Two musicians find friendship during quarantine.
The Jazz in the Valley Festival, which commences Aug. 17, has an outstanding lineup of musicians to get Big Apple jazzheads out of their city complacency and on the highway or train to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for the 14th annual festival in Waryas Park.
The music begins at noon on the main stage (ticketed seating) and the pavilion stage, which is free to the public and just outside the pavilion gates. The all-star lineup will include the Message, featuring saxophonists Javon Jackson, Bobby Watson and Gary Bartz, trombonist Steve Turre, pianist George Cables, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and bassist Buster Williams (all alumni of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers), plus drummer Lewis Nash.
Other featured artists include the Kenyatta Beasley Quintet (the trumpeter from New Orleans is an explosive keg of music); Melba Joyce, a world-renowned vocalist and one of Harlem’s singing queens; and the organist Mike Torsone, among others.
This year’s festival will have folks dancing on the lawn with “Salsa Meets Jazz,” featuring Zon Del Barrio, one of the few orchestras expressing the varied genres of Latino music from the African Diaspora and the urban streets of New York (they have a reputation for their rousing salsa music); Chocolate Armenteros, the Cuban trumpeter who brought his Afro-Cuban rhythms to the bands of Eddie and Charlie Palmieri and Machito; and on timbales and percussions, it’s Nicky Marrero, a former member of the Fania All-Stars and with Larry Harlow.
This year’s festival will focus on the message of jazz and its ability to inspire and bring people of all backgrounds together.
“Renowned drummer Art Blakey said, ‘We started the messengers because somebody had to mind the store for jazz. No America, no jazz. It is the only culture that America has brought forth,’’ said Greer Smith, founder of TRANSART & Cultural Services and producer of Jazz in the Valley. “Jazz in the Valley has been carrying the torch and minding the store for the past 14 years, and we look forward to continue sharing the message for many years to come.”
General admission is $45 and $55 at the gate. For the complete schedule, call 845-384-6350 or visit www.jazzinthevalleyny.org. The concert goes on rain or shine.
Jazzmobile continues its 50th anniversary and free Summerfest with the Arturo O’Farrill Quintet Aug. 18 at Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Harbor Lawn at Pier 1. Although O’Farrill isn’t with his orchestra, he may play a few tunes from his latest CD, “The Offense of the Drum” (Motema Music).
Aug. 19, Jazzmobile travels to Queens with drummer Winard Harper and his Jeli Posse in Cambria Heights in Cambell Park, located on Francis Lewis Boulevard at 121th Avenue, between 219th and 220th streets.
Aug. 20, the Jazzmobile can be found at its regular Wednesday location, Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive at 122nd Street. The featured guest will be composer, educator and saxophonist Jimmy Heath with special guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. Percussionist Ray Mantilla celebrates his 80th birthday at the Louis Armstrong House Museum “Jazzmobile Block Party in Corona Queens 34-56 107th Street.
The drummer Jimmy Cobb, who played with everyone from Pearl Bailey to Miles Davis on his legendary album “Kind of Blue,” performs Aug. 22 in Marcus Garvey Park at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a dedication to Dr. Billy Taylor. All shows begin at 7 p.m. For a complete listing, visit www.jazzmobile.org.
Aug. 16 at the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market (116th Street between Lenox and Fifth avenues), “Harlem Awakening 2.0,” an old-school modern jazz experience, will swing with Professor Mujib “Satchmo” Mannan. His vocal style earned him the nickname “Satchmo,” and the group plays for the love and joy of the music. The concert is free and runs 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Johnny O’Neal is one of the most underrated musicians on the jazz scene. The Detroit native has a magic touch on the piano, with a striking tone that runs deep to the soul.
Recently, at his Dizzy’s Coca-Cola two-day run, he immersed the audience in his style of music, which engages like no other. His accompanists included bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Charles Gould. Unlike most trio settings, O’Neal had his drummer and bassist right next to the piano. “This setup is more intimate, it allows me to see and hear the guys better instead of looking to the other side of the room,” says O’Neal.
O’Neal has a repertoire that covers more than 2,000 compositions, from the blues, classical and the American Songbook. For this show, he threw in “I’m Your Mailman,” a song with humor but heavy sexual overtones fused with scat, in addition to the bluesy “Drinking Your Butt Off Again.”
What O’Neal does best is take classics, like his opener “Put On a Happy Face,” and just completely rearrange them into a hip, jazzy tune. “Too Close for Comfort” was a lesson in finger dexterity and hard-swinging rhythms. “Saving All My Love for You” began as a ballad but swung off into an interlude of “Along Came Bud” before returning to the bridge and the sweet ballad.
O’Neal is one of the few musicians who still sings and plays the piano, which is becoming a rarity. Dressed in a black suit and matching fedora, he featured bassist Cannon on “My One and Only Love.” O’Neal just added single notes in all the right places.
His special guest for the evening was singer Stephanie Biddle, who offered a swinging version of “There Will Never Be Another You” and “It Never Entered My Mind.” On his solo, “Goodbye I’ll Never Forget You,” he started with a classical chorus from Chopin and later moved into a medley of “Cry Me a River.” O’Neal’s transitions during his chord changes are seamless. On some of his singing notes, there are trances of Joe Williams.
He moved to New York City to perform with Clark Terry in 1981. He later accompanied Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown and Nancy Wilson. From 1982 to 1983, he was a part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
Let’s just say Johnny O’Neal is an entertainer worth seeing.