Jazz comes to Bloomfield church for June 11 concert

Photo Courtesy of Brian Nalepka
Miss Maybell & Her Ragged Jazz Band, comprising, from left, Charlie Judkins; Lauren Sansaricq, aka Miss Maybell; and Brian Nalepka, will perform early 20th-century music at the Brookdale Reformed Church on June 11.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Traditional jazz, ragtime and blues comes to Bloomfield on Saturday, June 11, when Miss Maybell & Her Ragged Jazz Band will play a fundraiser at the Brookdale Reformed Church, 16 Bellevue Ave. Generally a trio, the group has added a reed player for the show, with regular player and Bloomfield resident Brian Nalepka on bass and tuba.

“The band plays music no one is covering,” Nalepka said in a June 6 telephone interview. “It’s the ragtime era, 1900 to 1929, and popular songs and instrumentals will be performed.”

Musicians performing Saturday are Lauren Sansaricq, aka Miss Maybell, on banjo, guitar and washboard; Charlie Judkins on piano; Dan Levinson on clarinet and saxophone; and Nalepka. Familiar names from that bygone era are Bing Crosby, Sophia Tucker, Al Jolson, Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin. 

“Things go in a cycle,” Nalepka said. “We’re not in one covering those songs. In the ’70s with the movie ‘The Sting,’ the songs of that era became popular. Now that we’re in the 2020s, maybe we’ll hear 1920s music again.”

During the early decades of the last century, Nalepka said there was a significant nightclub life; radio was just beginning and TV did not exist.

“Back then, music was played for singing and dancing,” he said, “until you get to bebop music in the ’40s. It was more for listening and more popular with musicians than the general public.”

Miss Maybell & Her Ragged Jazz Band, as a trio, has been playing together for about three years, said Nalepka, who grew up in Clifton and attended Clifton High School. Nalepka’s first instrument was the accordion, which he started playing at age 7. He began on the tuba when he was 12 and played in his high school marching band. He has been a professional musician since 1974 and has resided in Bloomfield since 1993. He is married to Mary Shaughnessy, the former Bloomfield Board of Education president. The upcoming concert will be, according to Nalepka, approximately 90 minutes long.

“We talk about the songs we play, not to be boring about it, but the background,” he said. “It’s nice to educate people about where the music is coming from.”

Nalepka said the group is always discovering “new” songs. Some are movie scores from the silent era when movies were accompanied by live orchestras, and some are from sheet music found at flea markets and antique stores. Online research is another source.

Miss Maybell & Her Ragged Jazz Band will play at 4 p.m. A fee will be charged.