The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and WBGO Jazz 88.3FM announced today that they will inaugurate The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, a weeklong celebration of jazz and the musical legacy of longtime Newarker and beloved jazz musician James Moody. Grammy Award-winning bassist and composer Christian McBride serves as Artistic Adviser to the Festival, which will take place October 15-21, 2012 at the Arts Center and various community-based venues.
The first in a series of major new programming initiatives to be unveiled by NJPAC for its 2012-13 season, the Moody Festival is highlighted by two star-studded concerts: For Love of Moody: A Jazz Celebration featuring jazz icons George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, David Sanborn and others, and Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Still Ahead, an all-star recreation of the landmark original Gil Evans arrangements of the classic Miles Davis recordings of Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and Miles Ahead featuring trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Sean Jones and others. The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival is sponsored, in part, by The Prudential Foundation and Audible.com.
In addition to the headliner concerts, the Festival will also feature the inauguration of The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and the world premiere of a new jazz musical for children, Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans based on the much beloved books by best-selling author, Mary Pope Osborne.
“This Festival will give Newark and the Arts Center the chance to take center stage in the jazz universe and pay homage to one of the great men of music,” said John Schreiber, NJPAC President and CEO, a longtime friend of the Festival’s namesake. Jazz is the most democratic of musics: great jazz demands collaboration, respect, listening and creativity among musicians. Moody exemplified all those traits in his life and his playing. The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival will celebrate Moody's lifelong spirit of collaboration and unconditional love for humanity."
“Newark-based WBGO Jazz 88.3FM, the metro area’s only 24 hour jazz source, is pleased to be part of the first annual James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival in Newark,” said Cephas Bowles, President and CEO of WBGO. “The Festival will showcase America’s greatest contribution to world culture - jazz - and Newark’s ongoing commitment to the art form. Because of Newark’s world class transportation system, the city and the Festival are easy-to-reach destinations. WBGO looks forward to jazz fans traveling to Newark’s multiple venues for performances by some of the world’s most outstanding jazz artists.”
“This is just very exciting for all of us,” said Linda Moody, the honoree’s widow. “Moody would be so thrilled with the whole idea. Newark was where his life was. He would also be surprised and probably would have said, 'Why do they want to name a festival after me?'”
A donation will be made by the Festival to the CFNJ James Moody Jazz Scholarship Fund for Newark Youth.
Additional community events in and around Newark, as well as complete details on The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition will be announced in May when NJPAC unveils its full 2012-13 season. To date, community partnerships include a WBGO Kids Jazz Concert at the Newark Museum, the 10th anniversary Gala for Jazz House Kids in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater, and other events at Bethany Baptist Church, the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies and WBGO, as well as an all-star jazz brunch at NJPAC’s new destination restaurant, NICO Kitchen + Bar. The jazz brunch jam session will kick off a new monthly series at NJPAC dubbed Dorthaan’s Place, named after and curated by Newark’s First Lady of Jazz, Dorthaan Kirk, Program Coordinator at WBGO.
Tickets for the Festival, available now, may be purchased by telephone at 1-888-GO-NJPAC (1-888-466-5722), at the NJPAC Box Office at One Center Street in downtown Newark (open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 6pm, and Sunday, noon to 5pm).
The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival: Mainstage Concerts:
Two all-star concerts in NJPAC’s Prudential Hall will be the headline events for The James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival – the first, on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8pm is titled For Love of Moody: A Jazz Celebration. Moody’s legacy will be celebrated with a night featuring his favorite musicians and friends including George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer and David Sanborn, plus special guests Kenny Barron, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Heath, John Lee, Paquito D'Rivera, Christian McBride, Paul Lieberman, and Todd Coolman, Adam Nussbaum and Renee Rosnes (long time members of Moody’s group).
On Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 8pm, the Festival will feature Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Still Ahead, an all-star recreation of the landmark original Gil Evans arrangements of the classic Miles Davis recordings of Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and Miles Ahead. The Prudential Hall concert will feature a unique cast of jazz greats including Terence Blanchard on trumpet, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Peter Erskine, tuba master Howard Johnson (a member of the original recording sessions with Davis and Evans), trumpeter Sean Jones and a jazz orchestra under the direction of Vince Mendoza.
“It is an incredible honor to help usher in a new jazz tradition at NJPAC,” said McBride, the Festival’s Artistic Adviser. “We are assembling a spectacular group of top talent that is going to bring the house down, as well as embody the legacy of New Jersey’s own jazz icon and our friend, Mr. James Moody. I am thrilled to be part of it.”
