Montclair Jazz Festival: jazzing up the town
By GRACE L. WILLIAMS
For Montclair Local
Banners and notices all around town have pretty much spilled most of the beans, but this year, the streets of Montclair will be alive with jazz from July 26 to Aug. 10 during the Montclair Jazz Festival. The festival will mark its 10th installment and has gone bigger and broader this year by adding more days and utilizing several local venues, parks and streets
to host free and ticketed events (see InfoBox at the bottom of this article).
Traditionally, the festival has taken place on one day in Nishuane Park — pre-festival events were billed as lead-ups. This year, the all-day-long music in the park is the grand finale event.
But before that, Church Street Center Stage, the DLV Lounge, the Montclair Social Club, the Montclair Brewery, and Montclair Film’s Cinema505 will all host festival events.
The festival will also feature a kickoff dance party event on Friday, July 26, at 18 Label Street featuring music by DJ Brother Mister Old School Funk + Soul AKA Christian McBride. There will even be the opportunity for short “jazz crawls”: the Community Big Band plays at the DLV Lounge, then a few hours later, a Jazz House Kids ensemble plays before a showing of a jazz-related film at Cinema505.
The festival itself literally comes from grass roots.
A grass stage was the venue for the first festival, in 2010. It was a celebration of summer workshops offered by Jazz House Kids, which has produced the festival ever since, and roughly 300 families attended that first festival in Nishuane Park. Two years later, the festival introduced a professional stage. By 2015, attendance had reached the 10,000 mark. Last year, due to a weather-related state of emergency, Jazz House Kids found itself scrambling last minute to secure a weatherproof venue to hold the festival. This year, in case of severe weather, the festival will move to the Wellmont Theater.
Jason Miller, proprietor of the Montclair Social Club, which opened last summer, says that when the festival approached him to gauge his interest, he was excited to participate. The Social Club is a dinner and drinks venue that holds live music events on its stage. As part of the Social Club's participation in the festival, the stage will host the Emmet Cohen Trio, headed by Montclair native Emmet Cohen, on July 31, and the Ed Palermo Big Band on Aug. 7. Both shows have generated so much enthusiasm that a second show has been added later in the evening for Emmet Cohen, and one for Ed Palermo Big Band is not far off, according to Miller.
Joining this year’s festival was a no-brainer for Miller. “I loved what I heard,” he says. “We are excited to be part of it.”
A FOUNDATION IN JAZZ
On Aug. 8, Jazz House alum and Montclair native Julian Lee will perform a show called Gemini, with his partner, tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman, at the Montclair Brewery. Lee, whose main instrument is the tenor saxophone, is an alumnus of Juilliard and has played in jazz venues that include New York City’s Birdland and the Blue Note. He has also performed in “Jazz at Lincoln Center.” Lee, who hails from a musical family, has been part of the Jazz House family since his high school days.
“I’m glad I come from a jazz background because jazz is the foundation for all the music that came afterwards: soul, R&B, even gospel,” he says.
Lee’s partner, New Yorker Michela Marino Lerman, has been tap dancing since she was 5 years old. Her talent has taken her all over the world and into circles with historic greats including Tony-Award-winner Gregory Hines. Lee and Lerman met about six years ago and the rest is a match made in music heaven.
“I would say that from traditional early jazz and ragtime, there was always dance and music happening at the same time,” says Lerman. “In performances, tap dancers gave solos and improvs that inspired the musicians in the big bands and orchestras.
“It was the rhythms of tap dancers that fed instrumentalists who barely got a chance to solo,” Lerman says. Tap dancers imitate the power of a horn solo, she adds.
“Julian is an incredible saxophone player and can embody anyone from Coltrane to Lester Young. His range is unbelievable and the spectrum of music will be very beautiful.”
In the past, Lee has been involved with the festival as both an attendee and a participant. He sees the introduction of more venues and events this year as a purposeful movement that could provide a strong jazz scene in the town.
“It’s such a community event,” he says. “As a kid you don’t realize the magnitude of what’s happening but being able to travel the world and play everywhere and then come home and see this festival happening… it’s amazing.”
JAZZ AROUND TOWN
Kick Off Dance Party with DJ Brother Mister
Friday, July 26, 8 p.m.
18 Label Street
DLV Backyard concerts:
Sunday, July 28: Jazz House Adult
Community Big Band, 3-5:30 p.m.
Aug. 4: Blues Jam Band, 4-7 p.m.
300 Bloomfield Ave.
Montclair Social Club:
Wednesday, July 31:
Emmet Cohen Trio + Isaiah Thompson Trio, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 7: Ed Palermo Big Band, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
499 Bloomfield Ave.
Jazz @ The Montclair Brewery
Thursday, Aug. 1: Matthew Whitaker’s B3
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
Jazz House Kids ensemble, 7 p.m.;
screenings 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 28: “”Elevator to the Gallows”
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