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African American Museum to Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month

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.

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 and violinist Laticia Lewis will perform selections from her repertoire, including African American spirituals and beloved jazz pieces. Lewis is composer, performer, and educator. Morales is an award-winning author and historian of slavery who serves as SSAAM’s education and exhibit manager.

On Saturday, SSAAM invites the public 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. 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 allowed 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 players 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.”

The opening reception will take place on 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 concert is a BYO blankets, chairs, food, and refreshments event. It will take place on Saturday, April 29 from 1 to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Tickets for the Saturday outdoor concert are $25 for adults and $15 for children ages 14 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ssaamuseum.org/upcoming-events.

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