“As long as you make the audience feel like they’re a part of your journey, you can play any kind of music you want.” That’s what Christian McBride, artistic director of New Jersey’s biggest annual jazz event, the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, said he learned from Moody and other jazz artists of Moody’s generation.
The third annual Moody festival, which takes place Nov. 9-16, is, as usual, an eclectic affair. One of its biggest concerts is by Chris Botti, a trumpeter whose work has a strong pop element. Another one, titled “Jazz and Soul,” seeks to explore the common ground between those two genres.
While most of the concerts take place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, there also some shows at other Newark venues, including a screening of the movie, “Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Case of the Three-Sided Dream,” Nov. 11, at Bethany Baptist Church; a noontime performance at the Gateway Center by Marcus Miller on Nov. 12; and a performance by the husband-and-wife team, pianist Steve Colson and singer Iqua Colson, at the Newark Museum on Nov. 12. A family-oriented Day of Swing takes place at NJPAC’s Center for Arts Education on Nov. 15.
There will also be two post-Nov. 16 concerts at NJPAC: one by bassist McBride, banjoist Bela Fleck and the Brookyn Rider string quartet on Nov. 22, and one by one of the jazz world’s most formidable trios — pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette — on Nov. 30.
At the bottom of this page is the festival’s schedule. But first, an e-mail Q&A with McBride, who lives in Montclair but is touring this week in Europe.
Q: What was the thinking behind putting together this particular combination of musicians for the “Jazz and Soul” show: Fantasia, Philip Bailey, José James, Jazzmeia Horn.
A: After last year’s “Jazz and Soul” concert, all of us at NJPAC collectively decided that the concept was a keeper. Most classic soul singers all have not only a gospel sensibility, but also a jazz sensibility. Certainly, Earth, Wind and Fire’s jazz-rock-funk-free hybrid sound is legendary due in large part not only to its founder, Maurice White, but also the voice of Philip Bailey. Fantasia, of course, was a featured vocalist in the Broadway show “After Midnight,” so it’s been proven that she can handle jazz repertoire. José James is one of the most talented vocalists around. I’ve worked with him before and I’m just a huge fan. If you heard him sing with McCoy Tyner, you’ll know this man REALLY knows how to sing jazz. Jazzmeia first turned heads in Newark at the 2012 Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition, where she was the winner of the “Rising Star” award. Everyone knew that the accolade was literal. Her official win at the competition last year surprised no one.
Q: Your big band is part of that show, too. In terms of preparation for a show like this, does it take a lot of planning and rehearsals, or is that done pretty quickly in the day or two before the show?
A: Well certainly, it takes me a lot of preparation as I have to arrange the music for the band. I speak with all of the vocalists many weeks before and find out what they want to sing, then I get to work. As far as rehearsing, we do it with all of the vocalists on the day of the show. Not unusual for concerts of this nature.
Q: Of the other shows, what are you most looking forward to, and why?
A: I’m very much looking forward to playing with Bela Fleck for the first time. We’ve been friends for many years, but have never played together. It will be an even greater pleasure to play with him and Brooklyn Rider together. I’m glad our maiden voyage will take place at NJPAC.
Q: How has the festival evolved in its first few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
A: Our goal is to simply present great artists in both expected and sometimes unexpected, artistically challenging settings. As long as we continue to do that, evolution takes its natural course with the artists themselves and our creative thinking in presenting those artists.
Q: What’s the most important thing you learned about music from James Moody?
A: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend a large amount of time with Mr. Moody, but what I learned from him, and most artists of his generation, is that you’re never diluting your artistic merit by being a showman and always keeping the audience in mind. As long as you make the audience feel like they’re a part of your journey, you can play any kind of music you want.
Here is a complete list of TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival offerings (as noted, six of the events are free):
Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.: Brick City Jazz Orchestra at Dorthaan’s Place, buffet brunch at NJPAC’s NICO Kitchen + Bar.
Nov. 10, 7: 30 p.m.: Ray Mantilla at Behany Baptist Church. Free.
Nov. 11: 7 p.m. Movie screening and discussion about “Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Case of the Three-Sided Dream,” at Bethany Baptist Church. Free.
Nov. 12, noon: Marcus Miller & Wave Music at Gateway Center. Free.
Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.: Steve & Iqua Colson: 40 Years in the Moment, at Newark Museum. Free.
Nov. 13, 8 p.m.: Jazz and Soul: Fantasia, Philip Bailey, José James, Jazzmeia Horn and The Christian McBride Big Band, at NJPAC’s Prudential Hall.
Nov. 14, 7 p.m.: All-State Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Choir at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.
Nov. 14, 8 p.m.: Chris Botti at NJPAC’s Prudential Hall.
Nov. 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: NJPAC Day of Swing at NJPAC Center for Arts Education. Jazz exploration and learning for children and families. Free.
Nov. 15, 2 p.m.: “Jazz City: Newark’s Jazz Legacy” panel discussion, at Rutgers-Newark’s Dana Library, 185 University Ave. Free.
Nov. 15: 5 and 8 p.m.: Michael Franks with Raul Midón, at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.
Nov. 16, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.: Vanessa Rubin Trio at Dorthaan’s Place buffet brunch at NJPAC’s NICO Kitchen + Bar.
Nov. 16, 3 p.m.: Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.
Nov. 22, 8 p.m.: All Strings Attached: Béla Fleck, Christian McBride and the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.
Nov. 30, 8 p.m.: Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette at NJPAC’s Prudential Hall.
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