Newark is getting its first major jazz festival in 15 years starting Monday with the TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival, which will run from Oct. 15-21. President and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) John Schreiber and President and CEO of radio station WBGO Cephas Bowles, who have helped organize the event, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider about the upcoming festival and what it means for the city.
The festival’s namesake was a major player in the jazz world. “James Moody was a real hero of jazz. He was a great saxophone player, he was a composer, he was a leader, but mostly he was a great human being,” Schreiber explained. “Moody was the kind of guy that when you met him he would kiss you on both cheeks and give you a big hug immediately so he was a terrific human being.”
Bowles added that Moody was from Newark, “someone who was a hero and helped to elevate the jazz art form and to showcase Newark.”
Newark used to have a jazz festival, but it phased itself out, according to Bowles. “The stars didn’t align themselves correctly until one John Schreiber was brought into the New Jersey Performing Arts Center,” he said. “I give him credit for helping to resurrect this festival.”
Schreiber said he has known Bowles for 20 years and when he came to NJPAC he told Bowles Newark needed a jazz festival that showcased music like WBGO.
The festival is meant to highlight jazz music and musicians. “What John and NJPAC as well as WBGO are trying to do is make people aware that this is a wonderful art form founded here in the United States and celebrated in Newark for everyone,” Bowles said.
In addition to showcasing jazz, the festival will also highlight Newark. “We want to get people in the habit of coming downtown to Newark, going to the Newark Museum, coming to the arts center, going to the Rock and all the great institutions that are in the city,” Schreiber said.
The festival includes free concerts that start Monday at Bethany Baptist Church. For more information, visit the festival website.