Montclair Jazz Project

The Montclair Jazz Project is on it's way back to Montclair. They strive is to make sure the history of jazz in Montclair stays alive.

Revival of the Montclair Jazz Project.

Jazz Clarinet on Royal Street New Orleans
© David Kay | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After several years of being inactive, the Montclair Jazz Project is being revived. Just what is the Montclair Jazz Project? The Montclair Jazz Project is an organization that came together on Nov. 17, 2003 with the goal of preserving the “Jazz History of Montclair” by documenting the history of the Jazz Community in Montclair.

The project began when Paul Brown, Glen Frieson and I got together to hash out the idea for a photo to be taken of the members of Montclair’s Jazz Community. The photo shoot took place on the grounds of the Montclair Public Library. The photo shoot was modeled on the “Great Day in Harlem,” which was taken in August of 1958 by Art Kane. In that jazz portrait, 57 jazz musicians are pictured, which included some of the biggest names in the world of jazz at that time.

Montclair’s Jazz Community has been somewhat ignored, so the goal was to begin to bring it to light, so that it would not be a forgotten piece of Montclair’s Arts History. With Glen, Paul and I, we began the process to make it happen! The Montclair Public Library also came on board as a partner in the project and was able to provide the space for the photo-shoot and area for the artists to sign-in and prior to the photo-shoot and on Nov. 17, 2003 “The Montclair Jazz Project” was off and running.

Once the photo-shoot was done, the next goal was to develop “Jazz Month in Montclair,” an annual event that was developed to celebrate the jazz community with an annual “Jam Session” and “Awards Ceremony” which were given to those for their contributions to the “Jazz Community” in Montclair.

In October 2004, the township issued a proclamation declaring November as “Jazz Month in Montclair.” Some of the past honorees that have been cited for their contributions to the “Jazz Community” in Montclair were: Ike Brown, Jazz Prophets; Mark Hatten, Tayata; Jacque Johnson, Jazz and Blues Vocalist; Chuck Brownley, Orpheus Entertainment; Trumpets Jazz and Supper Club, Jeff Dunston, Jazz Vocalists Workshop; Carlos Wormley, Tayata; Don Hunt, Jazz Prophets; Chris Drukker, Archivist; The Montclair Times, Joan Finn, Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Montclair Times.

In 2006, the Montclair Public Library took ownership of the Montclair Project Archives. The Montclair Project Archives was a major development in getting the Montclair Jazz Project a strong foothold in Montclair’s Arts legacy. An exhausting three year project of the organization, during which more than 75 artist and nearly 20 subject files were developed. In addition, a unique numbering and cross section retrieval system was developed unique to the collection itself.  At the time the “Montclair Jazz Archives” were donated, which included items from 1954 through 2005, and consists of documents, videocassettes, audio recordings, instruments and other paraphernalia related to the local history of jazz.

The Montclair Public Library has expressed interest in reviving the “Montclair Jazz Project” or what can be done to move it in the right direction. The Montclair Jazz Project is a unique organization in the township. Given the right opportunity, there is room for it to flourish.

The last celebration of “Jazz Month in Montclair” was the jam session held at the Montclair Public Library in November 2010.

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