Newark, N.J., has taken on the moniker Renaissance City, thanks largely to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). “The overriding point is, we have a commitment to our audiences representing all ethnic, geographic and subject areas. NJPAC is a place where we invite people to come in, get comfortable and see good art, where you may laugh, cry, be challenged and come back for more,” says Jeff Norman, vice president of public affairs.
Highlights of this season’s lineup include Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday, Nov. 12-Nov. 13, celebrating the legendary jazz and blues singer. Conceived by Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, Blueprint of a Lady is a multimedia performance featuring Freelon and her band in a live performance with acclaimed New York dance ensemble Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, as well as stunning video imagery by filmmaker Robert Penn.
Newark’s own Tony Award-winning tap master Savion Glover (Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk) performs on Nov. 18 in what has been titled Classical Savion. Glover will be accompanied by a 10-piece classical ensemble, lending his distinctive dance style to works by Stravinsky, Bach, Vivaldi, Bartok, Mendelssohn, Astor Piazzola and others.
Serengeti Plains, inspired by the popularity of New Jersey’s longtime poetry showcase, comes to NJPAC Nov. 19. Part of the Alternate Routes Sacred Circle Cafe, the evening will feature some of New Jersey’s most popular spoken word artists joining forces to paint a vibrant picture of contemporary urban life.
Thanksgiving brings A Pure Gospel America, Nov. 25-26, an uplifting celebration of American heritage The Ornette Coleman Quartet also makes its NJPAC debut on Nov. 26. Since the 1958 release of Coleman’s first album, Something Else, the master saxophonist, trumpeter, violinist and composer has remained one of the most revolutionary artists in “free jazz” and compositional improvisation. Also appearing is the trendsetting The Bad Plus, featuring pianist Ethan Iverson. With its groundbreaking recordings, including Grammy-nominated Give, these jazz mavericks add a rock-and-roll perspective to the jazz piano trio format, covering hits by Black Sabbath, Nirvana, Blondie and others.
On Dec. 15, NJPAC welcomes five-time Grammy Award-winning gospel superstar CeCe Winans for A Joyous Gospel Holiday. Holiday celebrations continue with The Spirit of Kwanzaa on Dec. 17, featuring the African American Dance Ensemble, founded by African dance specialist Chuck Davis. The ensemble will present works drawn from throughout the African continent. C. Katunge Mimy will lead a special Kwanzaa ceremony.
Dianne Reeves returns to NJPAC on Dec. 16 with selections from her recent standards collection, A Little Moonlight, and from her first holiday recording, Christmas Time Is Here. The Grammy Award winner has lent her vocal virtuosity and improvisational ease to a wide range of jazz, drawing on influences from gospel, pop, African music and rhythm and blues. Also appearing is Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist and pianist Freddy Cole, who for decades has captivated listeners with his elegant style, performing a wide variety of music from Broadway to blues to contemporary pop.
Grammy-winning a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock will perform on Dec. 17 with special guest The Westminster Jubilee Singers. The performance will premiere The Nativity, a choral setting of the New Testament passage Luke 2:1-21, composed and conducted by J. Donald Dumpson.
For additional information on NJPAC and its performance schedule, visit www.njpac.org.