The Jersey City Jazz Festival pitches a big tent.  This year’s event is the most varied in its history, with very little redundancy in a lineup that involves more than two hundred musicians at thirty shows spread over four early June nights. Tonight’s ticketed kickoff event at White Eagle Hall (337 Newark, $25, show at 8 p.m.) features a performance by the legendary salsa ensemble Tipica 73 and a deejay set from WFMU’s resident Latin music aficionado Vee Vee. The main event — three stages of jazz, for free, at Exchange Place on Saturday and Sunday — includes local heroes Riverview Jazz All-Stars (noon on Jun. 3), percussion luminary Jeff “Tain” Watts (with the Eric Wyatt Quartet, 5 p.m. on Jun. 3), funky Hammond B-3 master Akiko Tsuruga (7 p.m. on Jun. 3), French gypsy jazz cornerstone Stephane Wrembel (1 p.m. on Jun. 4), and gospel thunder from the Joshua Nelson Choir (noon on Jun. 4). Once again, there’ll be satellite events all over town, including a set from the folk-blues storyteller and Unlawful Assembly bandleader Walter Parks at The Statuary (53 Congress, 7 p.m on Jun. 2), the celebrated percussionist Winard Harper plus tap dancers at Nimbus (329 Warren, $25, show at 7 p.m. on Jun 2.), and jam sessions at Moore’s Lounge (189 Monticello) and the Waterfront Hyatt (1 Exchange Place). (website link and full lineup here.)

But JCJF is also uncompromising.  They’ve never given in to the temptation to throw their spotlight on crowd-pleasers who don’t fit their mission.  Even as they’ve grown rapidly, they haven’t diluted the production — they may take a broad view of what jazz is, but every musician in the lineup fits comfortably under the big umbrella.  They’ve managed to be successful while maintaining quality and consistency, and that’s a brutally hard thing to do in any branch of show business.  Riverview Jazz has demonstrated that they can throw a fantastic party while remaining committed to musical sophistication, and that’s enabled them to land headline attractions as impressive as this one:

Bill Frisell Trio @ Jersey City Jazz Festival (Jun. 3)

Bill Frisell might not be the flashiest guitar player in America, but fans of texture, shading, mood, and subtlety will always count him among the very best. Frisell’s career has been one sustained act of aesthetic synthesis — first, matching the arcane magic and sophistication of the ECM sound with the skronk, buzz, and impertinence of the Downtown NYC scene, and later as an amalgamator of folk traditions and interpreter of neoclassical music. During his lengthy career, he’s chosen to work with collaborators of quiet but burning ambition, including bassist Kermit Driscoll, drummer Jim Keltner, slide guitarist Greg Leisz, saxophonist John Zorn, and the percussionist Paul Motian. He’s always been an outstanding team player, and he’s enhanced every combo he’s performed with. Expect ambience, feats of imagination, gentle improvisation, and spellbinding beauty. (RWJ Barnabas Health Stage, Exchange Place Path Plaza, 6 p.m., free with RSVP, visit 

Laura Cantrell @ Fox & Crow (Jun. 15)

If you only know Laura Cantrell from her on-air stints at WFMU and SiriusXM, well, you’ve heard some outstanding country and roots rock radio shows. But you’ve also missed a few albums that deserve to be celebrated as modern classics — ones that emphasize the timelessness and toughness of country and its endless adaptability, too. On Not the Tremblin’ Kind (your correspondent’s pick for the very best set of the year 2000), Cantrell developed a frank plainspoken delivery that conveyed heartbreak and knowing humor at the same time, and she applied it to narrative compositions like “Queen of the Coast” and “Churches Off the Interstate” that demonstrated depth of feeling for salvation-hungry Americans. She also proved herself to be an outstanding interpreter of the songs of her fellow Big Apple country singer-songwriters: Amy Rigby, Joe Flood, Jay Sherman-Godfrey, and Amy Allison, whose barroom weeper “The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter” gets its definitive version on Tremblin’.  Her full-length tribute to Kitty Wells is a keeper, too, and exactly the sort of project you’d expect to get from a radio archivist and true believer. Just Like a Rose, her first full-length in nine years, is out later this month. (Live in the Parlor at Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade, 8 p.m.; $10; visit

Doug Beavers @ The Statuary (Jun. 16)

