How Do You Get To Highland Place? Practice, practice, practice
Kudos to Chris Farrow, who owns Highland Place Bar & Grill for having the foresight to be such a warm spot for the musical talent that lives in the Maplewood/South Orange neighborhood.
Recently, they’ve instituted an Every Other Monday Big Band Night, with Glenn Franke, Band leader of a 16 piece big band which includes a number of Broadway pit musicians – doing what musicians do on their only night off – play.
And Glenn, being a big-hearted, generous guy who lives in Maplewood, has begun to invite local talent to sit in with the band. The talent pool here is wide and it is deep and Glenn has tapped into it.
Holli Ross, a multi-talented jazz singer who has lived in Maplewood for 20 years with her husband,Dan Gibbons, a Short Hills native, and her daughter, Hannah, 10th grade Columbia High School student comes most Mondays and if she sings, you are in for a treat.
Holli has perfect intonation, a sweet powerful voice, and she OWNS the stage when she’s there.
The first set she did with Glenn’s band – was like a first date between two superstars. The band, as nationally prominent as it is – one on one – sat up and took notice, when Holli brought her arrangements and began to sing. That music reached right down into the souls of the audience. Wowee.
To have the opportunity to sit in on such a meeting as this is truly an honor, and a gift to the community of Maplewood by the performers and the place.
Holli, born and raised on Long Island, comes from a musical family. Her Juilliard trained dad played classical bassoon and appeared at Carnegie Hall, Her mom is a classical guitarist. From this heady mix, Holli began lessons at about 7.
She started doing studio work at 12, and studied classical voice since 16.
But when she was 13, and a freshman in high school, she discovered jazz, and she has never looked back. She studied with the tenor great, Warne Marsh.
Now, she not only sings as a soloist, but is a 20+ year founding member of “String of Pearls”, a girls jazz trio, and teaches applied jazz voice, at Hoffstra as well as Montclair State and Princeton.
When I asked Holli to define jazz, she said, “It’s the way you sing a word, how do you attack a note how do you release a note, what you do to develop the melody and rhythmic phrasing. That’s what makes jazz, and it's got to swing."
She continued, "To be a singer is a special gift, because the voice reaches out to the most primal musical instincts in people. I don't just get to sing the beautiful melody, I get to tell the beautiful story….or sometimes, a story that ain't so pretty. My reward will always be the coming together of musical minds on the bandstand and the feeling that I am touching the heart of a listener."
Holli’s CDs both as a soloist, and as a trio member, are available and highly recommended on I-Tunes and in book and music stores everywhere.
The first time I went to hear Glenn Franke’s Big Band at Highland Place, there were more band members than audience. But word has spread fast, and now, the place is really jumping. If you’d like to get this rare opportunity, reserve a table for next Monday night. It’s selling out fast.
The food is great at Highland Place. They even have a Monday night special. Family Style dinner for Four, at $30. You can’t beat the price and last week, the food was terrific: fried chicken, green beans, corn soufflé, and mac&cheese. A meal to please a family.
Last week, Chris told me they sold out of the Monday Night Special, so if you’re planning to order that, you should tell the person who takes your reservation. Such a good deal and good food besides.
This week, I’m hoping to bring my extended family for just this event. Those 15 year old grandchildren, who both play in the Columbia High School band, need to hear the big boys, and they need to hear Holli.
And who knows? Perhaps another local superstar will turn up. Last week, West Orange’s Claudio Roditi, one of the nation’s best Brazilian horn players, showed up with his flugel horn and his sheet music. Holli is a friend of Claudio's and has written lyrics for a number of his Brazilian jazz compositions.
Once again, neither soloist nor band had ever played together before. “I don’t think you’ll find it difficult,” said Brazilian Roditi as he passed around the sheet music. The band members settled into their chairs, stared at their band stands, then broke into Brazilian jazz that just blew the lid off the room.
Remember, Glenn Franke’s Big Band will appear at Highland Place Bar & Grill, this coming Monday, February 7. Beginning at 8:15. Be there, or be square.
Highland Place Bar & Grill, 5 Highland Place, Maplewood, NJ 07040 973 763 3083. 973 763 3083 for reservations.