Editor’s Note

It is summer, peak wedding season. As we attend, plan for or recall our own weddings, there is one common saying that comes to mind. It is from an old English rhyme, meant to provide for a future of happiness. As many begin their futures together this summer, we also look forward to a happy future for everyone around Princeton. So, we chose to incorporate this saying into the July issue of Princeton Perspectives, Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. Only this time, we’re giving it our unique twist, relating everything to the local area.

To kick off the issue, we asked people what their connections to Princeton are with regards to something that is old, new, borrowed or blue! Watch our Pulse of Princeton video to get a look into what others connect with!

When it comes to Something Old, there are many, many options in this historic area. But the one we chose to write about is having a daily impact on those that need to travel to and from work. The article The Impact of Old Train Lines on Today’s Commuters details the numerous problems that are happening this summer, what is being done and what more needs to happen.

When not commuting, or if you are one who remains local, there is Something New around Princeton that we are sharing. In the article Princeton Offers New Experiences and Opportunities for Locals and Visitors, we offer a glimpse into new places for eating, sleeping and seeking help.

If you desire to broaden your mind, escape into some fiction or learn about places far away, it is easy to do so with Something Borrowed here in town. Opportunities Abound When One Borrows from Princeton Public Library touches on this local gem by looking back at the old system of acquiring information and sharing the latest enticements to do so.

It can be a bit trickier to find Something Blue, but Princeton is lucky that it’s Bluefish have been a part of the local community for over 50 years! Read the article What Does Being a Bluefish Really Entail? to learn more about this group of competitive swimmers.

Our Perspectives Revisited this month details updates on some items that could have a great impact in your life. Read on to learn more about a public hearing scheduled for next week, and the latest funding to help you get around.

Whether or not you are attending a wedding this summer, give yourself the chance to embark on a future journey that pays homage to this old rhyme and remember you can simply enjoy Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue right here, where they all come together to make Princeton the special place it is.

Happy Reading!

Pulse of Princeton: What is something old, new, borrowed or blue you connect with in Princeton?

The Impact of Old Train Lines on Today’s Commuters

Sometimes old things demonstrate their strength and virility and other times, they show their weakness and frailty. Today’s old Northeast Corridor train line, which is America’s busiest line and runs in full 457 miles from Washington D.C. to Boston, was constructed between 1830 and 1917. Though the strength of its tracks enable it to still operate, it is very much showing its age – at least on the stretch between New Jersey and New York.

A combination of sweltering heat and old systems are causing serious delays, commuting disruptions and sometimes complete suspension of service on NJ TRANSIT’s Northeast Corridor Rail Line (NEC), which utilize the approximately 58-mile stretch of NEC track between Trenton and New York City, have wreaked havoc for commuters this summer. Dozens of issues have been recorded since May, yet it is the only train option for those traveling this route – especially the locals that go regularly between Princeton Junction Station and New York Penn Station.

Something is not working right within the infrastructure owned by Amtrak and leased by NJ TRANSIT (NJT), or on NJT itself. It Is not yet clear whether it is Amtrak’s system that powers the trains, their overhead powerlines, switches or signals, or NJT’s systems that connect the overhead wires and draws the power to the trains. The bulk of the problems are occurring on the stretch of track that lays between Newark, NJ and New York City. Here nearly all NJT trains from NJ must pass to get into Penn, so the interruptions are causing problems for nearly all Garden State train commuters.


“We went through a period of 12 consecutive commutes with issues. Not just a small delay on the train but massive shutdowns where you have no idea if you’re getting home (or to work),” shares one local commuter, who has been commuting nearly daily since 2003. “A few years ago, NJT had what we recall as the ‘summer of hell’, but the difference there was a lot of the issues were planned work. Knowing an issue is coming, you can make alternate arrangements. This year these issues are unexpected; in many cases they start literally when you’re on your way to Penn Station.”

The latest NJT data available (for May and June 2024) shows 3%, or 105, of NJT trains on the NEC Line, were cancelled in May and 5.9% or 196 in June. For May it blames 58% of them on Amtrak, 65% for June. As Amtrak says its working to try and resolve the issues, in late June New Jersey’s 11 elected Representatives spoke out in a letter instructing the US Department of Transportation to investigate what is causing the breakdowns and what needs to be done to fix them.

“This is especially frustrating for New Jersey citizens and their elected representatives, as NJ TRANSIT is merely a tenant on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor; NJ TRANSIT neither owns nor maintains the Corridor. Amtrak does, and Amtrak’s troubles leave NJ TRANSIT in an impossible position – unable to direct repairs on Amtrak property and unable to provide proper, reliable service to paying customers who depend on them. This is seriously undermining the quality of life for New Jerseyans and their families, and if it continues it will threaten the state’s economic health.”


