Harmony on the Hudson
There must be something about the Hudson River that inspires musicians. How else to explain the deluge of music events in the cities along its west bank?
Jersey City alone will feature several major concerts and music series this summer, the biggest being a massive July 4 show at Liberty State Park. More than 30,000 people are expected to rock until dawn and regale at stunning fireworks.
Liberty State Park, celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, will also host the Summerfest Music Series on Sundays and Tuesdays starting July 9.
Jimmy Sturr, who has played Summerfest for the past six years with his polka band, praised Liberty State Park in Jersey City Magazine recently: "I don't think there's a better place to perform in America," he said. "To be there in front of that big American flag with the Statue of Liberty in the background is just great."
Melodies will be heard elsewhere in Jersey City as well. A weekday lunchtime music series at Journal Square, a regional transportation hub, will feature salsa, reggae and jazz Wednesdays from now through August. Jazz will also be on the menu at Jersey City's waterfront, with the city's Jazz for Lunch series, every Thursday in July and August.
For information about any of Jersey City's events, call (201) 547-6921.
Just north of Jersey City, Hoboken will offer plenty of chances to enjoy some tunes while admiring the glittering Manhattan skyline. Every Thursday night this summer, the stage at Frank Sinatra Park will welcome a different band - offering bluegrass, Celtic rock, cabaret, and more - for the Summer Enchanted Evenings concert series.
"It's the best darn music in the whole county," says Geri Fallo, Hoboken's director of Cultural Affairs. "The view, the music - it just doesn't get any better than that."
Particularly notable nights include performances of the Beatles' albums Abbey Road and A Hard Day's Night on June 8 and the farewell performance of Sinatra cover band Skanatra on Aug. 31.
For information about music and cultural events in Hoboken, visit www.hobokennj.org or call (201) 420-2207.
Further up the Hudson, a stop in Fort Lee on June 6 will land visitors at the Arts & Music Festival, featuring arts and crafts, food, and of course live entertainment. Visit www.fortleenj.org.
Fort Lee fills out the rest of the summer with Movies and Music Under the Stars, Wednesdays from June 14 through Aug. 30. Programs include free outdoor live music at 7 p.m., followed by a free film screening at sunset. Visit www.fortleefilm.org.
Before the Hudson works its way beyond the state line, it passes the borough of Tenafly. For seven consecutive Thursday evenings starting June 22, Tenafly will hold its free Summer Concert Series, featuring the sounds of jazz, rock and big band music. Visit www.tenaflynj.org.
The Gateway to great music
There's plenty of music to be heard elsewhere in New Jersey's Gateway Region.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will offer a popular, free Sounds of the City outdoor concert series Thursday nights from July 6 through Sept. 7; visit www.njpac.org. Also in Newark, the Newark Museum will hold Jazz in the Garden concerts Thursday afternoons from June 22 through Aug. 10; visit www.newarkmuseum.org.
The Meadowlands Complex, which includes Giants Stadium and Continental Airlines Arena, will feature acts including Pearl Jam and Slayer this June. Visit www.meadowlands.com.
Union County's Echo Lake Park in Mountainside will host free Summer Arts Festival Concerts, Wednesday nights from June 28 through Aug. 30. Also in Mountainside, June 10 will welcome a free Rhythm & Blues By the Brook concert. Visit www.ucnj.org.
The Baroque Orchestra of North Jersey will perform two shows on June 17 and 18 at Grace Church in Madison. Visit www.baroqueorchestra.org.
The State Theatre in New Brunswick will hold numerous concerts this summer, including Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Gordon Lightfoot. Visit www.statetheatrenj.org.
Songs of the Skylands
In northwestern New Jersey, the Skylands Region will be hopping this summer.
Historic Flemington's free downtown concert series Music on Main Street will take over the town every other Thursday from June 8 through Aug. 31. The block-party-style events will include live music, food and wine service. Visit www.historicflemington.com.
For some Music Under the Stars, Deer Path Park in Readington Township is where to be, each Thursday night starting June 22. Call (908) 782-PARK, ext. 7275.
Saturday nights in July, the Hackettstown-based Centenary Stage Company will offer Jazz in July, featuring major jazz artists. Visit www.centenarystageco.org.
