Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mesterhazy Kicks off 2012 Jazz Season

George Mesterhazy kicked off the 2012 Jazz season with style in a fundraiser for the Somers Point Jazz Society at Sandi Point bistro.

As he has done previously, Mesterhazy plays an annual benefit concert to support the jazz society that has brought jazz acts to Somers Point for some years now.

The former Atlantic City pianist has been holding down the piano gig at Cape May's Merion Inn of late, but he still gets out to sit in on recordings and do special shows like this one, which also included saxman Mike Pedicin, Jr., Barry Miles, Tim Lekan and others.

Sandi Point, formerly Mac's, is now one of the hottest live music venues at the Jersey Shore, featuring Big Band Mondays - settling in after the new years with Ed Vezinho/Jim Ward Big Band, and a jam session the following night with the Tim Lekan Sextet. Lew London and Bob Mower have been playing Sandi Point every Saturday night, and the Somers Point Jazz Society seems to have earmarked the place as their new headquarters.

The Somers Point Jazz Society Fundraiser, with Mesterhazy at the helm, is just the beginning of a series of jazz shows that will lead up to April's 2012 Jazz Master Award Reception to honor this year's recipient Bob Perkins, the WRTI radio host and jazz aficionado - "BP w/ the GM," who has his own Wiki page -

The fundraiser featured Mesterhazy on piano, drummer Bob Shomo and Andy Lalasis on bass, who were joined by special guest Barry Miles, as well as other Jazz Society regulars Mike Pedicin, Jr. and bassist Tim Lekan, putting on a show that will help maintain Somers Point jazz during a time of economic uncertainty.

Mesterhazy plays piano every Thursday thru Sunday at Cape May's historic Merion Inn, and has performed regularly at the older, bigger and thought to be more firmly established Cape May Jazz Festival, which had to suspend operations last fall because of financial red ink. The Somers Point Jazz Society is running strong in the black, thanks in large part to strong leadership and supportive musicians like Pedicin, Lekan and Mesterhazy.

Born in Hungry, Mesterhazy came to the United States in the 1950s, escaping Communism with his parents just as the Iron Curtain came down. From a family of musicians and performers, Mesterhazy naturally played the accordion, guitar, organ and other instruments and when his family moved to the Jersey Shore, he formed a Mainland high school band that held down the house gig at the old Strand Hotel in Atlantic City. That's also where the band who played the 500 Club stayed, so he began to sit in with them at Skinny's joint and played other clubs around town. One night, when the piano player got up, Mesterhazy sat down and eventually became known as one of the best accompanists in the business, especially when casinos came to town.

From AC to LA, George played every gig he could get, eventually hooking up with Rebecca Parris, a Boston native who sang with Dizzie and the Count. He recorded "Spring" with her, and while accompanying Parris at a small club in DC, Mesterhazy met Joel Siegel and (Sir)Richard Rodney, still in their tuxes from attending a Kennedy Center honors event. Through them Mesterhazy met the late, great Shirley Horn and with her he recorded "Loving You," which was nominated for a 1998 Grammy.

Mesterhazy also regularly accompanies jazz singer Paula West when she sings at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City and The Razz Room in San Francisco.

Playing behind Rebecca Parris, Shirley Horn and Paula West is no mean feat, as they are three aces for you, and Mesterhazy didn't just play piano but also arranged the songs for their shows and recordings.

George Mesterhazy at the Merion in Cape May

Adding sax to the mix, Mike Pedicin, Jr. recently held a party at Sandi Point to celebrate the release of his new CD "Searching for Peace," which has been critically aclaimed by serious jazz lovers and should be nominated for some awards.

Pedicin, like Mesterhazy, grew his roots in Atlantic City before branching out to accompany some jazz greats on tours of the world and then returning home to play for us. Pedicin also makes jazz an educational experience, and as a professor of jazz at Stockton State, he takes the music out of the bars and nightclubs and brings it to the schools and libraries, exposing America's unique sound to an audience that normally wouldn't get a chance to hear it live.

The series of jazz education sessions that Pedicin started last summer at the Ocean City library continues on January 15 (2PM) with blues singer Cathy Rocco, on January 22 (2PM) with flutists Mary Lou Newnam doing a presentation on Women Pioneers in Jazz, and on January 29 (2PM) with Monenette Sudler ("The First Lady of Jazz Guitary) conducting a clinic on the music of T. Monk and Wayne Shorter.

I remember Monenette when she played at the old Shire Tavern on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, and later at the Cape May Jazz Fest, always giving a guitar workshop for students on Saturday afternoon.