Grammy winning trombonist and TCNJ professor Doug Beavers is another of the star attractions of the Jersey City Jazz Festival — he’ll close the event on the Exchange Place Pier Stage with a set of Latin jazz on Sunday evening. He’s in town to support Luna, the follow-up to the smoldering Sol, a set of accomplished, impeccably arranged lover-man Latin music, complete with randy vocals, a landslide of percussion, and brass as warm and rich as poured caramel. If you miss him at Exchange Place (and even if you don’t), he’ll be hosting an outdoor party, on one of the longest days of the year, at Jersey City’s home for masterful jazz. Beavers is the lead trombone man in the fearsome Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and he’s played for Eddie Palmieri, so there’s virtually no chance that this gig won’t be worthwhile, especially if he plays “Quédate,” his excellent, fiery 2021 single. His Afro-Latin Sextet gig in Jersey City Heights is sandwiched between a trip to Mexico City for the international Salsa Festival and a show at Lincoln Center. He’s in demand. But this June, he’s ours, twice. (The Statuary, 53 Congress; visit

Grupo Aurora @ Nimbus Arts Center (Jun. 17)

More propulsive Latin music at the home of Jersey City dance: New York City bachateros Grupo Aurora cross the Hudson for an installment in a series they’re calling Música y Ritmos. It’s the latest collaboration between Nimbus and the Segunda Quimbamba Folklore Center, our local generators of tropical breezes. In addition to the show, Nimbus and Segunda Quimbamba are promising an open floor, a deejay, and bachata lessons from teacher Emma Russo, who, accompanied by musician, educator, and swell dancer Edwin Ferreras, will show you how to step. Then you’ll get to put what you’ve learned to practice during Grupo Aurora’s set, which is likely to feature single “Maldición,” a clever fusion of bachata guitar, folk melody, and contemporary production. (Latin American Music Series at Nimbus Arts Center, 329 Warren, 6:30 p.m.; $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door; 

Christina Ward @ Pet Shop (Jun. 22)

“I can’t tell which memory feels like eternity,” sings Christina Ward on Calendar, her seven-song 2022 project. This just after she’s admitted she’s had too much medication, and she’s tired of the make-believe redemption. She doesn’t sound desperate about it — just exhausted. The EP possesses all the hallmarks of the dream pop style, including murmured multi-tracked vocals, electronically treated instruments, and languorous tempos. But the Doylestown, PA singer-songwriter sounds groggily awake throughout the set, and busy sifting through a troubled mind and the complicated emotions therein. Her group supports her with gently but firmly strummed acoustic guitar, occasional brass, washes of synthesizer and feedback, clattering machine drums and sound effects, and distant, clattering who-knows-what. It’s a consistently intriguing ride, and it’s out on Jersey indie imprint Mint400, who’ve ganged up with local tastemakers Look at My Records to stuff both stages at Pet Shop full of music. Ward is performing in the more intimate wine bar basement setting; meanwhile, upstairs, CR and the Nones, Best Dressed Ghost, and others will be making a racket. They’re calling it Two Floors of Tuneage, but don’t hold that against them. (Pet Shop, 193 Newark, 7:30 p.m.; free; visit, or

Son Little @ White Eagle Hall (Jun. 24)

Some soul singers give the impression that they’ve never heard a record that was made after the Ford Administration. That’s not Son Little. Like fellow traditionalists Durand Jones and Aaron Frazer, he makes R&B that could only exist in a world that also contains hip-hop, even though it doesn’t sound like hip-hop at all. It’s about the relationship to the beat, and repetition, and attitude, too. The Roots noticed: they collaborated with Son Little on The Tipping Point and Undun (that’s his voice on the haunting “Sleep,” a highlight of the set.) He’s also recorded with Hezekiah, RJD2, and MHz Legacy. But on his own, he doesn’t often slip into hip-hop cadences. Like Neptune, his 2022 set, is an amalgam of muscular blues, throwback ‘70s soul, and brutally confessional singer-songwriter music, soaked in whiskey, thoroughly smoked, and left to ferment.  On the album, he excavates his psyche and airs feelings that most R&B vocalists wouldn’t have the guts to acknowledge. There’s a good chance he’s even more candid in concert. This month, we get to find out. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark, 8 p.m.; $25; visit

Tris McCall has written about art, architecture, performance, politics, and public culture for many publications, including the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, Jersey Beat, the Jersey City Reporter,...