New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

For great Jersey music and much more, tune into our radio station at

Audible and NJPAC Present
"Jazz in the Key of Ellison"

originally published: 12/13/2018

Audible and NJPAC Present "Jazz in the Key of Ellison"(NEWARK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and Audible have announced the first three national performance dates of “Jazz in the Key of Ellison,” celebrating the musical world of the esteemed African-American novelist, critic and scholar Ralph Ellison and his remarkable collection of jazz recordings.

This rich multimedia production, which premiered at NJPAC’s TD James Moody Jazz Festival in 2016, is inspired by Ellison’s novels and writings about the search for identity by African Americans in mid-20th century America, and his life as a trumpeter and jazz aficionado, as well as his understanding of the oral tradition that has defined Audible from its founding.

“Jazz in the Key of Ellison” is the latest attraction of NJPAC Productions on Tour, which brings exciting, original theatrical works to cities here and abroad. Its properties include “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” which this year embarks on a fifth annual, 28-stop tour; “Carefree: Dancin’ with Fred & Ginger,” a song-and-dance salute to America’s favorite ballroom duo, and “Showtime with Shakespeare,” a hip hop adaptation of a book from Mary Pope Osborne’s best-selling “Magic Tree House” series for young readers; its inaugural national tour launches in the spring.

“Jazz in the Key of Ellison” performance dates are:  Friday, Feb. 8 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Florida; Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California; and Friday, Feb. 22 at the Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago, Illinois. 

This concert production features today’s preeminent jazz and R&B artists interpreting Ellison’s themes of African-American struggle. Musical selections draw on the evolution of jazz from the Harlem Renaissance to the birth of R&B. Black American music, predominantly jazz, was a cornerstone of Ellison’s life and infused his literary works, such as “Invisible Man,” “Living with Music” and “Juneteenth.”

The article continues after this ad


Performers featured in “Jazz in the Key of Ellison” include acclaimed jazz/R&B vocalist Will Downing; Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Nicholas Payton; singerNona Hendryx, formerly of Labelle (“Lady Marmalade”); Quiana Lynell, 2017 winner of NJPAC’s Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition; and Andy Farber and His Orchestra.

The evening is augmented by still images and video of Ellison and jazz greats; projections of paintings by Romare Bearden, Ellison’s close friend; and dramatic readings of excerpts from Ellison’s prose, by special guest to be announced.

“We are thrilled to bring ‘Jazz in the Key of Ellison’ and its interpretation of Ralph Ellison’s important work by world-class musicians to venues across the country,” said Audible founder and CEO Don Katz. “From its earliest days, Audible’s vision and mission have been inspired by Ralph Ellison’s understanding of the power of oral tradition and his ability to hear the music in well-wrought arrangements of spoken words. “My own fascination with the sound of well-composed words and the music embedded in language goes way back to my good luck of having Ralph as my teacher and mentor. In many ways, Audible exists today to honor his legacy.”

“Following the outstanding success of NJPAC’s production of ‘Jazz in the Key of Ellison’ in Newark, we realized that it was vital to tour it to other cities nationwide,” said NJPAC President and CEO John Schreiber. “Hearing a literary legend’s observations on African-American culture, brought to life by an ensemble of amazing musicians performing the music he loved, will stay with listeners long after the last note rings out."

“Jazz in the Key of Ellison” is presented in two parts. “Early Lasting Influences” features the ensemble performing music by Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson and others. “Minton’s and After” includes works by such jazz icons as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. The program features beloved standards such as “Cotton Tail,” “Stardust,” “Everybody Loves My Baby” and “Black and Blue.”

Ellison was more than a visionary author and scholar. He was also a trumpeter and friend of Armstrong, Ellington, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Ray Charles and countless other jazz and R&B greats.

“Invisible Man” (1952) is Ellison’s novel about an African-American man’s journey to find his place in a society corrupted by prejudice and intolerance. Winner of the National Book Award, it is considered one of the most important American literary works of the 20th century.

Other notable writings by Ellison include “Flying Home and Other Stories” and “Shadow and Act” (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays. An Oklahoma City native who lived most of his life in New York City, Ellison died in 1994 at age 81.

“Jazz in the Key of Ellison” is produced by NJPAC and Danny Kapilian and sponsored by Audible with support from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and the Institute for Jazz Studies in Newark.




