Jazz Festival’s Downtown Jamboree takes over Bloomfield Avenue Saturday
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
The annual Montclair Jazz Festival is coming to a close this weekend — with a big party.
This year, organizers spread the festival out over months, instead of the typical couple of weeks, kicking off more than 25 hours of live jazz music overall in July. Saturday will be the Downtown Jamboree — an all-day block party featuring four stages of live music and several food vendors across Bloomfield Avenue. The road will be closed to traffic from Grove Street to Midland Avenue.
This year, artist Andres Chaparro will feature his 2018 Nina Simone painting, “Black Lash Blues,” which has serves as the face of the festival, featured on its advertisements and website.
“This year it’s Nina Simone’s turn,” Melissa Walker, president and founder of Jazz House Kids, said. The arts an education organization has produced the festival for 12 years, though 2020’s version was an all-virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic. “[Simone] helped galvanize the civil rights movement through song. And this is that moment we hope will help galvanize our community to come and say, ‘We’re back. We're a community. We’re helping each other out. And we’re just going to have some fun.’”
From 1 to 9 p.m., the Downtown Jamboree will feature more than 100 artisan food and craft vendors from across Montclair. Each of the four stages will have five live performances.
BDP Holdings Stage
The BDP Holdings stage at Lackawanna Plaza will start off with the Jazz House Collective celebrating Roy Hargrove and led by Nathan Eklund at 1:30 p.m. At 3 p.m., Montclair's own Billy Hart will perform with the Billy Hart Quartet. At 4:30 p.m. Alicia Olatuja will take center stage with music that blends opera and classical music with jazz, gospel, soul and other influences. At 6 p.m., Sean Jones Quartet will perform.
“Christian McBride [Jazz House Kids Artistic Director] is bringing an incredible all-star group with Mike Stern and Chris Potter,” Walker said. “If you want to see this group, this is really the first time this group will perform together.” That performance, starting at 7:30 p.m., will close out the BDP Holdings Stage at Lackawanna Plaza.
Montclair Center BID Stage
“And then you go over to the Montclair Center BID stage and we’re going to start it off with an Afro Cuban Jazz group called CUBOP [at 1 p.m.]” Walker said. “And then Rudresh Mahanthappa, also a Montclarian and the head of the jazz program at Princeton University, is going to be playing with his group, called Hero Trio, [at 2:30 p.m.].”
That stage will be at Bloomfield and Fullerton avenues.
At 4 p.m. will be saxophonist and singer Camille Thurman, who is a faculty member at Jazz House Kids, with the Camille Thurman Quintet. At 5:30 p.m., the Emmet Cohen Trio will perform.
“Emmet was part of Jazz House and his career is just stellar,” Walker said. “He really used this pandemic and put many artists to the forefront. He had a living room concert series that it’s still going on. We are really delighted that he is going to bring his trio back to Montclair. And, again this is a young person who is from the area.”
The Montclair Center BID stage lineup will conclude with The Baylor Project, a husband-and-wife duo built on love, family, faith, culture and community, Walker said. That performance begins at 7 p.m.
“These are world-class musicians,” Walker said. “We’re focusing and featuring great musicians that live in our community. And some of them actually have wonderful international careers, but they’re kind of in our own backyard, and some of them are faculty.”
Alumni All-Star Stages
The final two stages will be focusing on Jazz House’s alumni.
A stage located on Glenridge Avenue will begin at 1 p.m. with Patrick Gannon, followed by Rayner Perez at 2:30 p.m., Baker Street Trio at 4 p.m. Whisper McRae at 5 p.m. and Alex Delazzari at 6:30 p.m.
At a Church Street stage, Jazz House Adult Big Band will open up at 1 p.m. followed by Jalin Silver at 2 p.m., Sen Raines at 3:30 p.m., Kakuyon Mataeh at 5 p.m. and Galo Inga at 6:30 p.m.
“People are going to just be knocked out by one group after another,” Walker said. “These young people, many of whom started when they were 10, 11 years old at the Jazz House. And they’re just making music. We could not be more proud of their success, onstage and offstage.”
The Downtown Jamboree will also have several vendors up and down Bloomfield Avenue. Jazz House Kids teamed up with the Montclair Center Business Improvement District to help promote businesses, many of them partners of the Jazz House, in the area.
“So many of the businesses have been really hit hard by Ida and some of them haven’t been able to open their doors,” Walker said. “Hopefully the festival can serve as a pick- me-up for these businesses that have really been hit hard by a lot of tough circumstances.”
For families with kids, the Family Jazz Discovery Zone will be located at Crane Park. The event, in partnership with the Montclair Art Museum and Montclair Public Library, will offer kids a place to hang out, get some exercise, do some art and read.
The festival is pedestrian-friendly and Walker encourages people to bring chairs to listen to the performances. Bike & Walk Montclair and will offer free bike valet stations at both Montclair YMCA, at 25 Park St. and at 125 Glenridge Ave, near Crane Park.
Since Bloomfield Avenue will be closed the whole day for the festival, parking may be difficult. There will be free public parking at Lackawanna Plaza shopping center lower lot, with the entrance on Glenridge Ave. There will be paid parking in the township’s garages as well as street metered parking on side streets.
The Downtown Jamboree has been one of the most ambitious and biggest events Jazz House Kids has ever put on, Walker said. She said she is grateful for the support organizers have received from Montclair Township and Essex County, as well as from donors
“Our fans have now witnessed it for 12 years, where we really had a very exciting and harmonious coming together of people and artists and community,” Walker said. “And that’s what we’re looking forward to again. So, we’re bringing us back together again. We’ve missed people and we are glad we are back.”