Grover Kemble, Rio Clemente to lead all-star jazz benefit for Seeing Eye, March 25

Seeing Eye benefit concert program 2017
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Rio Clemente and Grover Kemble lead an all-star benefit show for The Seeing Eye.
Rio Clemente and Grover Kemble lead an all-star benefit show for The Seeing Eye.

By Kevin Coughlin

Two of Greater Morristown’s greatest showmen will share a stage this month, in an all-star benefit for The Seeing Eye Inc.

Grover Kemble, of Za Zu Zaz and Sha Na Na fame, will join Rio Clemente, the “Bishop of Jazz,” and his Abbots on March 25, 2017, in the Concert Hall at Drew University in Madison.

“My first time on stage with these people, I was a nervous wreck!” jokes sax player Marty Eigen, organizer of A Festival of Music 3.

Grover Kemble. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Grover Kemble. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

In its first two years, the festival raised $13,000 for The Seeing Eye, the famous guide dog school in Morris Township.  Tickets for this year’s concert are $50; showtime is 7:30 pm at 36 Madison Ave.

Kemble and Clemente, the pride of Morristown High School, will be accompanied by vocalist Sarah Partridge, guitarist and vocalist Flip Peters, with Gene Perla on bass and Gordon Lane on percussion.

Eigen’s ensemble, Amani,  includes Peters, Stephen Fuller on vocals and Fred Fisher on vocals and keyboard.

Coming together for The Seeing Eye was a natural fit for Eigen, whose wife Anita has volunteered there for years.

rio clemente
Rio Clemente. Photo by Sergio Burani

Recruiting top-notch players wasn’t hard, either. Eigen is president of the Beacon Hill Musicians Guild, where “the idea is musicians working together, instead of against each other,” he says.

He’s been a fan of Kemble since Za Zu Zaz in the ’70s; lately the jazz troubadour has been tickling audiences with a rollicking tribute to comic legend Jimmy Durante.

Clemente’s eclectic piano style, honed at Juilliard and in Nashville, has taken him to Carnegie Hall and the White House, among other famed venues.

Eigen remembers his knees shaking the first time he performed with the Bishop.

“He changes tempos and keys when he feels like it. You have to pay tremendous attention,” says Eigen, 74, who plays flute in addition to sax.

Like many top musicians, Eigen has subsidized his passion with a serious of day jobs — everything from manning a lunch truck to working overseas for a liquor distributor.

“My son says, ‘The only job dad hasn’t done is to be a dentist,'” Eigen recounts with a laugh.

He shouldn’t have to pull any teeth to fill the Concert Hall at Drew this month.

Seeing Eye benefit concert program 2017

 

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