Summer Jazz Café remains a cultural magnet and has been named a "Pick of the Year" by the Tri-City News. It is a great night out with family and friends or a fun date night on a summer's eve with your significant other. Drop in after dinner or begin your night on the town enjoying world-class artists and great live music.
You'll be seated at cozy candle-lit cocktail tables with warm theatrical lighting in an intimate café setting. Enjoy a special cocktail from Two River Theater's new cafe bar for a "big-city" style club atmosphere at a fraction of the price. These will surely be the most exciting and romantic evenings you will spend all summer.
Tatiana Eva-Marie July 7 & 8, 2023
Will Friedwald, for The Citiview: “There’s at least one major singer and bandleader currently based in New York who brilliantly, swingingly, and charmingly carries the Django legacy forward. Tatiana Eva-Marie has consistently delighted audiences with her buoyant style and effervescent personality, all of which fit firmly into the vintage jazz manouche genre that Django pioneered.”
Vanity Fair: “A millennial shaking up the jazz scene”
Nicknamed the Gypsy-jazz Warbler by the New York Times, Tatiana Eva-Marie is a transatlantic bandleader, singer, author, and actress based in Brooklyn. She plays French pop derived from the Django tradition with Balkan Gypsy and folk influences.
Accruing over 70 million views on YouTube, Tatiana Eva-Marie was acclaimed as a millennial shaking up the jazz scene by magazine Vanity Fair. She performs regularly in New York at various clubs (Dizzy’s Club, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, Birdland, Joe’s Pub…), across the USA (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Freight and Salvage, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Tucson Jazz Festival…) and around the world.
Though her interests have led her to explore a wide range of musical styles, Tatiana Eva-Marie’s craft is always inspired by her own French and Balkan heritage; a love for the Parisian art scene era spanning the 1920s to the 60s; a passion for traditional Gypsy songs; a fascination for New Orleans music; and a deep connection to the Great American Songbook.
Born into a family of musicians, painters, and poets, Tatiana began her career at age four, immersed in the world of show business. Before her twenties, she had already recorded many albums, established herself as an actress on the Paris stage, written and directed two musicals, while pursuing a Master’s Degree in medieval studies at the Sorbonne University. Completely dedicated to an interdisciplinary approach to artistic creation, she developed a fascination for the Renaissance Man archetype and began to travel the world collaborating with artists of various spheres. She soon chose New York as her home base, where she quickly built up a reputation as a singer, and started the Avalon Jazz Band, which became overnight the number one reference for French swing around the world. With her musicians, she performed on some of the most important American stages and became the international ambassador of “1930s Paris”.
In the past few years, incapable of abandoning herself to a pandemic-induced lethargy, Tatiana released four albums, starred as guest singer in various projects, wrote the libretto of an opera by Swiss composer Gérard Massini, and started an online arts and culture publication – Shrine Magazine. She was recently onscreen in the cinemas of France in Gérome Barry’s first feature film Swing Rendez-Vous, loosely based on her New York lifestyle – her first role as a leading lady!
Tatiana’s latest project Djangology is a reinvention of the music composed by Parisian guitarist Django Reinhardt – the father of Gypsy jazz – through the addition of her own original lyrics and arrangements. An album and several tours are in the works!
Hendrik Meurkens July 14 & 15, 2023
Hendrik Meurkens, a virtuoso on both the chromatic harmonica and the vibraphone, is the most important jazz harmonica player since Toots Thielemans. German-born but now based in New York, Meurkens’ recordings and performances garner worldwide acclaim because the transcendent beauty of his music has universal appeal.
A two-mallet player in the tradition of Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, Hendrik Meurkens was en-route to being an instantly recognizable vibraphonist when he heard Toots Thielemans. Inspired by the sound of Thielemans’ harmonica, he taught himself the difficult-to-master instrument.
Hendrik Meurkens’ other life-changing musical experience was his introduction to samba and bossa nova. He was so moved by Brazilian music that after perfecting his unique musical voice at Berklee, as a vibraphone major, he moved to Rio in the early 80s to totally immerse himself in music and culture of Brazil.
A regular Monday night gig at the popular Rio club, Bar 21, soon demonstrated his acceptance by Brazilian musicians. Meurkens’ poignant, emotionally affecting harmonica proved to be a sound that Brazilians strongly embraced, and during his Rio days, he met many musicians who later became collaborators in both Europe and New York.
Back in Germany by ’83, he became a respected studio musician, recording with European Radio Orchestras and leading his own groups, as well as accompanying visiting legends like Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison and Buddy Tate.
