Internationally-known performers and at least one local legend are teaming up for 10 hours of free live music on Saturday as Morristown presents the second-annual Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival.
The weekend celebration begins Friday night with another free event on the Green, the fifth-annual MorristownGreen.com Film Festival. Then starting at noon Saturday, will host five bands that include members with direct ties to Blood, Sweat and Tears, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, Miles Davis, George Harrison and Les Paul, among others.
“ was such a success that we are making this an annual event for the town," Mayor Tim Dougherty said. "I am pleased that we can present a great day of music at no cost to our taxpayers. Thanks to the generous support of many businesses in town, we will present 10 hours of music for the entire family. The entire weekend of music and film is free, a lot of fun and [will be] great for our local businesses.”
Guitar-legend Les Paul’s legacy will be prominently represented in part by the Rusty Paul Band, led by Paul’s son, Rusty, a Mahwah resident whose band has jammed with a virtual "Who’s Who" of Rock Hall of Fame members.
“We played at last year’s show and it was great,” Paul said. “We had never played Morristown before so we didn’t know what to expect, but we had a great time.”
Paul splits his time between his band and as a representative of the Les Paul Foundation, making appearances around the country for the nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about his father, who influenced a century of music with his dazzling guitar and countless inventions, including the first solid-body electric guitar.
In Morristown, the Rusty Paul Band will play its usual blend of jazz, blues and funk along with a tribute to Les Paul, which will include a special appearance by long-time member of the Les Paul Trio, Lou Pallo. The band also includes Steve Lucas on guitar, Jay Dittamo on drums, Frosty Lawson on keyboards, Mark Friedman on horn and Sonja Hensley on vocals.
Another veteran of the trio, bassist Nicki Parrott, will get the tunes going at noon as a member of the all-woman quartet Jazz Chicks, which also features Nicki Parrott on bass, Janice Friedman on keyboard and Barbara Merjan on drums. .
Following the Rusty Paul band at 2 p.m., the music continues at 4 p.m. with Rob Paparozzi and the Hudson River Rats. Singer and harmonica player Paparozzi is coming off seven years as the front man for Blood, Sweat and Tears and also has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, B.B. King, Dr. John and Cyndi Lauper. He also tours with the Original Blues Brothers Band.
“We all do other things with other acts, but the Hudson River Rats are my band,” Paparozzi said. “A lot of us have played together through the years and this band was formed to play the kind of music we love the most, blues, funk and a little jazz mixed in.”
Paparozzi did not play in last year’s inaugural festival, but the Cranford resident said he attended that show and enjoyed cheering on some of his friends as they played the Green stage.
Following Paparozzi will be the Jerry Vezza Quartet with special guest Grover Kemble, one of Morris County’s most popular homegrown musicians. They will be joined by Tom Hamilton on sax, Tom Sayek on drums and Rick Crane on bass.
The festival closes with five-time Grammy nominee Robben Ford and his trio. The guitarist has worked with a wide range of artists including George Harrison, Miles Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, John Mayall, Greg Allman and others.
The mayor said the festival came out of an idea to bring visitors and shoppers into town during the dog days of August. He said the Town Council put its full support behind the initiative and, with the help of many volunteers, last year’s festival was declared a success.
“So we said ‘why not do it again,’” he said. “The two festivals provide a boost for the community at a traditionally slower time for restaurants and retailers and also adds to Morristown’s reputation as an entertainment center for northern New Jersey. People can walk around all day and see what Morristown has to offer. It’s not a huge festival like they have in Newport, but there’s five great acts. And what better way to spend the day than to enjoy some great blues and jazz?”