By Allison Kalsched
What do jazz greats Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath, TS Monk, Gary Bartz, Don Braden, and Cyrus Chestnut have in common?
On Saturday, October 6, they will all have SOPAC in common.
These musicians, and many others, will join together at the South Orange Performing Arts Center for the 15th anniversary of Giants of Jazz, a
one-night-only event that is not to be missed. This year, the musicians will
honor the career of George Coleman, the legendary tenor saxophonist who has
played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Betty
Carter and so many more.
But that’s not all. According to stage manager Lee May, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Giants of Jazz, the evening will honor a second jazz legend – who the producers are keeping a surprise until the event itself -- AND one lucky audience member will win a poster for the event, signed
by all the performers
Giants of Jazz is the brainchild of John Lee, founder of Jazz Legacy Productions,
Executive Director of the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars and long time South Orange
resident. In 1997, John Lee created Giants of Jazz as a philanthropic endeavor to raise funds for the town’s outdoor concert series, as well as to expose the community to jazz. By encouraging established jazz legends to volunteer their time and play with up and coming artists, he was able to present an evening filled with a unique ensemble of musicians who rarely get the chance to play together. Audiences loved it.
From its inception in 1997 through 2010, the event was held at the South Orange Middle School, staffed entirely by volunteers and co-produced by the Baird Center. In 2010, Giants of Jazz moved to its new home at the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The move to SOPAC allowed Lee, May and the Baird to focus their efforts on ensuring great content, leaving the staging, ticketing and technical production up to the professional staff at SOPAC. As Kate Schmidt, Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs for the town of South Orange, remarked on the move to SOPAC, the event has kept “its local charm.”
For SOPAC, working with the Village of South Orange, The Baird, John Lee, Lee May, and all of the musicians and volunteers that are involved with Giants of Jazz is a perfect partnership. “SOPAC is thrilled to be hosting Giants of Jazz for the second consecutive year,” stated Linda Onorevole, Interim Executive Director of SOPAC. “Our collaboration presenting jazz legends and emerging musicians together at SOPAC encompasses the spirit of what’s presented on the stage that night. It’s an honor for us to be a part of this amazing event!”
New Jersey boasts a rich Jazz history, and with a bounty of local and regional
musicians to participate, John Lee, along with Lee May, has consistently
produced 15 annual unforgettable evenings that embody the very definition of
jazz as an improvisational form of music. Alex Torpey, Village of South Orange
President, recognizes that “South Orange is known as a community where art and
music flourish, and the Giants of Jazz
is one of our best known examples of celebrating this legacy of incredible
musicians with ties to this community. I'm proud of the partnerships that exist
between SOPAC, the Village and the Baird that helps support and celebrate these
artists, and I'm excited not only to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of
this great event this year, but already looking forward to many more down the
The 15th Anniversary of Giants of Jazz takes place Saturday, October 6th at 8:00pm. For tickets call SOPAC at 973.313.ARTS or visit www.sopacnow.org .
Allison Kalsched is an arts and culture marketing and communications professional who lives in Maplewood.