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Just days after this letter was sent, Amtrak and NJT jointly informed the public, they are investigating.

“We understand the impact the recent events had on both Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT customers and their families, and we share their frustration,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner says. “It’s vital we work with NJ TRANSIT to identify the root cause of these disruptions and return to on-time service and the quality experience customers expect.”

According to their statement, immediate actions being taken to try and resolve the issues include more frequent inspections of the tracks and overhead wiring structures between Trenton and New York City, installation of cameras to visually inspect the power connections, expanding inspections of overhead wire components through helicopter photography and a review of all of the issues with internal and external partners.


The customers, many of whom reside in this area, want more than just an investigation. How do they explain when the train “dies” just outside of NY Penn Station and commuters have to get out and walk the tracks to get into the station? As of last year, Princeton Junction Station was the 6th most populated station in terms of ridership, servicing more than 86,000 people. Princeton resident, Rob Ehee, is one of them. He has been community from there into NYC for 19 years, 3-4 times per week and says whether the problem lays with Amtrak or NJT, it is time to own up and fix it.

“Service never improves because they clearly take no responsibility for customer service. We are paying NJT, they have to be accountable and find a way to fix the issues,” Ehee contends. “This summer seems worse because of the frequency of issues and the concentration of issues in a short timeframe. It’s barely July and I feel like we have exceeded last summer’s problems already.”

When problems are too disruptive, NJT cross honors tickets between its train and bus systems, hoping that will provide opportunities for commuters to get home. It also provides a link to help riders find options through Alternate, Backups and Contingencies. Still, stuck commuters tell Princeton Perspectives it’s a nice option, but often their train passes were already activated when they board a then-cancelled train (and refunds are not offered). Bus lines in Port Authority also become too long to endure. For some, it can mean hours of wait times or creative maneuvering. Many of the commuters we spoke with say they take the Port Authority’s PATH train to get out of the city, and then Uber home with friends or co-workers. Ubers to the Princeton-area from within NYC have risen to as much as $400 during these peak commuting shutdowns, so meeting up with others and going to NJ first seems to soften the blow.

“The best route is to take the PATH over to Newark and then carpool in an Uber back,” details Jenifer Ni, who has commuted 3-5 days-a-week for over 10 years. “Of course, it costs more, both financially and commute time! Think about the number of people on the train, the total time delayed, multiply by their hourly earning ability, this is a large of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that is wasted.”


Given that most NJT riders are already paying more than the cost of a ticket to get around, the train company’s planned July 1st rate-hike also did not sit well.

“I voiced my opinions during the open hearing in Trenton. 1) the challenge to their financials can be partially handled by service optimization. Ridership changed, why do they want to keep the ‘same’ service? 2) it is hard to justify 15% fare increase this year, it is harder to justify the annual 3% increase going forward, especially with this historical worst ride experiences lately,” Ni further shares. “Similar to Boeing, we need to scrutinize the leadership and board of NJ TRANSIT to make sure the leaders are competent and accountable to the rider community.”

With a Fiscal Year (FY) 25 operating budget gap of $106.6 million dollars, NJT says they had to work to prepare for growth, solve current and long-term funding needs and meet future demand. Using a three-pronged approach of trying to be more efficient, the fare hike and taking advantage of Governor Murphy’s Corporate Transit Fee, included in the FY25 State budget, they hope to get on better footing.

“While a fare increase is always an option of last resort – as evidenced by the six straight years of no fare increases under this administration – we recognize the impact an increase of any size has on all our customers and remain strongly committed to ensuring that overall service levels are not reduced through FY25,” NJ Transit explains.

Still, the fare hike, which also eliminated discounted multi-pack fares, is adding insult to injury, many say. As they work to become adept at alternate pathways into and out of New York City, passengers are hoping that something improves to allow the train to be the best and primary option.

“The passengers are the ones who bear the brunt of it all. Frankly it’s inexcusable that NJT would continue to just blame Amtrak. Where is Governor Murphy through all of this? Where is all the money from the infrastructure bill? Supposed to be billions for Amtrak,” said a Princeton NJT commuter.


NJT says the new Portal North Bridge and the Hudson River Tunnels will bring with them new and upgraded infrastructure, which should be a game changer for Newark to New York City train passage. Coincidentally, just last week, a $6.8 billion Federal grant was authorized to help fund that work, known as the Gateway Program. It has been in the works for 14 years and efforts towards hiring contractors has already begun with hopes that physical work will get underway later this year. Amtrak, New York and New Jersey will be providing the remaining funds to get the $16b project completed, with an expected 2035 opening date.

NJT also shared some additional longer-term plans to address the infrastructure which include “added resources to expedite testing of transformers in substations, pursuing additional grants to replace catenary, substations and transmission, signal lines, and to support capital renewal, as well as evaluating methods to expand overnight work windows with service adjustments to accelerate renewal and repairs.”

