Arts & Entertainment

Headliners Announced for Central Jersey Jazz Festival

The headliner for the 2016 Jazz Festival in Hunterdon will be trumpeter Freddie Hendrix. Credits: courtesy photo

READINGTON, NJ - For the third year in a row, Hunterdon County will be a part of the annual Central Jersey Jazz Festival.

The tri-county event held in conjunction with New Brunswick and Somerville will be held Sept. 16-18. The open-air event attracts music and art lovers as well as foodies from all over the state and nearby metropolitan area.

In Hunterdon, this year’s event will be hosted and produced by the Hunterdon County Rotary of Clinton, North and the E-club in partnership with Sanford Josephson of the NJ Jazz Society. It had previously been hosted by the Flemington Business Improvement District.

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An all-star lineup will feature a diverse mix of musical ensembles. Headlining is trumpeter Freddie Hendrix. Over the past two decades, Hendrix has become one of the most in-demand trumpeters in jazz and beyond. Also an accomplished composer, arranger and educator, the Teaneck native's skill and versatility have resulted in him working with a wide array of performers that range from the Count Basie Orchestra and The Christian McBride Big Band, to Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys.

Keeping with the tradition of mixing it up with the blues will be international recording artist Alexis P. Suter and band - a powerful and unique five-piece ensemble fronted by a vocalist who transcends styles and genres. When bluesman B.B. King first heard Suter sing, he was visibly impressed and said so after her opening set for him at B. B. King’s in New York City. Shaking his head in wonder in his characteristic way, he remarked, “It’s a rare thing to share the stage with great talent like that young lady.” You can hear her for yourself when she takes the stage on Friday.

Award-winning instrumentalist, vocalist and bandleader Cynthia Sayer will also perform this year. She defies all the banjo player assumptions as she single-handedly re-popularizes the four-string banjo in jazz. Sayer, who grew up in Scotch Plains, is celebrated as one of today’s top four-string jazz banjoists: soulful, edgy, both contemporary and classic, with a playing style that is all her own.

Guitarist Charlie Apicella and the Iron City kick the event off weekend. He has been mentored in improvisation and composition by Yusef Lateef, Pat Martino, and Dave Stryker. The band's fourth CD, Payin' The Cost To Be The Boss, a tribute to B.B. King, features Apicella's arrangements of some of King's pre-1960 hits as well as two hard-bop inspired originals and arrangements of classic Blue Note Records gems.

This year, organizers moved the event from downtown Flemington to the county’s Deer Path Park, as previously reported. The location provides an expansive area for lawn seating, onsite parking and access to food and beverages, while seated in the comfort of one’s own lawn chair. The event will include the county’s best food trucks, wineries and breweries.

The Ship Inn, Hunterdon’s first microbrewery, will serve craft brews, while Old York and Unionville Vineyards will be selling bottles of wine.

Although the event is free to attend, food and beverages are additional.  

Rotary will be accepting donations of $5 per car to support local community projects, as well as collecting food donations for local food pantries.

The clubs decided to use the event as a means to bring awareness to the county and to show how strong Rotary is here in Hunterdon.

Tethered balloon rides will be new this year, courtesy of  sponsor Unity Bank. The event is produced 100 percent by sponsorships. They include, in addition to Unity Bank, the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Hunterdon County Parks & Recreation, Jack Cust’s Diamond Nation and Health Quest, Flemington Car & Truck, Holiday Inn of Clinton, Hyundai of Flemington, Northfield Bank and Stop & Shop. RWJ Hospital is once again the tri-county’s major contributor.

Organizers note that this year’s event is somewhat bittersweet because of the death of Hunterdon’s own Bernie Worrell, who was the headliner at the first festival. Dr. G. Bernard Worrell, Jr., was a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a Grammy-nominated artist. He dedicated his life to music not only on the stage but through his non-profit organization where he mentored and supported underprivileged kids with musical instruments and lessons. Worrell and his wife Judie created the "Locals & Legend Music Festival" years ago inviting local musicians to the festival with the intention of giving them a voice and some recognition.

The Jazz Festival event will kick off rain or shine on Friday, Sept.16 from 6 to 10 p.m. The park will open at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday it will be held in New Brunswick and on Sunday in Somerville. For more information, like the Central Jersey Jazz Festival on Facebook or go to

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