IN TUNE: It’s an idea born of a love of jazz and a spirit of community. It doesn’t run late, making it friendly to music students. And it draws from an area rich in talent. Welcome to MoJO at the Music Den, the newest home for jazz jams in North Jersey.
North Bergen High School graduate Bill Faresich came up with the idea after visiting the brand-new state-of-the-art Music Den store in Randolph and seeing its 120-seat Performing Arts Center.
“The venue struck me as a perfect place for a monthly jazz jam,” he said. “It had a stage, ample seating, great store location….”
Music Den owners Jerry and Tom Scognamiglio dreamed of building a theater as part of their Route 10 store, a place where students can perform and the community can gather to enjoy local talent.
The Scognamiglios hope to have chamber music, rock, folk and anything else that attracts a crowd to their unique upstairs venue, with its outstanding acoustics and ideal sightlines.
Once they gave their blessing, Faresich came up with the name “Morris Jazz Organization” – which, of course, could be shortened to “MoJO.” Thus, “MoJO at the Den” was born.
“It’s really about getting back to the music for me,” Faresich told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “In high school, I was always a classic rock fan, but I was really moved by the jazz-rock sound that bands like Steely Dan and Pat Metheny produced.”
Faresich, who now lives in Randolph, began studying guitar seriously about six years ago, first with Joshua Breakstone and then Nat Janoff. Two years ago he switched to upright bass, and has been studying with J. Brunka and Todd Coolman.
Now, he’s promoting the jam, while leading the house band.
“I know a family in town and their son, who’s a drummer and trumpet player, wanted to get serious with his jazz music,” Faresich told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “When he was a senior in high school, they’d take him to Cecil’s in West Orange for their weekly mid-week jam to practice his improv in front of a live audience.
“These were often late nights and drinking crowds…not a place for a high school student could go alone, so his parents traveled with him. I have also been to many jazz jams myself and it’s usually a late night once you finally get to play.”
Faresich is looking to invite local jazz pros for regularly monthly jams – and perhaps even partner up with a local restaurant for a Sunday jazz brunch.
So far, the performances have been top notch.
It works pretty the same as other open mic and jam nights, with a house band and a sign-up sheet. The house band is terrific, with Faresich on bass, Steve Sklar and Bob Bove on guitar, Rich Reidinger on sax and drummer Larry Pasquale.
You get called in order and can play two or three songs.
Rob Adams recently got up with his Flugelhorn, and the outfit slid right into the early 60s jazz standard, “Blue Bossa,” which weds hard bop with the bossa nova.
That same night, Ben Earl brought his harmonica (after reading about the jam on Craiglist) and jazzed both the crowd and the other musicians. It was an indicator of the type of talent that can be expected at upcoming jams.
It’s a great learning experience for those who attend, including middle, high school and college students and adults looking to polish their chops. Faresich urges youngsters to bring loved ones and friends.
He also advises that you bring your own instrument (unless you’re a drummer), along with at least five copies of the sheet music. Otherwise, Faresich will suggest beginner tunes, including “Autumn Leaves,” “Misty,” “Black Orpheus,” “Killer Joe,” “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”
The jam runs from 7 – 9 p.m. And it’s barely a half-hour from Bergen, which gets you home early. Plenty of good parking, too.
Next gig: Two weeks from tomorrow, March 6.
“We’ll be exploring some Latin and bossa-styled tunes,” Faresich promises.
Mark it on your calendar.
Bill Faresich: 973-306-9676