In British blues circles, his name is mentioned in the same breath with Eric Clapton and Peter Green.
And if Matt Schofield is not yet a household name in the States, he surely will be one in the Garden State after headlining at this summer’s Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival.
“He’s huge in Britain. It’s a coup that we got him,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, whose free music fest celebrates its fourth anniversary on Aug. 16, 2014.
Ranked among England’s Top 10 blues guitarists of all time by Guitar and Bass magazine, Schofield will cap a diverse roster of performers scheduled to stream onto the historic Morristown Green between noon and 10 pm.
Trio da Paz will start the day with a Brazilian flavor. Montclair bassist Nelson Matta sets the backbeat for guitarist Romero Lunbambo and percussionist Duduka da Fonseca.
Back by popular demand, the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli takes the stage–gingerly, at age 88– for another Guitar Summit with fellow Jersey ax-men Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Ed Laub. Bring your camera at 2 pm for this living history lesson: Bucky has performed with virtually everyone who matters in pop and jazz since World War II…and maybe World War I.
From last year’s Guitar Summit:
At 4 pm, Baltimore’s favorite drummer, Winard Harper pays a return visit to Morristown, this time with Jeli Posse. The group has been flying high since its first CD, Coexist, topped the jazz charts last year.
A European tour will keep Rob Paparozzi away for the first time. But the blues harp will be in very capable hands with South Jersey’s Mikey Junior and his band. They bring their down-and-dirty blues/roots act to the stage at 6 pm.
‘IT’S LIKE A HURRICANE’
And then, at 8 pm, Matt Schofield.
“Sometimes, it’s just really, really good to get up and play and just go for it. Just see what comes out. It’s like a hurricane,” he told an interviewer in 2010, at the front end of a three-year reign as the British Blues Awards Guitarist of the Year.
Schofield got hooked on the blues from his dad’s record collection. By 18, he was a pro guitarist, embarking on a musical journey that would lead from his native Manchester, England, to India and beyond.
He toured with Lee Sankey, British Blues Diva and actress/singer-songwriter Dana Gillespie before launching his own trio with Hammond organist Jonny Henderson and drummer Evan Jenkins. The organ handled the bass chores, a setup pioneered by American blues icons Albert King and Jimmie Vaughan.
Schofield, now 37, will arrive in Morristown with eight albums under his belt. Mayor Dougherty compares his sound to Robben Ford, a popular headliner at a previous festival.
But as a Brit, Matt brings an extra dimension to New Jersey’s 350th anniversary.
“We’re taking the top blues guy in Britain and bringing him to a Revolutionary capital of the U.S. It’s a nice twist,” said the Mayor, who anticipates a banner day for Morristown and its business community.
Between musical sets, he said, visitors “can walk around, visit our shops, have lunch, have dinner. They can have all the amenities of our downtown.”
The festival could not happen, he added, without top-notch promoters– Don Jay Smith and Linda Smith–and generous sponsors, led by Genova Burns, JCP&L, PSE&G and Riker Danzig.
Weather-permitting, it’s shaping up as another jewel in a festival crown that has included the MorristownGreen.com Film Fest, Christmas and First Night festivals and, debuting this fall, the Morristown Festival of Books. A sidewalk arts series also will unfold over the summer.
And that’s just for starters. Don’t be surprised, the Mayor said, if country- and bluegrass festivals sprout here soon.