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Jazz Greats At Major Festival

Swiss Global and Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center partner for major area event

Start your countdown to Friday Sept. 16 starting at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 17 starting at 1 p.m. The Swiss Global Artistic Foundation and the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) have joined forces to present the 9th Annual Swiss Global-OSPAC Jazz Festival at the center’s outdoor amphitheater, 4 Boland Place, West Orange, just off Prospect Avenue.

It is the metro area’s premier arts event, attracting a multigenerational crowd of thousands each September. It’s a big bargain too; top price is a $10 adult suggested donation with kids free; teens and seniors $5.

Swiss Global is new to the festival and a perfect match; among the 12 year old not for profit’s missions is presenting resonant cultural experiences. And, taking a word from the foundation’s name, global is the operative word when talking about this jazz festival: Most of the stellar performers perform worldwide, but — lucky us — we count them as our neighbors in West Orange, Montclair, South Orange and other New York city and metro New York communities.

(Full disclosure: I count one of them as living with me — my husband guitarist Bob DeVos, along with neighbor Oscar Perez is heading up the “Bob DeVos-Oscar Perez West Orange All Stars” at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night. The quintet includes ace players: tenor saxophonist Mike Lee — okay, he’s from Montclair — plus bassist Ed Howard and drummer Vince Ector of the township.)

“Everyone in the township and all over the area should come — it’s an amazing line up and it’s a great way to meet your neighbors, both the ones in the audience and on stage,” said performing vocalist Kate Baker, the executive director of OSPAC and the event producer. “Friday night is also our big reopening party and it’s going to be absolutely terrific.”

OSPAC has been shuttered all season after a winter fire. Baker thanked West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, business administrator Jack Sayers and Nick Sanese of the township Public Works Department for repairing the facility in time for the annual festival.

As to Baker, she co-leads the Kate Baker/Vic Juris Quintet with her husband, the guitarist Vic Juris, and she serves as jazz advisor on the Swiss Global board.

Jazz is an umbrella term encompassing many musical styles and diverse instrumentation. Some of that diversity is reflected in the upcoming performances which include at 7 p.m. on Saturday the “Brazilian All Stars” with guitarist Romero Lubambo, South Orange based trumpet great Claudio Roditi (who has been known to sing a tune or two, and I hope he does) and bassist Nilson Matta.

There are three generations of performers represented, including the superlative vocalist Sheila Jordan, 82, who was recently named a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Her outstanding quartet features pianist Steve Kuhn. Up and coming young artists open on both Friday and Saturday nights. These include “The Swiss Global Young Lions” with Marcus Miller and Joe Alterman, who are among the many young musicians the foundation supports.

Festival regulars, do not fear; the knowledgeable and exuberant Gary Walker, host of WBGO jazz radio 88.3 FM’s “Morning Jazz” and the station’s music director, returns to host the festival. WBGO is media sponsor of the event.

Among the OSPAC Jazz Festival returning favorites are tenor saxophonist Houston Person with his glorious, fat sound and West Orange based pianist Nat Adderley, Jr. This time out the latter is teaming up with guitarist Dave Stryker: “Of all the gigs I do, the OSPAC festival is truly one of my favorites,” Adderley said. “Everyone has such a good time all day long.”

New this year, is renowned pianist Bill Charlap playing a rare area solo performance. “Usually when I play in or around New York City, I play with my trio or a larger group or duo piano with my wife Renee,” Charlap said. “I play solo all over the country; it will be nice to do it close to home.”

Charlap, who also directs the jazz programming at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, is no stranger to the festival; his wife is acclaimed pianist Renee Rosnes, a frequent past OSPAC performer. “It’s great to play for your own community in a festival with a great family feel,” Charlap said. “Renee and I appreciate that.”

Returning to the global theme, I caught up with West Orange based drummer Ali Jackson of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra while Jackson was en route to Cuba as part of his “Horns for Havana” educational program. (The orchestra’s leader Wynton Marsalis was a surprise guest two festivals ago). Jackson and his quintet are planning to play excerpts from a ballet he composed for choreographer-dancer Hope Boykin of the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Company, who may join him on stage.

“It’s a pleasure to play for a community I love,” Jackson said. “I believe jazz is community music. And, no matter where I go in the world, there is a community brought together by love of the music.”

MORE: Parents, kids get and love this music and there are also kid oriented activities. These include Nitza Horner’s highly popular “Paint the Music” art project and “Soft Play” areas for infants and toddlers. Or park the kids with a friend and enjoy a massage by Crystal Lake from a certified area therapist.

The schedule follows. See www.ospac.org for artist capsule biographies and additional photographs. And don’t forget a chair or blanket for seating.

Rain Date is Sept. 24, starting at 1 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 16th

7:30 pm            Dida with Tal Ronen and Colin Stranahan with special guest Enrico Granafei

8:30 pm            Bob DeVos and Oscar Perez with the West Orange/NJ All-Stars featuring Mike Lee, Ed Howard, Vince Ector and more, with Special Guest Vocalists Pam Purvis & Kevin Burke

Saturday September 17th

1:00 pm            Swiss Global Young Lions: Joe Alterman/Marcus Miller Band

2:00 pm            Houston Person Quartet

3:00 pm            Kate Baker/Vic Juris Quintet featuring Ralph LaLama, Anthony PInciotti, Harvie S and pianist TBA

4:00 pm            Bill Charlap

5:00 pm            Ali Jackson Quintet featuring Hope Boykin of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

6:00 pm            Sheila Jordan Quartet featuring Steve Kuhn with Cameron Brown and ­­drummer Anthony PInciotti

7:00 pm            Brazilian All-Stars: Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta, Claudio Roditi and drummer  

8:00 pm            Nat Adderley, Jr. Quartet featuring Dave Stryker

There is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for seniors; children are free.  Contribute at the entrance. The amphitheater is located at Crystal Lake, 4 Boland Drive in West Orange N.J. off Prospect Avenue, north of the Route 280 exit ramps.  

The Swiss Global / OSPAC Ninth Annual Jazz Festival is sponsored by Swiss Global Artistic Foundation, Millennium Homes, WBGO-FM 88.3 and Ferential Systems.

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