Body & Soul Returns! Here’s How Jazz House Kids Signature Event Came to Be

It was all about that bass.

That’s how Body & Soul, Jazz House Kids signature annual event to benefit its music and education programs, came to be.

Montclair’s Jason DeSalvo, CEO of Clear Mountain Partners, a general management consultancy, and co-owner of Fodera Guitars, a premium hand-made instrument company out of Brooklyn, is also a passionate electric bass player.

Deborah and Jason DeSalvo.
Deborah and Jason DeSalvo.

DeSalvo first discovered Jazz House Kids over nine years ago when he learned that one of his favorite bass players, Christian McBride, was to be interviewed by Melissa Walker at a free event at the Montclair Public Library.

DeSalvo had always been a huge fan of The Police and subsequently became a fan of McBride through his work with Sting.

At the library event, DeSalvo discovered McBride in a whole new way — as the phenomenal Grammy-winning jazz bassist and luminary.

“The library was packed and I was there with my family in the front row,” recalls DeSalvo. “I was sitting 10 feet from one of my bass playing heroes and I was in seventh heaven.”

DeSalvo also met Walker for the first time and learned about the mission of Jazz House Kids. And that’s when he decided to get involved in helping the organization grow, giving his time, leadership and financial support.

“For me, arts and music have always been so important,” says DeSalvo. “I was always very musical. I recorded an album with my band when I was 13. I know that being exposed to something like Jazz House Kids with its world class educators when I was in my teens would have made a huge difference in my life.”

The meeting at the library not only led to DeSalvo’s involvement in Jazz House Kids, but the first event that became the annual Body & Soul, hosted by DeSalvo in 2009 in his offices at The Brassworks on Grove.

Deborah and Jason DeSalvo with Jazz House Kids founder Melissa Walker.

DeSalvo had joined the board and while brainstorming with Walker over a cup of coffee, came up with the idea for the first Body & Soul. DeSalvo, a wine connoisseur, thought of hosting a special dinner with extraordinary wines for a small group of donors. Walker liked the idea but wanted to think bigger. She suggested having the intimate donor dinner as a pre-party and then a main event that was open to the public, to introduce more people to Jazz House Kids and its mission.

When the first event in 2009 was a success, packing DeSalvo’s space at Brassworks, DeSalvo agreed to host it there a second time. Then De Salvo continued to host, but the event moved to Jazz House Kids’ new space at Bloomfield and Willow. After a few years, the event outgrew that space and Body and Soul was moved to Van Vleck House & Gardens, where it returns this year for the third time, promising to be bigger and better than ever.

“I always wanted to take the event to Van Vleck because I feel it’s a beautiful space that is underutilized. Now Body & Soul has become far bigger than its original conception, with more than three times as many people and three or four musical experiences,” says DeSalvo, adding that while he was the sole underwriter of the event initially, the DeSalvo family is now joined by hosts and longtime Montclair residents Susan & Chris Gifford, Holly English & Fred Smagorinsky and Rhonda & Bob Silver. It’s also supported by 24 Body & Soul Host Committee Members.

DeSalvo, now board member emeritus, says with each year, he gets a little more excited about attending Body and Soul, especially seeing how the students grow in the program from year to year and get to the point where “they are good to go and ready to play any gig on the planet.”

“The party starts and ends with kids and music,” says DeSalvo, who not only looks forward to exception food, wine and music but also the chance to see what Walker has created continue to grow and flower. “It warms my heart and makes me so thrilled to be part of this organization that through its outreach programs has affected the lives of thousands of kids.”


DeSalvo is also proud of what he was able to help Jazz House Kids accomplish. “Now in their 15th year, they probably have an annual budget that is 15 times what it was when I first joined. The amount of programming they offer is mind boggling,” says DeSalvo, adding that at a time when arts education is being eviscerated, programs like Jazz House Kids are so crucial. “Study after study has shown that exposure to the arts builds better members of society and future leaders.”

Get Your Tickets!

Returning to Van Vleck House & Gardens in Montclair, Body & Soul , a night of swingin’ jazz with fine wine & spirits and superb cuisine to benefit Jazz House Kids, will feature three electrifying music venues “Under the Harlem Moon” Big Band, Bossa Nova and Soul Jazz. Guests can meander from venue to venue sipping and mingling, with different music, drinks and cuisine in each room.

Dance music by the award-winning Jazz House Big Band directed by Julius Tolentino takes center stage in the tented Winter Garden Ballroom.

Claudio Roditi

International trumpet sensation Claudio Roditi brings his Bossa Trio to spice things up Brazilian style. One of Jazz House Kids’ longtime students, a frequent performer at the Apollo and the youngest artist honored by the Hammond Organ Company in its 81-year history, keyboardist Matthew Whitaker, brings Soul Jazz to the evening.

Matthew Whitaker

High-quality selections of wine for the entire evening are chosen by Chris Cannon, proprietor of Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, NJ. Back for the second year, a cocktail bar sponsored by William Grant & Sons will be featured in the Winter Garden Ballroom, where guests can enjoy “Ella FizzGeralds” and other specialty drinks.

All proceeds from Body & Soul support the Jazz House Kids Music & Education Fund, which provides in-school jazz education programs and instruments for more than 650 students at 16 urban schools in four New Jersey counties. The fund also provides need-based tuition assistance for students ages 8-18 who hail from 45 school districts and turn to the Jazz House for nationally-recognized instrumental and vocal ensemble classes, private lessons and the intensive Jazz House Summer Workshop.

For more information and to purchase tickets to Body & Soul, call 973-744-2273 or visit

Jazz House Kids award-winning Big Band

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