Michael Pedicin likes to share jazz with young people and is joined by Bob Ferguson on trumpet, Bob Shomo on drums, Tim Lekan on bass, and John Pruitt on keyboard in a short take of when they appeared at the Jordan Road School in Somers Point and played a well received blues tune by John Coltrane. To see it for yourself to to -

Next door to Sandi Point is the venerable Gregory's, where banjo wizard Franny Smith and the Atlantic City Jazz Band will celebrate Mardi Gras on Saturday, February 25, which will be a tune up for the Somers Point Jazz Socity's Cape Bank JAZZ @ THE POINT 2012. Beginning with a free Thursday night, March 8 with duel shows with the Venissa Santi QUintet at the Mission Point Church (900 W. NY Ave.) and the Luke O'Reilly Quartet at Gregorys, the Festival continues throughout the weekend at Gregorys and Sandi Point. It will include Mulgrew Miller, Keith Holis, Sheryl Bailey, Walt Weiskopf, Three Blind Mice, Jimmy Cobb, Tim Horner, Grant Stewart and Hilary Gardner.

These are all top flight acts that you would never be able to catch unless you went to a big city, and are brought to you locally by the Somers Point Jazz Society.

And it's not over yet. Two weeks later, on Saturday, March 24, the Andrew Neu Quintet will play a lunchtime gig at Gregs and then the Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale 6th Annual Winter Jazz Series Master Award will be presented to Bob Perkins on April 22nd (4PM) at Sandi Point, an event that feature The Joe Mancini Trio.

Joe Mancini also plays piano every Wednesday with bassist Lew Scott at Steve & Cookies in Margate (9700 Amherst Ave.)

Bob Perkins is truly deserving of this award, as "BP with the GM" has been turning us on to some really good jazz for years now. Originally from South Philly, Perkins got his start in radio in Detroit and did news as well as music before returning home to work at the legendary WDAS in its heyday. Since 1997 he has been spinning the discs and interviewing jazz acts at Temple's WRTI, and serving as a master of ceremonies at the Mellon and Cape May Jazz Festivals.

I first met Bob Perkins at the Rusty Nail at one of the early Cape May festivals when he introduced Oscar Brown and recruited Brian Trainer to accompany Brown on piano. It was an amazing performance I will never forget, especially since Trainer and Brown have both passed on.

But Bob Perkins is still plugging away, promoting jazz in general, and the Somers Point Jazz Society and Cape May Jazz Festivals in particular.

Now after this incredible Somers Point Jazz Society Winter Series and Spring Festival are over, we'll have to go back to Cape May and help Carol and Woody get their act back together.

One way the Somers Point Jazz Society stays strong in tough economic times is because of Nick Regine, the founder and guiding light, as well as some core society members who keep things organized and musicians who keep the music going.

You can support the Somers Point Jazz Society by becoming a member. Key Membership Benefits include free admission to Summer and Winter Jazz Series, and member only events, including the annual picnic, discounts on tickets for the Jazz@thePoint Festival and all special event concerts and workshops. You also get advance event notification of shows through a quarterly newsletter and a Membership Card. Become a card-carrying member of the Somers Point Jazz Society. Individuals – $40; Seniors – $25 (60 or Older); Artist – $50; Family (2 Persons in same household) – $60; Patron – $150; Family Patron – $250; Business – $200.

For more info and to sign on go to:


Saturday - January 14 - Billy Walton at a special Tony Marts show at Sandi Point.
Sunday - January 15 - (2PM) Jazz vocalist Cathy Rocco, Ocean City Public Library (OCPL)
Sunday - January 22 - (2PM) Sax/flutist Mary Lou Newnam Women Pioneers in Jazz OCPL
Sunday - January 29 - (2PM) Monnette Sudler The Music of T. Monk and Wayne Shorter OCPL
Saturday - Feb 25 - (8PM) Franny Smith & The AC Jazz Band plays Gregory's Mardi Gras
Thursday - March 8 -(7PM) Venissa Santi Quintet at Mission Point Church (900 W. NY)
Thursday - March 8 -(8:30PM) Luke O'Reilly Quartet at Gregorys.
Friday - March 9 - (8PM) Keith Hollis Quartet at Sandi Point (8&10PM)
Friday - March 9 - (8PM) Mulgrew Miller (8&10PM)/Sheryl Bailey (9:30PM & 11:30PM)
Saturday - March 10 -(8&10) Walt Weiskopf Sextet at Sandi Point
Saturday - March 10 -(8&10) Three Blind Mice at Gregorys.
Saturday - March 10 - (9:30&11:30PM) Jimmy Cobb & Cob's Mob at Sandi Point
Sunday - March 11 - (2PM) Tim Horner Quintet
Sunday - March 11 - (2PM&6PM) Grant Stewart Quartet w/Hilary Gardner at Sandi Point
Saturday - March 24 - (11PM) Andrew Neu Quintet at Gregorys
Sunday - April 22 - (4PM) Jazz Master Award - Sandi Point honoring Bob Perkins, w/Joe Mancini Trio


Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro 908 Shore Rd., Somers Point, NJ 08244 609-927-2300
Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar 900 Shore Rd., Somers Point, NJ 609-927-6665
Ocean City Free Public Library 1735 Simpson Ave., Ocean City, NJ, United States, 08226
Steve & Cookies - 9700 Amherst Ave. Margate
Merion Inn - Decatur Street, Cape May
Mission Point Church - 900 W. New York Ave., Somers Point

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