The annual Montclair Jazz Festival continued to inspire.
There are countless things to love about Montclair. Whether it’s the people, the stores, the beautiful parks or the community itself, Montclair is an amazing place. Perhaps the most lovable thing about the town is its ability to surprise even if its own residents. On Saturday, Aug. 13, I was happily surprised by my discovery of the Montclair Jazz Festival, a merry gathering of jazz lovers and passionate residents to sit back in the sun and listen to some great music. It is the biggest single one-day event in Montclair.
Located at Nishuane Park, the festival goes all day, providing music, food and fun from noon to 8:30 p.m. It is common for festival goers to stay the entirety of the day, not just for the mesmerizing music and boisterous atmosphere, but out of respect for the amount of organization and hard work that goes into making such a brilliant event happen. Those who go are lucky enough to witness many jazz greats at work, including George Coleman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Michele Rosewater. Each act has a distinctive style and sound, as is the nature of jazz artists. This makes the festival relaxing and enthralling at the same time.
Jazz House Kids is an organization heavily promoted by the Montclair Jazz Festival, and is perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the festival. Upon arriving at the stage, I expected to see an old, wily veteran of jazz plucking away at the guitar strings that were so blissfully coming together to make a heartfelt solo. Instead, I see a short, relaxed looking boy that could not have been older than 14, strutting his stuff on the stage with a band of equal talent and passion. It was startling, inspiring and exciting all at the same time. The responsibility of making this amazing thing happen falls to Jazz House Kids, one of the most respected jazz education programs in the country, as I learned from one of its organizers at the festival, Maria.
“Jazz House Kids was created with the kids in mind,” said Maria. “We intend to spread the message that jazz teaches, which is one of equality, love and skill, which we believe are all worth instilling into the next generation of musicians.” Equipped with a talented and encouraging set of instructors, Jazz House Kids has successfully instilled a passion and sense of importance for jazz within many.
The music may be the main event at the festival, but there is much more to it than that. The amount of delicious food on show is great and not highly overpriced as it is at most festivals. Local businesses and companies are able to set up stalls around the perimeter of the park, advertising and mingling with the community. Stalls of jewelry, clothes, candles and much else are also on display, enticing those that go to explore the full extent of the jazz festival. The atmosphere is eclectic and inclusive. It preaches, screams and whispers all about America’s “original cultural tradition,” jazz.
To view more photos of the 2016 Montclair Jazz Festival by Eve Mahaney, please click here.