I heard the great jazz piano player Bill Charlap on WNYC yesterday explaining improvisation and displaying his amazing talent and technical skills. I knew Bill before I knew who he was.
We met on a New Jersey Transit train to the city one day. I found out he was a jazz musician but I didn’t catch his last name and put it together with the piano player whose music had already impressed me when I heard it on another WNYC show, Jonathan Schwartz’s, on a Sunday afternoon drive back from the Berkshires.
But when I did I was even more amazed as he’s a very modest unpretentious cat for someone that TIME magazine named the greatest jazz musician of the year a few years back.
I think he originally grew up in the city, but he’s been living in Jersey for years and has kids in the same public school my little one goes to, so I consider him a home boy now.
So for last night’s wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-help-me-get-back-to-sleep alphabet list, I started thinking about all the musical makers who live or lived in Jersey and did another alphabet list. (I think I did something like this before, but I can’t locate it.)
Here’s what I came up with:
ANTHEIL, GEORGE (early 20th Century avant-garde composer and friend of Jersey poet William Carlos Williams), ARMOR FOR SLEEP (some relatives by marriage in this group)
BASIE, COUNT, COZY COLE, BON JOVI, BLUES TRAVELERS (at least some of them), SCOTT BUCK (a local multi-talent—meaning he plays many instruments—but mainly guitar player and songwriter and original)
GEORGE CLINTON, MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER, BILL CHARLAP
ELGART, LES & LARRY, BILL EVANS (Not sure he grew up here, but lived in Jersey), THE E STREET BAND
FRANCIS, CONNIE, THE FOUR SEASONS, DONALD FAGEN (half of STEELY DAN), THE FUGEES, THE FEELIES, FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE
GILLESPIE, DIZZY (another jazz great who I don’t think grew up in Jersey but lived most of his adult life here), LESLIE GORE, GLORIA GAYNOR, STEVE GIRARDI (a local jazz guitarist and composer whose music is unique and compelling)
HARRY, DEBBIE, WHITNEY & CISSY HOUSTON, LAURYN HILL
ISLEY BROTHERS, THE (I saw them at the West Orange Teenage Canteen long before “Shout” was a hit), JANIS IAN
JOHNSON, JAMES P. (great stride piano player and composer), WYCLEF JEAN, THE JONAS BROTHERS (why not)
KIRSHNER, DON (who created the Monkees), KOOL AND THE GANG (at least some of them)
MONK, THELONIOUS JR. (has lived in my hometown, South Orange, for many years now and his father spent the last years of his life living in Jersey, Englewood I think), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE
NELSON, OZZIE (a big band leader before he became famous for the TV show and his younger son Ricky, who was born in Jersey), NAUGHTY BY NATURE
PAUL, LES (not born in Jersey but has lived here most of his adult life), THE PLURALS (a very cool white group that I heard live many times back in the 1950s and were locally famous), THE PARLIAMENTS (some of), BUCKY & JOHN PIZZARELLI, PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC (also some of), KATE PIERSON (from THE B-52S, or so I hear)
ROBESON, PAUL, NELSON RIDDLE (one of the best arrangers of Sinatra recordings), THE RASCALS, THE ROCHES
SINATRA, FRANK, THE SHIRELLES, WAYNE SHORTER, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, PATTI SMITH, THE SMITHEREENS, SPIN DOCTORS, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS (the DeLeo brothers)
VAUGHN, SARAH, FRANKIE VALLI (after he went solo), TOM VERLAINE
WILSON, TEDDY, DIONNE WARWICK, STEVIE WONDER (maybe just as an adult)
YO LA TENGO (someone told me they live in Hoboken, I don’t know if they grew up in Jersey)
(You could do this for your home state too, if it’s other than Jersey)