Annual West Orange Jazz Festival at OSPAC 10/07/2023 1–8 PM

Gregory Burrus
10 min readSep 14, 2023


One more time, the Annual West Orange Jazz Festival returns to the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) and is presented by Pleasant Valley Productions. This all day, outdoor West Orange Jazz Festival will be on Saturday, September 23rd and run from 1–8 pm. Pleasant Valley Productions’ Board Member Lynette Sheard in conjunction with Gregory Burrus Productions curated another lineup of stellar musicians for the 2023 season. You are invited to 4 Boland Drive in West Orange NJ to experience a beer and wine garden, numerous food vendors and many community activities.

West Orange Jazz Fest 2023

Experience the ultimate jazz extravaganza, featuring a diverse lineup of world-class musicians, spanning many generations of jazz. This is a must-attend event for all jazz enthusiasts seeking to tantalize their listening palates. Arrive early and don’t miss out on the following stellar lineup.

Future of Jazz Segment

Mecaden McCune Trio

The future of Jazz segment is being led by this Jazz House Kids’ performer and freshman at Montclair State University. His excellence and dedication is exemplified and acknowledged by the jazz community as Mecaden McCune is the most recent recipient of the James Moody Scholarship. Recently awarded at the 2023 Montclair Jazz Festival by James Moody’s widow, Linda Moody, Jazz House Kids and the Community Foundation of New Jersey. For his West Orange Jazz Festival debut, this young, extremely proficient, rising star drummer will lead his trio on stage featuring another set of rising stars, Maplewood pianist James Bally and bassist Sam Konin. This is the future of jazz so you don’t want to miss this performance.

Don Braden

Saxophonist, flutist, composer and educator, Don Braden’s jazz career spans 40 years. He has toured the world with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes, and others and performed on Saturday Night Live, at Carnegie Hall, Harvard University (where was an engineering undergrad), and countless jazz festivals and clubs. He has over 100 CDs as a sideman and 21 as a leader, the most recent his critically acclaimed Earth Wind and Wonder. Don has written 150 pieces for ensembles from duos to full orchestras, including one for Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and over 100 songs for jazz combos. His compositions appear on dozens of CDs, TV shows and indie films. In 2000, he received a Doris Duke Foundation New Works grant and adjudicates for them and for SURDNA, the Downbeat Student Music Awards, and others. He teaches at Prins Claus Conservatoire in the Netherlands and at Montclair State University. He ran NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens for 15 years and led the Harvard University Monday Jazz Band. Don believes that jazz is a great music style to study because it reflects so many important aspects of life, including creativity, discipline, teamwork, leadership, listening skills, democracy, supportiveness, and improvisation. Don has been the music director of the Litchfield Jazz Camp since 1998.

Carlos Frias and Circulo Social

Our Latin Jazz segment will be led by percussionist and vocalist, Carlos Frias and his stellar band of exciting musicians. With roots in the Dominican Republic Carlos Frias is a singer songwriter, visual artist, drummer, percussionist and the front man of Latin jazz and world music, band Carlos Frías & Circulo Social. They have captivated audiences across Northern NJ at many popular venues including Crossroads, Suzy Ques, Hat City and Abuja International, South Orange amongst many other venues. They have also recently earned the honor of opening for the legendary Tito Puente Jr. in Woodbridge NJ and were selected to kick off the Patterson NJ Jazz Festival.

Our Rising Stars Segment

Violinist and Singer Jacque Lee

Jacquie, Mike Lee Family and Friends

Teenager Jacquie Lee. in 2019 at Garfield Middle school, who has been playing Violin for 11 years, received the Jazz Soloist Downbeat Student Music Award for an Outstanding Performance. Jacquie has also been a member of Jazz House Kids and is a member of a family of musicians which has truly helped her hone her musicianship.

Mike Lee Sax Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, saxophonist Mike Lee has established himself in the New York City/Northern New Jersey area for many years. He balances a thriving performing career with a distinguished teaching resume. He performs regularly in New York City as a member of a wide array of jazz ensembles. His recent associations include The Jimmy Heath Orchestra, The Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, Wallace Roney’s Universe Orchestra, The Oliver Lake Big Band, The Loston Harris Trio, The Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet, Josh Evans Big Band, Dave Stryker, Frank Lacy, TS Monk, and The Roy Hargrove Big Band. He performs regularly at venues such as The Bluenote, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Smalls, The Jazz Gallery, Fat Cat, and Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. Recent tours have taken him up and down the East Coast, to Italy, France, California and Beijing, China.

Mike Lee is Professor of Jazz Saxophone at The John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. In 2009, Lee helped found and develop Jazz House Kid’s in-house jazz education program. As the instructor of the first class (2009) at the Jazz House and Director of the JHK Summer Workshop (2010–2012) he oversaw the growth of the program from one class to a thriving jazz school. Mike’s private students have also excelled in winning national awards from the Grammy Band, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, Downbeat Magazine, and Young Arts. He has had several students go on to attend The Juilliard School, Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, William Paterson, Rutgers, Miami University, and Northwestern University. Lee has presented clinics and workshops throughout the country. Mr. Lee is endorsed by Conn-Selmer saxophones and Vandoren mouthpieces/reeds.

Lee’s musical accomplishments are shared and enjoyed by his musical family. Along with his wife, Violinist Rebecca Harris-Lee, they are raising three active young musicians. Their oldest son, saxophonist Julian, a graduate of The Juilliard School, has a thriving career in and around New York City having performed with ensembles including the Mingus Big Band, Wynton Marsalis Quintet, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Violinist and Singer Jacque Lee with the Lee Family and Friends featuring Saxophonist Mike Lee, Drummer Matt Lee, Pianist Nat Adderley and Bass Player .

Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet

Experience the genius of Grammy Nominated Pianist and Songwriter, Nat Adderley Jr. With a career spanning many decades with over two decades as Luther Vandross’ songwriter and then collaborations with industry icons like Beyonce and Aretha Franklin, Nat Adderley Jr. is a true legend in the world of jazz and R&B. Drawing inspiration from his R&B and jazz lineage, which includes his family, the legendary brothers Cannonball Adderley, a multi-instrumentalist, Cannonball is best-known for his work on alto saxophone and for his recordings with Miles Davis and Cornetist Nat Adderley who played and toured internationally with Lionel Hampton and worked with Kenny Clarke, Wes Montgomery, and Walter Booker amongst others. Nat Adderley, Jr. has also showcased his talents on Broadway, working with renowned artists like Tony winner Andre DeShields. From sold-out shows at prestigious theaters to captivating audiences across the globe, Nat Adderley Jr. is a name that continues to captivate and inspire.
Don’t miss the chance to witness his extraordinary talents in person with his band featuring bassist Belden Bullock, drummer Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax and saxophonist, flutist Mike Lee.

Ty Stephens Jazz and the SoulJaazz

A consummate multi-talented entertainer and performer, Ty Stephens has performed around the world, gaining an international audience with a cool, urban-tinged adult-contemporary sound, based on jazz, funk, and R&B. He has appeared on Broadway in the original productions of Sophisticated Ladies and Marilyn, An American Fable. He has recorded with industry legends Harry Belafonte, Peggi Lee, dance music icon Dan Hartmann, disco pioneer Nile Rogers (Beavis & Butt-Head), master drummer Baba Olatunji, renowned trumpeter Chuck Mangione, singer Gwen McCrae, Def Jam premier artist Alyson Williams, among others.

Appearing on stage with Ty Stephens will be:

Composer/Arranger/Conductor Richard Cummings, Jr., on piano, was musical director for the legendary Harry Belafonte for nearly two decades, and has performed and recorded with Mr. Belafonte, as well as Diane Reeves, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masakela, Wayne Shorter, and the great Jon Lucien, among others.

Bassist Ron “Rondew” Monroe, who served as Associate Producer on Ty Stephens’ “Aquarian Mind” CD and has performed and recorded with notables Pharoah Sanders, Chico Hamilton, George Benson, Tito Puente, Jimmy Witherspoon, Amel Larieux, Dave Koz, Vanessa Rubin, Cece Winans and Roy Ayers.

Drummer Tony Lewis’ a Bronx at the age of 16, won a spot with The McDonald’s Jazz Band and performed on “The Merv Griffin Show” with jazz titan, Dizzy Gillespie.

Tony has toured, performed, and recorded with such music luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Sting, Little Richard, Sam & Dave, Cindy Lauper, The Temptations, Craig Harris, Bob Baldwin, Me’Shell N’degOcello.

Robert “R.T.” Taylor adds funky guitar to the mix. His credits include Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, LL Cool J, Juels Santana, Robert Palmer, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Billy Preston, Eddie Kendricks (Temptations) and McPhadden & Whitehead, among others.

Ty Stephens & (the) SoulJaazz have gained international recognition and fan support through live performances, media interviews, and radio airplay.

Tribute to Warren Battiste Honor Lifetime Achievement

New Orleans native son Warren Battiste is another one of those unsung heroes in the annals of jazz who deserve more recognition for their contributing efforts to the cause of American music. Warren Battiste was born in New Orleans in 1925 and was taught to play the guitar by his father who was a banjo player at Preservation Hall. He was the first guitarist to play with Fats Domino on a regular basis and went on to play with Illinois Jacquet in New York. In New Orleans, Warren has performed at numerous jazz clubs on Bourbon Street, Preservation Hall, Snug Harbor, the Matador and many others. Warren also appeared in the film Shy People starring Jill Clayburgh and Barbara Hershey. Warren has performed with fellow guitarist George Benson, organist Jimmy McGriff, and accompanied classic vocal groups such as The Platters and The Ink Spots to name a few. In 2000, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Jazz from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. At 98 years young, this Newark resident has played across numerous decades and is still actively playing and performing will be onstage at OSPAC.


Winard Harper

— Jazz Drummer, Band Leader, Composer, Educator, dedicated to bringing Jazz to where it is needed-

“Winard Harper was born in Baltimore, 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. At five years old, Winard would sometimes sit in and play his drums in older brother Danny’s rock ‘n roll band after the family moved to Washington, D.C. When Winard’s younger brother Philip took to playing the trumpet, the two of them would busk in the streets of George Town, jam with a few bands, and help out with Danny’s various bands. Listening to Clifford Brown and Max Roach playing “Jordu’’ had fascinated Winard so greatly it showed him his direction — jazz. Subsequently, his father took him to all the local jazz scenes to listen and meet the best in the world of jazz.” Modern Drummer describes Winard as “a straight-ahead jazz drummer, Harper has perfected the blend of American jazz music with the sounds of African rhythms. 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 bandleader of his quartet, his quintet, and his exciting band the Jeli Posse. He is an event’s organizer — successfully running the weekly Friday Fish Fry Jazz Jam and the Sunday “Meet the Artist” Series at Moore’s Lounge in Jersey City.”

Secure Your Tickets


We welcome you to enjoy world-class entertainers, a beer and wine garden, food vendors, and more. Free parking and indoor restrooms are available. Remember to bring your own chair. General admission is $10. $20 premium seating is available, including a pre-set chair in the front of the stage. Special group rates are available for groups of 10 or more. The rain date is September 24th.

Originally published at on September 14, 2023.



Gregory Burrus

Gregory Burrus is a local live music ambassador, producer, promoter, curator, event planner, and community partner. Stay up to date on future events