Chris Napierala

The latest installment of our Baristanet Profile series, where we get to know the people in our neighborhood:

Name: Chris Napierala

Where do you live? Grove Street, Montclair.

When did you move there? Moved from Jackson Heights, Queens, in July 2008.

Where did you grow up? Buffalo, NY. The City of No Illusion, so goes the unofficial moniker. Basically, WYSIWYG. The unvarnished truth. Proud son of a steelworker and a home health aide.

How do you make a living? I’m a criminal-mitigation expert. Which is to say, everything you wanted to know about the defendant but were afraid to ask. After seventeen years, I am working on my literal last case.

The New Thing: I’m Creative Director of Seed Artists, a small arts nonprofit in town that presents jazz, creative-music and related arts programming. In May 2014, at Montclair State, we produced our first event in Montclair—the Freedom of Sound festival, a two-day celebration of the music’s innovators. Last year, 40+ performers helped us to honor the great Eric Dolphy. World premiere compositions, Grammy and Pulitzer winners, NEA Jazz Masters, Jazz House Kids students, dance, poetry, a symposium…Quite a housewarming party. (The Arts section of the NY Times even did a cover story.) This year it’ll be in September, when we’ll celebrate Percussion and things percussive. We’ll also present a major concert in May and begin rolling out smaller year-round projects. Keep your ears peeled.

Coffee, tea or … ? Tea. I accidentally swigged my wife’s coffee a couple years ago on a weekend in Philly. The horror! The horror!

What’s your idea of a perfect Saturday? Hiking daytrip in the Catskills with The Ladies—my wife and my daughter, Trae and Sadie — dinner with a bunch of friends, capped off with live music.

What’s your favorite local restaurant? Red Eye Cafe. Great little place on Walnut. Quickly—and rightly—went from Sit Anywhere to Crowded. Wonderful little permanent menu, great specials. Flavors always fresh and clean. A knockout kale salad, which is saying a lot. Trae, my wife, loves the shrimp and grits, and Sadie, our daughter, digs the Fat Elvis. Just order it.

What’s on Your nightstand? The nightstand is a shifting pile, all fiction at the moment: The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury; a reread of The Case Worker, by Georg Konrad (not a misspelling); The Wilds, debut short-story collection from Julia Liz Elliott; a reread of Stanley Elkin’s (short) short story “A Poetics for Bullies”; the Pacific Northwest noir Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter.

What are you listening to? Present-day rockabilly/swing superhero JD McPherson; Memphis garage icons The Reigning Sound; Fresh, a searing LP from tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe—amazing version of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy”; Divine Travels, from on-the-rise tenorman James Brandon Lewis; the (unfortunately) sole release from unfortunately defunct country group The Star Room Boys; a blistering 45 from Pittsburgh hardcore band Killer of Sheep; the song Metronome, by Montclair’s own Pine Grove — one of the bestindie-pop songs I’ve heard in the last couple years; and much to the dismay of Trae and Sadie, a healthy dose of Suffocation, Repulsion, Napalm Death, and a host of metal bands they wish they’d never heard.

What are your current addictions? Serial, the NPR podcast, sucked in Trae and me on the holiday drive.

Talent you would most like to have. Public speaking. I’d rather dodge arrows.

What’s the worst-kept secret about Montclair? Hmm, worst-kept secret. Can’t say. But Sadly Best Kept Secret is that Montclair is home to probably the greatest concentration of major jazz musicians in the world. No joke.

What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? He left it better than he found it.


5 replies on “Baristanet Profile: Chris Napierala”

  1. I’ve lived in New Orleans and Montclair, among other places, WAY more major jazz musicians there then here.

  2. bannerchemical – New Orleans is certainly a hotbed for jazz, not to mention the birthplace, and I love it. But per capita, re: major/important players–not just the sheer number of musicians–I can’t think of a city/town that has a greater concentration than Montclair.

    At the time of Katrina, NOLA’s population was nearly 500,000–roughly 12 times that of Montclair. It’s now about ten times. The number of heavyweights in this little town of 39,000 is mind-boggling: Christian McBride, Joseph Jarman, Billy Hart, Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Gene Lake, Pheeroan akLaff, Billy Drummond, Steve Turre, Cyro Baptista, Wallace Roney, Diane Moser, Andy McKee, Rudresh Mahanthappa…The great trumpeter Ted Curson died here few years ago; Geri Allen just relocated after many years here; Reggie Workman also lived here for years, cofounded MADLOM. This is just a top-of-my-head list. Melissa Walker and Christian McBride do amazing work through Jazz House Kids and have built a serious summer festival. Montclair should be a jazz hub. Working with other folks in town to make it so.

  3. All that’s true Chris. I’m sorry that my comment came off as overly snarky. We have many great players in town and the Monntclair Jazz Festival is a wonderful event.

    And we should be a jazz hub, because despite all those musicians, the festival Jazz house kids, and trumpets, it doesn’t feel like jazz is part of the fabric of montclair as much as it should be.

    I guess New Orleans has Jazz in its DNA. Players live and work there. There’s top acts playing every night of the week at major clubs and holes in wall. And there is an eager audience for this music from locals and tourists alike.

    Thanks for doing what you do to shine the light on great music

  4. How cool would it be if Montclair had a New Orleans style second line parade with a brass band made up of local players!

    Maybe it could be a sort of pied piper march to start the Montclair Jazz Festival. It would start downtown on Church Street, but unlike the 4th of July parade, it would wind it’s way DOWN Bloomfield Avenue, south on to Elm Street, through the South End, and ending at Nishuane for the festival. OMG that would be so much fun!

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