Jazz Happening at (and near) the Watchung Arts Center

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New Jersey Jass SocietyNJJS -New Jersey Jazz Society usually has an up-to-date listing of off the Jazz in the area in including Jazz at Watchung Arts Center.

If Tom Roberts didn’t live in Pittsburgh, NJ fans would be out to hear him every month.  Actually, this month you have two opportunities, a rarity that should not be ignored.  He’s appearing with the Roof Garden Jass Band at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown (February 25), and as a band pianist he’s supportive during the ensembles yet brilliant during breaks and solos.  Don’t miss it.

But the real Tom Roberts will be revealed in a solo performance at Watchung on Friday evening, February 22.  He will be performing material made popular by jazz keyboard pioneer Luckey Roberts – no relation, just an inspiration.

Luckey Roberts inspired his contemporaries too, teaching them techniques and licks that often catapulted the students into the public eye while the tutor toiled in relative obscurity.  Largely unknown by the public today, Luckey Roberts was revered by those he mentored.  You will surely recognize their names: Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, Willie “The Lion” Smith, James P. Johnson, Eubie Blake.  Also George Gershwin.

The Luckey Roberts material makes for a compelling piano program, which is what Tom Roberts has put together for this appearance.  Damn the historical relevance.  The music itself is varied and enjoyable.  Just what you’d expect from Luckey’s illustrious students.  Count Tom Roberts among them.  And, at $12 for two sets plus intermission refreshments, a bargain at that.

Steve Barbone played jazz clarinet over the years in NYC, Europe and now in the Philly area.  Places like Nick's, Condon's and even the Village Gate.  His vast jazz repertoire spans the categories of trad, swing and hot dance music.  He's staffed his band with players boasting similar pedigrees. No world famous names, just some dedicated players who know the music, love the music and let it show in their playing.

 The 6-piece Barbone Street Jazz Band will play Watchung for the first time on Friday, March 8, but they're not out of practice.  Steve books over 150 gigs a year for this band -- about one every second day -- and all within driving distance of his Delaware Valley base. 

"Bright, colorful, original and playful style," says one reviewer.  "They were clearly the hit of the day," says another, of a festival appearance.  "Don't leave!  You guys are awesome!" shouted a young convert after a third encore.  See if you agree.

You’ve heard Steve with Tex Wyndham’s band in Watchung and Bridgewater, but the entire Barbone Street aggregation has never ventured into this area as a working unit. 

The award-winning Don Messina Quartet follows on Friday, March 15.  Tenor sax player Jimmy Halperin, introducing his new CD that night, is a National Endowment of the Arts winner.  The basic trio of Messina on bass, Bill Chattin on drums and Larry Bluth on piano has also been recognized by Stereo Review (4 stars), The Boston Globe (one of the best CDs of the year), All-Music Guide (4.5 stars) and the IAJE (outstanding jazz recording).

Their repertoire is varied, running from Cole Porter and George Gershwin classics through adaptations of Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano compositions.  Even some originals.  They're spontaneous, so you never know where they may take you, but they "strive to create beautiful music... that swings."

John Bunch has been at Watchung many times, but never as a soloist.  That omission will be corrected when, on Friday evening, April 19, it's just John and the Altenburg grand.  And you.  His is a complex and sophisticated approach to jazz piano, best appreciated in a quiet room with crisp acoustics.  Watchung is just the place, and you're assured a seat close to the piano.

Watchung encourages you to call ahead to reserve seats, paying for the tickets at the door.  All the above events are priced at just $12, and include complimentary intermission refreshments.

Call (908) 753-0190 to reserve, with the 1 to 4 PM office hours best.  Leave a message on the voice mail at other times.

The Watchung Arts Center is on the Watchung Circle, just a mile from exit 40 on Interstate 78, or Route 22 (Plainfield overpass) in the other direction.  A home to jazz for over a dozen years, they sport a newly paved parking lot, a new path to their front deck, and a chairlift in the rear for those in need.

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Watchung Arts Center
18 Stirling Road on the Circle in Watchung, NJ 07069
(908) 753-0190
Central New Jersey's Home for the Arts

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Sumware.com can develop a web site for youThis Page created and maintained by Maureen Greenbaum of Sumware in NJ
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Last Updated 06/03/03