Will Downing – Acclaimed jazz/R&B singer Will Downing is known as the Prince of Sophisticated Soul. The solo artist has worked with Jennifer Holliday, Kool & the Gang, Gerald Albright, Billy Ocean, Regina Belle and others. Downing’s 1988 version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. In 2018, Downing released his first gospel album, “The Promise.”  


Nicholas Payton – Multi-instrumentalist, composer and trumpet master Nicholas Payton is one of the most important working and recording artists today. A virtuoso before he was out of high school, his talent and skills have earned him accolades and ensured his place in musical history. Payton has composed, arranged, performed and recorded with his own groups in many settings and spanning a multitude of musical genres; his full orchestral work, “The Black American Symphony,” debuted in 2012. He received a Grammy Award for his collaborative album “Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton.” 


Nona Hendryx – In the spirit of two-fisted political singer-songwriters such as Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell, Nona Hendryx tackles social issues, love and politics with a smoky vocal tessitura somewhere between funk and the end of the stratosphere. Hendryx’s legendary career spans six decades of sound and style evolution. She is best known as one-third of the Rock & Funk Glam Divas Labelle, who produced the No. 1 hit single, “Lady Marmalade.” 


Quiana Lynell – The winner of NJPAC’s 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz  Vocal Competition, Quiana Lynell is a fast-rising presence on the jazz scene and is quickly positioning herself to be a longstanding artist. She infuses her classical training with her gospel upbringing and approaches jazz as a storyteller, hitting every note with perfect timing and impeccable pitch. Lynell believes every word that journeys from her soul, making for mesmerizing performances.


The Andy Farber Jazz Orchestra – A professor at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, award-winning jazz composer, arranger and saxophonist Andy Farber has worked extensively with legendary jazz singer Jon Hendricks and Juilliard Jazz Director Wynton Marsalis. Farber has written arrangements for numerous and diverse artists and ensembles, including Shirley Horn, Bobby Short, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, the Boston Pops Orchestra and several symphony orchestras throughout Europe.

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers To Return To Lizzie Rose Music Room
​​​​​​​(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- Tommy Castro & the Painkillers return to the Lizzie Rose Music Room on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30pm.  Whether he’s squeezing out the deepest blues or playing the funkiest soul grooves, legendary blues and soul giant Tommy Castro knows how to ignite a crowd. Tickets are $38.00 Advance and $45.00 day of show.
Experience Hendrix at NJPAC on March 29th
(NEWARK, NJ) --  Celebrate the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix as Experience Hendrix comes to Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Centeron Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm. This critically acclaimed multi-artist tribute to Hendrix features performances by Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Doug Pinnick, Chris Layton, Mato Nanji, Kenny Aronoff, The Slide Brothers, Henri Brown, Kevin McCormick and special guest Taj Mahal.
World Famous Bachata Artists To Take The Stage for Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 At Prudential Center on Saturday, March 16
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 at Prudential Center will bring together the world’s best Bachata artists including, Frank Reyes “The Prince of Bachata”, Hector Acosta “El Torito”, Zacarias Ferreira, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez "El Cacique”. Uforia Bachata Fest 2019, presented by Zamora Live, Euforia Radio (Univision) and Corona Extra, will be held on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00pm.  The contagious Caribbean rhythm known as "Bachata" will have its gala night, marking the first time in history these world-renowned artists will perform on the same stage. 
Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra To Perform at Princeton University January 27
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) continues its 40th Anniversary with a concert featuring the NJYS Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra on Sunday, January 27 at 4:00pm at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University located at 68 Nassau Street in Princeton. Youth Symphony will open the concert with Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major followed by Youth Orchestra performing Dvořák Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88.
Rickie Lee Jones To Perform At Grunin Center
(TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones exploded onto the pop scene in 1978 and has made a career of fearlessly experimenting with her sound and persona on more than 15 critically acclaimed albums. She brings her show “An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones” to the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, February 22 at 8:00pm.  

The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.

Event calendar
Saturday, Jan 19, 2019


ALABAMA @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Cimorelli @ iPlay America, Freehold - 6:00pm

TRAMPS LIKE US @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Jennifer Holliday @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Zhang & Upshaw: Earth & Heaven @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Newsies @ Voorhees High School, Glen Gardner - 7:30pm

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm


THE CAPITOL STEPS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Woman of a Certain Age Comedy @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 8:00pm


Best of Rahway Reel Shorts @ Atelier Rosal, Rahway - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 2:00pm and 5:30pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.