In the meantime, for the 11 years that lay between now and the opening of the new tunnels, there is hope the investigations and fixes will get this old infrastructure reliably moving on the right track.

Princeton Offers New Experiences and Opportunities for Locals and Visitors

There is never a wrong time to look towards the future with hope and optimism. And this summer, it’s easy to do so with the opening of new spaces and places that can help us to relax, get away and to get help. Interestingly, all of the things we’re writing about here, are new to us…though they have, in essence, been around for a long while!


Triumph Brewery had been a well-known Princeton establishment. In fact, it was issued the very first brewpub license in the state of New Jersey when it first opened on Nassau Street in 1995. Through the years, additional locations in Red Bank and New Hope have found great success as well. But, as owner Adam Rechnitz looked to the future (and opportunity provided), he decided to relocate and take over the old post office building in downtown Princeton. His brand-new brewpub, now named Triumph Restaurant and Brewery, has finally opened (some of its space) in Palmer Square. Restoring an historic building and getting everything done just right took seven years to complete.

“Year one was planning board. Years two and three was hire three architecture firms and develop designs. Years four and five was apply for permits through the state of NJ during the middle of Covid. Years five, six and seven were construction,” explains Kevin Wilkes, of Princeton Design Guild, whose company was the on-site construction representative during the project and was also responsible for all of the custom and restoration woodwork at the brewpub. “Demo took six-months to remove all the asbestos, lead-based paint and plaster of the original building, in order to prepare to start construction. Inside the shell of this concrete and steel building, we had to construct a brewery, restaurant, kitchen, two bars, two dining rooms and back-of-house office spaces along with completely new utility, heating, cooling and air filtration systems.”


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Photo Credit: Anthony Stull Photography

To preserve, restore and rebuild the 1930s building, the work was a full team effort additionally involving Design Architect, Richardson Smith Architects; Historic Preservation Architect, Historic Building Architects and Architect of Record, Gittings Associates, PC. The physical construction work was done by General Contractor, Massimino Building Corporation.

At one point or another you may have been inconvenienced by road closures and construction equipment, as crews worked to try and fit into the small area of Palmer Square as it worked inside and outside to get things completed. The location was complicated for Triumph and the municipality, which had weekly coordination meetings to try to minimize impact on the community and maximize advancing the build. Inside the now completed structure, you’ll notice an historic mural in the lobby and even teller windows from the old post office. These were all required, by the state office of historic preservation, to be restored and maintained within the new structure – so you can experience the old while enjoying the new. So far, only Der Keller, the basement bar, has thus far opened to the public. It is open daily at 4pm, though there is hope to add lunch hours in the future. The upstairs main dining room is not yet ready for business but does anticipate opening soon.

Photo Credit: Anthony Stull Photography

“It’s a completely new brew house. There’s a 10-barrel system similar in size to what we had on Nassau Street, but brand new. The entire kitchen is brand new, too. The space overall is brand new,” shares Eric Nutt, Corporate Sales Manager, Triumph Brewing Company. “Essentially, this is opening a brand-new location even though Triumph may feel comfortable to a lot of Princetonians. The menu is fairly new, it’s all a new experience for our guests.”

What’s not new is the quality of the award-winning beer, Nutt says. Once fully operating, there will be nine beers on tap at all times. Triumph also plans to have different menus with more pub-friendly fair in Der Keller, a heavier entrée menu in the main dining room and small plates available in the lounge.


The coordination meetings that Triumph had to engage in with Princeton engineering were due in part to a new hotel being built simultaneously nearby on Nassau and Chambers Streets. Graduate Princeton, which anticipates having its doors open by late summer (the website is allowing bookings beginning August 15th), had Chambers Street closed partially and sometimes entirely throughout its multi-year construction. The opening had been planned for early June, but that date came and went.

The hotel has not offered any explanations for the delay, but locals and visitors are eagerly awaiting the opening. It is the expectation that guests coming to move in their students to Princeton University this fall will sleep in carefully curated guest rooms, and the public will additionally be welcomed to enjoy a good drink and eats at the lobby bar and restaurant, Ye Tavern, where pre-prohibition era cocktails are the highlight. Much like Triumph, Graduate Princeton is incorporating the historic nature of the site into the new hotel.

“Ye Tavern is named after a storied bar that once occupied the same site in the 1930s, and the design is also inspired by Princeton University’s famed Eating Clubs. The restaurant and bar will be open to the public while also offering grab-and-go options for hotel guests,” notes Michael Monarca, General Manager, Graduate Princeton.

