Saturday may have been the most historic day on the Morristown Green since George Washington left.
The afternoon featured guitar great Bucky Pizzarelli, who introduced the General to jazz back in 1779.
The evening showcased 14-year-old Quinn Sullivan, who will introduce the blues to the 22nd century.
Those performances alone would have made the third Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival one for the ages.
But throw in stellar sets from harmonica virtuoso Rob Paparozzi and his Hudson River Rats and closer Johnny A, a guitar-slinger of the first order; 80 balmy degrees; a big crowd; and a jaunty kickoff by the Jazz Lobsters Big Band, and you have yourself a magical day indeed.
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Billed as the “Guitar Summit,” Bucky Pizzarelli’s set was more like the Mount Rushmore of Jazz Pickers.
Joining the 87-year-old Bucky, whose liner notes include gigs with the late Benny Goodman, were longtime sidekick Ed Laub and Bucky’s heir apparent, Frank Vignola, a masterful showman.
Rounding out this top-drawer lineup was surprise guest Gene Bertoncini. He’s another Benny Goodman alum, who has backed Tony Bennett and played in the Tonight Show orchestra, among other accomplishments.
“That was something special,” said promoter Don Jay Smith, who organized the business-sponsored festival with his wife, Linda Smith, at the behest of Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Quinn Sullivan was special, too. The prodigy from New Bedford, Mass., played original tunes from his first two albums (he hasn’t entered high school yet!) plus covers of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton classics. There also was a tribute to Buddy Guy, the blues legend who is his mentor.
They met when Quinn’s dad, Terry, arranged to take his then-8-year-old son backstage before a Buddy Guy concert. Quinn brought his guitar and played a few licks for Buddy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Quinn has played alongside Buddy and Robert Randolph, and his iPhone is crammed with pictures of himself with Clapton and a host of other music stars. There’s even one with actor Richard Geer. Quinn’s self-assured guitar playing made all this possible.
The surprising part on Saturday was the vocals. Quinn can sing.
“Not bad,” deadpanned Andy McNally, guitarist from Captain Lung, a popular band at Morristown High School.
“When I was 15, I couldn’t imagine my brain being that developed,” said Mark J. Goldberg, former guitarist with The Community, another well liked local group. “It’s like seeing the future of the blues, after Clapton’s gone, and Buddy Guy is gone, and Taj Mahal. It’s like the torch was passed.”
If the Mayor does nothing else during his tenure, these festivals should be enough to ensure his place in Morristown history.
He has put a town known for Revolutionary War events onto the musical map.
“Everything just kind of went right today,” said the Mayor, looking pleasantly worn out after the 10-hour extravaganza. “It was just a perfect day. Our goal was to bring in people to help business downtown. That was our mission three years ago, and it still is.”
More to come.