Montclair Jazz Festival Returns This September

by Laura DeSiena
Montclair Jazz Festival

Established as the largest free jazz festival in the greater NYC area and one of the most prominent in the country, Montclair, NJ is celebrating its 14th annual Jazz Festival with a grand finale celebration on Saturday, September 9, 2023. From 1-9 p.m., the vibrant city will transform into a music haven, jam-packed with five stages stretching down the streets of Lackawanna Plaza, a wide variety of 150 food and artisan vendors, and soulful live music performed by some of jazz’s most respected artists.

Montclair is no stranger to swing as it has a rich history dating back to the 1920s. During the era of Prohibition, jazz music was commonly played in Montclair’s speakeasies, typically catering to white patrons. African-American artistic contributions were soon recognized as Montclair transformed into the go-to jazz music hub, with performances in different lounges by jazz greats Johnny Lytle, Ed Cherry, Cal Bassey, and more. 

Today, the city’s heartbeat of jazz remains alive with numerous programs and jazz venues dedicated to the genre. The festival’s producer Jazz House Kids offers year-round jazz education programs to children ages 8 to 18, providing students with a top-level musical learning environment, community building, mentoring by top jazz instructors, and career development for a bright future in music. The DLV Lounge was the most iconic among various historic jazz venues residing downtown and celebrated its 50th anniversary right before officially closing its doors last December. 

The Downtown Jamboree comes after the festival’s initial all-day celebration on August 12, comprised of an electric block party filled with 10 hours of live jazz flooding the streets of Lackawanna Plaza. The event kicked off at noon with 150 up-and-coming musicians from Jazz House Kids who performed for eager listeners in an impressive formation of seven bands and a vocal choir. A lively set was soon followed by jazz guitarist Charlie Sigler and his corresponding band, with red-hot headliner Endea Owens & The Cookout capping off the live music performances. The evening finished with an energetic funk party hosted by grammy-award-winning DJ, Brother Mister, a.k.a Christian McBride, who gathered crowds of young and old to enjoy some parting expressive tunes.

“It’s going to be yet another fabulous year at the Montclair Jazz Festival with such great artists, both up and coming and legendary, joining us,” said Christian McBride. “Regina Carter, Antibalas, Steve Turre, Endea Owens, our Jazz House Collective and so many more, promise to make this year another hit.”

Montclair Jazz Festival 2023

Regina Carter

The success of the Block Party and a Soundcheck Series every third Thursday of the month leaves the Jamboree Celebration with big shoes to fill, but between the impressive featured artists and the other exciting festival entertainment options, it is sure to be a smash hit. The lineup includes performances by Antibalas, Michael Mwenso and The Shakes, Christian Mcbride, Regina Carter, Melanie Charles, Vince Ector Organatomy, and many more. Young children interested in the world of jazz are also encouraged to participate in an expanded Family Jazz Discovery Zone located at the Wellmont Theater Plaza. The zone features various kid-friendly art activities, food vendors, music-themed storybooks read by featured artists, and interactive performances all day long. 

Attending is totally free! The festival recommends bringing lawn chairs for a comfortable listening experience. There are several ways to travel to Lackawanna Plaza, with parking and public transportation information available on the directions tab of their official website.

About the Author/s

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Laura DeSiena is a certified Jersey Girl with a passion for music, playing the guitar, and binge-watching 90’s sitcoms. As an aspiring writer and author, she hopes to publish a book someday. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her browsing the shelves of Barnes & Noble in search of her next read.

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