The Hot Sardines, photo by Aidan Grant
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) –– Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty has added to the line-up for this year's free annual Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival, which takes place Friday September 22 and Saturday September 23, 2023. The music begins on Friday at 4:00pm on Pioneer Park (conveniently located between Headquarters Plaza and 1776 on Speedwell Avenue). The Saturday music will be held on the Morristown Green from noon until 10:00pm. As it has for the past two years, the Festival will honor two of its founders, Linda Smith and Michael Fabrizio, who both sadly passed away in June 2021.
This year’s festival begins at 4:00pm on Friday at the newly renovated Pioneer Park. The Spectrum Jazz Band comprised of Morristown High School Students will open followed at 5:00pm by jazz singer and entertainer Ty Stephens. He has performed all over the world with his jazz, funk and R&B group Soul Jaazz.
Ty Stephens is followed by guitar sensation Debra Devi who has been compared to Susan Tedeschi and has overcome barriers in a male dominated genre. She brings her topnotch group with whom she has been tearing up the festival circuit.
The final group on Friday night brings a mainstay in the Chicago blues clubs, The Downtown Charlie Brown Blues Band, whose leader hails from Morristown. In fact, singer and keyboardist Charles Brown is celebrating his 50th Reunion from Morristown High School where he sang and played trumpet in a band. He and his quartet have a unique sound as they blend Delta, New Orleans and Chicago style blues.
On Saturday, September 23, the Festival moves to the Morristown Green and the music begins at noon with the U.S. Navy’s premier jazz ensemble, The Commodores. This 18-piece ensemble draws on big band charts from the Swing Era to today’s music and everything in between.
The Commodores, photo couresy of Anastasia Bonotto
At two o’clock, the festival goes Latin with the exciting Gotham City Latin Jazz Septet, led by Grammy Award-nominee, drummer Richard Baratta. Joining him are the highly acclaimed award-winning pianist Bill O’Connell, the great saxophonist Vincent Herring, award-winning guitarist Paul Bollenbeck, and the superb rhythm section of bassist Michael Goetz and percussionist Paul Rossman.
Then at four it is the sensational hot jazz ensemble The Hot Sardines who were praised by Forbes magazine as “one of the best jazz bands in New York City today” and approach their music through innovation, verve and sheer joy. They will come to Morristown following a week at New York’s famed Birdland Jazz Club.
At six, the Festival turns to the blues with one of this country’s great guitarists, Ana Popovic, who was a sensation at the Festival in 2017. Since going on her own more than 20 years ago, she has secured eight Blues Music Award nominations and has appeared on the cover of several major guitar magazines. Her newest recording, Power (ArtiseXclusive), debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart in May.
The final slot heralds the return of Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses, thanks to the Gia Maione Prima Foundation and the law firm of Sherman Atlas. The band, which goes on at 8:00pm, brings their own special approach to the music of Louis Prima Sr., including such hits as “Jump Jive ‘an Wail,” “Just a Gigilo,” and “Sing Sing Sing.” It is an exciting way to bring this year’s Festival to a close.
“We are thrilled to be able to expand the Festival to include Friday evening,” said Mayor Dougherty who initiated the festival in 2011. “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 free Festival possible!”
Major sponsors for the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival include the Morristown Municipal Airport, Vision Real Estate Partners, Inglesino Webster, the Gia Maione Prima Foundation/Sherman Atlas, Sanofi, Bijou Properties, Delaware-Raritan Engineering, Dughi Hewitt & Domalewski, Deloitte, Hampshire, Rainone Coughlin Minchello, SJP Properties, Sills Cummis & Gross, Valley Bank, and Villa Restaurant Group.
Additional sponsors include Atlantic Health, Morris Tourism/MCEDA, First Energy, Headquarters Plaza/Second Roc Jersey Association, PFK O’Connor Davies, Alaimo Associates, BMW of Morristown, Colliers Engineering, CSG Law, Greenbaum Rowe Smith, Hoagland Longo, MPAC, PSEG, Riker Danzig, Reliance Insurance, Topology, Uma Flowers, Vin Gopal Civic Association, Whiting-Turner Contracting, Abbott Walsh Creative Communications, Hot House Jazz Magazine, MorristownGreen, Morris Arts, Morristown Partnership, Morristown Parking Authority, Trustees of the Morristown Green, and the Best Western Plus/Morristown Inn, which is offering special rates for Festival attendees.
The Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival will take place on September 22 and 23 in Morristown rain or shine starting at four on Friday and noon on Saturday. Admission is free and many local restaurants will be offering specials for festival attendees. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets.