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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the February 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Telling Stories at Grounds
In recent years, the desolate abandoned site of the
New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton has gradually been transformed
beyond recognition into the widely celebrated Grounds for Sculpture.
The 35-acre art park, the brainchild of J. Seward Johnson Jr., now
sports two indoor museum facilities, a bijou office, studio, and visiting
artist complex, and the highly regarded Rat’s restaurant. Now Grounds
is emulating its fairground roots by expanding the number and variety
of arts and family programs designed to draw people back to the park.
For Valentine’s Day, Grounds for Sculpture hosts the second concert
in its new Saturday night music series, co-sponsored by Concerts at
the Crossing. Scott Cullen, the entrepreneur behind the folk series
at the Washington Crossing Unitarian Church, programs the series,
which made its debut in January with a sold-out appearance by Suzzy
and Maggie Roche.
At a lunchtime interview last week, right before his departure for
the National Folk Alliance meetings in Nashville, Cullen described
how he is partnering with the Grounds, and with its membership manager
Bonnie Brown, to bring a cabaret type mix of jazz, pop, and folk music
to the Saturday night series. It offers him a chance to complement
his own singer-songwriter series with a slightly more urbane bill
For the Valentine’s Day weekend, the Grounds hosts the New York City
jazz, lounge, and pop group, Dave’s True Story on Saturday, February
15, at 7:30 p.m. In honor of the Valentine’s Day holiday, audience
members are being treated to complimentary coffee and dessert.
The music series performances take place in the Domestic Arts Building.
Home to two levels of spacious museum galleries and an upscale cafe
by day, by night the building becomes an intimate concert performance
space that seats 200. Cullen sings the praises of the Grounds cafe
and cash bar which also allows the audience to arrive early and enjoy
a choice dinner or a drink before the show.
Jazz guitarist Dave Cantor and vocalist Kelly Flint are Dave’s True
Story. Partners since 1989, the duo released their first CD under
the title "Dave’s True Story" and then adopted it as a suitably
quirky name for their act. They subsequently released two more CDs,
"Sex Without Bodies" and "Unauthorized." Now their
success is such that, eight years after the original CD debut, a new
edition has been released spotlighting two songs — "Sequined
Mermaid Dress" and "Crazy Eyes" — both of which were
featured in the movie "Kissing Jessica Stein."
Dave’s music has been described as hip and quirky. Its sound is fueled
by Flint’s gorgeous voice playing against Cantor’s soulful guitar
and powerful lyrics. Flint is credited with holder in listeners "in
thrall," thereby transforming the space where she sings into a
And the dream is a pleasant one. "There are no messages,"
insist Cantor and Flint. "This is simply entertainment with a
capital `E,’ baby." Winners of the 1995 Kerrville new music award,
the New York clubs where Dave’s True Story has appeared include the
Bitter End, Luna Lounge, Bottom Line, and the late lamented Tavern
on the Green.
Scott Cullen entered the presenting field as a former folk fan. He
and his wife, Julie, formed a presenting company called Saje Productions.
They produced their first Concerts at the Crossing show, featuring
Lucy Kaplansky, in 1996. Ever since joining central New Jersey’s presenters’
pantheon, Cullen says he has tried not to overlap with other venues.
Rather than go after the region’s most well-known artists, he prefers
to introduce new faces.
"Part of the fun of programming Concerts at the Crossing is bringing
people who haven’t been here before," says Cullen, " —
fun, but also risky." Some of the low-profile artists he has introduced
whose reputations continue to climb includeDeirdre Flint, Erin McKeown,
and Mark Erelli. Last year, his involvement in the business inspired
him to take the next big step. Now he is not only a presenter but
an artist’s representative for five up-and-coming groups.
Now, with an elegant new cabaret setting to program, Cullen is casting
his eye towards other types of musicians to draw on. Future attractions
at the Grounds include the ever-popular Christine Lavin, the cabaret
ensemble Boulevard East, and jazz man Guy Davis.
— Nicole Plett
Arts Building, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, 609-689-1089. In celebration
of Valentine’s Day, with coffee and dessert. $18. Saturday, February
15, 7:30 p.m.
Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation, Saturday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.
9, 7:30 p. m.
at the Crossing, Princeton Folk Music Society, and Music You Can’t
Hear on the Radio. Saturday, December 13, 7:30 p.m.
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