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RED BANK: FOUR BIG CHRISTMAS EVENTS

vienna_boys_choirThe Vienna Boys Choir, above, returns to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on December 12, and the New Jersey Chamber Singers, below make their annual Yuletide stop at Red Bank’s United Methodist Church Friday.

NJCSClassic Christmas carols, cantatas and the most cherished of Yuletide ballets fill up the calendar this time of year. Read on for details on traditional holiday offerings from the Tower Hill Choir, the Company of Dance Arts, and a musical organization that traces its ancestry back more than 600 years.

 

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RED BANK: A MOST JAZZY SINATRA BASH

don-most‘Happy Days’ cast member turned crooner Donny Most, above, joins Rat Pack legend Dean Martin’s daughter Deana, below and the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra at the Basie Sunday.

deana-martinJersey guy Francis Albert Sinatra: his birthday is marked every December with merriment and song, and perhaps nowhere more so than here in the heart of downtown Red Bank. And why not, given that we’re home to a hallowed hall christened in memory of one of the Chairman of the Board’s partners in pop perfection: piano player, bandleader and “Kid From Red Bank” Bill “Count” Basie.

Each year our own Joe “Mooche” Muccioli — noted conductor, arranger, scholar and artistic director of the nonprofit Jazz Arts Project — fires up the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra for a grand concert that salutes the signature songs and style of Sinatra with the help of some special guest vocalists.  Read More »

RED BANK: EITHER WAY, WE’RE SCROOGED

a_christmas_carolNebraska Theatre Caravan’s stage spectacle of ‘A Christmas Carol’ makes its annual stand on the Count Basie stage this Friday…even as Middletown’s Stone Church Players offer up an intimate “radio-play” version of the Dickens classic all weekend long. Meantime, the Stone Church Players present an intimate “live radio play” style version of Scrooge’s story.

He creeps in from the shadowy fringes of the Season of Lights this time each year: the bitter old man of worldly business whose quiet Christmas Eve will soon be besieged by chain-rattling spirits and life-altering visions of the Past, Present and Yet To Come.

But even as we celebrate the forced re-entry of Ebenezer Scrooge into the mainstream of humanity, we do tend to take a certain comfort and joy from the knowledge that the miserly man-we-love-to-hate will be back all the earlier at his counting house, refreshed and rebooted, for the next day’s matinee. And so we welcome him once again this Friday night to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: BASIE, FRIENDS JOIN FOR BIG GIVE

basie-marquee-111416Press release from Count Basie Theatre

“Giving Tuesday,” founded in 2012 by New York City’s 92nd St. YMCA and the United Nations Foundation, was originally a “response to commercialism and consumerism” during the holiday season. It has since turned into an international day of giving.

Tomorrow, November 29, the nonprofit Count Basie Theatre will join forces with radio station  94.3 The Point and The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, to raise funds for both the theatre’s sensory-friendly programming, and for POAC Autism Services.

“Giving Tuesday” at the Basie will kick-off at 5:30 a.m., with a day-long broadcast from 94.3 The Point / WJLK-FM Radio. Listeners will be invited to drop by and give donations in person, or to make donations via theBASIE.org.

The organizations will also use the day-long effort and radio broadcast to raise funds for POAC Autism Services of Brick. Two dollars from every Count Basie Theatre ticket sold on November 29 will be donated to the group, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and adults with autism achieve their fullest potential by providing quality education, support and recreation at no cost to participants.

“Reaching all audiences with the highest level of the performing arts is part of our not for profit mission,” said Adam Philipson, CEO and President of the historic Count Basie Theatre.  “We strive to be inclusive and create barrier-free experiences and these shows will support our guests and families with special needs including autism spectrum disorder.”

“We are looking forward to partnering with the Count Basie Theatre in bringing the Jersey Shore together to support this important cause,” said Steve Ardolina, Regional Operations Manager for Townsquare Media Group New Jersey, which owns WJLK.

