Music producing organizations in five Middlesex County towns, each with a distinct reputation for presenting live jazz, are working together to form the Middlesex County Jazz Festival, with free performances in each town scheduled for September 28 through October 1 2023.
The organizations include Edison’s Mayor & Council, Perth Amboy Artworks, New Brunswick Jazz Project, Woodbridge Arts and the Metuchen Arts Council & Friends of Metuchen Arts. The close ties between the leaders of these organizations inspired the idea of a Middlesex County centered jazz festival.
New Brunswick has developed into a jazz hub in New Jersey thanks to the efforts of Michael Tublin, Jimmy Lenihan and Virginia DeBerry, cofounders of New Brunswick Jazz Project which has produced jazz events in New Brunswick twice a week for the past 14 years. Their original idea was to “create a space for grownups in this college town”, as Virginia DeBerry likes to say. In the process, they have been instilling an appreciation of jazz in audiences of all ages.
Lynne Mueller, who heads the team producing Metuchen Jazz events for several years already, says “we certainly have the audience for it as the number of people attending events is rapidly growing.”
Enter Woodbridge Arts, whose music program director William Brandenburg has, over the years, created a summer-long free concert series in several indoor and outdoor Woodbridge venues. Brandenburg said, “With the development of our audiences for our summer stages, the idea of coordinated programing, marketing and access to artists with our neighboring jazz producers made so much sense.”
Perth Amboy Artworks head Caroline Pozycki Torres has for years utilized Perth Amboy’s historic Ferry Slip as a unique backdrop for summer concerts featuring a variety of music, not least of which has been Jazz. Caroline said, “Pooling our resources with the other towns in the Middlesex County Jazz Festival makes sense on so many levels. We welcome the opportunity to showcase Perth Amboy’s vibrant arts and history scene to what will be a wider audience.”
Given Edison’s strong high school jazz program, an invitation was extended to Councilwoman Joyce Ship-Freeman for Edison to join the festival. “Having made a promise to my constituents to bring more live jazz programing to our community, I was more than happy to get behind the effort for Edison to join the Middlesex County Jazz Festival,” said Councilwoman Ship-Freeman.
The Middlesex County Jazz Festival kicks off on Thursday, September 28th at Edison’s Papaianni Park located off Route 27 at 100 Municipal Blvd, Edison. The J.P. Stevens High School Jazz Ensemble will kick off the first evening of the Festival at 6:00 p.m., followed by the band Delegation at 6:30 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., the evening’s headliner Victor Quezada and his Latin Jazz Band will perform.
On Friday, September 29th, Perth Amboy Artworks presents a double bill featuring Julian Meyers Koncept at 7:00 p.m followed by Afro Peruvian jazz band Forbidden Tropics at 8:00 p.m. The Perth Amboy concert will be held at the historic Ferry Slip located at 300 Front Street along the Raritan Bay.
On Saturday, September 30, the Festival continues in New Brunswick at 1:00 p.m. on the street in front of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center at 11 Livingston Avenue with the New Brunswick Jazz Project Brass, followed by Conrad Herwig Latin Side at 2:45. Then at 4:30 PM the headliner Nat Adderley Jr. takes the stage.
At 6:00 p.m. the Festival moves to Metuchen with a line-up that features performances by The Jill Justin Dance Alliance; Metuchen High School Jazz Ensemble with Band Director John Messenger at 6:30 p.m.; Molly Ryan and Manhattan Premier at 7:00 p.m. and, the principal performer of the evening, Cyrus Chestnut Quartet at 8:00 p.m. The performances take place on the Metuchen Town Plaza located at the corner of New and Pearl Streets in downtown Metuchen.
On Sunday, October 1 the Festival finishes in grand style on Sunday, October 1 at 3:00 p.m. on the Summer Stage at Parker Press Park located at 400 Rahway Avenue in downtown Woodbridge. The Woodbridge High School Jazz Choir will open the event, followed by The Edmar Castaneda Quartet at 3:45 p.m. At 5:15 p.m., a much-anticipated performance by the Alicia Olatula Quintet closes out the festival.
All Middlesex County Jazz Festival concerts are free and accessible. For concert details and up-to-date announcements visit MiddlesexCountyJazzFestival.org.
Grant funding for this project has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.