Old adage “the show must go on” will be put to the test for 10th anniversary Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival, on historic Morristown Green this Saturday, September 18, 2021.
How many music festivals, after all, have a vaccination tent?
(Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID shots will be available until 4 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, or call ahead at 973-292-6626.)
Last year’s festival was cleaned up; no vaccine was yet available. This has been pushed back a month, with organizers keeping a worried eye on the Delta variant.
New Jersey’s transmission rate on Thursday was 1.05, indicating a slight deviation. But the mayor Tim dougherty, the founder of the festival, believes the outdoor location and New Jersey’s high vaccination rate (72% for 18-65 year olds, according to the Mayo Clinic) auspicious.
âWe hope everyone will be vaccinated before the festival this year,â Dougherty said in a statement last month. âWe are looking forward to a beautiful safe music day. “
“We all need this, to heal our souls, âsaid the headliner Rob Paparozzi, who will lead his group Juke Joint.
âWe want everyone to have fun this Saturday, so we ask people to be careful and diligent in taking ‘social distancing‘ precautions, even if we are outside. Groups work in the public and travel a lot. We all decided to get vaccinated, especially since we are in this ‘senior’ category! said the native of Linden.
He’s performed with revamped versions of Blood Sweat & Tears and The Blues Brothers, and worked or recorded with everyone from BB King to Bruce Springsteen.
Backstage staff will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. Performers will forgo the usual buffet meals and will be encouraged to go out after their sets.
There were other challenges as well. Key members of the festival mayor’s team are gone.
Co-promoter Linda kiger smith and Michel Fabrice, who helped launch the event as CEO of the Morristown Partnership, both died this summer from non-COVID illnesses.
Great jazz guitar Bucky Pizzarelli, an artist at nearly every Morristown Jazz & Blues Fest since 2013, was an early victim of COVID-19.
Smith, Fabrizio and Pizzarelli will all be in the spotlight on Saturday.
Morristown City Attorney Vij pawar, who handled the legal affairs of the festival, left to accept a post of state judge. And Phil Fielding, another longtime festival committee member, has moved to Seattle.
Raising money in the event of a pandemic has also proven difficult. The festival is fully funded by corporate contributions, which are down by about half.
Despite these obstacles, the promoter Don Jay Smith is optimistic.
âI think we did very well. We have a great range. I think musically it’s going to be a great festival, âsaid Smith, a soldier for the first time without his wife, Linda.
Over the course of their decades together, the Smiths have learned about each other’s business roles, just in case one gets sick. No one expected breast cancer. Dealing with Linda’s death was very difficult, Don Smith said.
âShe was certainly very worried about how I was going to manage without her. I think that’s why she held on for as long as she did, âhe said.
‘IT WAS A GENTLEMAN’
The Free Music Day starts at noon with Swingadelic. At 2 p.m. on Frank Vignola Trio pays homage to Bucky Pizzarelli.
âHe was above all a gentleman. A true gentleman, âsaid Vignola, who estimates that he has performed over 500 concerts with Pizzarelli since 1997.
Vignola cherishes memories of their sets together at the Morristown Jazz & Blues Festival. And he’s thrilled to be performing live again, after months of online guitar lessons to pay the bills during the pandemic.
After the tribute to Bucky, Winard Harper and Jeli Posse take over at 4 p.m. Louis Prima Jr. and the witnesses bring their high energy to the 6 pm slot.
At 8 p.m., the stage belongs to Juke Joint by Rob Paparozzi. Paparozzi paid tribute to Woodstock in 2019.
He has lost friends in the music world to COVID-19, including Pizzarelli, with whom he has recorded on occasion. He also has fond memories of Linda Smith, a promoter who “truly understood the needs of the artist and went out of her way to make sure every detail was taken care of before performance time.”
Like many musicians, Paparozzi had to reinvent himself during the pandemic, teaching and recording from home via Zoom, FaceTime and Skype. Investing his raise money in home recording equipment, he completed a project for Joe Bonamassa’s label.
âWe sent all of the proceeds to touring musicians in need,â Paparozzi said.
Besides bringing soulful vocals this weekend, Paparozzi plays a sizzling harmonica.
It promises a dynamic mix of blues and jazz, “with a touch of New Orleans, Stax and Dixieland”. John Korba, George Naha, Sue Williams and Franck Pagano will support it.
They will be joined by a special guest: the saxophonist Lou Marini Blue, fresh off a James Taylor tour. Marini has been a member of the group since Saturday Night Live, and played with Paparozzi for 20 years in the Original Blues Brothers Band.
The music list, full of favorites from previous years, is therefore solid.
And there is another bright spot:
The national meteorological service predicts a perfect late summer day. Look for sun, temperatures around 80 degrees and a hint of breeze.
The 10th Annual Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival takes place from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, September 18, 2021 on Morristown Green. Admission fee. Bring a lawn chair or a beach blanket.