In addition, the Jersey Shore-based Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, which uses philanthropy to increase citizen activity and economic development opportunities through the arts, healthcare and education, has generously agreed to match all donations up to $25,000.

“The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation is proud to be able to work with a great non-profit partner like the Count Basie Theatre,” said executive director and Basie board member Jeremy Grunin. “The ability to support POAC Autism Services in their mission coupled with further showing the power of the arts through the Basie was too powerful an endeavor to ignore.”

Earlier this year, the Basie team worked with POAC to train staff in advance of the theatre’s first-ever sensory-friendly mainstage performance.

“POAC is so thrilled to be involved with Count Basie Theater’s sensory-friendly programming and their fundraising efforts on Giving Tuesday,” said Simone Tellini, Director of Program Development at POAC. “Children and adults on the autism (ASD) spectrum often have sensory issues that make it difficult to participate in and enjoy community-based activities, especially those involving the arts. These activities are essential, especially for children, and vital to their growth in so many ways.

“Last February,” Tellini continued, “the Basie provided a wonderful show that, for many children, was their first experience with live theater. The management and staff went above and beyond to make everyone feel comfortable and accepted.  We applaud the Count Basie’s commitment to our families and look forward to future events and programs.”

The live “Giving Tuesday” broadcast will feature performances from students of the Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy’s Jazz Arts Project, Rockit! and Voices vocal ensemble. In addition, cast members from the Tony Award winning ONCE, playing that evening on the Basie stage, will go on air to perform the musical’s signature hit, “Falling Slowly.”

RED BANK: A 24TH NIGHT OF HOLIDAY DAZZLE

rb-town-lighting-112516-4rb-town-lighting-112516-7For the 24th straight year, the feel-jolly sounds of Holiday Express served as the soundtrack to a Town Lighting ceremony that drew thousands of visitors to downtown Red Bank Friday night. Were you among those who braved the drizzle for the dazzle? Check out our photos to see who you might recognize. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK: DOWNTOWN READY TO JINGLE

112914 horseride2The clip-clop of classic horse and wagon rides is just one of the seasonal signifiers making an annual return Saturday. 

Just as the open-air Red Bank Town Lighting ceremony of Black Friday gives an electrified jolt to the turkey-fed torpor of Thanksgiving Thursday, so does Small Business Saturday sound the first real ka-ching of the primetime shopping season.

And when the shop-local showcase returns Saturday, it will herald a day of special holiday-themed features that continue every weekend through Christmas Eve, a slate of Santa sightings, holiday hunts, horse-drawn carriage rides, harmonizing performers, mobile mannequins and more — all designed to enhance the hustle and bustle of the shopping experience here in the the area’s undisputed Capital of Christmastime.

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RED BANK: VEGAS TO BROADWAY VIA BASIE

Donny and Marie Osmond, below, bring the holiday cheer and more to the Count Basie Monday… followed by a twice-as-nice engagement by the touring company of the hit musical ONCE, seen in the promo video above.

donny-and-marieTo paraphrase the signature song of a certain fondly recalled TV variety series, it’s a show that’s a little bit Christmas, a little bit something else.

The entertainment-packed November/December schedule at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre makes for especially interesting sked-fellows this time of year — with the holiday season getting into early jingle via offerings like Phoenix Productions’ A Christmas Story: The Musical and this past Monday’s seasonal spectacular starring Brian Setzer, even as recently featured acts like Joe Bonamassa and The Pretenders have offered up a happy-humbug alternative to any potential reindeer overkill.

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RED BANK: HOLIDAY EXPRESS TO LIGHT IT UP

112715holidayexp32Tim McLoone, at left above, and the Holiday Express band get some help kicking off another silver-bells season on the sidewalks of Red Bank at Friday night’s annual Town Lighting concert. Jackie Evancho (below) brings a program of holiday songs and hits to the Count Basie stage. (Photo above by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge) 

jackie_evanchoIf it’s accomplished nothing else during its quarter century of continuous service, Red Bank’s annual Town Lighting ceremony has successfully wrested the idea of “Black Friday” from visions of crushing chaos at the mall to one of sing-along harmony in a walkable-wonderland setting of merry commerce and activity.