The Graduate hotel brand (found on or near over 30 college campuses across the country and UK) incorporates details from its nearby college or university into every aspect. The original structure that is housing Graduate Princeton was built by Princeton University as a student dormitory in 1918, so it provides an abundance of charm and history to pull from.

“Each property is entirely unique, featuring thoughtful, hyperlocal design that tells the story of its community. Our goal is for visiting alumni to discover references to their storied university traditions and feel a nostalgic connection to their alma mater, and for newcomers to walk away having learned something new. Graduate Hotels offer more than just a place to stay – they are the backdrop for some of life’s most memorable moments,” explains Kevin Osterhaus, President of Global Lifestyle Brands, Hilton.

The company has long had its eyes set on opening a hotel near Princeton University and was grateful to take advantage of repurposing and rebuilding to provide a curated local experience in this location.

Photo Credit: Emily Dorio

“We were really inspired by the Princeton tradition of Eating Clubs and the Gothic architecture around campus, which informed a lot of the hotel’s design. In the lobby, guests will be greeted by a beautiful reception desk, flanked by a pair of carved wooden Tigers, (Princeton mascot),” Osterhaus adds. “The two-story library lounge is lined with thousands of books and a collection of vintage Senior Jackets – a token received by Princeton students upon graduating. The space is anchored by a thirty-foot carved wooden table for visitors to study, gather, and connect – a feature that is reminiscent of the historic libraries on campus.”

Just walk across Nassau street and peek in the window of PU’s Rockefeller College and you’ll see a similar long wooden table!


There is yet another opportunity that is rather new in Princeton but has been around elsewhere for a while – and that is Princeton Integrated Behavioral Health.

For 51 years, Princeton relied on Corner House Behavioral Health as it partnered with the municipality to provide mental health services. After careful evaluation, it was decided last year that a savings of half-million dollars annually and an opportunity to provide expanded services, made it time for a necessary change. This led Princeton to instead contract with a new provider, Catholic Charities. In February, Princeton Integrated Behavioral Health (a program of Catholic Charities) opened its doors inside the old municipal building at 1 Monument Drive.

“Our goal is to address anyone’s needs that comes through the door. We focus on removing barriers to access to care,” explains Lisa Merritt, Chief Nurse Executive, Catholic Charities. “It doesn’t matter if you are uninsured, undocumented, or have private insurance – we see everyone regardless of their ability to pay.”

On an outpatient basis, the center offers individual therapy, medication management and offers nursing services to link individuals to primary care needs they may have. It also helps people address housing needs and food insecurity, providing case management services. Around since 1971, Catholic Charities has over 60 Behavioral Health programs working to overcome the stigma of mental health treatment and provide help. Princeton is its newest location.

“Unfortunately, even though within society we’ve had a lot of great progress, there is still a stigma out there with fear of labeling,” Merritt shares. “We find a lot of times individuals don’t want to be judged. A lot of times adolescent’s parents may think it will affect their child’s college years or ability to apply, which limits them from seeking services.”

That being said, in Princeton, the largest population seeking help over the past months has been adolescents, or parents seeking help for their adolescent children. This location helps patients ages 12 and older. Yet surprisingly, only about 70 patients have sought it out thus far. Most other sites see 70 patients daily.

“We are trying to normalize that everyone has a struggle at some point, and we are here to support people through that process and be compassionate with them about it,” Merritt adds.

With eight people on site (including a psychiatrist, clinicians, office manager and those helping with housing and food insecurity), the center is there to help people on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am-5pm and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am-8pm. Telehealth services are also available for those that can’t or choose not to visit in person. All those seeking help can contact the access center at 800-360-7711.

Editor’s Note

Schools is out, which means summer has officially begun! With more flexible schedules and generally more relaxed moods, there are so many ways to get active and take advantage of the Princeton area now. In our June issue of Princeton Perspectives, Connecting with the Community for a Safe, Joyful Summer, we share with you a variety of ways to do so.

To kick off with ideas of how to connect, we went downtown and asked people what outdoor summer activity they enjoy most. Watch our Pulse of Princeton now to hear what locals are excited for!

And…all that jazz! The rise in outdoor concerts that bring out some of the best local talent is one thing summer months bring. The article When You Want to Hear Jazz, Someone is Playing! examines the history of local jazz and shares some of the talent and locales offering it up in the area.

As you’re traveling there, or really anywhere, it should be safety, first! It is June, so an apropos time for the article, National Safety Month – All You Need to Know. There have been some incidents in the area, so read on to learn ways to ensure you don’t become a local statistic.

If you love music, but jazz isn’t your scene, there is such variety offered in the open-air concert season. For Free or Very Little, Get Outside and Enjoy All That’s Offered shares more about that as well as ideas for the more active amongst us!

