Music under the stars


Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City, NJPAC’s free concert series, rocks the summer party scene.


Fans of NJPAC’s Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City know that the real party for the Arts Center’s 20th anniversary season begins on July 6, when DJ Felix Hernandez opens the mic for his Rhythm Revue Dance Party.


Sounds of the City, the eight-concert outdoor series held Thursday evenings in July and August, dates back to the opening of the Arts Center itself and is still presented free to the public. Through the years, it’s been called “a blast of coolness” and “Newark’s town social” by news gatherers, with asking, “Who wants to be indoors on a beautiful summer night? Not you, probably. And not most musicians, either.”


Hernandez is the host of The Rhythm Revue, heard for more than 30 years on nearby WBGO Jazz88.3 FM and other New York metro channels. His dance party is the traditional kick-off of Sounds of the City, and this summer is no different. He spins rousing, up-on-your-feet, classic R&B that appeals to listeners of a certain age – meaning everyone.


Thousands of people from all walks happily sit shoulder-to-shoulder on lawn chairs, sip beers at the outdoor tiki bar or cruise the food trucks. This is a loyal crowd that returns each week – really, each year – to check out a wide diversity of bands and artists who might someday be the next Kendrick Lamar or Santana.


“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” Hernandez says with mild amazement, remembering the NJPAC building as a work in progress when he parked his car outside WBGO studios every Saturday for work. “I’m honored to be part of the celebration.”


Following the Rhythm Revue Dance Party on July 6 is a lineup of feel-good music, from jazz and reggae to hip-hop and soul. Here’s a look:


July 13: Jon B.
This GRAMMY nominee’s hits include “Someone to Love” and “They Don’t Know.” His no-limits musical stylings include soul, hip-hop, rock and jazz. Armen Paul opens the concert.


July 20: Kurtis Blow and Universal Hip Hop Museum
The groundbreaking hip-hop artist – a favorite of NJPAC audiences for his appearances in The Hip Hop Nutcracker – arrives with an array of outstanding rappers and other guests. Talented students of NJPAC’s Hip-Hop Institute are first up.


July 27: Septeto Santiaguero
A sizzling Cuban ensemble, sure to have everyone movin’ and groovin’. Winner of a 2015 Latin GRAMMY for “Best Traditional Tropical Album.” The opener is 3D Rhythm of Life, a Caribbean soul dance band.


Aug. 3: Tower of Power with special guest Michael Colton
This long-revered unit is recognized worldwide for its groove-based brand of urban soul and hearty horn section, which has recorded with the likes of Aerosmith, Elton John and Heart. West Coast singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Colton takes a rootsy approach to bluesy pop with songs that invoke storytelling traditions.


Aug. 10: Louis Prima, Jr. & The Witnesses
Backed by a swinging eight-piece ensemble, singer Louis Prima, Jr. follows in the musical footsteps of his famous bandleader dad with brash, boisterous music. Warming up the audience is the funkalicious Milo Z.


Aug. 17: Black Sheep and Das EFX
Spend one evening with two of the hottest duos in hip-hop: Black Sheep, an alternative unit at the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Music charts (“The Choice Is Yours”), and Das EFX, an influential force since the release of its landmark 1992 debut, “Dead Serious.” DJ Wallah opens.


Aug. 24: Talib Kweli
A critically acclaimed rapper known for his early work with the group Black Star and more recent outings as a solo artist, including collaborations with superstars like Kanye West, Just Blaze and Pharrell Williams. DJ Spintelect opens.


If you go

Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City, outdoors at NJPAC’s Chambers Plaza, One Center St., Thursdays in July and August, 5-9p.m. Free admission. No coolers, pets, backpacks, packages or filming. Weather updates at

Hey Newark! Let’s get healthy together at Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City Presented by M&T Bank every Thursday evening! Our sponsors have joined forces for a Get Healthy, Newark! initiative at our season-long outdoor concert series. Visit their tents for information on how to improve both your physical and financial health this summer. On July 27, the emphasis will be on women’s health, with information on women’s heart health, mammograms and other tools women need to stay strong. On Aug. 10, men’s health issues will be in the spotlight. Stop by to find out how to get into the best shape ever, while enjoying Newark’s longest-running summer party.  Thank you to our participating sponsors Horizon Foundation, M&T Bank, and RWJBarnabas.


May 19, 2017