Rob Paparozzi’s last appearance at the Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival, in 2019, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and so he and his Juke Joint band concentrated on songs by artists who played at the festival, and welcomed a guest artist who had performed at Woodstock itself in 1969 (Steve Katz, an original member of Blood, Sweat & Tears).
They will have a different approach this year when they headline the free, outdoor festival, which takes place annually on the Morristown Green. They’ll perform at 8 p.m., preceded by Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses at 6 p.m., Winard Harper and Jeli Posse at 4 p.m., The Frank Vignola Trio at 2 p.m., and Swingadelic at noon.
And they’ll have a different guest: Saxophonist “Blue Lou” Marini, who is best known as a member of The Blues Brothers and the “Saturday Night Live” band, but who also has played with everyone from Aerosmith to Frank Zappa in the course of his career, and toured this summer as a member of James Taylor’s band.
“It’ll be a mixture of blues, jazz, soul, maybe even some Dixieland,” said Paparozzi. “Since it’s a blues and jazz festival, I can dig a little deeper than I normally would have to, and we can give you a good mixture of stuff.”
He’ll sing and play harmonica. Joining him, in addition to Marini, will be pianist and singer John Korba, guitarist George Naha, bassist Sue Williams and drummer Frank Pagano. “They all have quite a great history and resume, you know, and will be bringing their best to the stage,” says Paparozzi.
Paparozzi’s own resume includes membership in The Blues Brothers and Blood, Sweat & Tears; session work for Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Cyndi Lauper and countless others; and work on Broadway in “Big River” and “The Will Rogers Follies.” Before using the Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint band name, he led a local group called The Hudson River Rats.
Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint doesn’t have a set lineup. He sees it as “a way of putting together all different configurations of what I do, from three pieces up to 10 pieces, if people want it — whatever the call is. But the roots are always there: that Americana, bluesy, jazzy kind of thing.
“It should be good (in Morristown). I’ll be gearing it a little bit to the outdoor thing and the singalong thing. Songs people know. We’ll probably end up doing some nods to The Blues Brothers, since Blue Lou has been my boss with them for the past 20 years, out on the road.” (Marini is The Blues Brothers’ current leader in addition to playing saxophone for them.)
The Blues Brothers are currently inactive, due largely to the pandemic. And while Paparozzi is less busy than usual, in terms of concert appearances, he still has some scattered dates: He’ll play with his quartet at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, for instance, on Oct. 2; and will co-lead, with Pat Guadagno, a tribute to Van Morrison at The Vogel at The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, on Nov. 20.
Like many other musicians, he has managed to stay busy over the last year and a half, even without frequent gigs.
“During the whole pandemic, I’ve been able to work from home,” he said. “I gave harmonica lessons to Willie Nelson’s harmonica player and Sting’s harmonica player. These are guys that were grounded and finally had time to do stuff they always wanted to do, so they called me up and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do something.’ So I gave a lot of lessons from home.
“Jimmy Vivino called me from from Las Vegas … we started this thing called The Blues Quarantinos. You know, the bass player’s up in Boston, and Jimmy’s out in L.A and Joe Bonamassa released it as a record (titled Phoning It In), and we’re taking all the proceeds — it’s on (Bonamassa’s) Keeping the Blues Alive label — and they’ll go to touring musicians that really got hurt during last year. So projects like that.
“And I learned how to press the record button from home. People are sending me tracks.
“We all had to do that. We had to reinvent ourselves.”
Paparozzi grew up in Linden and currently lives in Mendham, and has performed at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival several times before.
“It’s real special for me because my first performance in a venue when I was 17 years old was in Morristown at a club called The Thirsty Ear,” he said. “It was a coffeehouse — they didn’t serve liquor — so I could play there. And it’s right down the road from the Green. So for me, it’s real special coming back to Morristown after 50-plus years and being able to bring my band, now, outside and just play.”
He said he’s never seen Louis Prima Jr. & the Witness — who play the music of Prima’s father as well as other high-energy material — “but I’ve heard it’s a great show, so I’m gonna get there early enough so I can hear them.”
Guitarist Vignola’s trio, also featuring Vinny Raniolo on guitar and Martin Pizzarelli on bass, will include, in their set, a tribute to Pizzarelli’s father, the late Bucky Pizzarelli — who played at the festival annually for many years with Vignola trio members.
“I’ve met them over there in these past festivals, and they’re all great players,” said Paparozzi. “And Swingadelic is Dave Post’s band. Dave’s an old friend.” (Back in the ’70s, they used to play together in a group called The Psychotic Blues Band, Paparozzi said.)
“It’ll be great seeing all these old friends and and blues and jazz musicians from Jersey, coming together to bring everybody outside for a celebration, which is long-needed.”
For information about the festival, visit morristownjazzandblues.com.
For more about Paparozzi, visit robpaparozzi.com.
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