Montclair Jazz Festival: opening with hot licks and cool sounds
By GWEN OREL and MARK S. PORTER
email@example.com; For Montclair Local
The 10th anniversary of the Montclair Jazz Festival opened with parties and dancing and licks this past week. The Grand Finale on Saturday, Aug. 10, will take place in Nishuane Park, barring extreme weather (in which case it will move to the Wellmont).
This year, not only the DLV Lounge, but also the Montclair Social Club, the Montclair Brewery, Montclair Film, and Jazz on Church Street will host festival events. The concert and symposium series that takes place midday at Montclair State University for students involved in the summer programs streams in Facebook Live every day at 2:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Aug. 6, Eddie Palmieri, Billy Hart and Christian McBride will perform.
Sponsors gathered at Van Vleck House & Gardens on Tuesday for a party and presentation, mingling in the mansion and on the terrace, as young musicians, sporting bright blue T-shirts with a design by Andres Chaparro, the official artist of the festival.
Founder and President Melissa Walker spoke to the crowd of about 120 about this year’s extended, two-week festival, along with the festival’s artistic director, Grammy-Award-winner Christian McBride, who’s also Walker’s husband. They praised presenting sponsors Rhonda and Bob Silver of the Bravitas Group and the Silver Family Foundation, who have provided significant funding and support to the Montclair Jazz Festival for the past five years.
“You have to have someone who says ‘Yes,’ so others will follow,” Walker said of Rhonda and 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.”
The official launch of the festival was Friday night, July 26, with the DJ Brother Mister Old School Funk + Soul Party at 18 Label Street. DJ Brother Mister is the alter-ego of Christian McBride.
When the party launched in 2017, McBride told Montclair Local that “‘Brother Mister’ is a prefix that James Brown used when he really got to know you well. He called everyone ‘mister’ no matter how well he knew you. You were always ‘Mr. Parker, Mr. Jackson.’ In those rare moments of just being with his guard down, informal, he would call you ‘Brother Mister.’” And, he added, “There was a sweet spot in dance music from 1966 to 1986. I don’t care what your culture is, what you are into. Dance music from that period will make you get up. … It begins and ends pretty much with James Brown.”
On Sunday, July 28, the jazzing of Montclair began in earnest: the first of several concerts in town took place at the DLV Lounge backyard (300 Bloomfield Ave.), followed by a “Friends of the Festival” Inside Scoop Reception at Cinema505 (505 Bloomfield Ave.) before the screening of the first of four films with notable jazz scores.
About 60 people gathered in the small backyard area behind the DLV Lounge on Saturday to hear the adult Community Big Band perform on Sunday afternoon. Umbrellas on tables helped keep off the scorching sun, and guests passed around sunscreen. A beach backdrop sat behind the musicians.
After the concert, many people walked up the hill to Cinema505. There, a trio made up of Ryan Hernandez on guitar, Andrew Wagner on trumpet, and Caylen Bryant on bass, all 20-something Jazz House Kids alumni, performed tunes by Miles Davis as Festival friends came in. They were joined later by Tim Murphy of Montclair on tenor saxophone.
At one point, McBride said to Bryant, “May I?” and took over the bass to play. McBride later said that he saw her struggling with the chords, and while the tradition is to let a player alone to figure it out, he “didn’t want to see her left out in the cold.”
McBride said he’s excited about the way the festival has branched out this year.
“We’re slowly but surely getting the word to the rest of the country that Montclair is one of very few hubs for the arts.”
Walker told the guests about the festival’s origins as a cap for the summer program, 10 years ago, and how it’s grown. Today there are 20 ensembles, three big bands, and a vocal program. About 125 students from eight states and four countries attend the two-week summer program at the Cali School at MSU, and the festival itself performs to about 10,000 people, with more who will see it as it streams live.
After she and McBride went over some of the main events of the festival, and the headliners who will play at the Grand Finale, Walker revealed this year’s T-shirt by Andres Chaparro.
Before the film began, McBride praised the jazz scores of each, pointing out that when someone says “great composers” the tendency is to think Beethoven and Bach. “American has produced some of the great composers, your Ellingtons, your Davises, he said.
“Elevator to the Gallows,” directed by Louis Malle in 1957, features a score by Miles Davis. Davis assembled a French rhythm section and improvised music to the film, having seen it only once before.
One of the questions to McBride from an audience member praised the “young prodigies” for their rendition of Davis’ “So What.”
As the film began, it was clear from the gasps and giggles that not too many people had seen the stylish early Malle, featuring Jeanne Moreau, before. Davis’ score also left long periods of tense silence in the murder thriller.
Hearing the quartet play helped ground the score.
So many people had arrived to see the film that Walker herself brought out extra chairs. The next two weeks may be hot, but Montclair jazz fans seem up to the challenge.
MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL AROUND TOWN
DLV Backyard concerts:
Aug. 4: Blues Jam Band, 4-7 p.m.
300 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair Social Club:
Wednesday, Aug. 7: Ed Palermo Big Band, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
499 Bloomfield Ave.
Jazz @ The Montclair Brewery
Thursday, Aug. 8: Matthew Whitaker and friends, with tap dancer Michela Marina Lerman + Julian Lee: Gemini. 7:30 p.m.
101 Walnut St.
Jazz Film series, Montclair Film
Friday, Aug. 2: “Alfie”
Sunday, Aug. 4: “Anatomy of a Murder”
Monday, Aug. 9: “‘Round Midnight”
Cinema505, 505 Bloomfield Ave.
Jazz on Church Street
Saturday, Aug. 3, 6-10 p.m.Jazz House Kids Alumni All-Stars;
Candice Reyes Quintet; Oscar Perez Quintet
Jazz in the Afternoon
Through Aug. 9, 2:30-3:30 p.m.