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Montclair Musician Richard Pierson Will Perform at Montclair Jazz Festival

Richard Pierson comes from a long line of Montclairians, dating all the way back to 1867. Pierson’s ancestors took residence in the Fourth Ward when the southern part of Montclair was known as “Cranetown,” an ode to the Crane family. Though he comes from a long line of Montclair residents who graduated from the same high school and frequented the same restaurants, he is the first in his family to play at the Montclair Jazz Festival Downtown Jamboree this Saturday, September 9. Pierson, alongside his band, will be playing on the Community Stage on Church Street from 2:55–3:55 p.m. 

Pierson, joined by John Dispheno on the piano, Mopoki Mahara on the bass, Natt Janoff playing guitar and Tim Hegarty on the saxophone, will lead the group while playing the drums. 

Residents may recognize Pierson from his days at the DLV Lounge on Bloomfield Avenue, where he first strolled on stage at the age of 15 in 1974. Before its closing, Pierson played with his band three nights a week and brought in artists from all over to perform in the two-story building. Though the lounge has closed, Pierson still provides the soundtrack to music lovers by performing in Newark and Jersey City during the week. 

Richard Pierson

Pierson’s interest in music started at the age of six when his dad was in the Navy and his mother was in the Army. He started out playing the piano and gradually started learning more instruments like the trumpet and the drums. Though he enjoyed playing and listening to all genres of music and instruments, being a jazz drummer is what is closest to Pierson’s heart. 

“What attracted me to the drum when I was younger, was the direct contact you get with the sound. It doesn’t come out on your amplifiers or microphone. It’s this kind of an organic, natural thing I gravitated toward,” Pierson said. 

His musical skills took Pierson not only to Berklee College of Music, but also Juilliard. Pierson, who had to work long hours during school to support himself, never got to finish school and graduate. However, he doesn’t regret the experience, including the music gigs he got at the time. Though he was young, Pierson had opportunities to perform in Mexico and in countries in Africa.

Not only does Pierson play instruments, but he also is a composer. He wrote some of the songs on his first album, “Opening Statement,” and has written for other artists. 

When Pierson was approached to be part of the Montclair Jazz Festival he was ecstatic at the idea of being able to perform in his hometown. 

“It makes me feel so good, that’s number one,” he said. Pierson recalls the people he grew up with or the “surrogate” people who had a hand in raising him.

“Montclair was a tight community for a while.  It’s a little different now. But it’s just nice to play at home. And some people I know have access to come and see me. It’s a great feeling,” he said.

The Montclair Jazz Festival: Downtown Jamboree starts at 1 p.m. and will provide participants with eight hours of free music and vendors who will be selling food, drinks and merchandise. The festival will take place on Bloomfield Avenue, which will be closed to traffic at Grove Street and Midland Avenue. For more information, visit montclairjazzfestival.com. 

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