Dorthaan Kirk to Hold Jazz Brunch Jams in Newark

‘Dorthaan’s Place’ will launch with Geri Allen Trio Oct. 21

Geri Allen
Houston Person at the at Paradise Valley Jazz Party, 2011
Dorthaan Kirk

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Newark’s “First Lady of Jazz,” Dorthaan Kirk, will hold the first of four monthly jazz brunch jam sessions, titled “Dorthaan’s Place,” at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s NICO Kitchen + Bar on Sunday, October 21. The event will blend a Sunday brunch with an intimate jazz performance hosted and curated by Kirk, special events and programs coordinator at Newark’s WBGO Jazz, the country’s largest jazz station.

When John Schreiber became the CEO and president of NJPAC in 2011, like most newly-hired CEO and presidents, he had his own vision of expanding programming at NJPAC, Kirk said. Dorthaan’s Place is one of the events that sprang out of that vision, along with the brand new TD James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival. “It’s a little more accessible to the community, as opposed to the large concerts they usually have at NJPAC,” Kirk said.

She said that when Schreiber initially approached her, she thought he was only interested in getting a feel for the community; she never expected him to ask her to host the event.

“I’ve never been speechless, but I was absolutely stunned. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I was absolutely thrilled,” she said.

But Schreiber said that he was very intentional about his choice. “I wanted to strengthen the relationship between WGBO and the Arts Center, and the jazz community and the Arts Center. I thought a fun way to do that would be to work with both.”

And Kirk was a fundamental part of that framework due to her prominent role in the New Jersey jazz community. “There are a lot of jazz brunches. But thereʼs only one Dorthaanʼs Place,” Schreiber said.

The Geri Allen Trio will kick off the four-part series on October 21. The Houston Person Quartet is scheduled for December 16, the Don Braden Organix Group for January 20 and the Cyrus Chestnut Trio for January 17. After assessing the turnout for the four-part series, NJPAC will evaluate whether it will continue the event on a monthly basis. Kirk said that she can’t imagine it as anything but a success.

“There’s very little, almost nothing, happening in Newark, particularly jazz, on Sundays. It will give people somewhere to go after church,” Kirk said. “Newark has very little jazz. It’s a crime. We should have jazz in the city.”

She expects the recent closing of the last jazz club in town and the novelty of the event to help in filling the 160 seats the restaurant boasts. “The first one will be over-packed. It was announced a while back and people will be curious to see what it’s all about,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it being hugely successful, and there’s nothing to compete with it.”

But despite her confident outlook, Kirk intends to maintain a publicity campaign. “It’s the middle of the day on a Sunday, but with the bad economy, you can never let down your PR,” she said. “December will be the real story, because the newness will have worn off.”

Each event will begin at 11 a.m., with the music beginning at 11:30 a.m.. There will be two sets, each approximately 50 minutes long. Tickets for the event cost $45 per person, $15 for children under 12 years old, and can be purchased in advance online at NJPAC, or at the door on the day of the event.