By David Schilp
What was once a hot spot for jazz in New Jersey has faded away, but is not dead yet in the city of Newark.
Pete McCullough is a former Rutgers student and a graduate from New Jersey City University with a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music in jazz performance. McCullough currently plays for the band Streetlight Manifesto and spoke about how Jazz influenced him at a young age.
“I remember being a kid and going to a street fair in Newark and my father bought me a John Coltrane record, that is when I started getting interested in jazz.” McCullough said. “I feel jazz is the musicians music and it is a shame that the scene is shrinking in our area.”
Newark was home for many big name acts for jazz singers and musicians like Sarah Vaughn, Wayne Shorter, James Moody, and Woody Shaw. There are still some predominant names in the jazz community coming out of Newark today.
Tyshawn Sorey, who was born in Newark, is a jazz drummer who is a William Patterson University graduate and is currently working on his doctoral in composition at Columbia University. “Tyshawn Sorey is one of the best drummers I’ve heard in along time.” McCullough said. “ I consider him one of the top jazz drummers right now.”
There are still some places to watch live jazz music in Newark. Bethany Baptist Church on West Market Street has live jazz the first Saturday of the month from October throughout June. Newark Museum has jazz music every Thursday from July 10 – Aug. 10. Just down the block from Bethany Baptist Church, Priory Restaurant has Friday Night Jazz.
Newark is also home to WBGO, which is a public radio station that broadcasts out of Newark and plays primarily jazz music to the tri-state area. WBGO also will have artist stream live music from their studio.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center is another venue where both fans and students of jazz music can come to enjoy live shows. Students of jazz can attend NJPAC’s Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens, which is where students can work with and learn from professional musicians. Students also get the opportunity to play at various events.
João Gonçalves, who grew up in Newark and now teaches music in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, plays saxophone with a variety of jazz and soul bands. He reminisced about when he would go out to see live jazz in college.
“We would always go to places like Cecil’s Club and watch live music, but a lot of those places are closing up.” Gonçalves said. “ There are still some good places around here to see good music, so the scene is not totally dead, but it’s not as big as I remember it only fifteen years ago.”
Both McCullough and Gonçalves touched on the fact that even though there are not as many strictly jazz venues in Newark there are still some clubs in the surrounding area. Shanghai Jazz located on Main Street in Madison, New Jersey.
Shanghai Jazz has live music six nights a week and lists itself as being “One of the top 100 Jazz Clubs in the world.” Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, New Jersey has live bands Wednesday through Sunday. Trumpets Jazz Club has been open since 1985 and has displayed a numerous number of known jazz performers.