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This article by Richard Skelly was published in U.S. on September 22, 1999. All
Music Festival Weekend
Fans of jazz, blues and roots music will find plenty
to sink their teeth into this weekend, between Princeton’s JazzFeast,
a food and jazz festival in the heart of downtown Princeton, a
Weekend" that is also a sesquicentennial celebration for
and a Riverfest Celebration at Trenton’s Waterfront Park.
Among the performers this weekend are Etta Jones, a Bronx resident
who sings blues-based jazz tunes with saxophonist Houston Person.
Jones performs at Princeton’s JazzFeast on Saturday, September 25.
Meanwhile, one of her vocal inspirations, jazz balladeer Jimmy Scott,
sings at 7 and 10 p.m. at the Solebury High School Theater, Route
179 in New Hope. Scott, who was recently featured on the Bravo
"Profiles" program, has been enjoying a career renaissance
since 1991, when he was signed to a multi-album deal with Sire/Warner
Bros. Records by Seymour Stein, the same record executive who brought
us the Ramones, Madonna, and Blondie in the late 1970s, lower
Scott, who was based in East Orange until 1996, now makes his home
in his native Cleveland, Ohio. His latest recording, "Holding
Back The Years" on the Artists Only label, has broadened his fan
base in England and the rest of Europe, as he covers pop tunes not
normally associated with a 74-year-old singer of jazz ballads, tunes
by Elton John, Simply Red, and other songs made famous by British
pop musicians. But appropriately, Scott’s recent album ends with a
blues, a tune made famous by Jimmy Rushing, "Mr. Five by
in the late 1940s, "Don’t Cry, Baby."
Scott performs two sets at the high school in New Hope on Saturday,
Saturday, September 25, at 7 and 10 p.m. Friday night, Lionel Hampton
and his orchestra will perform at 7 and 10 p.m. and the "Jazz
Weekend" concludes on Sunday with one show by Maynard Ferguson
and his Big Bop Nouveau Band and the Trudy Pitts Trio. Tickets to
Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Scott or the Maynard Ferguson/Trudy Pitts shows
are $25, $35, and $45, and are available by calling the Lambertville
Chamber of Commerce at 609-397-0055.
Musicians performing at the Fourth Annual Riverfest Music and BBQ
Festival at Trenton’s Waterfront Park, this Friday, Saturday, and
Sunday will include the Betty’s, Jeremy Tobak, Sixpence, None The
Richer, and the New Orleans-based roots rock, swampadelic specialists,
Better Than Ezra. Saturday’s lineup includes the Paul Plumeri Blues
Band, the Ivan Neville Band and Little Feat, who will close the
with a set at 9:30 p.m. Sunday’s lineup at the Riverfest will include
Carnaby Street, and some reconstituted versions of the classic rock
groups the Platters, the Beach Boys, and the Marvelettes. Tickets
to Saturday or Sunday’s festival are $10.
You can call Etta Jones a great female jazz and blues vocalist, but
please don’t call her a star.
"I don’t like that word, `star,’" Jones says. "Buddy
was a kind and gentle man, and that’s what makes a `star.’" The
singer recalls the piano playing bandleader who gave her her first
big break in 1944. Jones, born in Aiken, South Carolina, but raised
in Harlem, was singing at an amateur hour at the Apollo Theater in
Harlem when Johnson first heard her. "Two days later, I was on
the road with Buddy Johnson and his big band," she recalls. She
was just 16.
Many years later, in 1981, Jones won a Grammy nomination
for her album on Muse Records that features a Johnson composition,
"Save Your Love For Me." Through the years, Jones has recorded
for the RCA Victor, King, Prestige, and Black and White labels. She
has recorded for Muse Records since the 1970s, and her extensive
includes more than 40 albums and a dozen or so singles.
"I sing standards," she says, "and my favorite songwriter
has always been Sammy Cahn. If the audience knows anything by Sammy
Cahn, they’ll know the kinds of songs I sing."
Jazz lovers can hear Jones sing the songs of Cahn and others with
saxophonist Houston Person and his band Saturday afternoon at the
Princeton JazzFeast. Person and Jones will perform two sets at
and if you think you’re more of a blues fan than a jazz fan, you will
like what Jones and Person will perform, since it always includes
Asked about her first inklings of wanting to become a vocalist, Jones
says it was not even a conscious decision. Rather, it was something
she’s always done.
"I used to sing all the time as a child. From the time I was three
or four, around the house, I was always singing. My career started
when I went to sing at the amateur shows at the Apollo," she
stayed almost a year with Johnson’s band, until 1945.
"His sister was having a baby at the time, and in those days,
it was a no-no singing pregnant on stage. After I got off the road
with Buddy, I sang at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street and stayed there
for a month. Then I went off on the road with different bands: J.C.
Heard, Art Blakey, Earl `Fatha’ Hines, and others."
Asked about influences on her singing style, Jones says Scott had
an impact on her, but Billie Holiday left a huge impression on her.
"I never got to know her all that well, but our paths crossed
from time to time. Any time she was singing somewhere, I’d go and
see her. Another person that meant a lot to me was Thelma Carpenter.
She was with Count Basie’s band for a while," she recalls.
"I think Billie just changed the whole concept of singing. She
turned it all around, in terms of her phrasing, her timing and her
melody. There’s something she did with the melody that was real
It suited her perfectly and it’s real obvious with her early
but even at the end of her life, she was still great," she says.
Jones depends heavily on her saxophone playing partner, Houston
In fact, she thinks the world of him. "We’ll probably be together
for the rest of our lives," she says. "He’s my best friend
and we work so well together. You know the old saying, `if it ain’t
broke, don’t fix it.’ He writes a lot of our stuff, and he arranges,
he produces, and he manages."
"’Bout the only thing I have to do is open my mouth," she
— Richard J. Skelly
lineup includes Alan Dale and the New Legacy Jazz Band at noon;
Person and Etta Jones at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m.; the Warren Chiasson Group
at 2:30 p.m Sunday lineup includes Alan Dale at noon; Tony Tedesco
and Doris Spears at 1:15 p.m.; Bucky Pizzarelli at 2:30 p.m.; and
Claudio Roditi Group at 3:45 p.m. Admission free, with food and
for purchase. Saturday and Sunday, September 25 and 26, noon to
School, Route 179, New Hope, 609-397-0055. Lineup includes Lionel
Hampton Friday, Jimmy Scott, Saturday and Maynard Ferguson and Trudy
Pitts Trio, Sunday.
annual festival of music, food, and family fun that features six
teams competing for best BBQ. No admission charge before 3 p.m. Friday
when entertainment begins at 5:30 p.m. with The Betty’s, followed
by Jeremy Tobak, Sixpence None the Richer, and Better Than Ezra. $10
adults; $7 children. Www.trentonthunder.com.
Friday, September 24, 11 a.m. to midnight.
Valhalla Taxi and no admission charge before 2 p.m. Evening
begins at 6 p.m. with the Paul Plumeri Blues Band, followed by the
Ivan Neville Band, and Little Feat at 9:30 p.m. $10 adult; $7 child.
Saturday, September 25, noon to midnight.
Platters at 3:30 p.m.; followed by the Marvelettes at 4.30 p.m.; and
the Beach Boys at 6:30 p.m. $10 adults; $7 children. Sunday,
26, noon to 8 p.m. Free shuttle runs from the Trent House and Labor
& Industry Building parking lots off Market Street beginning at 2
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