The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition
From Sarah to Whitney, Newark has been the birthplace and proving ground for great jazz vocalists. As homage to a master, NJPAC will introduce its inaugural Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. An international talent search will culminate in a special concert on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 3pm in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater by the finalists, with rare concert footage of Sarah Vaughan. Presented as part of NJPAC's Jazz Roots Series with consulting producer Larry Rosen. Details on contest entrance rules and regulations will be announced in May.
“Our whole family is very excited about the Vocal Competition,” said Paris Vaughan Courtnall, daughter of the legendary singer. “It’s amazing that Newark keeps embracing Sarah over and over again. She obviously had such a love for New Jersey and Newark in particular. She would be just thrilled.”
“It is all kind of full circle,” she added. “If not for a competition, I am not sure where my Mom’s career would have started in the first place.” At the age of eighteen, Vaughan famously wowed the Wednesday Night Amateur Contest audience at the Apollo Theater with a sizzling rendition of “Body and Soul.” The prize was ten dollars and the promise of a weeklong engagement at the Apollo.
“I think it’s wonderful that a young person can be sitting in their bedroom now, enter a contest, and have a dream to be a Sarah or Whitney or Cissy, all greats that came from Newark, New Jersey,” said Courtnall.
The Festival will make a donation in the name of Sarah Vaughan to develop an enhanced jazz vocal training program at Newark Arts High School that will commence in Fall, 2012. Sarah Vaughan was a proud graduate of Arts High.
Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans
The Moody Festival will also feature the world premiere of a new jazz musical, Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans, based on A Good Night for Ghosts, book #42 in the phenomenally popular Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.
Created by Osborne's playwright/musician husband Will Osborne in collaboration with Murray Horwitz (co-creator of the Broadway hit Ain't Misbehavin') and legendary New Orleans composer Allen Toussaint, the show transports the audience back to 1915 New Orleans, where the streets are filled with music — and the night is filled with ghosts! On the eve of All Saints Day - the most haunted night of the year — beloved Magic Tree House characters Jack and Annie must find a young Louis Armstrong and put him on the path to becoming the king of jazz. Featuring a live band, a cast of skilled performers, and a powerful message about dreams, race, and possibilities, the show introduces young audiences to the magic of music, the thrill of live theater — and the joy of jazz.
Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans will play a series of free performances in the Newark Public Schools for all 4,300 of the City’s fourth grade students. Two additional performances for the public will be featured in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater on Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 1pm and 4pm.
It’s a dream come true to bring Magic Tree House and the sound of early jazz to the children of Newark,” said Mary Pope Osborne. “NJPAC and the James Moody Festival are the perfect partners to make this dream happen!"
Jazz House Kids Gala
On Wednesday, October 17, 2012 the Arts Center will host Hitting the High Notes, the 10th anniversary gala event benefiting Jazz House Kids, an acclaimed community-based arts organization with a mission to provide year-round musical, educational, and cultural programs to students in grades K-12, teachers, adults, and families from diverse backgrounds.
Under the leadership of Founder and Executive Director and acclaimed jazz vocalist Melissa Walker, Jazz House Kids has become a nationally recognized organization dedicated to closing the gap in the arts and opening the window for students to cultivate the talent, discipline, skills and principles they need to play, sing, and appreciate America's original musical art form. Through music, mentoring and education, Jazz House Kids cultivates tomorrow’s community leaders and global citizens so they may build vibrant communities where they live.
“The foundation for the Jazz House Kids was built in this great city a decade ago, with the backdrop of NJPAC and the help of two key organizations, Prudential and WBGO. It is especially gratifying to come full circle and celebrate turning 10 and our shared mission with New Jersey's preeminent Jazz House." We are honored to have been invited by John Schreiber to kick off NJPAC’s inaugural James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival with our star-studded 10th anniversary gala featuring many of our emerging musicians."
Information on the comprehensive Festival lineup will be announced as part of NJPAC’s 2012-13 season lineup in May.
Born in Savannah, Georgia and raised in Newark, James Moody (1925-2010) began his career with Dizzy Gillespie and went on to develop a distinctive style on both tenor and alto saxophone, an unusually rare accomplishment in jazz. He also played soprano saxophone. In the mid-1950s he became one of the first significant jazz flutists.
A National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and posthumous Grammy winner, Moody joined Gillespie’s big band following a stint in the Air Force. He had his first recording session in 1948 with Blue Note Records and went on to make another two dozen recordings as lead and dozens more as side man with the likes of Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Bobby Timmons, Tubby Hayes, and Roberta Gambarini.
His “Moody’s Mood for Love,” became a hit in 1952 and his signature song. In following years, he rejoined Gillespie’s band and worked for a number of years in the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra backing up artists including Bill Cosby, Elvis Presley, The Liberace Jazztet, and Redd Foxx. His later years were productive, with frequent touring (well into his 80s) and recording and even an acting gig in the 1997 Clint Eastwood film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.