It is easy to connect to your community when you take advantage of all the summer season offers, but sometimes you may want a more personal touch. Connecting with elected officials can be an important part of creating community, and If You Have Something to Share, Leighton is Listening. This article shows you how easy it is to connect, personally.

Lastly, in this month’s Perspectives Revisited we revisited two stories about joining communities together! You can read them now.

Though this week is set to bring high heat to the area, there are still so many ways to connect, get outside and enjoy all the Princeton area offers. We hope we help guide you to take advantage and wish you a great start to this wonderful, outdoor season!

Pulse of Princeton: What do you like to do outside in the summer?

When You Want to Hear Jazz, Someone is Playing!

Bebop, Dixieland, Swing….as many genres as there are of jazz music, there are musicians that play them. Jazz had its heyday in the Princeton area in the 1920s and ‘30s, and though it may not be as prolific as it once was, it is still alive and well in 2024. The difference today is, if you want to hear it, you may have to seek it out, as the venue options have dwindled and changed. There’s certainly an older group of performers, nonagenarians playing in ensemble, there’s also a burgeoning group of younger musicians, 20-something’s playing alone or in a quartet, and everyone in between.

“I think the thread that runs through all of this is that everybody wants to play music, we just have a different story,” says 50-year-old jazz saxophonist, Tom Tallisch.


The story of jazz at Princeton is said to have begun at the university, and can be traced to around 1900, when some of the biggest names in jazz would come to perform in Princeton University Reunion’s P-rade. More formally, bands were created around 1920, when pianist Cecil Crouse started one. Several talented men started playing for the university’s Princeton Triangle Club theatre group, and in 1923, the Princeton Triangle Club Jazz Band was formed, allowing them to play their own jazz gigs. The musicians eventually toured the United States, recorded with Columbia Records and traveled the world growing their fan base. The membership shifted and band names changed, but jazz remained strong, even enticing renowned artists from NYC such as Bix Beiderbecke to come play with them. Performances at eating clubs including Colonial and Ivy were a regular occurrence.

In the ‘40s, ‘50s and early ‘60s Princeton was still home to some excellent players, and Trenton became a hot spot for talent, with restaurants and clubs welcoming jazz music often. There were those that offered months-long gig commitments and others that just had players drop in, whether they lived locally or were passing through between the New York and Philadelphia scenes.

In 1974, the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble formed, to create a big band experience for the many matriculating students, including those that weren’t necessarily music majors. It still exists today, with faculty that are experienced, current performing artists. World-renowned alto saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa leads today’s ensembles with other well-established faculty. They perform historic jazz through modern compositions. The groups don’t really perform much around town, but the genre is still very active on campus.


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“The students play at the eating clubs with their own projects,” shares Mahanthappa. “The official jazz program ensembles perform on campus at either Taplin Auditorium or Richardson Auditorium. The top groups will also occasionally play off-campus, if an opportunity arises. We also have a jazz festival every April, that features both renown professional groups as well as student ensembles playing with prominent guest artists.”

Beyond campus, the number of traditional venues hosting live jazz music today are fewer, but there is an abundance of talent in Princeton and the surrounding communities that keep the music going.


Tom Tallisch

Tallisch is a local, accomplished professional musician, with 12 albums recorded on three different record labels. For decades he was part of the urban jazz scenes in Philadelphia and New York City and settled in Hopewell, NJ in 2017. When the pandemic hit, things changed. Tallisch took a day job (as music teacher at Princeton Junior School) and made performing his side gig.

“There aren’t as many venues, there are a lot of musicians. The rotations in these venues may be longer than before when there were more. I might play at one place now every 6 months as opposed to quarterly,” he explains. “When Covid came, restaurants closed and when they opened back up, everything closed earlier. Jazz clubs closed down; people didn’t go out. Down here, the restaurants that survived from the grants and loans, a lot of them didn’t bring music back because it was this extra expense.”

Blue Skies Quartet

The local scene today appears to be largely made up of people like Tallisch, who either use their day job to get by or are retired and continue to play as a hobby or side job. Jerry Rife, a recently retired Professor of Music at Rider University, has also had a long career as a professional jazz clarinetist. Beyond his university job, Rife had a regular local gig, spending nine years playing every Friday night (418 performances!) with his group the Rhythm Kings at the now-closed Marroe Inn, in Lawrence. He still jams with numerous local and visiting professionals and with several bands. Mostly he plays with his Blue Skies Quartet (which includes Danny Tobias, Pat Mercuri & Pete Reichlin), a well-polished ensemble. They can often be found playing concerts across the river hosted by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society or in south Jersey and Philly coordinated by the Tri-State Jazz Society. There are monthly concerts as well as a once-a year open jam session.

In his role at Rider, Rife was integral in bringing the best-known jazz musicians to this area, including Dave Brubeck and Dizzy Gillespie.

