In a classic clapboard home near the bay in Somers Point, Nick Regine talked with us about his favorite "gigs" -- as founder, charter member, and president of the Somers Point Jazz Society, which provides South Jersey jazz fans with a dazzling array of experiences.
OK, what leads a fellow to start a jazz society?
For 28 years, I was director of community education and recreation for Somers Point, organizing everything from summer camp to adult education programs. That's where the organizational drive came from. At the same time, I was in charge of a group called the Foundation for Education. We had fundraisers like opera dinners, an a capella festival, and, toward the end, a jazz festival. When I got ready to retire, I knew that piece wouldn't continue if I didn't nurture it. So I formed a separate group, a 501(C)3. We still benefit the foundation; we've given over $30,000 to help with music and creative arts programs in the schools.
Your upcoming Jazz @ the Point festival's all the buzz.
This is its eleventh year. Originally, I approached the owners of Bean-O about putting together a "blues and chili festival." I'm a jazz fan, but I thought a blues festival might appeal to more people. The sponsorship didn't work out, and some friends said we could probably put a few jazz groups together for about $1,500. We put on a one-day event, on a Sunday afternoon, at Gregory's, Brownie's by the Bay, and the Pearl Restaurant. It was pretty well attended, but we weren't sure we'd do it again. We did, on a 75-degree April day when nobody wanted to be inside. I was really discouraged, but I put together a focus group to discuss keeping this thing alive. The general feeling was that we should do the event at night, and take it to multiple days. Those changes started us on the road to success.
What attracts you to jazz?
The honesty. It's people up there putting the most that they have into music. To me, it's almost a Zen thing. What you see and what you hear for that moment will never be recreated again.
Has your jazz taste changed over time?
I've been a jazz fan since I was a teenager. One of our board members is the great jazz pianist Johnny Andrews. Back in the 1960s, he had a radio show on WOND that first turned me onto jazz. I'm sort of a purist, more of the straight-ahead jazz. The farthest I go out is Coltrane. Fusion jazz turned me off. Some of our members want blues, and that's fine as long as we don't lean too far in that direction. I've seen too many jazz organizations not be true to themselves. And I'm sorry, but I really don't think you can call yourself a jazz festival if your headliners are Crosby, Stills and Nash.
What's the best way to find local jazz venues?
Check our Web site, spjazz.org. The society itself has about 15 events each year, we sponsor others, and we calendar where musicians are playing. And one of our missions is education. We've done single-day workshops ... right now, we have an "Evolution of Jazz" series.
Back to Nick, any interests other than jazz?
Fishing and playing the horses ... I make an annual pilgrimage to Saratoga. And I like to travel and read.
Does South Jersey nurture musical talent?
I wrote to Jazz Times just the other day about how it's important that groups like ours organize and thrive because, except for the big names, most jazz musicians don't make their living out of jazz. We provide opportunities for them to perform, and to my mind that's a lot more important than having another tenor sax player come out of a Berklee College of Music. You know how they ask whether a tree falls in a forest if nobody hears it? Well, you can have the greatest jazz musician in the world, and if there's no place for him to play, does that greatness matter?
The multi-day, multi-venue nighttime event has thrived in recent years, raising thousands of dollars for the Somers Point School District’s arts and music programs over the years.
The Somers Point Jazz Society forges ahead with live music and educational programming through the colder months.
“The location was the key. A beautiful backdrop of the bay, with all types of boats cruising past, and the Ocean City skyline [across the bay].”
The Mulgrew Miller Trio and Jimmy Cobb's Mob headline this year's 15th annual Cape Bank Jazz @ The Point Festival in March.
A funeral viewing will be held this Saturday, Dec. 4 (from 9–11am) at St. Monica’s Church on 108 N. Pennsylvania Ave. at Arctic & Baltic avenues in Atlantic City.
Bob Perkins, longtime Philadelphia-area jazz program radio host, has been named the 2012 recipient of the Somers Point Jazz Society’s fifth annual Jazz Master Award.
Sedaka and the Globetrotters