The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival will be jazzier and bluesier in 2023.
By a full evening.
For the first time since its inception in 2011, the free event will span two dates, and two venues.
As always, there will be a noon-to-10 pm Saturday roster on the historic Morristown Green, on Sept. 23. Five acts will be capped by headliners Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses, who whipped the Green into a frenzy in 2016, 2017 and 2021.
Video: Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses fire up the Green:
But first, fans can practice their dance steps on Friday night, Sept. 22, when three acts will perform across from the Green at Pioneer Park, the space renovated two years ago between Headquarters Plaza and the 1776 By David Burke restaurant.
The Friday show starts at 5 pm with Ty Stephens and Soul Jaazz. At 6:30, it’s the Debra Devi Group. At 8 pm, The Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band takes the stage, led by 1973 Morristown High graduate Charles Brown, who honed his vocal chops at the Union Baptist Church.
“We are thrilled to be able to expand the Festival to include Friday evening,” Mayor Tim Dougherty, who established the festival 13 years ago, said in a statement.
“With great jazz and hot blues, there is something for everyone’s tastes. It’s no wonder that we draw fans from more than just the metropolitan area. We have people from across the country and even overseas. We are so grateful to our generous sponsors for making this incredible Festival possible!”
Saturday’s festivities begin at noon with the U.S. Navy Jazz Band, The Commodores. Next up, at 2 pm: The Gotham City Latin Jazz Septet. At 4 pm, it’s The Hot Sardines. The penultimate slot, at 6 pm, belongs to Ana Popović, who rocked the Green in 2017. Diagnosed with breast cancer early in the pandemic, the California singer/guitarist has rebounded and resumed touring on the blues circuit.
Video: Ana Popović at the 2017 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival:
Louis Prima Jr. tops the bill at 8 pm, paying tribute to his late father, the King of Swing, known for such hits as Sing, Sing, Sing; I’m Just a Gigolo, and I Ain’t Got Nobody.
Sponsors for the 2023 Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival include the Morristown Municipal Airport, Vision Real Estate Partners, the Gia Maione Prima Foundation/Sherman Atlas, Bijou Properties, Deloitte, Hampshire, Headquarters Plaza/Second Roc Jersey Associates, Inglesino Webster, SJP Properties and Villa Restaurant Group.
Additional sponsors include Atlantic Health, Morris Tourism/MCEDA, PFK O’Connor Davies, Alaimo Associates, Colliers Engineering, Greenbaum Rowe Smith, PSEG, Vin Gopal Civic Association, Whiting-Turner Contracting, Morristown Parking Authority, Trustees of the Morristown Green, and the Best Western Plus/Morristown Inn.
The festival again will honor two of its founders, Linda Smith and Michael Fabrizio, who both passed away in June 2021.
Here’s more about each act, from show promoter Don Jay Smith.
Ty Stephens and Soul Jaazz 5:00 – 6:00
Singer Ty Stephens has performed all over the world and locally at Shanghai Jazz many times. The award-winning singer/songwriter has appeared on Broadway and has recorded with legends including Harry Belafonte, Peggy Lee, and Chuck Mangione among others. Both audiences and critics praise him and his band which the New York Amsterdam News called “a must-see band to be experienced live”! The core of his band includes pianist Richard Cummings, guitarist R.T. Taylor, bassist Rondew Monroe, and drummer Tony Lewis. Their special brand of jazz, funk and R&B is the perfect way to kick off the Festival. (Photo courtesy of Anton Bogomokov)
Debra Devi Group, 6:30 – 7:30
We are excited to have Debra with us this year. American Blues Scene writes “Imagine you’re preparing a list of today’s top female blues/rock guitarists. No doubt you’ll include Bonnie Raitt, Samantha Fish, Susan Tedeschi and Ana Popovic. If you don’t include Debra Devi, your list is not complete.” And that is so true. Her latest EP, “Jamification Station Vol. 1,” stayed on the Relix/Jambands Radio Chart for three months. And her book The Language of the Blues from Alcorub to Zuzu won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and has a forward by Dr. John. She is the real deal! (Photo courtesy of Anjanette Photos)
The Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band, 8:00 – 10:00
The Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band has been playing the Chicago Blues Clubs since singer/keyboardist Charles Brown formed it in 1996. A 1973 graduate of Morristown High School, Charles grew up singing in the Union Baptist Church and played trumpet through high school. A Leigh University graduate, he teaches economics and business at Marmion Academy and lectures frequently in Chicago’s schools. Guitarist Harry Binford has been with the Blues Band for 15 years and bassist Reggie Harrington has been a regular for more than two decades. The group’s drummer is Chicago native Glover Washington. Charlie Brown is returning to Morristown for his 50th Reunion from Morristown High School and is thrilled that his family and friends can enjoy hearing The Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band at this year’s Festival. (Photo courtesy of Charles Brown)
U.S. Navy Jazz Band The Commodores, Noon – 1:30
Jazz is America’s music and the U.S. Navy Band Commodores, the Navy’s premier jazz ensemble, have been performing the very best big band jazz across the United States for more than 50 years! Formed in 1969, this 18-member group is comprised of some of the top musicians in the world. While this is their first appearance at the Festival, we are excited to have them. (Photo courtesy of Anastasia Bonotto)
Gotham City Latin Jazz Septet, 2:00 – 3:30
The Gotham City Latin Jazz Septet is led by Grammy Award-nominated Richard Baratta who began his career in music, then took a turn into a film career. His film credits include such well-known movies as “Joker,” “Chicago 7,” “Irishman” directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and many others. He returned to music fulltime in 2019. The Latin Jazz Septet also includes saxophonist Vincent Herring (best known for his long tenure with Nat Adderley), Grammy Award-nominated pianist Bill O’Connell (well known in Latin Jazz circles), the award-winning guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist Michael Goetz, and percussionist Paul Rossman. (Photo courtesy of Richard Baratta)
The Hot Sardines, 4:00 – 5:30
Since forming in 2007 by singer Elizabeth Bougerol and pianist Evan Palazzo, The Hot Sardines have performed their light-hearted style of hot jazz, promoting the early jazz pioneers. Their music is influenced by Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Jelly Roll Morton and many others but they draw on an eclectic variety of sources which led Forbes magazine to praise then as “one of the best jazz bands in New York City today.” (Photo courtesy of Aiden Grant)
Ana Popović Band, 6:00 – 7:30
Ana Popović, the very popular California-based guitarist and singer who last appeared at the Festival in 2017, faced a dire situation at the start of the pandemic when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. But following many difficult treatments, she has emerged stronger than ever and is now in remission. Her newest recording will be released in May, but she already has eight Blues Music Award nominations and has appeared on the covers of several major guitar magazines. She is back to touring regularly and is considered among today’s top blues artists. (Photo by Martine Berendsen)https://youtu.be/cN17nSfDkZs
Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses, 8:00 – 10:00
What can we say about this band except that they are sensational and a Festival favorite! Thanks to the Gia Maione Prima Foundation and the law firm of Sherman Atlas, they return to Morristown with their own exciting sound, paying tribute to Louis Prima Junior’s incomparable father who penned some of the world’s best known hits including “Sing Sing Sing,” “Jump Jive an’ Wail,” and “Just A Gigolo.” (Photo courtesy of Jeff Sovelove/ MorristownGreen.com)