“I called him [Gillespie] and asked him to come play, and he said yeah, I need $10,000 and a limo. So, I rode in the limo to get him at his house then rode back to Rider with him talking about jazz. He played 2 shows! He ended the first show with A Night in Tunisia – one of his greatest songs. Then he did a 2nd show and he ended that with Salt Peanuts. The band was made up of teenage kids that were monster players from New York, and it was amazing!” recalls Rife.

Since 1985, Rife has also been the conductor and musical director of Blawenberg Band, an old-fashioned John Phillips Sousa-type band that had its original start back in 1890 and is made up of professionals and amateurs as well. Some members of Blawenberg Band also enjoy playing Dixieland, which was a big draw for tuba player Tom Spain, one of the older musicians that grew up playing as a child then returned to it later in life.

“Some of them used to get together and play Dixieland after rehearsals on Monday nights and my fellow tuba player asked me to join them,” Spain shares. “He showed me how to play the chords to (Back Home Again In) Indiana and I really liked it. So, then I bought a record and sat in the basement and played along with those records and learned from them. It’s very informal.”

Spain and his partner, Nancy Kays, have additionally formed the Rivertown Vintage Jazz Band which performs the jazz of the 1920s and ‘30s.

Rivertown Vintage Jazz Band

“I’m like one of the newbies, still learning trombone, but it’s been so fun performing with this band we put together that plays on our front porch,” Kays explains. “We started doing it with a traditional jazz band, they used to use the term dixie. In that tradition there are 3 people in front line, trumpet, trombone and reed player. The rhythm section, which is usually a banjo, drummer and tuba or string base. We started doing that with Scott Rickets, he would do arrangements, and we did this for about a year before the pandemic came. We did it a couple times a month, now we do about once a month. During the pandemic, we spread out down our sidewalk. We live in Stockton, NJ. We had all kind of people stopping by and we even got hired to play at Bucks County Playhouse because the executive director was riding his bike down the street!”

Rickets, a trumpeter in Rivertown Vintage Jazz Band, recalls warm weather months playing outside Princeton’s Thomas Sweet and Say Cheez on Nassau Street (a performance space that is no longer in use) as well as years of JazzFeast on Palmer Square, a September happening that was organized by New Jersey Jazz Society for several years, which brought five or six bands out to perform, often including national players.


One of the up-and-coming younger musicians of the area, bass player Kai Gibson, is at the opposite end of the age spectrum. A 20-something, working his craft as one of the locals that is a fulltime performer. He was raised in Princeton, taught and encouraged by some other talented musicians who, like Tallisch, have made teaching their day job as well.

“I would attribute our early love for music to our professors. Directors like Joe Bongiovi, Steve Kramer and Dave Pollack showed us a love and desire for precision and perfection in our playing at an early age,” Gibson notes. “There’s a whole new wave of younger musicians coming up. And it’s not just to play music and show off or for money, it’s because they’re passionate about the music.”

Kai Gibson

Gibson, several Princeton High School alumni including Liam Sutcliffe (trumpet), Caleb Eckstein (trombone) and Ilan Eisenzweig (guitar), and many other younger artists coming out of Rutgers and Temple University work the NJ/PA scene. Gibson has a regular gig nearby with singer Jill Ashcroft at Havana in New Hope, PA every Tuesday – one of the few local venues that offers regular jazz nights.

In Princeton, Lillipies Bakery welcomes jazz musicians for its Sunday Jazz Brunch Series and you can sometimes catch a group playing in the alley by Halo Pub or inside Witherspoon Grill.  Beyond restaurants/clubs, today’s jazz venues are more commonly house parties, block parties, summer concert series and being part of events like Princeton Reunion’s P-rade or The Arts Council of Princeton’s Porchfest. There’s also a good deal of church or nursing home gigs, and jobs playing pit for musical theatre.

If you leave the municipality, Candlelight Lounge, a holdover from Trenton’s big jazz days has been a well-known spot but is soon closing. It is not too far from what was once a popular jazz destination, Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon. Jazz stopped there in Covid, but under new ownership, the now Mill Hill Restaurant and Lounge is expecting to bring it back later this summer. If you cross the river, you can find some great music at Rosetta’s Jazz Café in Morrisville, PA as well as a growing jazz scene north of here in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick Jazz Project @ Tavern on George

In 2010, Jimmy Lenihan, Virginia DeBerry and Michael Tublin started the New Brunswick Jazz Project to bring music to town. By respecting the artists, creating connections and forming relationships with the city of New Brunswick and Tavern on George, they have been part of a developing jazz scene that today offers emerging artists performance opportunities every Tuesday night, with “heavy hitters” playing every Thursday.

