On September 8-9, 2007 Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey was transformed into the jazz epicenter of the world. The New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty formed a spectacular backdrop to the Liberty Jazz Festival.
The response to this 2nd annual event was overwhelming with over 17,000 people in attendance. Sponsored by Jersey’s Star Ledger newspaper and hosted by WQCD 101.9, the tri- state area’s main smooth jazz station.
The weekend featured enthusiastic crowds, some of the most impressive vendor booths, delicious food, outstanding scenery, the best VIP hosting I’ve seen all year (They know how to spoil their VIP ticket holders), balmy weather and of course great jazz!
Saturday’s show featured Euge Groove, Christian McBride, Chuck Mangione, and the legendary George Benson. Playing many of his classic songs for over an hour and a half, Benson rocked the crowd and brought them to their feet with such songs as “On Broadway”, and “Give Me The Night."
Guitars and Saxes featuring Tim Bowman, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, and Jeff Golub capped off the evening in stellar fashion with an incredible dance / jam session with great songs from each of their respective projects such as “Hello Betty”, “The Wave”, “Dance”, and “So Amazing”.
The CD 101.9 crew set up a tent where some of the artists appeared for “on air” interviews before their performances. Linda Bruno, Paul Cavalcante and Deborah Rath from CD 101.9 were the featured DJ’s.
It was a great opportunity for the Jazz Monthly.Com crew to renew some old acquaintances and meet up with some of our close friends, Marion Orr and Denise Waichunas.
Sunday’s line up included Gil Parris, Joshua Redman, Kyle Eastwood, and a very special performance from Bob James and Earl Klugh on stage together! Their performance was so reflective of what these two great jazz giants have accomplished both individually and collectively over the years, as they levitated the crowd with some of their signature songs from their collaborative projects (“Two Of A Kind, “One on One”) such as the fan favorite “Kari” and also some fantastic selections from their latest projects (Naked Guitar and Angels of Shanghai). The enthusiastic reaction from the crowd with each song was indicative of their recognition and strong appreciation for this phenomenal performance.
The Liberty Jazz Festival was a extraordinary event. But it was more than the music. It was people coming together in a special place, at a special time…the weekend before the 6th anniversary of 9/11. You couldn’t be there without feeling it. It was people remembering the past, but also embracing the future, our way of life and the healing power of music. Jazz is an expression of freedom and what a beautiful way to remember this special part of who we are as people then at the Liberty Jazz Festival. Also, the attendance and support of this great festival is a strong indication that live jazz is well supported in the Tri – State area, making it the top festival of 2007. See you next year!
Baldwin "Smitty" Smith