sponsor party support Montclair Jazz Festival
Guests mingle with musicians at the Montclair Jazz Festival sponsor party on Tuesday, July 23. COURTESY RICHARD CONDE

For Montclair Local

Everything clicks in a good jazz group.

The rhythm section syncs, holding the tempo and adding percussive colorations as the solo instruments launch skyward and then, in turn, alight.

Behind the scenes of the upcoming Montclair Jazz Festival, everything clicks. This year, the Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

An ensemble of organizers, led by founder and President Melissa Walker and Artistic Director Christian McBride, and including numerous financial and logistical supporters and the Montclair municipal government, expects to deliver another acclaimed series of shows for the festival.

This past Tuesday evening, about 120 festival supporters and staffers gathered in the Van Vleck House & Gardens to revel in the camaraderie of assisting scores of young musicians who display their talents in concert halls, on club stages, in senior citizen facilities — and soon on the festival stage in the park.
Guests mingled in the mansion and on the patio as an octet of young musicians throughout the evening delivered instrumental and vocal jazz tunes. The musicians sported bright blue T-shirts, each embellished with a portrait of Ella Fitzgerald and the affirmation of “Jazz Peace Love,” the artwork created by Andres Chaparro.

Extending for more than two weeks, the festival features a rich gumbo of musicians ranging from internationally known jazz stars to adept students. Numerous groups will perform in several locales, and there will be jazz-related cinema, story times for kids, and music instruction.

The festival launches in the 18 Label Street Studios with a dance party tonight, Friday, featuring McBride as D.J. Brother Mister, describing his alter ego as “some guy who likes old-school funk and soul.”

With events on almost every following day, the festival’s grand finale occurs from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, in Nishuane Park.

At Van Vleck, representatives from numerous businesses and nonprofits, along with individuals, elected officials and local police leaders, gathered to support Jazz House Kids and the upcoming festival, which is expected to attract many thousands of attendees.
Citing “a sense of intimacy and friendship,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said, “[The Festival] is so, so Montclair … It’s as fine an organization as you can find.”
McBride, a six-time Grammy Award-winning musician, and Walker, who founded Jazz House Kids, the jazz instruction school in Montclair that presents the festival, saluted longtime “presenting sponsors” Rhonda and Bob Silver of the Bravitas Group and the Silver Family Foundation, who for five years have provided significant funding and support to the Montclair Jazz Festival.

“You have to have someone who says ‘Yes,’ so others will follow,” Walker said of Rhonda and Bob Silver.

Organizers cite the Silvers’ support as the key reason that the jazz festival in Nishuane Park, now in its 10th year, is free for attendees.

“We have this tag-line of “No tickets required,” said Bob Silver.

“Music is a talent that most schools don’t provide,” Silver said. “What Melissa and Christian do so selflessly is provide this top-notch training for the kids.”

During Tuesday’s gala, the Jazz House Kids lineup included Ella Brown on guitar and vocal, Destiny Diggs-Pinto on bass, Jonathan Galen on trombone, Galo Inga on piano, Tim Murphy on tenor saxophone, Claudia Nketia on vocals, Emily Springer on trombone, and Adam Wacks on drums.

Gesturing at the musicians, McBride said, “They are the backbone of our festival.”


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