Within ten years, he had established himself as the “new jazz harmonica voice,” and moved to New York, thanks to an exclusive contract with the prestigious label, Concord Records. He has since recorded fifteen albums, and continues to perform as both a guest artist, and with his own groups, both in festivals and clubs globally.
Hendrik Meurkens’ profound involvement in both jazz and Brazilian music resulted in a very personal and instantly recognizable version of Samba jazz. This music, a cross-cultural amalgam guaranteed to touch the heart, features his harmonica and vibes along with piano, bass and drums, playing his stirring originals and arrangements. The group has been documented on a number of CDs, most notably the Hendrik Meurkens desert island disc, October Colors.
As a featured artist, he has recorded with Charlie Byrd, Jimmy Cobb, Ivan Lins, Monty Alexander, Claudio Roditi, Manfredo Fest and Mundell Lowe, as well as backing such leading artists as Astrid Gilberto and Olivia Newton John and touring with the Ray Brown Trio, Paquito D’Rivera, Oscar Castro Neves, Herb Ellis, Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and James Moody among many others.
Also a successful composer (his compositions have been recorded by other artists and featured in the Hollywood movie, “Dolores Claiborne,”) Hendrik Meurkens remains equally at home playing jazz or Brazilian music. “My mission is simple,” he explains. “I want to create music of great beauty.”
Like any great musician, Hendrik Meurkens still practices incessantly, yet his music remains very melodic and rhythmically pleasing. “I like beautiful music, Sinatra, Jobim, Charlie Parker, so I concentrate on playing things that the audience can enjoy. Complicated music doesn’t really mean anything except for professionals who want to analyze it. I want people to feel what I do and the best way to do that is to play something touches their hearts.”
Nicole Zuraitis July 21 & 22, 2023
A GRAMMY-nominated jazz singer-songwriter, pianist, arranger and vocalist, New York-based bandleader and winner of the prestigious 2021 American Traditions Vocal Competition Gold Medal Nicole Zuraitis continues to establish herself as an undeniable force in the modern jazz landscape of both NYC and beyond. With a “heart as big as her remarkable voice,” (Jazz Police) Nicole’s effervescent personality and boundless enthusiasm combined with activism and humor has positioned her as one of the top artists and songwriters to watch in jazz.
Besides leading her quartet, Nicole is the premier vocalist for the Birdland Big Band and frequently headlines iconic NYC jazz clubs like Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, Birdland, the Blue Note, the Carlyle, 54 Below and the late, great 55 Bar. She has appeared as a featured soloist with the Savannah Philharmonic, Asheville Symphony and other noted pops orchestras, as well as supported on piano and vocals iconic singers such as Morgan James, Darren Criss and Livingston Taylor.
As a recording artist, Nicole has released five albums as leader, and this summer, her sixth album How Love Begins, co-produced with eight-time GRAMMY-winner Christian McBride, releases under Outside In, featuring all original music. She is a member of the modern jazz super group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, the Dan Pugach Nonet as well as SONICA with Thana Alexa and Julia Adamy.
Nicole's arrangement of Dolly Parton's Jolene, co-written with renowned drummer and bandleader Dan Pugach, was nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY®, spring boarding her career and making her a household name in the modern-day jazz landscape. In 2020, she was named in the top 40 under 40 for 2020 in Connecticut Magazine, and her weekly live stream during the Covid-19 crisis, "Virtual Piano Lounge," was featured in Forbes Magazine. Nicole has collaborated with an extensive list of luminaries, including Christian McBride, David Cook, Cyrille Aimee, Antonio Sanchez, Dave Stryker, Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Melanie Safka, Helen Sung, and Bernard Purdie. She is a proud educator and currently vocal faculty at NYU and Suny Purchase.
An ardent activist with a decade-long track record of giving back, her album release coincides with a self-produced day-long fundraiser for Save the Sound at Park City Music Hall in Bridgeport, CT on July 8th, 2023.
Winard Harper & Jeli Posse July 28 & 29, 2023
And finally, as is our tradition each year on the final weekend of Summer Jazz Café, we present a concept which has become known as “Legends and Lions” in jazz. Students from our Jazz Arts Academy Summer Session perform an opening set followed by a set featuring master Jazz artist professionals, in this case Winard Harper and Jeli Posse. This is exactly what our organization’s vision is about; the pairing of young students with masters of the art form, giving them the opportunities and the spark that can ignite either a career path or simply an enduring love of the music that we honor and cherish.
