Jazz Tribute to Wes Montgomery Highlights Local Talent, Benefits Habitat for Humanity

On Thursday, June 28, Jersey City pianist Jordan Piper, Manhattan drummer Karl Latham and several others will pay tribute to jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery while raising a money for a cause.

The 25-year-old Piper will open the concert, which will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Hudson County.

“I’m really happy to be working with them and think work they do really helps the community,” says the three-year Downtown resident. “And I’m all for using music to bring people together…I think that’s something music can do very well.”

For Piper, the evening is also a chance to celebrate the music of Montgomery, whom he called “one of the most unique jazz guitar players in the history of music.”

“When I was in school (at William Paterson University), I actually studied Wes’s music… in particular, an album ‘Smokin’ at the Half Note’ and I’ve been inspired by his playing,” he says.

“It’s funny because he’s known for his technique on guitar — he didn’t use a pick to play. He just used his thumb, (which is) actually really hard to do unless you have a really tough thumb. Apparently he had a huge callus on his thumb which allowed him to play that way and it’s that unusual technique that gave him his original sound,” says Piper, adding that a guitar player recently joked with him, suggesting that he try playing the piano with just his thumbs.

The jazz pianist will probably keep all his fingers on the ivories, but he says music can be excellent regardless of what technique a musician uses.

“I try not to have any filters about music in general,” he says. “What’s good is good.”

Piper — who released “Colors,” an album of original compositions, last year — says he is most influenced by some of the best of “what’s good” including Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and Duke Ellington. “I don’t really see traditional genres in music but at the same time, I recognize the tradition of jazz and studying the masters of what came before for inspiration, but not necessarily just to create a carbon copy,” he says.

The Seattle-area native says after tomorrow’s concert he has other upcoming gigs in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area and will also play at a jazz festival in Washington state.

The concert will also feature headliner Manhattan-based Jazz drummer Karl Latham along with guitarist Vic Juris and bass player Mark Egan.Jack Silbert, a local jazz aficionado, will emcee the show, which is produced and marketed by Unpainted Emporium Productions, a company that has linked the arts with nonprofits’ fundraising efforts in the past.

The concert will benefit Habitat’s latest project, a three-family building in Kearny, which requires more funding and volunteers to complete. They have already completed two single-family homes in Greenville since they were founded in 2004.

“A Tribute to Wes Montgomery” will be held tomorrow, June 28, at 8 pm at Michael Anthony’s, located at 502 Washington Blvd. Doors open at 7 pm. Tickets are $25 in advance online, $30 the day of the show. For more information on Habitat for Humanity, visit their website.

Photo courtesy of Jordan Piper

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.