The sounds of today’s best live jazz is coming to Central Jersey this September at three outdoor venues, including Flemington’s Historic Court House on Main Street.
Here’s who will hit the stage Friday in Flemington:
Jeff “Tain” Watts
Jeff Watts, the drummer they call “Tain,” spent his formative years with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and his compositional skills now command equal attention.
Jeff initially majored in classical percussion at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, where he was primarily a timpanist, followed by enrollment at the Berklee School of Music. Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble: Black Codes From The Underground, J Mood and Marsalis Standard Time. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989, winning Grammy’s for I Heard You Twice the First Time and Contemporary Jazz.
In the film and television industry Jeff has appeared as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues”. Jeff joined Kenny Garrett’s band after returning to New York in 1995 and continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, McCoy Tyner, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Harry Connick Jr, and Ravi Coltrane.
Along with explosive power, blinding speed and mastery of complex rhythms and time signatures, Watts brings a rare sense of elegance, tried-by-fire composure, and a gritty street funk to his music. His artistic ingenuity expresses itself in his incomparable technique, sweltering sense of swing, and an extraordinary ability to imbue his music with majestic grace and elegant repose. A true jazz innovator, Watts never fails to deliver the percussive magic that has been his trademark since his emergence on the contemporary jazz scene.
Lezlie Harrison is her own personal renaissance. Her constant state of evolution and growth brings with it, gifts for those those paying attention.
As a vocalist both bold and subtle, her vulnerability attends to the fragile matters of our collective human affairs while her optimistic momentum inspires us to rise above any tribulation to rejoice. Be it Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Soul ,The American Song Form, original compositions or any song in ANY form, Ms. Harrison will imbue it her distinctive stamp and make a very personal delivery.
On the planet’s premier Jazz radio station ; WBGO, her voice as a regular curator and presenter reveals the love and pride with which she regards America’s classical music. Hyper-active on the New York and global Jazz scenes, Lezlie is also along with the late Dale Fitzgerald and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, a member of the triumvirate responsible for launching New York’s world renowned JAZZ GALLERY.
Willie Martinez has been a familiar face in New York City’s eclectic music scene for well over twenty years. As well as being one of the most sought after drummers on the Latin Jazz scene today, Willie is also a gifted arranger, composer and vocalist.
He has imparted his unique rhythmic and vocal styling upon groups performing everything from Gothic Funk at the quintessentially New York rock club CBGB’s to Afro Cuban jazz on the grand stage of the prestigious Carnegie Hall. He has performed and recorded with artists as varied as the classic Cuban arranger, composer, and bandleader Chico O’Farrill, to legendary jazz pianist George Cables, to contemporary Pop divas Jewel, Faith Hill, and Brandy.
His performances have been documented on television, video and CD, sharing the stage with a wide variety of artists representing a Who’s Who in the American music industry, including Latin legends Bebo Valdes, Ray Santos, Paquito D’Rivera, and Hilton Ruíz; jazz greats Frank Wess, Danny Mixon, Benny Powell, Calvin Hill, and Arthur Blythe; and pop veterans Leon Pendarvis, Barry Eastmond, Jerry Barnes, and Ira Siegel.
The fun will continue all weekend long – Saturday in New Brunswick and Sunday in Somerville. Learn more here.