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Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

By Carolyn M. Brown,

originally published: 11/03/2022

Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

(Photo: Top row — Christian McBride, Chuck D, Savion Glover. Bottom row — Terence Blanchard, Fantasia, Dee Dee Bridgewater)

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) welcomes the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival Nov. 8 – 20, 2022. This year’s program offers events combining jazz luminaries with artists known for R&B, poetry, hip hop, tap, and so much more.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 8 p.m., for “Represent! A night of Jazz, Hip Hop and Spoken word,” legendary hip hop stars Chuck D (Public Enemy), Rakim (Paid in Full) and Speech (Arrested Development) will join award-winning poets and spoken word artists Nikki Giovanni, Jessica Care Moore, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, The Last Poets (Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan, and Babadon Babatunde) and young poets from NJPAC’s City Verses program. Adding their music mastery to the mix will be saxophonist Javon Jackson and bassist Christian McBride.

Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

“I've always felt that the greatest hip hop artists in the world are MCs who can improvise. That, in a sense, makes them jazz musicians,” says McBride. “They are using the spoken word, poetry in rhythm. So, to combine hip hop, spoken word and jazz in my mind is not a stretch. I think they all belong together.” McBride, who is also the festival’s musical director, acknowledges that there is an entire generation of rappers who have made a lot of younger people familiar with and curious about jazz, citing rapper Common and his collaborations with pianist-songwriter Robert Glasper in recent years.

The evening’s lineup of artists is expected to exclaim their vision of justice, change and joy. “There will be a diverse mix of sounds. You are going to have the great Nikki Giovanni not just reciting poetry, but also singing,” McBride adds.

Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

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This performance is a presentation of City Verses: Amplifying New Voices Through Jazz and Poetry, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This unique joint initiative of NJPAC and Rutgers-Newark celebrates the rich historical connection between jazz and poetry, creates opportunities for public engagement, strengthens community ties through the arts, amplifies the authentic voices of the people of Greater Newark, and engages a new generation of poets, jazz musicians and teaching artists.

The festival kicks off on Thursday, Nov. 10, with two powerhouse concerts. One of the today’s most creative forces in the contemporary jazz scene, trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, will be joined by his E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet for a special tribute to Wayne Shorter. The same evening, American Idol winner and R&B sensation Fantasia is paired up with Jazzmeia Horn (2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition winner), who is regarded as one of the best new voices in jazz.

The festival includes contemporary dance-jazz collaborations featuring famed tap artist Savion Glover and jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (Nov. 12) followed by a world premiere with the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter (Nov. 16).

Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

Additionally, the Jazz-fusion quartet the Yellowjackets performs (Nov. 13), McBride joins the New Jersey Music Educators Association (NJMEA) All-State Jazz Band and NJMEA All-State Jazz Choir (Nov. 18), Cuban Issac Delgado and Alain Perez present their winning combination of salsa and jazz (Nov. 18), talented arranger and composer Maria Schneider returns with her orchestra (Nov. 19) and The Vanessa Rubin Trio entertains at NICO Kitchen & Bar for the Dorthaan’s Place jazz brunch series (Nov. 20).

The festival concludes with the future of jazz as up-and-coming singers compete in the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, also known as “The Sassy Awards.” Now in its 11th year, NJPAC honors the legacy of Newark native jazz vocalist Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan by hosting the only international jazz vocal competition of its kind.

McBride, who also is NJPAC’s jazz advisor, working along with David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s executive vice president and executive producer, has curated a festival honoring the jazz legacy of New Jersey while looking to the future of the music.

Hip Hop Icons Chuck D, Rakim and Speech to Perform With Jazz Great Christian McBride at the 11th Annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

The festival’s namesake, James Moody, was a legendary saxophonist and flutist who was born in Savannah, Georgia, but raised in Newark. “Jazz is the purest form of expression for an African American musician,” says McBride. “The purest thing you can do inside of your culture is to be a jazz musician. With all the educational outreach that has been happening at NJPAC, that legacy is not just being preserved but built upon,” he adds.

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Jazz, music in general, has always been significant to Newark, says Rodriguez. “So, this festival echoes that community and that history, all the way back to Willie the Lion and all of the artists who toured through Newark.” He notes NJPAC is proud of how the festival has expanded over the years in terms of accessibility — the number of free programs. “But even more so,” he adds, “the fact is that this has bred jazz programming throughout the 12 months of the year, both in terms of arts education and performances.”

“I’ve often said that jazz is the most democratic form of music, because in order for a great jazz performance to happen, the artists need to listen to each other, share their creativity and collaborate to create unforgettable music. Jazz is a metaphor for our democracy. When we work together, when we listen to each other, anything is possible. This year’s Moody Festival is a testament to that principle,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC, in a press statement.

The festival extends beyond the walls of NJPAC with performances off-site and on Facebook.

The Bethany Baptist Church (Nov. 12) screens the documentary Oscar Peterson: Black + White at 2 p.m. The film explores the life and music of Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. At 6 p.m., the innovative and acclaimed trumpeter John Faddis performs with his quartet.

At The Jewish Museum of New Jersey, the James Moody Jazz Orchestra plays at the opening of the exhibition “Equality,” showcasing artwork reflecting the struggle of artists with disabilities to create artwork and develop their career (Nov. 13).

And streaming on Facebook (Nov. 8). is a recording of “A Beautiful Bond,” 4 poets and a jazz trio that teamed up to illuminate the intersection of the Black and Latinx liberation movements in the Americas. The City Verses performance was curated by McBride and Vincent Toro.

For the 11th consecutive year, the festival is sponsored by TD Bank, ensuring that each year the event includes free community performances and educational events, as well as mainstage concerts showcasing jazz superstars. “We know that music brings people together, and jazz, in particular, has a way of dissolving boundaries,” said Martin Melilli, Market President at TD Bank, in a press statement. “We believe in the power of the arts to connect us all, and we are proud to sponsor a Festival that offers everyone in New Jersey so many ways to find joy, community and inspiration.”

About the author: Carolyn M. Brown is an investigative journalist, editor, author, playwright, multimedia content producer and an entrepreneur. She has produced content spanning across a portfolio of platforms, including print, digital media, broadcast, theater arts, and custom events. Her publication credits include Essence, Forbes, Inc., and Diversity Woman magazines. She is a founding board member of the Paterson Performing Arts Development Council, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together diverse communities through the performing arts and cultural events and to creating pathways for new and established artists.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.




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