Niewood family strives in music business
By Pamela E. Langan
Thursday, July 15, 1999
Photo by Pamela E. Langan
Adam Niewood, left, follows in his father Gerry's footsteps, right, in the music industry. Adam is currently a student at William Paterson University in the jazz department. Gerry is an accomplished musician with more than 40 years of experience. The family has lived in Glen Ridge for 23 years.
The sounds of saxophones could have been heard Tuesday morning on Bay Avenue in Glen Ridge, as Gerry and Adam Niewood practiced on the front porch of their home. Both father and son are saxophone players at heart, although they are trained on other instruments as well.

"I can't imagine a life without it," said Gerry about music.

He was born in Rochester, NY, 56 years ago, and has been playing instruments since he was 8, and doing gigs since he was 11.

Adam was born the year Gerry and his, wife, Gurly, moved to Glen Ridge. Thanks to his father's influence, he started playing the clarinet in the fourth grade, but gradually found his way to the saxophone in high school, and now his main instrument is the tenor saxophone.

Both muscians have had a good share of the music business, but Gerry has played with many more celebrities. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Liza Minelli have all shared the stage with Gerry.

However, he was first introduced to the professional music scene when he played on some of Chuck Mangione's albums. Gerry played with Mangione for eight years, and then went on to pursue his freelance career.

Currently, he is on an "extensive summer tour" with Mangione, and will be performing in Brookdale Park in Bloomfield on Friday, July 30.

When he's not performing, Gerry spends his time practicing and composing music in his home. "I compose whenever the spirit moves me," he said.

Adam knows whenever he needs musical advice, he can turn to his father. However, he was taught by different teachers for most of his life.

"Fathers and sons bump heads a little bit when it comes to practicing," said Gerry. "But anything I know is available to him, and my records are available to him also."

According to the Niewood guys, their record collection is quite extensive, including those that they have recorded on. Gerry has played on many Mangione albums, in addition to 'other celebrities' such as Simon and Garfunkel.

"Jazz is what we love to do most," said Gerry, although both saxophonists have been involved in musical theater, and enjoy listening to classical music. Adam especially has been opening his ears to international music.

"It's good to check out everything," said Adam. "The music of the world."

In addition, Gerry is currently a substitute orchestra member for the Broadway shows "Fosse" and "Cats," and has been called to possibly play for "Footloose." He used to play for "Grease" when it was on Broadway.

Both Adam and Gerry have played for the Glen Ridge community theater.

It's not just Adam and Gerry the whole family is comprised of musicians. Gerry's wife, Gurly, is a pianist, and their daughter Elizabeth, 14, plays the clarinet, sings, and especially enjoys dancing.

Photo by Pamela E. Langan
Adam Niewood, left, practices his saxophone on his front porch with his father, famous musician Gerry Niewood, right. The family has been in Glen Ridge for 23 years.
When Adam was young, Gerry had the opportunity to take him to England for three weeks while he performed in the area, once at the London Paladium.

“We spent three weeks living in a nice hotel in England and doing all kinds of fun things," said Gerry.

When not practicing with his father, Adam spends time doing his own shows and studying at William Paterson University (WPU) in the jazz department.

Adam won $11,000 worth of scholarships from Berklee College of Music when he graduated high school, and attended Berklee for two years, but decided to transfer to WPU because, "it's a good program, and small."

According to Adam, he was one of the three out of 120 applicants chosen for the program. He is preparing for his last semester, which also means his senior recital before Christmas.

Adam has played in various wedding bands, which he says is a "source of income for young musicians," and has also played with Guy Lombardo.

In New York City, he has performed at the Blue Note, Metronome, the Savoy, and many other venues. He recently performed at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York City, and the DuMaurier Toronto Jazz Festival.

They don't perform together very often, except once when Adam asked Gerry to join him at a gig at Trumpets in Montclair. However, according to Gerry, they may have the opportunity to create a father/son band with another duo in Toronto, Canada, sometime in the near future.

For now, the summer holds many days of drinking coffee and relaxing in their Glen Ridge home, deciding which instruments to practice.

"What I do best is just close my eyes and improvise," said Gerry.
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