(MORRISTOWN, NJ) --The annual Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival returns to the Green on Saturday, September 18, from noon until 10:00pm. Canceled because of the pandemic in 2020, this year’s free concert pays tribute to one of its founders Linda Kiger Smith and Mike Fabrizio, a longtime member of the festival committee, both of whom passed away in June. An initiative by Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival is made possible by the generous support of a long list of sponsors.
“We hope that everyone is vaccinated before the festival this year,” said Mayor Dougherty. “We look forward to a great, safe day of music. It was devastating to lose both Linda and Michael in June, but this year we will salute their many contributions to our community. And we look forward to seeing everyone there.”
This year’s festival begins at noon with Swingadelic, a 10-piece “little big band” led by bassist Dave Post which for 22 years has entertained audiences up and down the East Coast. At 2:00, the festival pays tribute to the late Bucky Pizzarelli, the award-winning guitarist who played the festival for many years. The Frank Vignola Trio, led by the popular guitar virtuoso, includes his guitar partner Vinny Raniolo and bassist Martin Pizzarelli. Frank’s special guests will be guitarists Ed Laub and Gene Bertoncini, and violinist Aaron Weinstein.
Then at 4:00, Winard Harper & Jeli Posse take the stage. Winard, who won the Hot House Jazz Magazine Award for Best Drummer, rose to fame in the Nineties with the Harper Brothers. Critics have praised his “percussive pyrotechnics” and “sonic power,” and he will be joined by saxophonist Anthony Ware, pianist Tadataka Unno, trumpeter Ted Chubb, guitarist Charlie Sigler, bassist Dishan Harper, tap dancer Josh Johnson, singer Kameelah Harper and a percussionist.
Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses, always popular with the festival, return to perform at 6:00. The only son of the incomparable singer, songwriter and entertainer Louis Prima, Junior has become a force in his own right. More than three decades after the death of his father, Louis Prima Junior leads an ensemble that exudes energy, excitement and fun whether it is performing their own material or putting a new spin on some of his dad’s greatest hits including “Sing Sing Sing.”
This year’s festival concludes with Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint, which blew the crowd away in 2019 with their tribute to Woodstock 1969. Rob is considered by critics to be one of the best harmonica players around and he has worked and recorded with Steve Cropper, B.B. King, and Phoebe Snow. This year’s line-up includes guitarist George Naha who has worked with musicians as diverse as Donald Fagan, Wilson Pickett, and Mick Fleetwood; bassist Sue Williams who is best known for her performances and recordings with Eric Clapton; pianist John Korba who spent years touring with Hall & Oates and Todd Rundgren; and drummer Frank Pagano who has played with almost two dozen Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees. Rob promises a special guest from the Original Blues Brothers Band.
The Festival is made possible thanks to a long list of sponsors including Morristown Airport, PKF O‘Connor Davies, The Gia Maione Prima Foundation, Hampshire Real Estate, PSEG, Second Roc Jersey Association, Senlack Ridge Partners LLC, SJP Properties, Valley Bank and Villa Restaurant Group, which includes George + Martha’s Restaurant, The Office Tavern Grill and Town Bar + Kitchen.
Other major sponsors include Alaimo Associates, Atlantic Health System, Bijou Development, Delaware Raritan Engineering, Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, Inglesino Webster, and Riker Danzig. Additional sponsors include Cambria Hotel/Whiting-Turner, Day Pitney, DiFrancesco Bateman, MPAC, Topology, Vertical Reality, AbbottWalsh Communications, Hot House Jazz Magazine, MorristownGreen, and LKS Associates.
The Best Western PLUS Morristown Inn at 270 South Street is the official hotel for the Festival and is offering a special low rate for the weekend of September 17 and 18 so out-of-town guests can attend. For more information, visit the festival website or call the hotel at 973-540-1700.
The full list of sponsors may be found on the festival website at www.morristownjazzandblues.org.
The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival will take place on the Green in Morristown from noon until 10:00pm. Admission is free and many local restaurants will be offering specials for festival attendees. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets.
PHOTO: Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses perform for the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival at 6:00; photo courtesy of Wilde.