Jazz Drummer, Band Leader, Composer, Educator, Winard Harper is dedicated to “bringing Jazz to where it is needed”. Constantly in reverence of his predecessors while remaining innovative in his own right, Harper has been among the most celebrated drummers in jazz for many years. He is a virtuoso on the drum set and the balafon, the West African equivalent of the marimba, he is a sought after collaborator at home and abroad, a band leader of his quartet, his quintet and his exciting band the Jeli Posse, a regular with the legendary New York clubs, an educator of future jazz professionals, an educator through his kids programs, an events organizer - successfully running the weekly Fish Fry Jazz Jam and the Sunday "Meet the Artist" Series at Moore's Lounge in Jersey City. Bringing Jazz to the community from which it originated, relating the story of The Great American Art Form, the only music that is 100% "made in America",
Spreading the joy that Jazz brings is the quest to which Winard Harper is dedicating himself.
Winard Harper was born in Baltimore in 1962, a child prodigy. Although his parents were not musicians they were full of encouragement as they noticed him beating on cans when he was three or four years old. In 1983, Winard received a scholarship for the University of Hartford, Soon though New York was calling.
Harper's first major gig was with Dexter Gordon in 1982, and shortly thereafter with Johnny Griffin. It wasn't long before his drumming skills captured the attention of Betty Carter. He spent four years as drummer with Ms. Carter's band, also working as a sideman to such jazz legends as Ray Bryant, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders and Clifford Jordan, yet still keeping his own band working on his days off . This was the early days of The Harper Brothers. "With Betty I learned consistency and persistence" Harper recalls. "Working with her prepared me to become a bandleader; I learned a lot about the business from her". By 1988 Winard's hard work and dedication to jazz paid dividends with a Harper Brother record deal from PolyGram.
"The Harper Brothers" was one of the hottest groups of the post-bop era of the late '80s, early '90s. If you were lucky enough to see The Harper Brothers live, you might have thought you'd been transported back in time, when bebop wizards were the toast of the town.
In the early 1990's Winard changed direction. Further inspired by the musician- and leadership of Dr. Billy Taylor and Billy Higgins, he went on to record a number of albums featuring collaborations with an ever surprising range of jazz greats, while building a strong sextet. Of Billy Higgins he says: Higgins played with such joy, the joy and the passion and his love of playing really made an impact on me. I could see similarities between myself and him, and then we became such great friends. He saw jazz as spiritual and social work and walked the talk. A lot of the concept of my band was inspired by Billy. A lot of the African influences and different instruments I use in the band, Billy was always exploring.
Constantly in reverence of his predecessors while remaining innovative in his own right, Harper has been among the celebrated drummers in jazz for many years. He is a virtuoso on the drum set and the balafon, the West African equivalent of the marimba, he is a sought after collaborator at home and abroad, a band leader of his quartet, his quintet and his exciting band the Jeli Posse, a regular with the legendary New York clubs, an educator of future jazz professionals, an educator through his kids programs, an events organizer - successfully running the weekly Fish Fry Jazz Jam and the Sunday "Meet the Artist" Series at Moore's Lounge in Jersey City. Bringing Jazz to the community from which it originated, relating the story of The Great American Art Form, the only music that is 100% "made in America", spreading the joy that Jazz brings is the quest to which Winard Harper is dedicating himself.
This very special event will showcase our own “jazz lions” in what promises to be an impressive and inspiring opening set. These talented high school musicians, hailing from all over the region, have just completed a one-week intensive summer course focusing on Jazz improvisation, ensemble playing and jazz history. The study of Jazz is a wonderful outlet for creative energies and has been shown to enhance academic performance as well as instill positive values such as confidence, teamwork, leadership and tolerance for diversity. We are very proud of these students and congratulate each of them for their hard work, perseverance, success and continued interest in the study and performance of this great art form. Jazz Arts Academy is a comprehensive jazz studies program offering performance ensembles, improvisation, general musicianship, coaching, special workshops and jam sessions in addition to jazz repertory and discussions about the history of jazz. The program provides students with a “centralized Jazz scene,” a place where they can supplement their school music program, meet new players from the entire region, and gain valuable skills and experience in a fun and professional atmosphere. Need based tuition assistance is available to all.
After meeting our featured artist for an afternoon masterclass, our students from the Jazz Arts Academy Summer Session will perform an opening set
All proceeds from this series help support Jazz Arts Project's head-start style music instruction and enrichment programs for at-risk and underserved youth.