Priory is one of Newark’s hidden treasures for Jazz and southern style cuisine, it is the spot to be on Friday’s and Sunday’s for brunch. Equally important to note, with the closing of both Je’s and John Place (Soul Food landmarks in Newark), the Priory restuarant is one of Newark’s remaining southern cusiine destinantions. The “Priory” Restaurant which is located in the old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on West Market Street.
The church was in disrepair and readied for demolition, but rather then destroying it a group called NCC (New Community Corp) was formed in 1968 to improve the quality of life for the people of Newark, and rather than tarring the church down, it became the first adaptive reuse of a historic landmark in Newark.
NCC was formed by the Rev. William Linder who was the pastor of Queen Of Angles Church. If I’m not mistaken, Father Linder also became Pastor of St. Rose Of Lima Church. They have since built housing, health care facilities, baby care facilities, a supermarket (Pathmark) and have done a lot of good in the community. They took possession of the church and the property and gutted the inside and made new offices for their organization and this wonderful restaurant called “The Priory.” Actually, some original architectural and design elements like the stained glass windows remain, creating quite a space, and is presently going through some new upgrades and renovation (so you might have to enter from the side of the building).
But on Friday’s the event is for jazz aficionados, few places in Newark remain that provide free jazz in a great ervironoment. Newarkers and jazz lover alkie are coming to the Priory, last week they featured Jason “Malletman” Taylor, vibraphone jazz master.
Jason “Malletman” Taylor grew up in Brooklyn, NY listening to Lionel Hampton’s music. His curiosity was sparked by his mother, who was a fan of Hampton’s and would go see him perform at the Apollo Theater. This made Taylor interested in finding out more. However, he played the drums and xylophone before he eventually went on to play the vibraphone, which he describes as being “the most beautiful sounding instrument.” He became dedicated to mastering the “vibe” just like the late Hampton, who was so impressed during his first meeting with Taylor in 1981 that he took the young “Malletman” as his protégé and became his mentor. In addition to touring with the legendary Hampton and his 18-piece band, Taylor also lived with Hampton and received the kind of personal training and experience that can only be described as “priceless.” Taylor toured the U.S. and Europe with Hampton, which ended with the two of them playing at President Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Gala and Disneyland in 1985. It was during that time when Malletman formed Mallet Records, a record company dedicated to its mission of “Keeping Real Music Alive.”
1985 was also the year that Malletman flew away from Hampton’s nest and began promoting his first recording, “Once Upon a Mallet” (1984) which caught the attention of quite a few people. In 1986, Malletman released his sophomore recording, “Good Grief/My Destiny” after which, Taylor returned to his true love – performing. Over the years to follow, he developed his unique live show into one that awed audiences and critics alike. As the 1980’s ended, Taylor released the successful “Love Attack” which featured the singles, “Love Attack” and “Pick Me Up.” “Love Attack” (The Remix) was number 24 on the Let’s Dance! Record Pool Urban Chart in December 2000, placing higher than singles by artists such as Outkast, Lil’ Kim, Eminem and Erykah Badu. Malletman went on to record other releases. Taylor is a five-time Grammy ballot-nominee. His nominations include Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for “The Christmas Song” (1998). His current CD single, “Live at Mallet’s Place” (2005) features “Once Upon a Mallet,” a lively original composition, along with a seductive version of the jazz standard, “Misty.” He is currently working his next release, which will offer at least 10 tunes.
Malletman is known for his unique presentation of Jazz, R&B and Swing, creating a signature sound that is all his own, which he calls “Vibrafunk.” He has been in the company of such greats as Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, George Clinton, James Brown, Branford Marsalis, Steve Washington, B.B. King, Slide Hampton and Bill Cosby, who is a well-known jazz fan. Taylor has opened up for Earth Wind and Fire (2003), Isaac Hayes (2002), Pancho Sanchez (2000), The Manhattans (1996), Najee (1996), Paquito D’Rivera (1996), Pieces of a Dream (1996), Diana Reeves (1995),.
Taylor teamed up with the Berger Organization and New Jersey Mayor, Sharpe James to open up “Mallet’s Place,” a jazz club that launched as a tremendous success in December 2001, whose patrons included Taylor’s mentor, the late Lionel Hampton and John Amos (”Good Times”). The club operated until 2003. Taylor also used the venue for special children’s events to generate their interest in jazz and educate them about the music that serves as a foundation and inspiration for the music they enjoy today. Malletman is an expersionary and animated perfromer. But underneath and through the showmanship lies the amazing mastery of the vibes. Bridging between jazz and R&B, he bring a fresh interpretation of vibes in music. This can be heard in the following video clip.
The world of vibraphone players can be roughly divided into those who play with two mallets, and those who play with four. In reality the division is not quite so neat. Many players switch between two, three and four mallets depending on the demands of their current musical situations. As seen in the video, Taylor alternates styles. Further, as tonality and mastery of jazz is evident when he performs one of his mentors, Lionel Hampton s well known piece “Flying Home”. SD .MP4 file
The restaurant is well known for it’s Sunday Brunch, they have a buffet with all you can eat for about $15.00- bacon, eggs, sausage, home fries, waffles, omlets, lasagna, chicken, candied yams, clam cakes, baked fish, collard greens etc. And for desert they have several types of cakes and fruits. They keep the champagne flowing throughout the meal. And there is a piano player and singer singing all of the great old songs that we all remember. Tonights, jazz performer, will be saxophonist, Brandford Hayes, come out an enjoyed Jazz’s best deal in town.