertoire includes early jazz standards, big band classics, bebop and pop standards.
NFL sings many of the arrangements Fred originally wrote for “The Glad Rags”, a group that featured Fred, Liz, and Fred’s late wife Patty on banjo. Starting in the late 1960’s, that extremely popular group had an amazing run of 12 years at Auntie Mame’s in Stirling. About 15 years ago, freelance musicians Fred and Nancy met while playing in various big bands and small ensembles in the area. Nancy’s singing gave Fred the idea to reestablish a vocal trio to perform those original charts, as well as provide an outlet for his constant creativity. Fred has since written dozens of new arrangements for the group. NFL performs regularly with Marty Eigen’s Beacon Hill Jazz Band and has done shows for The Bickford Theatre in Morristown, the Fanwood Cultural Arts Center, Bernards Township Leisure Learning, Fellowship Village, Arbor Glen, and the Plainfield Musical Club, plus a special show in Newport, RI that received an overwhelming ovation from the audience.
Fred Fischer, piano and vocals, grew up in Connecticut and has been playing professionally since the age of 12. While still in high school, he attended the Juilliard School and studied with jazz pianist and educator John Mehegan. Fred took composition classes at the Mannes School in New York, and attended Boston University. In Boston, he studied classical piano with Margaret Chaloff [mother of sax player Serge Chaloff, one of the famed Four Brothers of the Woody Herman big band], whose students included jazz pianist George Shearing, and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein. Fred was Director of Music at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison for 17 years and has been the Minister of Music at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Plainfield since 1987. He frequently solos in hospitals, nursing homes and community centers, plays for weddings and private parties, and is in demand as a sideman in many jazz groups and big bands. Fred also teaches piano and jazz theory at his home studio in Scotch Plains, where he lives with his wife, Judy.
Liz Fischer, guitar and vocals, studied music composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston, and continued her studies at the University of Southampton, England, where she received her Bachelor of Arts Degree. While pursuing further studies in music education at King Alfred’s College in Winchester, Liz briefly taught music in the English public school system. Upon her return to the U.S., Liz studied guitar with legendary New Jersey jazz guitarist Harry Leahey. She played guitar and sang in the Fischer family band, The Glad Rags, which featured her brother Fred on keyboards, his wife Patty on banjo, and their son, Chris, on drums. Liz has also taught at the Westfield Adult School, served as rhythm guitarist with the New Jersey Jazz Orchestra, and pursued a full-time business career. Liz occasionally sings and often plays for Jazz Sundays in the choir directed by her brother, Fred, at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Plainfield, and she gladly welcomes playing engagements.
Ron Naspo, bass, is an accomplished performer and teacher of string bass. He holds a M.A. degree of Music Education and is active in both the jazz and symphonic fields. Ron has done seasons with the Florida and New Jersey Symphonies, and the American Symphony under Leopold Stokowsky. He toured the United States and Canada with the Robert Joffrey Ballet, and later with the Don Shirley Jazz Trio. He has played with the jazz groups of Stan Kenton, Sonny Rollins, Wild Bill Davison, Bucky Pizzarelli and Billy Maxted. Ron is active as a teacher of string bass, electric bass and improvising at his home in Montclair, NJ.
Tickets are $18 in advance, $22 ($20 WAC members, $10 students) at the door. It is highly recommended that tickets be purchased in advance at watchungartscenter.eventbrite.com. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Watchung Arts Center, or by mail (include an email address or phone number with mail orders).
The Watchung Arts Center, located at 18 Stirling Road in Watchung on the Watchung Circle, is a multi-disciplinary arts facility serving Watchung, the surrounding communities and the Tri‑State Area. To obtain more information about upcoming performances, classes and workshops, and monthly art exhibitions, please visit WatchungArts.org or call 908-753-0190.