On a hot August night, cool down at the Montclair Jazz Festival

Now in its 9th year, the Montclair Jazz Festival is going strong. This year's Aug. 11 lineup includes pianist/bandleader Eddie Palmieri, mutli-Grammy winner Christian McBride and Trio 3, Montclair's own "jazz royalty."

When 81-year-old pianist Eddie Palmieri takes the stage Saturday to close out the ninth annual Montclair Jazz Festival, he’ll be supported by seven musicians he calls “the young Turks.” The energy from the players and from the audiences keeps him strong, he said. 

“Those great musicians, they’re a stimuli for me, my heart and soul,” Palmieri said in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “That’s what keeps me going, my love of life and music.” 

This will be the first time Palmieri, with his Afro-Caribbean jazz sextet, performs at the Montclair festival, which has grown from an audience of 300 in its first year to about 10,000 in 2017. The festival won the 2018 Discover Jersey Arts People’s Choice Award for “favorite music festival.”

The other 2018 headliners are Christian McBride and his acoustic quintet, Inside Straight; and Trio 3, a supergroup of Montclair “jazz royalty” — Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake and Reggie Workman. Actor S. Epatha Merkerson will be the master of ceremonies, while WBGO host Gary Walker will serve as the stage host. 

The festival is produced by Jazz House Kids — with presenting sponsor The Bravitas Group/Silver Family Foundation. The 15-year-old nonprofit is a jazz education program. 

Melissa Walker, president and founder of Jazz House Kids, said young people are drawn to music, particularly jazz.

“Jazz gives young people the unique opportunity to hone your own voice,” she said. “You get to speak the language of music, improvise and tell your story, and collaborate with others.”

Professional musicians often mentor Jazz House Kids students and Walker says she’s seen how that encouragement inspired the younger players to make the extra effort. 

“These kids know they are walking in the footsteps of giants,” she said. “When they feel inspired and motivated, they stand a little taller, dig in and work a little harder, excel and see the fruits of their efforts individually and collectively.”

This year, 125 current and former Jazz House Kids students, ages 8 to 18, will perform in eight of the 13 scheduled music groups. “They are going to knock the socks off of everybody in that audience,” Walker said.

More “young Turks,” as Palmieri might call them, who can imagine they, too, could have a career like his. 

Palmieri, often referred to as “El Maestro,” won eight Grammy Awards – he was nominated 14 times – between 1976 and 2007 in categories including Best Latin Jazz Alum, Tropical Latin Album and salsa album. He also received the National Endowment for the Arts’ distinguished Jazz Master Award and the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Science Lifetime Achievement Award. 

“Billboard” predicts Palmieri’s latest album, “Full Circle,” released in July, will also draw a Grammy nod. The album’s drop date coincided with the release of Spectrum Interactive’s Palmieri Salsa Jam app, which allows users to dissect songs from “Full Circle,” isolating and removing individual instruments, so users can play along. The app comes with sheet music for each part.

“We do concerts all over the world but I love it here in Jersey,” said Palmieri, who now lives in Hackensack with his son/manager and his parakeet, Melody. “The crowd, they see it, they hear it, they love it.”


Nishuane Park

High Street, Montclair

Free, Aug. 11, noon to 9 p.m.

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at nataliepompilio@yahoo.com. Find her on Twitter @nataliepompilio. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.  


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