The Town of Morristown will host the inaugural Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival to be held on the Green on Saturday, Aug. 20. The free music festival will run from noon until 10 p.m. and will feature five top jazz and blues groups.
“I am pleased to announce the first of what we hope will become an annual festival in Morristown,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty. “Thanks to the generous support of many businesses in town, we are able to present a great day of music for the entire family. It will not only be a lot of fun, it will be great for our local businesses.”
Michael Fabrizio, executive director of the Morristown Partnership which is providing logistical support, noted, “The festival will provide a boost for the community at a traditionally slow time for restaurants and retailers.
Morristown is already known as an entertainment center with venues such as the Community Theatre and the Bickford, so a Jazz & Blues Festival is a logical addition to our calendar.”
The music begins at noon with two sets by the Rusty Paul Band, led by the son of the legendary guitarist Les Paul. With a special blend of jazz, blues and funk, the six musicians will pay tribute to the great Les Paul as well as feature other popular tunes.
At 2 p.m., the Duke Ellington Legacy Band, under the leadership of Duke’s grandson Edward Kennedy Ellington II, takes the stage. With fresh arrangements by pianist Norman Simmons and sax great Virginia Mayhew, this 9-piece ensemble is dedicated to keeping Duke’s music alive and current. Most recently, the Legacy Band headlined the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Jazzfest 2011 and receives rave reviews wherever they perform.
Following the Legacy Band will be the popular Winard Harper and his Sextet. Regarded as one of the elite jazz drummers on the current scene, Harper has performed with many jazz legends including Dr. Billy Taylor, Betty Carter, Dexter Gordon and Ray Bryant. Surrounding himself with extraordinary young musicians, Harper is an explosive drummer who is in demand all over the world.
At 6 p.m., five young musicians known as Baby Soda take the stage. On the forefront of a new movement known as street jazz, Baby Soda draws on an eclectic set of influences ranging from 30’s era swing, New Orleans jazz and gospel. The band maintains a busy schedule of performances which includes venues such as the Village Vanguard, the Knitting Factory and the Louis Armstrong House.
The festival closes with the Jerry Vezza Quartet featuring two of the regions’ most popular jazz musicians, pianist Jerry Vezza and singer/guitarist Grover Kemble. Joining Jerry and Grover will be Tom Sayek on drums and Rick Crane on bass. If you have never seen them before, you won’t want to miss this infectious and always popular quartet.
Some of the sponsors making the first Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival possible include PSE&G, JCP&L, Brown and Brown Metro, The Metropolitan, 40 Park, Roots, Riker Danzig, Villa Enterprises, Weichert Realtors, TSS Facility Services, Integra Management Corporation, Realty Management Associates, Belle Associates, the Community Theatre at MPAC, Grasshopper Restaurant, Morristown Municipal Airport, Inglesino Pearlman, WBGO and the New Jersey Jazz Society.
The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival will take place on the Green in Morristown rain or shine from noon until 10 p.m. Admission is free and many local restaurants will be offering specials for festival attendees. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. For more information, visit TownofMorristown.org.