Eclectic music, good cause at 7th annual Concert for Haiti

by JAY LUSTIG
Jen Chapin performs at the Outpost in the Burbs.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL REITMAN

Jen Chapin performs at the Outpost in the Burbs.

Folk, jazz, Cajun and Haitian musicians. A high school a cappella group and a duo whose recording career stretches back to the early ’70s.

The seventh annual Concert for Haiti, which took place Saturday night at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, was primarily a fundraiser, with more than $20,000 raised for four different charities. But it also was one of the most eclectic music events presented in New Jersey in quite a while. Eight acts from very different points on the musical spectrum contributed.

Jen Chapin’s set included her father’s biggest hit, “Cat’s in the Cradle” (which features lyrics written by her mother Sandy, she noted). It was her first time playing the song on guitar, she said. Of course, it added an extra level of poignancy that a song about parents and children was being sung by the original performer’s child, who now has children of her own.

Chapin was backed, as she was throughout her set, by Haitian-American musicians JephtĂ© and Don Guillaume, who live near her in Brooklyn, and play bass and drums, respectively. Other Haitian musicians who performed throughout the evening included Paul Beaubrun’s Zing Experience, whose high energy set, capped by a cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” proved to be the perfect show-opener, and Richard “Earthman” Laurent, whose non-verbal vocalizing — sometimes deep and rumbling, sometimes high and piercing — was stunningly powerful.

Montclair High School a cappella group Passing Notes charmed with its buoyant takes on songs such as Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”And the Jazz House Kids Legacy Orchestra displayed serious chops on material by Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, and accompanied singer Melissa Walker, the Jazz House Kids organization’s co-founder, on the standard, “But Not for Me.”

Singer , with Paul Beaubrun of Zing Experience.

Singer Cynthia Casasola with Paul Beaubrun of Zing Experience.

Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step — a folk duo whose interwoven acoustic guitar parts give it a big, propulsive sound — shared fond memories of working with Harry Chapin in the ’70s. And the event’s organizer, Cindy Stagoff, spoke of working for his hunger hotline when she was in high school. (Full disclosure: Stagoff, who lives in Montclair, is the advertising and marketing director for NJArts.net).

The hunger hotline evolved into WhyHunger, which battles hunger in Haiti and many other places around the globe (Jen Chapin is on the board of directors). WhyHunger was one of the beneficiaries of the concert, along with the Haitian Education and Leadership Program, Edeyo and Lamp for Haiti.

The initial Concert for Haiti was planned in the days immediately after the Port-au-Prince area was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Though the world’s attention has turned elsewhere, the effects of the earthquake are still being felt, and Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

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