“As we developed a following, we realized that we had created a special community of music lovers – that gave us the strength to persevere through all the challenging times,” Lenihan details. “Now we are established, with a strong track record and resources to put on festivals and present some of the top music in the jazz world.”

Now that the weather’s warmed up, there will be an abundance of outdoor performances to enjoy. At times, you might see a mix of the emerging and experienced artists, jamming together. The elders love to play with the young talent, and both seem to find benefits of playing with the other. For example, Gibson and his friends encouraged their elementary school band teacher, Kramer, to get back out and play live, and now they perform gigs together.


If the musician in you wants to hear live jazz or your inner artist is seeking to come out, you can get some inspiration at places like Live at Lew’s, at the home of Princeton resident, Lew Maltby. He is known to host concerts, opening his house to the interested public. There are offerings of wine and cheese, and he collects a small fee to pay the artists – some of the best. To play yourself, you could head up to Frenchtown where there’s an opportunity, organized by Mike Green, to just show up and jam. There’s no pay but he always has snacks and musicians appreciate the food.

Jazz may have had its heyday in Princeton in the 1920s and ‘30s, but it surely is alive and well in 2024. Whether amateur or professional, in the form of acid, avant-garde, cool or some other jazz genre you may prefer, go out and find what the greater Princeton community is providing.

For Free or Very Little, Get Outside and Enjoy All That’s Offered

In cold, winter months, most people hibernate indoors. As the temperatures rise and the sun has a more daily presence, it entices people to come outside, creating wonderful opportunities to connect with the community and all that it offers. Whether it’s through meetups, music or visits in nature, there are many ways Mercer County entices you to join in the summer fun!


For active folks, the chance to get moving outdoors offers multiple physical and mental health benefits. They include increased Vitamin D, decreased anxiety, improved sleep and focus, better immunity and healthier weight. And walking doesn’t cost a penny while it is amongst the easiest of activities to take part in. One can choose to walk briskly or more slowly, depending on your needs.

If you prefer not to walk alone or find having a meet-up appointment provides you with more incentive to show up, you can take part in the Saturday Morning Walking Club. An easy way to get you moving along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, members of the public meet the 2nd Saturday of every month. The next one, on July 13th, takes you out for about an hour along a section of the nearly 22-mile trail. Starting points vary each month, so make sure you check the site for the latest starting point.

If you prefer something weekly, Everybody WALK! gathers every Wednesday at 9am, organized by Center for Modern Aging. The walk is described as “not just a walk” as it is led by Dr. Laura Wong Koenig, a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Princeton. Throughout it, she provides opportunities to ask health questions while you stroll. The group aims to move at a good pace but does welcome those with walking sticks and canes to join in! There is no cost to go but you must register to attend, upon which the walk’s meet-up location will be emailed to you.


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For some, simply walking around isn’t stimulating enough. If that’s you, why not take part in a walk that is enlightening as well! Princeton University offers two variations on Saturdays and Sundays, to not only get moving but also to see and learn. Campus Art Tours will be meeting at 2pm in June, 5pm throughout July and August. The Residential Colleges Neighborhood Tour held on Saturdays meets at Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads near Roots Ocean Prime. The Main Campus Neighborhood Tour on Sundays begins at Nassau Hall.


You could also get your body moving with a little soul-filling sound, as live outdoor concerts are a-plenty around the area. Live music events are a whole-body experience, said to create a sense of community, increase endorphins and help with stress. Whatever your preference of musical genre, you can find it somewhere this summer!

In the heart of downtown Princeton, Palmer Square hosts its final McCarter Concert on June 27th with two performing groups. At 1pm, Esteem All Stars will cross all genres, playing music from the 50s through today. Jeiris Cook Trio performs at 4pm bringing their R&B styles to you. The square’s Summer Music Series also kicks off, with concerts June 22, June 29 and July 6 from 12pm-2pm with performances featuring jazz and blues, power rock and swing. For those that like a more collaborative performance, you can interact with the Flying Ivories for Dueling Piano Nights on the Green, July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 8.

Nassau Park Pavilion, outside of Panera, is also the site of some moving and grooving. The West Windsor Arts Center is bringing free live music (as well as art activities) to the pavilion July 13thJuly 27th and August 10th from 5pm-7:30pm. All will open with cellist Dan Kassel who utilizes technology for a multiple genre performance. July 13th, the headliner El Noordzo will share Afro-Cuban interpretations while on the 27th, Rini will perform her blend of Indian and American music described as Indian Jazztronica. If blues is more your thing, Dukes of Destiny entertains with their original music on August 10th.

You can bring along your blanket and set up a spread at the Mercer County Park Summer Concert Series, where live music will fill the air every Friday evening from July 12th through August 16th. Parking is free but there is a small $5.00 entry fee to attend. Tribute bands celebrating Earth, Wind & Fire, Yacht rock, the Eagles, Queen, Elton John and Billy Joel can be heard throughout the weeks as well as some funk salsa and American soul. The music begins at 6:30pm.