From July 13 through 16, the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton will hold its Black Potatoe Music Festival, featuring national and regional musicians, plus refreshments and vendors. Also, the Red Mill will host jazz concerts on Friday nights in June. Other upcoming events will highlight big band (July 22), oldies (Aug. 12), and bluegrass (Aug. 19). Visit www.theredmill.org.
Red Bank: home of jazz
The Jersey Shore town of Red Bank - home to Count Basie Theatre - is steeped in the rich jazz sounds that were famed bandleader Count Basie's trademark. Some 150,000 attendees are expected at this year's Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival, the largest jazz festival in New Jersey. The free festival, June 2 through 4, will feature more than 30 performers on three stages, plus dozens of food and crafts vendors. Visit www.redbankfestival.com.
Even if you miss the big festival, hardly a day goes by in Red Bank without some kind of music event. Most Thursdays throughout the summer, the city will hold a Jazz in the Park Concert Series. On Saturdays, the sidewalks will be crowded with performers for the city's Streetlife series. And on Fridays in August, fans of the '50s should enjoy the Doo Wop Extravaganza.
"It's a really good mix [of musical styles]," says Bob Evans, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "It's a very diverse group."
Even wannabe musicians can get in on the action, at a free Songwriters' Workshop, held most Fridays all summer.
For more information on Red Bank's regular events, visit www.redbanknj.org.
Jazz it up!
Red Bank's not the only place to cool off with some hot jazz.
The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation (JSJBF), a major organizer of the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival, will hold several other events this summer. The Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch will host JSJBF's Blues by the Beach events, running long into Saturday nights. Also in Long Branch, JSJBF will sponsor a free weekly Jazz & Blues on the Beach series, Sundays nights from June 25 through Aug. 27. Visit www.jsjbf.com.
Although not a JSJBF event, the all-day Oceanfest in Long Branch on July 4 is one of the biggest summer events at the Jersey Shore, with entertainment, food and fireworks.
Another group nurturing the Garden State's prolific jazz community is the New Jersey Jazz Society (NJJS), whose signature event is JazzFest, on June 10 and June 11 at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison.
"The mix of music is pretty mainstream," says Joe Lang, former NJJS president. "[It's] music you can tap your toe to."
This year's JazzFest will spotlight more than a dozen bands in three venues. Shuttles to and from public transportation will be available.
Still got a craving for those sweet jazz sounds? NJJS will host half a dozen other jazz shows around the state this summer. Visit www.njjs.org.
The sounds 'down the shore'
Heading to the Jersey Shore this summer means sand and surf - and songs as well.
With a capacity of over 17,000, PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel hosts some of the state's biggest concerts. This year's acts include Nine Inch Nails, Wynton Marsalis, Sammy Hagar, Kelly Clarkson, John Fogerty and Willie Nelson, Def Leppard and Journey, and Bruce Springsteen. Visit www.pncbankartscenter.com.
Rock and roll, jazz, R&B and Irish music will resound throughout Sandy Hook at free Beach Concerts Wednesday nights from June 21 through Sept. 6. Visit www.sandyhookfoundationnj.org.
Thursdays this July and August, the Freehold Summer Concert Series will include free live music on the streets of downtown Freehold. The series kicks off July 13 and runs through Aug. 24. Visit www.freeholdcenter.com.
Free Summer Sunday Night Concerts in Lavallette will feature music of all styles each Sunday from July 2 through Sept. 3. Call (732) 793-3652.
Albert Music Hall in Waretown offers live country music Saturday nights year-round, with a special Ladies of Country and Bluegrass Music concert on June 24. Visit www.alberthall.org.
Tuesday nights in July, the Highlands Summer Concert Series will feature free live music and entertainment from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visit www.highlandsnj.com.
And of course Asbury Park - the old stomping grounds of Bruce Springsteen - has several active clubs, most notably the Stone Pony; visit www.stoneponyonline.com. Plus, the free Asbury Park Jazz Festival will hit the town on June 24 and 25; visit www.cityofasburypark.com.
Sundays and Tuesdays in July and August
Liberty State Park, Jersey City
Summer Enchanted Evenings
Frank Sinatra Park, Hoboken
Sounds of the City
Thursdays in July and August
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark
Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison
PNC Bank Arts Center