At the start of his animated series with The Witnesses, Louis prima jr. looked at the sea of ââpeople swaying over Morristown Green and smiled.
âMy God, I missed this for 18 months! He told the crowd on Saturday at the 10th Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival.
That seemed to be the overriding sentiment on a pleasant late-summer day and evening, as five acts heralded the return of the free festival after a one-year hiatus from COVID-19.
Despite a 1.07 transmission rate this indicates that the new coronavirus is spreading in New Jersey and that concerns about groundbreaking infections, festival-goers tired by the pandemic are betting on the safety of outdoor gatherings, with no capacity restrictions statewide since June.
“It’s too good to fail,” said Patricia Brangs, a former Morris County resident who traveled from her retirement home in Shore. Lawn chairs and beach blankets covered much of the two-acre place.
“This is again a taste of normalcy,” said Tony Young, who spent the pandemic doing his sales work from his Rockaway home. “I’m vaccinated, we’re out, I’ve got my social distancing goingâ¦ it’s a beautiful day, a great day for a concert.”
Masks were scarce on Saturday, and social distancing gave way to dancing take center stage.
During virtual municipal assemblies throughout the summer, the mayor Tim Dougherty, the founder of the festival, urged residents to take the Delta variant seriously and to continue to follow safety protocols. His administration has postponed the return to in-person city meetings until October 1, 2021 and pushed the festival back from its traditional niche from late August to late September.
In the seven days leading up to the festival, Morristown reported 23 new cases, including a at Morristown High School; Morris Township has reported 20 new cases.
Yet, throughout the region, life looks like something normal. The children have resumed their usual class schedules. Morristown Mayo Performing Arts Center and Broadway theaters have resumed shows at full capacity – for fans wearing masks with proof of vaccination. MetLife Stadium does not require such proofs or masks; over 74,000 people attended the Giants’ opening earlier this month.
âWe’re about as careful as we can get. But we are still living life and must continue, âsaid Franck Chambers of Madison, who loved to swing dance to music with Carmen Garcia.
“We are too old to wait a few years” for the virus to go away, noted Garcia, who said attending the jazz festival was “like in heaven”.
Pam huelster de Morristown said she wouldn’t feel comfortable at an indoor event yet. But she appreciated being able to keep her distance on Saturdays and put on a mask if she wanted.
âIt’s wonderful to hear live music again. I’m grateful to have this opportunity, âsaid Huelster, who hopes to resume indoor concerts with the Harmonium Choral Society this autumn.
Tess, a retired teacher from Denville who declined to give her last name, was reluctant to attend the festival. She felt better after finding the Atlantic Health mobile vaccination lab stationed at the Green.
âThis is my third Pfizer and I am delighted. I just texted my friends telling them to come over here and do the same, âTess said moments after receiving a booster shot. With a gentle breeze and free music, it added to a wonderful day, she said.
âWe have been deprived for a long time.
Towards the end of the mobile stay, the Atlantic nurse Kelly ramos said 31 injections had been given. Two were the first doses, she said. Most of the rest were third doses.
MEMORIALS: LINDA, MICHAEL AND BUCKY
The festival included tributes to a 94-year-old jazz guitar legend, COVID-19 victim Bucky Pizzarelli, shot at the start of the pandemic.
The Frank Vignola trio, who has supported Pizzarelli at the festival in previous years, performed a set of Pizzarelli’s signature tracks, ending with his favorite, Rose honeysuckle.
âBucky would have said, ‘Start the car,’ Vignola remembers fondly. âIt was his signal that this was the last song. ‘Start the car.’ “
Vignola, guitarist Vinny raniolo and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi invited some guest stars to their tribute set: Violinist Aaron Weinstein; acclaimed jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini, who is 85 years old and is recovering from a recent hospitalization and who needed help getting on and off the stage; and Ed Laub, a former guitar pupil of Pizzarelli in Bergen County who performed regularly with his hero in his later years.
Saturday was bittersweet for Laub.
“I miss him incredibly,” he said of Pizzarelli, who was still looking forward to the Morristown festival.
âHe loved live crowds, he loved looking people in the eye, playing for them and watching them smile. He wanted to share his music with everyone, âLaub said.
The day was also peppered with memories of the festival’s co-promoter. Linda kiger smith and Michel Fabrice of the Morristown Parking Authority. Both died of non-COVID illnesses over the summer.
As head of the Morristown Partnership, Fabrizio played a central role in launching the festival, the co-promoter said. Don Jay Smith.
Dougherty remembered Fabrizio as his fishing buddy, best friend and nigger from his speeches. Fabrice’s widow Lisa attended the festival with family members. a online reader raises funds to help Fabrizio triplets continue their college education.
Linda Smith was in charge of booking artists for the festival. In the 1990s, she and her husband Don helped save the Community Theater, which became the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
Winard Harper and Jeli Posse closed their set on Saturday by dedicating an invigorating cover of Stevie Wonder’s Is not she Lovely to Linda Smith, who died of breast cancer.
Headlining Rob paparozzi gave a moving harmonica interpretation of Black orpheus in his memory.
“I hope she despises me, knowing that I did my best and that she would do without it” Don smith said after his first jazz festival in Morristown without his wife and partner.
Paid for by corporate donations, the annual festival is meant to promote downtown Morristown, according to the mayor, whose unopposed bid for a fourth term garnered positions from Smith on stage between acts on Saturday.
The group Swingadelic kicked off the festivities. Musicians from all groups expressed their joy in performing in the sun after so many months of pandemic darkness.
Taking a short break in a set overflowing with scenic movements (including a moment âLook Ma, no hands!â By the trombonist, balancing the instrument on his mouth), saxophonist Marco palos of Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses was asked how much fun he was having.
“Too much fun!” he apologized.
Harper, a drummer who gave sidewalk jazz concerts for his Jersey City neighbors during the pandemic, said he felt the love of the Morristown audience.
âAnd that’s what it is. People were paying attention, they enjoyed it, âhe said after his set with the Jeli Posse. âWe need it, and they need it. “
Our thanks to Morristown Green contributors Jeff Sovelove and Katharine Boyle for their photographs.
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