The blues wizards will return to the historic Morristown Green for the ninth annual edition of the free, day-long concert, on Aug. 17, 2019.
And they won’t need to worry about the weather this year. For the first time, the festival has a backup venue: The 1,300-seat Mayo Performing Arts Center.
“It’s our pleasure to serve as the rain site for the Jazz Festival on Aug. 17th,” Allison Larena, CEO of the Mayo Center, told MorristownGreen.com. The theater is a short walk from the Green.
Davy Knowles and Bernard Allison aren’t the only familiar names returning to the festival, which will honor the 50th anniversary of Woodstock and 40 years of Newark jazz station WGBO.
The show kicks off at noon with The Antoinette Montague Experience, led by a Newark singer who has served as a musical ambassador for the U.S. State Department in concerts around the world. Montague sang at the Morristown festival in 2014 with Winard Harper and Jeli Posse.
At 2 pm, guitar ace Frank Vignola, celebrating his recovery from a life-threatening accident, brings his trio back to the party. Vignola has appeared at the festival several times accompanying the great Bucky Pizzarelli.
Next up, at 4 pm, it’s Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint, featuring one of the pop scene’s top harmonica players. Paparozzi has toured with the Original Blues Brothers Band and as lead singer for Blood Sweat & Tears, and performed at the Morristown festival three times, most recently in 2013. He played the very first one, backing Grover Kemble. Paparozzi’s set will salute Woodstock, the iconic rock fest that occurred over this same weekend in 1969.
The Bernard Allison Group reclaims the 6 pm spot that Mother Nature stole last year. Allison, the son of the late, legendary bluesman Luther Allison, topped the blues charts in 2018.
“This is an awesome festival, believe me,” Bernard Allison said after a deluge prevented him from taking the stage last year. “I have to come back and give these guys the Allison treatment, because they treated me and my fellows very well.”
And back as headliner, at 8 pm, is Davy Knowles, a blues guitarist from the Isle of Mann in the Irish Sea. Knowles has toured with Jeff Beck, The Who and Peter Frampton, and performed at Lollapalozza, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, among other top festivals.
“This is the height of the summer” back home, the bluesman joked last year, after driving all day, in the rain, from the White Mountains of New Hampshire, only to have safety-conscious promoters pull the plug on his Morristown set.
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“I’m still as excited as I was the first year,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, who started the festival. He is especially thrilled to welcome back Paparozzi, “one of my all-time favorites.”
Dougherty said it costs about $80,000 to mount the festival, which promotes Morristown’s bustling downtown. All the money comes from corporate sponsors, not taxpayers, he said at Thursday’s festival kickoff at the Town Bar + Kitchen.
Sponsors he saluted there included Anthony Sylvester of the Sherman Wells law firm; town Redevelopment Attorney John Inglesino; former Mayor Jay DeLaney Jr., who represents Headquarters Plaza owners Olnick & Fisher; Biagio Scotto of the Villa Restaurant Group; Francis McEnerney of accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies; Scott McMahon and Darren Longo of Morristown Airport; Alice Cutler from the Trustees of the Morristown Green; and the Morristown Partnership and Morristown Parking Authority.
Looking ahead to next year’s 10th anniversary, Dougherty and his musical adviser, Phil Fielding, said they envision expanding the festival to include Americana music, possibly over two days.
Fielding described Americana as an “amalgamation” of jazz, blues, folk, country and rock, epitomized by acts such as Lucinda Williams and AJ Croix.
“We’d like to grow it a little more…to make it a broader festival,” Dougherty said. “It’s something I think Morristown can handle, and will embrace. We are growing in the arts every day.”
At Cutler’s suggestion, the mayor said, he also is exploring establishment of a “Friends of the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival” nonprofit, to ensure the festival continues in perpetuity.
MORE ABOUT THE 2019 MORRISTOWN JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL