**Complimentary May Jersey Jazz Content** This is one of two articles from the May 2022 issue of Jersey Jazz Magazine being made available to everyone. For complete access to all articles in our award-winning Jersey Jazz magazine, please join the New Jersey Jazz Society by clicking HERE.
Chicken Fat Ball Returns
After nearly an 18-month absence, due to Covid, the Chicken Fat Ball returns to The Woodland in Maplewood, NJ, on May 30, with a lineup of outstanding swing musicians. This year’s seven crowd-pleasing stars: Warren Vache, cornet (photo above); John Allred, trombone; Ken Peplowski, clarinet and tenor sax; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Rossano Sportiello (photo below), piano; Gary Mazzaroppi, bass; and Paul Wells, drums.
It may be just an apt poetic coincidence, but this year — as opposed to past events, held in cold and dark winter — it comes in the glorious height of warm and bright spring. Perhaps, if the weather permits, doors and windows may be open. Other factors are the same: The Woodland is handicapped-accessible, with a large stage for good line of sight and good acoustics; parking is on the street or in the small free lot in back of the building. The doors will open at noon, and the music starts at 1 p.m. As in the past, there will be table seating. Patrons should bring their own food and drinks.
A few tables will be reserved. One will be for the New Jersey Jazz Society; the other will offer whatever merchandise the musicians chose to bring. As in the past, there should be ample opportunity to get a purchase autographed by the artist.
As for the program, Vache was succinct. “It’s a jazz gig,” he said. “We will make it up when we get there.” Sportiello, fresh off a successful tour of both the United States and Europe, expects that, as in the past, “The band is not going to play all together all the time, because you need a little variety. People love to see the features and things breaking up a little bit: a piano solo here, saxophone feature there, things like that. It’s going to be fun.”
Allen agreed. “Every time I’ve done it,” he said, “it has been really, really fun, and I’m so glad it is happening. It is a great lineup.” Sportiello concurred, “People like Donald Greenfield, Al Kuehn, and of course, my fellow musicians, they are wonderful friends. I literally can’t wait to be there to play with my colleagues and to play for my New Jersey audience that over the years has shown me so much love. I can’t wait to give it back.” Vache added that, “We need things like the Chicken Fat Ball to help get things rolling again.”
While, hopefully, the pandemic will be far less of a health threat by the day of the gig, proof of vaccination and ID will be required to get in. Also, capacity is only about 200 people, and it has always sold out. –SCHAEN FOX
To order tickets, which are $35, mail a check payable to Al Kuehn with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope to: Al Kuehn, 12 Lenox Place, Maplewood, NJ 07040. For more information, call (973) 763-7955. Be sure to include your name, address, email address, phone number, and number of tickets requested.
ROSSANO SPORTIELLO PHOTO BY RENATA ZACCHIA