Jazz sounds coming to the Sourland

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The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum (SSAAM) will celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month and the history of African American music in New Jersey with “Jazz in the Sourlands,” a series of special events on Friday April 28 and Saturday April 29.

On Friday, SSAAM will hold a concert and wine and cheese reception at the True Farmstead, a historically Black-owned property on Hollow Road in Skillman. Guests will be invited to the National Historic Register-listed Mt. Zion AME Church to view “From Fiddlers to Jazz Bands: African American Music of the Sourlands,” a new exhibit from SSAAM.

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Historian Isabela Morales will open the exhibit with a presentation on the rich history of Black fiddle playing in New Jersey and the United States from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Special guest and SSAAM contributor, violinist Laticia Lewis, will perform selections from her repertoire, including traditional African American spirituals and beloved jazz pieces. Lewis is a composer, performer, and educator. As a professional instrumentalist with over 20 years of playing and performance, she has redefined several genres of music with unique interpretations and inspired performances. Morales is an award-winning author and historian of slavery who serves as SSAAM’s education and exhibit manager.

On Saturday, SSAAM invites community members to bring their own food, drinks, and blankets to the grounds of the True Farmstead for a live, outdoor musical concert headlined by the Jonathan Ware Quartet. The quartet is a flexible consortium of members morphing from a duo to a septet. Their style ranges from funky jazz instrumentals to soulful jazz with vocals. Gia Ware will accompany the band on Saturday as a vocalist. Visitors are welcome to stroll across the lawn to view “From Fiddlers to Jazz Bands: African American Music of the Sourlands,” as well.

“I’ve loved Jazz from the moment I heard Louie and Ella on our family’s record player as a child,” said SSAAM Executive Director Donnetta Johnson. “This amazingly collaborative and improvisational music rich with complex harmonies and rhythms was created by Black musicians in New Orleans. As this popular music spread across the United States and the world, musicians in the Sourland Region played and contributed to the art form. Jazz Appreciation month is a wonderful opportunity for SSAAM to celebrate the joy of making and sharing music in the Sourland Region of Central New Jersey.”

The opening reception will take place Friday, April 28, at 6 p.m. at True Farmstead. Hors d’oeuvres, wine and refreshments will be served. Opening reception tickets can be purchased for $40.

The Saturday outdoor concert is a BYO (bring your own), blankets, chairs, food and refreshments event. It will take place Saturday, April 29, from 1-4 p.m., rain or shine. Tickets for the Saturday outdoor concert and exhibit can be purchased online and for $25 adults and $15 for children 14 years and under.

SSAAM’s mission is to tell the story of the unique culture, experiences, and contributions of the African American community of the Sourland Mountain region.

For more information and ticket sales, visit: https://www.ssaamuseum.org/upcoming-events.

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