This is the fourth full season for the concert series presented by The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC) in Lincoln Harbor Park. While the "center" isn't an actual building yet, HRPAC hopes to build a permanent arts center on the water. If last season was any indication, an arts center is in demand. Over 4000 people came out last summer to groove to the music all while enjoying the spectacular city views.
This summer's lineup features up-and-coming musicians and seasoned performers. So grab a blanket and get ready to enjoy some sweet sounds in Lincoln Harbor Park.
The Fabulous Soul Shakers
The opening night act is none other than The Fabulous Soul Shakers featuring Ryan Shaw. This rhythm and blues group was conceived by creator/manager Peter Rosenbaum, who began auditioning singers for the band in late 2002. After auditioning over close to 700 singers, which took several months, Rosenbaum had his five singers to perform vocal harmonies.
Rosenbaum, who is also a musician, created the group out of his appreciation for rhythm and blues, yet he felt that so many acts were performing corny versions of do-wop. "I felt there was a complete misrepresented over the years," said Rosenbaum. "I wanted to do a show that wasn't an oldies show. I wanted to do a show as it was meant to be performed."
He added, "In order to recreate it, I had to get young guys and teach them everything from the ground up. And teach them real R&B harmony. That is what creates the magic."
The current line-up features the fine vocals of the young twenty something singers, including: Jason who goes by J-NYSE, Ryan Shaw, Craig Stagg, Richard Tipton, and Bryant Washington.
Stagg and Washington are two of the original members of the group, Tipton joined in 2003, Shaw joined in January 2004, and J-NYSE joined in the fall of 2004. Shaw has gained notice for his solo work. He was discovered in 2006 during a show with the Soul Shakers and has since recorded a solo CD. In addition, Shaw recently finished touring with Joss Stone.
Shaw will do a few songs as lead singer, but for this performance he is part of the harmony group. Other members will also sing lead.
According to Rosenbaum, he is completely supportive of Shaw's solo career. "Between Ryan, myself and the guys - we have a bond," said Rosenbaum. "We are completely supportive of him. The way we have it set up is that he will always be a member. No matter where he goes I hope that he would still perform with us."
Rosenbaum said that he wasn't surprised that Shaw was noticed for his voice.
"When I heard him, right away within the first few seconds, I knew he was a star in the making," said Rosenbaum.
Yet, Shaw isn't the only one busy. According to Rosenbaum, all of the guys are busy with various elements in the music business.
On Wednesday night, the Fabulous Soul Shakers will be backed by a seven-piece band and they will perform in one of their signature matching suits.
Rosenbaum, who has poured his heart and soul into the group, conceived of the look for the band and picks all of the songs.
"I am the Soul Shakers," said Rosenbaum. "They are the instruments of my mind. I am a former musician, but I could never sing like they can. In order to do it right, I had to create the right look and the sound."
In addition to the regular monthly shows, Rosenbaum said that he plans to record an album soon.
There are six diverse bands scheduled to play including openers The Fabulous Soul Shakers on Wednesday, June 27. (See sidebar for complete schedule.) According to Bruce Sherman, Executive Director of Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, last season the crowds responded to all of the different bands.
"Everything has been very positive," said Sherman about concert feedback. "People like the fact that there are diverse groups. It's been very positive. The talent is topnotch."
He added, "Even if they aren't a particular a fan of that music, people seem to enjoy it." The following week, nine-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri will perform with his Latin Jazz band. Palmieri is widely-known for explosive riffs on the keyboard. So much so, that he was dubbed "The Latin Monk" after the late, great Thelonius Monk.
Jonatha Brooke will sing on July 25. The singer/songwriter recently released her sixth solo album, Careful What You Wish For. Brooke's emotive songs have been featured on many hit shows including: Dawson's Creek, Charmed, Once and Again, among others.
There will be a night of opera on August 8 with performances by The Four Tenors. The four rising opera stars include: Stephen Costello, Bryan Hymel, Dongwon Shin, and Richard Troxell. According to Sherman, many people asked for The Four Tenors concert.
"Even if you aren't a fan of opera it is exciting," said Sherman. "It becomes a kind of competition to see who can hit the high notes."
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks (featured on the soundtrack of The Aviator) will perform classic hits. Vocalist Nancy Anderson will join the Nighthawks on August 15 for an unforgettable night of authentic big band music.
The season wraps with an evening of tango featuring Pablo Aslan's AVANTANGO. Arranger and bass player Aslan presents a mix of tango music with jazz improv that will be accompanied by dancers. "I thought it would be nice to have a dance component to the series," said Sherman.
There will be three dance couples on the stage during the concert. Sherman said that he doesn't believe the audience will dance during the show.
"I think they will be watching the incredible dancing on the stage," said Sherman. "I think with the world class dancers on the stage no one will want to get up and dance. They will just want to watch. But who knows? People have surprised me before."
Sherman said that the series should appeal to all different age groups.
The "Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center" is not an actual building yet, but a group that hopes to build such a facility on the Weehawken waterfront. HRPAC is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to build a year-round community center that will provide quality theater, dance and music in an intimate setting at reasonable prices. According to Sherman, they are a little closer to their goal as they recently sent out design requests to architects internationally.
"We are hoping to get a rendering by the fall, and then start capital fundraising," said Sherman. "It is such a major undertaking to build an arts center from scratch. Some have said that it takes ten years. You can imagine that with costs escalating that it becomes an ever more daunting task."
In addition to the concert series, HRPAC has brought educational programs to area schools, which is an ongoing part of the program.
Sherman said that the quartet called Huun Huur Tu, who performed last year, was a big hit.
"They are just an astonishing quartet of musicians who practice native throat singing, and accompany themselves with handmade instruments," said Sherman. "We brought them to Roosevelt School, and the kids were really taken with them. I said, 'if you are ever coming back, I'd be happy to present you to other schools.' I think it is so important to present other cultures to the schools. The art of throat singing isn't like anything we know in the West."
Guests are invited to bring friends, family, and food and are encouraged to make a night of it. All of the concerts will run approximately for 90 minutes.
The free series was made possible by the generous support of the following groups and organizations: the township of Weehawken, the County of Hudson, the State of New Jersey, Hartz Mountain Industries, the Hudson Reporter, K. Hovnanian, Lennar Homes, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, New York Waterway, Palisades Medical Center, PSE&G, Roseland Property Company, Sheraton Suites on the Hudson, and UBS.
Lincoln Harbor Park is centrally located in Hudson County and is conveniently located close to public transportation.
All concerts start at 7 p.m. Limited seating available, so bring a lawn chair or a blanket. For rain dates, call the hotline. For more information, call (201) 716-4540 or visit: www.hrpac.org. Wednesday Concerts in Weehawken:
June 27 - The Fabulous Soul Shakers featuring Ryan Shaw, blues/soul
July 11 - Eddie Palmieri, Latin jazz
July 25 - Jonatha Brooke, folk/pop
August 8 - The Four Tenors, opera
August 15 - Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, big band
August 29 - Pablo Aslan's AVANTANGO, jazz and tango night