Final Weekend of “Jazz in June” Series Marks Lockwood’s Retirement
By Anne Levin
Jazz is the focus this weekend at McCarter Theatre, where Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bill Charlap perform on Friday, June 24, and the Tyshawn Sorey Sextet is on stage Saturday, June 25. Both concerts, which wrap up the “Jazz in June” series, are at 8 p.m.
The weekend also marks a major transition at McCarter. The jazz series is the final one planned by longtime Special Programming Director William W. (Bill) Lockwood, who is retiring after nearly 60 years at the theater. Last week, McCarter announced Paula Abreu as his replacement. Lockwood, who programmed classical music, dance, spoken word, and other events as well as jazz, will continue as a consultant. Abreu starts in the fall.
“It is reassuring to know that the performers who consider McCarter home will be in expert hands with Paula Abreu — she is an inspired choice,” Lockwood said in a press release. “It is wonderful to think about the new talent and energy she will bring to our stages, cultivating the next generation of artists and audiences.”
Abreu, who is originally from Rio de Janeiro, has been curating live events in New York for the past decade. She has worked with such institutions as Lincoln Center, Red Hot Organization, and the SummerStage and Charlie Parker jazz festivals. “Among her most proud achievements are presenting the late Brazilian samba legend Elza Soares following a 30-year U.S. performance hiatus; curating a community concert with the French Chilean rapper/activist Ana Tijoux; a debut collaboration between Afrobeat icon Seun Kuti and jazz-funk pioneer Roy Ayers; and the birth of her daughter Julia, who joined the Abreu family in 2020,” reads the McCarter release.
“I’m thrilled to add my voice to McCarter, to be a part of an organization that has had an incontestable impact on the cultural fabric of New Jersey, and that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to equal opportunity in the arts,” she said. “I am looking forward to getting to know the surrounding communities, and to exploring collaborative opportunities with the Princeton University campus, area universities, and beyond. After 12 years in New York City’s presenting arts field, I’m thrilled to build upon McCarter’s incredible legacy and forge new connections regionally, nationally, and globally.”
McCarter Theatre has been a part of Lockwood’s life since he was a child. He grew up in Princeton, where he graduated from Princeton High School, and Princeton University. His presenting career began with famed impresario Sol Hurok in San Francisco, where he stayed for a few years before moving back east and taking a job expanding programming at McCarter.
For 28 years, he simultaneously worked in programming at New York’s Lincoln Center, where he came up with the title for the famed, four-week festival “Mostly Mozart.” Lockwood’s list of credits also includes programming for the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
As the creative force behind McCarter’s “Presented” series over the years, Lockwood has brought numerous performers to Princeton — many of whom returned year after year. He is familiar to audiences from the many post-performance question-and-answer sessions he led, joining the artists on stage.
The jazz series Lockwood cultivated for this summer was launched in 2018. Due to the pandemic, this season’s lineup is only its third. In the current issue of Jersey Jazz magazine, Lockwood said, “I have been doing the programming at McCarter for 60 years, including all the jazz, so I have a pretty good idea of what I want, and what works. I try to keep some relevance as to what’s happening in the jazz world, but it’s totally my decision. I mean, everybody, managers and agents all have suggestions, but in the end, I figure it out.”
Lockwood is particularly enthused about this weekend’s performances. Of Tyshawn Sorey, who will lead a sextet with alto saxophonist Nathan Reising, tenor saxophonist Morgan Guerin, pianist Lex Korten, vibraphonist Sasha Berliner, and bassist Nick Dunston, he said, “There is nobody more prominent right now in the music world not just as a jazz artist, but as a composer, a historian, a creator of projects. He is really a Renaissance person. He does everything. He’s won a MacArthur Genius grant. He’s a drummer, basically, but he’s so much more than that. He’s a shapeshifter. He explores some limits between classical music and jazz. He’s an incredible musician. We’re lucky to have him. He is not part of traditional jazz and the Great American Songbook. That’s not what he’s about. He’s on the cutting edge. And he puts it all together.”
McCarter Theatre is at 91 University Place. Visit mccarter.org for tickets and information.