If it’s the dog-day nights of summer, then it’s surely time to sound the cool-cat keynote for Summer Jazz Cafe, the annual stand of sophisticated entertainments that transforms the “black box” space at Two River Theater into the smartest little speakeasy you’ve ever entered into (although, if you’re making that entrance a little too fashionably late, you won’t see its like again for another whole year). Going on for the next four Friday and Saturday evenings, the series is the seasonal pride and joy of Red Bank’s own Jazz Arts Project and its artistic director, Joe Muccioli. And, as the man called “Mooche” explains, the Cafe events not only offer up intimately scaled and affordably priced evenings with several generations of world-class talent, but “make possible the next generation of musicians, as we fund our education programs through ticket sales to our events.”
This Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, sees a rare Red Bank area appearance by a 79 year old tenor sax legend that Muccioli and company “have been wanting to bring here for the longest time” — Houston Person, the specialist in “soulful hard bop” whose 30 year partnership with the late vocalist Etta Jones was but one extended interlude in a long career as bandleader, producer, and ace sideman for Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Dakota Staton and many others. Described as “a master of popular songs played in a relaxed, highly accessible style reminiscent of the great Ben Webster,” Person brings his quartet to town for a pair of 8 pm sessions.
The Summer Jazz Cafe series continues on July 18 and 19 with French-born Gypsy Jazz guitarist (and veteran of several recent Woody Allen film soundtracks) Stephane Wrembel. On July 25 and 26, a pair of past collaborators with Jazz Arts Project — vocalist Maggie Worsdale and pianist John Colliani — team up as The Sweet Whiskey Band, for a program called “Songs Under the Influence” (and a possible live album recording). The Cafe puts the chairs up on the table following an August 1 and 2 engagement by saxophonist Bruce Williams with Hammond master Radam Schwartz and The Organ Band — a stand that also includes a now-traditional opening set by the students of the jazz Arts Project Summer Camp.
Stay tuned to redbankgreen for more on Summer Jazz Cafe — and reserve tickets ($10 students, $25 adults, with a choice of four events available for $80) right here.