Peter Frampton calls him “the gunslinger guitarist of the 21st century.” He is Joe Satriani’s “favorite modern bluesman.”
The free, day-long show also features the return of Canadian singer/songwriter/trumpeter Bria Skonberg, who won many fans here three years ago; New Jersey’s own LaBamba and the Hubcaps, and the European-based Bernard Allison Group.
Getting everything off the ground at noon: Rhythm in Blue, a new jazz ensemble from the United States Air Force.
“With swinging jazz in the afternoon and hot blues in the evening, there is great music for everyone,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, who launched the festival in 2011.
“The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival has become a much anticipated event and we thank our generous sponsors for making this day possible.”
“It is great to feature some young artists, such as Bria Skonberg and Davy Knowles, along with established stars like LaBamba,” added Festival co-producer Linda Smith. “We love the variety that this festival can provide.”
Raised on the Isle of Man, the 31-year-old Knowles came to America at 19 with the blues/rock band Back Door Slam.
Over the years, he has toured with Frampton, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, The Who, Warren Haynes, George Thorogood and Joe Bonamassa; played the Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits festivals; and released three solo albums, including last year’s 1932.
Video: Davy Knowles’ talks about ‘1932’
Knowles also gave an out-of-this-world performance for astronauts on the International Space Station. (Okay, they were out of this world. He was at Mission Control in Houston.)
A keen student of music history, Knowles cites influences such as Dire Straits — he learned Sultans of Swing by ear when he was 11– and Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, and Robert Johnson, from his dad’s music collection.
Knowles will cap the Morristown concert with an 8 pm performance.
The rest of the day looks like this:
Rhythm in Blue at noon. Led by Master Sgt. Jason Foster, this 13-member ensemble tours the eastern U.S. with a classic big-band repertoire.
Skonberg follows at 2 pm. Since her debut at the Morristown Festival, she has released a pair of albums, won a prestigious JUNO Award and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Swing! Award. That’s in addition to last fall’s Hot House Jazz Magazine Award, and a Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.
Video: Bria Skonberg in Morristown, 2015:
Then, it’s jazz, blues and funk at 4 pm, with veteran Conan O’Brien band member Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg and his Hubcaps. LaBamba began with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He led Bruce Springsteen’s Miami Horns at the Super Bowl, and performed with Jon Bon Jovi at the White House.
Blues time starts at 6 pm, with the Bernard Allison Group. Bernard Allison, 52, got his first taste of the blues from his father, the renowned guitarist Luther Allison.
The Chicago native then honed his skills with the Koko Taylor Blues Machine and the legendary Willie Dixon. Bernard has a big following overseas, and is gaining popularity at festivals across the U.S.
Look for Morristown restaurants to offer specials on festival day. Once again, the town and its sponsors are providing the music. All you need is a lawn chair or beach blanket.
“I think music is a great way to bring the community together,” Dougherty said. “And all the people we get from outside Morristown — they get to experience what a vibrant and beautiful town that we are. The arts are flourishing in Morristown, and I am glad my festival plays a part.”