James Austin, Jr. at Grunin Center

May 13, 2024

When pianist James Austin, Jr. released his 2018 album, Songs in the Key of Wonder, jazz interpretations of music by Stevie Wonder, AllAboutJazz‘s Geannine Reid pointed out that,  “Others have covered Wonder’s tunes on numerous occasions and for good reason, but Austin’s arrangements focus deeply on the colorizations and appealing flavor of Wonder’s mainstay hits.”

On Sunday, May 19, in Toms River, NJ, at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts’ Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series, Austin (photo above) will bring a quartet that includes two of the musicians who were on that album with him — saxophonist Jarrard Harris and bassist Ben Rubens. They will be joined by drummer Kayvon Gordon for a concert that will combine several selections from Songs in the Key of Wonder with jazz classics and standards from the Great American Songbook. Austin’s concerts at venues throughout the Tri-State area are known for their versatility, often featuring tunes such as Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma”, and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan”.

Originally from Chicago, Austin, a resident of Cliffside Park, NJ, studied under legendary jazz pianist Barry Harris. He curates and leads the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Jazz Jam series and has served as the Musical Director for vocalist Alexis Morrast. Austin is a former semifinalist in the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Piano competition and served as pianist and arranger for two concerts at Carnegie Hall led by Ray Chew, Music Director of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Jarrard Harris studied jazz at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and at DePaul University. He is currently on the jazz faculty of Northwestern University and serves as the Director of Jazz Studies with the Chicago Public Schools Advanced Arts Education Program. Harris was a founding Board member of the Jazz Education Network and is a current Board member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

Rubens studied bass under Harvie S and the late Bob Cranshaw and often accompanies the legendary vocalist Sheila Jordan. He has performed at the Kennedy Center and at the Detroit, Nice, and Brussels jazz festivals. Gordon was a protege of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and has performed with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and pianist/vocalist Johnny O’Neal, among others.

The New Jersey Jazz Society is a proud supporter of the JOSA series, which is made possible, in part, by the Wintrode Family Foundation. The Grunin Center is located on College Drive on the campus of Ocean County Community College. The concert begins at 3 p.m., and tickets can be ordered at the box office, by logging onto grunincenter.org, or by calling (732) 255-0500.



eBlast Subscribe

Subscribe to the eBlast from New Jersey Jazz Society to receive important updates and content straight to your inbox.