If you are into a bit more adventure, there are options for you as well! Being adventurous has its health benefits, of course, including building your confidence, expanding your mind, reducing stress and increasing your Vitamin D intake. If you’re looking for something different, here you go.

When it comes to driving, some people purchase a Jeep, simply as their car to drive. Others buy a Jeep because it’s a Jeep, filled with opportunity. “Jeepers” are often enthusiasts, who love to take advantage of the great outdoors. If you call yourself one and would like to meet other like-minded people, mark your calendar for June 21st to attend Friday Night Jeep Meet, organized by Open Trails NJ and NJ Jeep Association. Open to all Jeeps, this opportunity to gather and meet others who like to off-road, tends to bring together 40-80 Jeep owners. Make new friends and support access to state forest trails with a 6:30pm get together at Mission BBQ in Hamilton Marketplace.

Whether you have a Jeep or not, you may like to spend the entire night outdoors. And you do not have to travel far to do so. Mercer County Park offers campground rentals for just $20 a night! Perhaps you want to try camping with young children, or maybe you want to get away but need it to be a bit more of a “staycation,” you simply need to sign up on CommunityPass and book your spot. Ten sites are available in the East picnic area of the Mercer County campgrounds – six of them include lean-to structures with 3 sides and a roof while the other four offer space to pitch a tent. All sites offer a place for grilling and a campfire, a picnic table and access to water and restrooms. During the day, you can also take advantage of boating, fishing, hiking and biking trails offered in the park.

Beyond Mercer County Park, there are numerous other hiking options. We’ve written about them before, but this article would not be complete without mention of hiking in and around the county. We researched them to help get you outside during the pandemic, but our list still holds up with great experiences in nature. Read Tracks and Trails – The Hidden Gems All Around Us for specific details including locations, what to expect and where to find your next hike. Whether you prefer a low incline walk with your pup or a more rigorous endeavor that gets your heart pumping, there are options for all.


Now you know where to go and what you can do, the only other thing is to hope for continued beautiful weather to allow access to all of the above! Whether you’re choosing to enjoy some music, go for a walk or tap into your more adventurous side, ask a friend to join you, be safe and most importantly, have fun!

Editor’s Note

“Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.” -William Wordsworth

Wordsworth touched upon just the thing we hope to highlight in this month’s issue of Princeton Perspectives, Historic Influences on the Happenings of Today. Through each phase of existence, the human people hope to learn, grow and prosper. Sometimes the lessons of history guide us to better ways, and sometimes unlearned lessons are repeated. Sometimes the tools and products developed benefit us for ages and other times are improved upon to enhance and better our lives. There is a lot about history that is present in our daily lives, and we share some with you in this month’s issue.

What is an historical connection in your life? If you take a moment to think about it, you may be surprised to realize what from the past influences you today. It was a new experience walking around town this month, asking people to really take a deep look inside. I promise you’ll find their responses thought provoking, as we asked locals for this month’s Pulse of Princeton. Watch the video now!

Through each generation, there are moments that are etched in our minds. Some good, some bad. Many that bring out high emotions and reactions. Today is no different, with the Israel-Hamas War polarizing communities and campuses. There are striking similarities and stark contrasts between today’s Princeton University protest and ones from the past. We compare, contrast and share the latest in the article PU Protests and Demands: The Similarities and Differences from Then and Now.

If one studied, you may also find similarities and differences with how voting has taken place since 1776. This year, there is a new change on the ballot that you need to be aware of. The article Your Right to Vote 2024: Be Aware of Primary Voting and Ballot Changes breaks it down, so you can show up on Primary Day well prepared.

Since the late 1600s, Princeton has been a settled area, with buildings still remaining from way back when. Balancing Historic Preservation with The Changing Needs of The Times shares some thoughts about why centuries-old structures and historic streetscapes are an asset to Princeton that need to be delicately handled.

Speaking of delicate hands, there is an art to stripping bark from a tree and turning it into something usable and beautiful. Bark: An Artistic Tool Used in Ancient Traditions and Modern Indigenous Works describes articles from a new exhibit at the NJ State Museum, sharing creations from then and displaying how even today this artform is still being used.

And don’t forget to read this month’s Perspectives Revisited, shedding light on where the money goes – or might be going! From school taxes to electric and gas bills, it’s important to pay attention.

While it is easy to get caught up in our mundane lives, let us keep our eyes open to what is going on around us. Take a moment to learn, think and absorb. We are all going into this future together. Thank you for reading this month’s issue of Princeton Perspectives!

Pulse of Princeton: What’s an historical connection in your life?