By GWEN OREL
Dee Dee Bridgewater and Memphis Soulphony will tear off the roof at the Montclair Jazz Festival on Saturday, Aug. 12, Melissa Walker says.
Only there is no roof.
The free festival takes place outdoors, in Nishuane Park, from noon to 9 p.m. “She’ll figure out how to tear it off anyway,” Walker said with a laugh. “She’s one of those great entertainers.”
Bridgewater came to the jazz festival last year, but rain cut off her performance. This year, says Walker, the weather looks like it’s going to hold.
“When that happens, we are going to see people coming from all parts of this region to the festival.”
The eighth annual Montclair Jazz Festival will also be live-streamed on Facebook. Last year, Walker says, it reached people in 12 countries.
The festival is presented by Jazz House Kids, a nonprofit community arts organization, which Walker founded in 2002.
Thirteen acts will perform on two stages. The Bravitas mainstage will have music from noon to 9 p.m. The headliners, “all of the two faculty students, two faculty ensembles, will be swinging up a storm,” Walker says.
In addition to Bridgewater, who is bringing her new band, the festival will again bring back A Christian McBride Situation,
an electro-funk project that includes DJ Logic on turntables, Rachel Z on keyboards, Antoinette Henry on vocals, Adam Rogers on guitar and Bernard Purdie on drums.
Other headliners include Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses; trumpeter Ted Chubb, playing with Bruce Williams on alto sax, Seth Johnson on guitar and Tom DiCarlo on bass; and keyboardist Cyrus Chestnut, playing with Michael Hawkins on bass and Neil Smith on drums.
Actress S. Epatha Merkerson (“Chicago Med,” “Law & Order”) will again be mistress of ceremonies, and WBGO Jazz 88.3
FM’s Gary Walker will be the stage host.
And the festival will also present local talent: students from the Jazz House Kids Summer Workshop will perform throughout the day, and The Jazz House Collective, directed by Nathan Eklund, will present faculty members teaching in the summer workshop.
The festival is curated by McBride, artistic director of the festival, artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival, and Walker’s husband.
HONORING JAZZ OF 1917
And this year the faculty are doing something special, Walker says.
“I don’t know what was in the water 100 years ago, but some of the greatest pioneers of this music were born 100 years ago this year.
“They are putting together a special project to honor them. If you take out these artists, jazz would be changed forever.”
Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonius Monk, Mongo Santamaria, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lena Horne were all born in 1917, she explains.
“The list goes on. This project will celebrate their contributions to this art form.
“There are celebrations going on across the globe. Without them, you would have a very different landscape for this music.”
“It’s an extraordinarily talented and dedicated artist faculty,” Walker says. Every year the faculty do a special project: last summer the project celebrated the late artists Prince and David Bowie.
THE JAZZ FAMILY
The Family Jazz Discovery Zone Stage presents music and child-centered activities, in partnership with the Montclair Art Museum and the Montclair Public Library.
Louis Prima Jr., who performed last year with a Jazz House Kids big band, returns this year to play on the Family Jazz
Discovery stage, with his group The Witnesses.
“It’s all geared to our youngest be-boppers, throughout the day. It goes to about 7 p.m.,” Walker says. Artists, including Walker, will read.
Jazz House Kids’ alumni, students now in college, will perform, a new event this year. Girls from Chica Power, a program in which Jazz House Kids hosts young women in jazz during Women’s History month, will also perform.
There will be two “webop” classes, a program of Jazz at Lincoln Center for children ages 2 to 5. MAM will have an art mobile. There will be close to 50 vendors, of food, clothing, different kinds of businesses, she says.
“I’ll read a book in the family jazz zone,” Walker says. This year, she won’t be singing: “I will be meeting and greeting people in the audience.
“I love learning and hearing about where they come from, what they like, any ideas. I want to hear their stories.
“One year a gentleman was there who was 105. He talked about how he saw Louis Armstrong in person.
“There are so many backstories. I will be saying thank you and thank you.”
Montclair Jazz Festival schedule
Saturday, Aug. 12, noon – 9 p.m.
Main Stage Schedule
Noon: 52nd Street Big Band
12:30: Philly Soul Big Band
1: Bright Moments Big Band
1:15: Afro-Latin Big Band
1:45: The Big Solid Sax Mob
2:15: Jazz House Vocal Large Ensemble
2:45: The Ted Chubb Band
3:45: Jazz House Collective: The Centennial Project
4:45: Dynasty Big Band
5:15: Jazz House Big Band featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater
6: Cyrus Chestunt Trio
7: Dee Dee Bridgwater and Memphis Soulphony
8: A Christian McBride Situation
Family Jazz Discovery Zone Schedule
12:30: Jazz House Alumni Ensemble
1:10: Jazz Storytime with Christian McBride
1:35: Jazz House Alumni Ensemble
2:05: Webop, a Jazz at Lincoln Center program
2:40: Jazz Storytime with Louis Prima Jr.
3:30: Jazz Storytime with Dee Dee Bridgewater
4: Chica Power presented by Jazz House Kids
4:45 Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses
5:45: Webop, a Jazz at Lincoln Center program
Art projects presented by the Montclair Art Museum throughout the day
post-festival jam at Egan & Sons, West Orange
No Tickets Required