The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is excited to announce the artists performing as part of this season’s Jazz in the Loft series. Curated by Grammy Award-winning producer John Lee, Jazz in the Loft brings audiences sultry melodies, ingenious harmonies, and swinging rhythms from some of today’s brightest and most innovative Jazz artists.  Lee was also the curator of the acclaimed Giants of Jazz show, this past November honoring pianist Kenny Barron in a sold out performance.

Beginning on Sunday, January 21 at 7PM, world-class trumpeter James Gibbs III and The Brick City Soul Collective will have audiences singing, dancing, and vibing to all styles of Jazz including Latin Jazz, Straight Ahead Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Classical, Urban Contemporary music, R&B, Gospel, Rock, and Blues.  On Sunday, February 18 at 7PM, international saxophone sensation Erena Terakubo brings her sharp and vibrant melodies to SOPAC after having performed everywhere from the UN General Assembly’s 2022 International Jazz Day celebrations to Dizzy’s Jazz Club at Lincoln Center and the Tokyo Jazz Festival.  On Sunday, March 24 at 7PM, pianist James Austin Jr. shares his debut album, Songs in the Key of Wonder, and showcases his tasteful arrangements of Stevie Wonder’s beloved classics.  And closing out the season with a bang on Sunday, April 28 at 7PM, saxophonist Willie Williams promises smooth and sultry melodies inspired by his career mentors including Don Patterson, Groove Homes, Charles Earland, and T.S. Monk.

Tickets to all Jazz in the Loft performances are $20, general admission, and a cash bar will be available for all attendees over 21.

Don’t miss your opportunity to experience these soon-to-be Jazz legends at SOPAC!  Get your tickets today!


Learn More About This Season’s Jazz in the Loft Artists

James Gibbs III & The Brick City Soul Collective
SUN, JAN 21 at 7PM

James Gibbs III is a former star student of the New Brunswick Jazz Institute, and a student of the great Donald Byrd, Gibbs was also a former participant in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead from 1996 to 1998, studying and mentoring under the late, great vocalist Betty Carter.

Gibbs has performed and toured with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, TS Monk, legendary R&B vocal sensation Joe Thomas, John Lee, and many others. He has released four projects as a band leader and artist.  His music has been featured on many other album projects, and he has recorded on over 40 albums throughout his career.

Gibbs performs many different styles of music including Latin Jazz, Straight Ahead Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Classical, Urban Contemporary music, R&B, Gospel, Rock, Blues and many others.  With his unique style of playing and entertainment, Gibbs is guaranteed to keep the audience’s attention and have the whole room singing, dancing, and vibing to his music.

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Erena Terakubo Quartet
SUN, FEB 18 at 7PM

Erena Terakubo is a multi-talented saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer, arranger, and educator from Sapporo, Japan. She is an international sensation whose career performances stretch five different continents. While still in high school, Terakubo released her debut album North Bird, a collaboration with Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, Lee Pearson, and Peter Bernstein, which reached #1 on the Japanese Jazz charts and was awarded Swing Journal’s Gold Disc. She has released five more albums since then.

Terakubo has played notable venues and events such as International Jazz Day 2022 at the UN General Assembly Hall in New York, the Tokyo Jazz Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Dizzy’s Jazz Club Jazz at Lincoln Center, Smoke Jazz Club (where she led a band featuring special guest Louis Hayes), the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Beantown Jazz Festival, the Blue Note Tokyo, Blue Note New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Terakubo has performed in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Burkina Faso, Chile, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland.

In addition to leading the Erena Terakubo quartet, she has appeared with a wide variety of ensembles. These ensembles include Jon Faddis and his All-Star Big Band, the Kenny Barron Quartet (with Kenny Barron, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and Jonathan Black), the Mingus Big Band, and the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra. Terakubo has collaborated to produce a total of six albums. Since the debut of “North Bird” in 2010, she has released New York Attitude (with Kenny Barron – SOPAC’s 2023 Giants of Jazz Honoree, Ron Carter, Lee Pearson and Dominick Farinacci) and Burkina (with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, and Lenny White). Downbeat and Jazziz Magazines commended her 4th album, A Time for Love from Cellar Live (with David Hazeltine, David Williams, and Lewis Nash).

Terakubo was the first Japanese recipient of the prestigious Presidential Scholarship at Berklee College of Music, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 2018. She earned her master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in May 2023.

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James Austin Jr. Quartet
SUN, MAR 24 at 7PM

James Austin Jr is an accomplished Jazz pianist and bandleader who hails from Chicago, IL. He has honed his craft under the tutelage of a number of legendary Jazz musicians including extensive study with Barry Harris, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Jazz educators of all time. Austin’s musical achievements include being honored as a featured performer and semifinalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

In recent years, Austin has performed alongside an illustrious list of singers and musicians in diverse settings throughout the world. He recently served as pianist and arranger for two star-studded concerts at Carnegie Hall under the baton of esteemed musical director, Ray Chew.

Austin is regularly featured in the New York City area as a pianist and bandleader for various live concerts, theatrical performances, and civic and charitable events. He has curated and led the NJPAC Jazz Jam Session series since its inception. Songs in the Key of Wonder, Austin’s debut album, showcases his tasteful instrumental arrangements of a selection of classic compositions from the songbook of the great Stevie Wonder.

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Willie Williams Quartet
SUN, APR 28 at 7PM

Originally from North Carolina and raising Philadelphia, Willie Williams was raised in the tradition of Philadelphia saxophonists.  He began performing and recording professionally with local acts at the age of 12. Locally, he became the most talked about youth in many years.

After graduating high school first in his class, Williams began studying classical saxophone with Marshall Taylor and started performing with many diverse ensembles. While attending the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts by day, he pursued his passion for Jazz by night, performing with local organ trios including Don Patterson, Groove Homes, Charles Earland, and Trudy Pits. Leading a quartet in Philadelphia, he opened for the veteran alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, who encouraged him to move to New York City.

There he began performing with Art Blakey, Jackie Byard, Sam Rivers, and the Young Lions. His big break came with “Taylor’s Wailers” Quintet formed by the late drummer, Arthur Taylor. During that time, he also worked and toured with Clifford Jordan’s Big Band, the Mingus Dynasty, and began a long and fruitful collaboration with T. S. Monk.

After recording five critically acclaimed discs as a leader, he has made his mark as an award-winning performer, composer, arranger, and educator.

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