Promoter Don Jay Smith predicted a “real party atmosphere” for the eighth annual Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, and that was the mood at Wednesday’s kickoff for sponsors.
Over wine and hors d’oeuvres at the Laundromat Speakeasy, they got the lowdown on the lineup planned for Aug. 18, 2018, on the historic Morristown Green.
“I think the crowd’s in for a real treat,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty.
Davy Knowles, an up-and-coming 31-year-old guitar wizard, will headline the free day of music.
Rhythm in Blue, a United States Air Force jazz ensemble, starts the show at noon. Next comes Canadian singer/songwriter/trumpeter Bria Skonberg, who was a big hit three years ago.
New Jersey’s own LaBamba and the Hubcaps, and the European-based Bernard Allison Group, will set the stage for Knowles.
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin
“I like the fact that live music comes to the Morristown Green, in such a monumental fashion. There should be more of it,” said Stephen Aluotto, head of NK Architects, a returning sponsor.
Atlantic Health, parent company of Morristown Medical Center, also is back.
“We really believe in the town, and the work that Tim and the council are able to do here. It’s a model of how to bring business and housing and healthcare together. We’re thrilled to support this,” said Atlantic CEO Brian Gragnolati.
Hospital President Trish O’Keefe and Chief of Nursing Carol Jones said music has powerful therapeutic benefits; it’s incorporated into many programs at Morristown Medical Center.
TOO HOT FOR COOL JAZZ GREAT
Health concerns will prevent one familiar act from playing this year. Bucky Pizzarelli has been a popular fixture at the Festival.
But the 92-year-old jazz guitar great has battled back from his share of ailments in recent times, and “the heat of the day has gotten to be more than he can take,” said Don Jay Smith.
“He gives it his all. We’re very conscious that it’s getting too hot for him to play. If it were indoors, it would be different,” the promoter said.
Co-promoter Linda Smith anticipates an exciting show, though “it’s tough for me not to have Bucky here.”
Programming the event, always a balancing act of new- and familiar names, has gotten a bit easier, she said, because of the Festival’s growing reputation.
The Smiths and Phil Fielding, a musical adviser to the Festival, all saw Bernard Allison’s late father, the renowned guitarist Luther Allison, in one of his final performances, in Morristown years ago at what was then known as the Community Theatre, forerunner to the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Bernard is well known in Europe, and is likely to win fans here this summer, they said.
Fielding also is jazzed by Skonberg’s return.
“She was spectacular three years ago. She blew the crowd away. She brought the crowd to its feet. La Bamba, it will be a joy to be part of that too,” he said.
As in the past, the Festival will be free to spectators and won’t require spending any taxpayer dollars, Dougherty said. So far, his team has raised about half the $80,000 cost of the production, he said.
“This is to help our downtown businesses in August, the slow part of season. We think it’s great for the arts,” said the Mayor, who launched the Festival in 2011 “It’s an amazing feeling to see what Morristown has grown to become.”