Jazz in June Returns to McCarter

May 30, 2022

**Complimentary June Jersey Jazz Content** This is one of two articles from the June 2022 issue of Jersey Jazz Magazine being made available to everyone. For complete access to all articles in our award-winning Jersey Jazz magazineplease join the New Jersey Jazz Society by clicking HERE.

Jazz in June, the McCarter Theater’s yearly jazz fest, was launched in 2018, but is having only its third season in 2022, due to the pandemic.

Bill Lockwood, McCarter’s Director of Special Programming, is a Princeton native. He first became involved with the theater in the 1950s, beginning his career there by booking Erroll Garner. He has also been associated with Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, and New York’s Lincoln Center.

Lockwood’s focus, though, has overwhelmingly been at McCarter, and Jazz in June is one of his final events, as he is retiring. “I have been doing the programming at McCarter for 60 years, including all the jazz,” he told me. “So, I have a pretty good idea of what I want, and what works. I try to keep some relevance as to what’s happening in the jazz world, but it’s totally my decision. I mean, everybody, managers and agents all have suggestions, but in the end, I figure it out.

“It’s only six concerts, and they’re in our smaller venue, which serves as our “jazz club.” Our audience will be lucky to hear Josh Redman (saxophone) with Larry Grenadier (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums) in a venue as small as the Berlind Theater. He’s been here several times before in various combinations, but always in our big hall. So, we’re fortunate because he doesn’t play in a lot of jazz clubs outside of the major ones in New York. So, we start off with him.”

“Christian Sands is one of my favorite pianists. He was in our first Jazz in June festival, and he’s played with everybody. Understandably so because they all want him. He’s soulful, melodic, and he plays it all. He is the artist in residence for the Monterey Jazz Festival. His CD, Be Water (Mack Avenue: 2020), which I listened to a lot, won a Grammy nomination. Marvin Sewell, the guitarist, is going to be with him.”

Pianist Helen Sung told me that for her McCarter debut she is bringing saxophonist/flutist John Ellis, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Kush Abadey and Sara Caswell as guest violinist. They will be performing the music from her latest album Quartet+(Sunnyside: 2021), she said, pointing out that, “These musicians have a broad stylistic range that is a perfect fit for the music of Quartet+, with its blending of jazz and classical (and more). While they will not have the double quartet format that is on the CD, just having Sara Caswell enables us to stretch the music in different ways, and she has been a joy to work with.”

Jazzmeia Horn is also making her first McCarter appearance. Her album, A Social Call (Whirlwind: 2021) was, Lockwood pointed out, “her Grammy Award nominee. In terms of singers, she covers the waterfront from Ella to Billie Holiday to Abby Lincoln. At any point, she can sound like any one of those. Actually, she writes her own songs, as well as does a lot of covers, of course. She scats beautifully, which is why she reminds you of Ella, and she’s a great lyricist. There are few singers who have made the impact she has. She’s not exactly someone still playing clubs. She has made major gigs now, and we were so lucky to get her.”

Bill Charlap told me what to expect in his program with Dee Dee Bridgewater, “We’ve been playing various concerts for the last couple of years, although, of course, the needle came off the record for about a year and a half. Now we’ve been able to create some continuum and develop more of our duet, which already had wonderful chemistry from the start. We bring things out of each other, and we understand each other very well.

“Dee Dee has a mixture of so many things,” he continued. “She’s a great vocalist, a great singer, a great theatrical performer, with a real pedigree; she’s a Tony Award winning actor and an NEA Jazz Master. She represents the highest standard of excellence. At her core, she is a jazz musician, otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing this in the way that we are. It’s all about the music first.”

“So, there’s interaction, and there are solos. It’s more of a musical partnership than vocals with accompaniment. Of course, I am accompanying, but also, she’s accompanying me. She might be doing something rhythmic that is creating a basis for a solo that I might be playing. She’ll be like a drum, or something; she has all kinds of things that she can do. She’s marvelous.”  

Closing the festival is drummer Tyshawn Sorey , leading a sextet with alto saxophonist Nathan Reising, tenor saxophonist Morgan Guerin, pianist Lex Korten, vibraphonist Sasha Berliner, and bassist Nick Dunston. According to Lockwood, “There is nobody more prominent right now in the music world not just as a jazz artist, but as a composer, a historian, a creator of projects. He is really a Renaissance person. He does everything. He’s won a McArthur Genius grant.

“He’s a drummer basically but he’s so much more than that. He’s a shapeshifter. He explores some limits between classical music and jazz. He’s an incredible musician. We’re lucky to have him.. He is not part of traditional jazz and the Great American Songbook. That’s not what he’s about. He’s on the cutting edge. And he puts it all together.” –SCHAEN FOX


For more information and tickets, go to https://www.mccarter.org/tickets-events/2022-jazz-in-june/.

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