Dianne Reeves, Gregory Porter, Marcus Miller and More at the TD James Moody Jazz Festival

Oct 31, 2018

The seventh annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival begins this weekend at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and as usual it presents a broad view of the modern jazz mainstream. 

Running from Nov. 3 to 18, the fest takes place almost entirely at NJPAC — though its kickoff event, featuring the Jon Faddis Quartet, is a Jazz Vespers service this Saturday at Bethany Baptist Church. The concluding event, according to tradition, will be the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

Here are five other highlights from the festival lineup, in chronological order.

Django Festival Allstars with Edmar Castañeda, Nov. 4

Familiar to fans of hot jazz and the Django Reinhardt NY festival, this all-star band is led by guitar virtuoso Samson Schmitt, who carries on a family tradition. On a new album, Attitude Manouche, Schmitt marshals some familiar faces, like Ludovic Beier on accordion and Pierre Blanchard on violin.

As is often the case with Django festivals at Birdland and beyond, the Allstars welcome a special guest here: Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda. His percussive, kinetic attack and effervescent style should be a natural fit for the music at hand.

Dianne Reeves and Gregory Porter, Nov. 8

Reeves, of course, is one of our indisputable giants, a recently anointed NEA Jazz Master who has also won five Grammy Awards. Porter, meanwhile, has emerged as his generation's leading man: a fount of soulful reassurance and earnest emotional intention. So it's no exaggeration to call this a titanic jazz-vocal double bill. 

But it also holds the promise of actual collaboration. Reeves and Porter share more than a reverence for Sam Cooke and Abbey Lincoln; they have also worked together, at least in passing. Reeves' most recent Grammy was for her 2014 album Beautiful Life, on which Porter makes a featured appearance, above.

Marcus Miller & Friends / Lalah Hathaway

Electric bass marvel, bass clarinetist and composer Marcus Miller needs no introduction at this point, so let's simply note that he has done a fantastic job of keeping a smart young band together. On this special concert, he also welcomes some special guests — notably David Sanborn, the alto saxophonist and crossover star who has enlisted Miller on numerous occasions, both as bassist and producer.

Sharing the bill is singer-songwriter Lalah Hathaway, who has turned plenty of heads in collaboration with the Robert Glasper Experiment and Snarky Puppy. Hathaway also has some history with Miller; see "Ooh," a sinuous funk number they cowrote a decade ago, for the album Marcus.

Jazz Vinyl Revisited: Joni Mitchell’s Mingus & Terri Lyne Carrington’s Money Jungle, Nov. 11

The premise of "Jazz Vinyl Revisited" is simple: to bring a classic album to life in performance. This double bill brings additional layers to that transaction, starting with a celebration of Mingus, the 1979 Joni Mitchell album made in tribute to Charles Mingus. The participating vocalists, all heirs to Joni to some degree, are Jo Lawry, Kate McGarry and Luciana Souza. 

Then, too, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will revisit her project Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, which was her take on the 1962 album with Duke Ellington, Mingus and Max Roach. The clip above documents part of a perormance at Berklee, with Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone; at NJPAC the saxophonist will be Antonio Hart.

Cécile McLorin Salvant: Ogresse, Nov, 16

Continuing an impressive lineup of singers on the festival, Cécile McLorin Salvant makes her return to NJPAC, where she transfixed the house last year with pianist Sullivan Fortner. Their rapport as a duo served as the basis for this episode of Jazz Night in America — as well as the substance of her new album, The Window.

But Salvant will be coming to the stage this year with a project of grander and more elaborate ambition. Her new song cycle, Ogresse, draws on folklore and fairy tales, and enlists the detailed orchestrations of Darcy James Argue. The ensemble, here as on a series of other major concert presentations, will include saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Helen Sung and others. 

For more information about the 2018 TD James Moody Jazz Festival, and to purchase tickets, visit NJPAC's official website.