Mayor pulls plug on this year’s Morristown Jazz & Blues Fest

Rob Paparozzi's view at the 2019 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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The 10th anniversary of the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival will have to wait until year 11.

Mayor Tim Dougherty on Thursday announced that the free daylong event, scheduled for Aug. 15, 2020, has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is with great sadness the festival committee has determined that there is too much risk in having a gathering of our size on the Morristown Green,” Dougherty said, “so this summer’s 10 anniversary celebration for the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival has been postponed until August 21, 2021.

“I know everyone looks forward to this annual event, and the impact of not holding this summer’s show will be felt deeply by the entire community, but the safety of everyone is paramount.”

That point was underscored by the death of Festival favorite Bucky Pizzarelli.  The legendary jazz guitarist, who gave some of his final performances on the historic Green, succumbed to COVID-19 in April. He was 94.

Bucky Pizzarelli , 91, rebounded from health setbacks to perform at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bucky Pizzarelli , pictured at the 2017 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, died in April from COVID-19. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Every August, the Festival has drawn thousands to Morristown to hear such jazz and blues stars as Robert Randolph, Davy Knowles, Bernard Allison, Charlie Musselwhite, Robben Ford, Bria Skonberg and Grover Kemble. 

MEMORIES: Great moments from nine years of the Morristown Jazz & Blues Fest. Click / hover on images for captions:

TWO-FISTED TRUMPETER, for Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Alexander Hamilton enjoys the 2018 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Walter Trout goes for it, as Mark Rivera waits his turn, at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Having fun, ath the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Robert Randolph takes the pedal off the metal, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Drummer Marcus Randolph with daughter Tristen, 6, a dancer, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bucky Pizzarelli , 91, rebounded from health setbacks to perform at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mike Kostak of Basking Ridge and Diana Kidd of Ramsey dance at the 2018 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Richie 'LaBamba' Rosenberg at the 2018 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Fans ring stage for Robert Randolph show, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ana Popović at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ana Popović reaches for the stars at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ana Popović solos at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bucky Pizzarelli with Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty and Mayor Tim Dougherty, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Lavondo Thomas of Ana Popović's band, at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Louis Prima Jr. and his Witnesses reach for a high note at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
STARS IN HIS EYES: Sun reflects off shades of Quinn Sullivan, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Madasyn Tarver, 3, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Marco Palos of Louis Prima Jr & The Witnesses at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowd settles in at at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bernard Allison and Davy Knowles, scheduled headliners, share an umbrella after their sets were rained out at the 2018 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Janice Nellins and daughter Sammie, 4, of Denville, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
THUMBS UP: Richie 'LaBamba' Rosenberg at the 2018 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Sazonovs of East Brunswick--Iryna, 9, and parents George and Victoria--at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Marco Palos of Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, at the M
Linda Smith and Don Jay Smith, co-producers of the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Will Pattinson of Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, at the 2016 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Johnny A leaves 'em smiling at the 2013 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Adam Casadevall.
Mayor Tim Dougherty and Louis Prima Jr. at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Pianist Jerry Vezza of Madison leads the Jerry Vezza Quartet at the first Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival.Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Walter Trout headlining at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nicki Parrott, shown here at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, was Les Paul's comic foil for a decade. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Quinn Sullivan, 14, shreds away at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Adam Casadevall
THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Grover Kemble was ill this week, but you never would have known it from his high-energy performance at the first Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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“We felt that because there was no way to keep people safe, we had no choice but t postpone it for a year,” said Festival co-promoter Don Jay Smith.

Many other major festivals already have been cancelled, as bans against large gatherings continue.

The Montclair Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, Mostly Mozart and the Xponential Festival are among events that won’t be happening this season, according to Linda Smith, co-promoter of Morristown’s festival.

The New Jersey Uke Fest, scheduled for August in Morris Township, also is off.  And Madison’s Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, still recovering from a ransomware attack last year, on Thursday said it’s postponing its popular summer outdoor stage series.

Slideshow photos of the 2019 headliner, Davy Knowles. Click / hover on images for captions:
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This year’s Morristown jazz fest lineup had not been announced, and fundraising had not started in earnest because of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Smith said.

Dougherty conceived of the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival as a way to promote downtown restaurants and shops. It is underwritten by sponsors.

The Festival coincided with the town’s resurgence, as new luxury apartments and condos opened and the Mayo Performing Arts Center put Morristown on the regional entertainment map.

THE 2019 MORRISTOWN JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL

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