When the lights are ceremoniously lit in downtown Red Bank for the 24th consecutive year this Friday evening, it will come not a moment too soon for an extended community that really does need a little Christmas, right this very minute. And summoned once more into service like a jinglebell-jukebox Justice League will be Holiday Express, the big traveling winter wall of sound whose founder and skipper Tim McLoone has helped sound the keynote and flip the switch on a generation’s worth of festive occasions in the heart of Red Bank’s downtown diorama.

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RED BANK: BASIE PARKING DEAL YIELDS GAIN

mike-whelan-110416Councilman Mike Whelan outside borough hall earlier this month.(Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

LicPlate1It may not seem like much, stacked up against a $22.4 million budget. Still, it’s like finding money on the ground, says first-year Red Bank Councilman Mike Whelan.

A deal Whelan initiated that gives the Count Basie Theatre access to the borough hall parking lot across Monmouth Street has netted the borough nearly $14,000 since it went into effect earlier this year, he says.

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RED BANK: SETZER JUMP-STARTS BASIE LINEUP

brian-setzerStray Cat topcat turned big-band ringmaster Brian Setzer, above, tunes up Santa’s souped-up sleigh — and Beat Root Revival (below) lights the way — as the season of nearly non-stop holiday music at the Count Basie Theatre commences Monday.

beat-rootThe official tree has yet to find its base in Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park, and the horse-drawn carriages and surrogate Santas have yet to be sighted on the downtown streets.

But the elves at the Count Basie Theatre, the Greater Red Bank Green’s unofficial Capital of Christmas, already have their workshop in overdrive on a packed slate of Christmastime confections that runs right up to the doorstep of the New Year.

 

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RED BANK: RETURN OF THE GREAT PRETENDER

pretendersChrissie Hynde, seen here with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys in a screen grab from the video for ‘Holy Commotion,” returns to Red Bank with her 2016 edition of the Pretenders for a Thursday night concert.

Last time Chrissie Hynde trod the boards of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, two years ago, the face, voice, heart and soul of the Pretenders offered up a showcase of her debut long-player Stockholm, chased by a lip-to-label spin through the mega-classic 1979 Pretenders LP, its fab 45s and deep-cut classics “Brass in Pocket,” “Kid,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Mystery Achievement” and “Precious”).

Bolstered by the accrued good-will generated by the album and road itinerary, the Hall of Fame rocker entered a Nashville studio earlier this year with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach for some sessions intended to yield her sophomore solo release. But something surprising must have happened inside that soundproofed space, as “those driving guitars, ragged-but-righteous arrangements, tough-yet tender lyrics delivered by the most beautifully distinctive voice of a generation” (according to the press notes) suggested nothing less than that the Pretenders were back.

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RED BANK: VAN ZANDT LINEUP TO ROCK BASIE

van-zandt-guadagno-111416-1Steven Van Zandt and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno on stage at the Basie Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

basie-marquee-111416A four-night campaign of classic rock shows curated by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in coming months will help drive a $20 million expansion Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, officials said Monday.

But the names of the acts to be spotlighted in the series remained under wraps at a press conference held on the stage of the Vaudeville-era venue.
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RED BANK: YOU’LL LAUGH YOUR EYE OUT

christmas-story-phoenixIt’s all present and accounted for, from the Old Man’s leg lamp to Aunt Clara’s bunny suit; from the flagpole double-dog-dare to the Santa Slide at Higbee’s — to say nothing of that official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Only this time it’s an all-singing, all-dancing, live action extravaganza that arrives like an early gift package this Friday, November 11.

Based on the beyond-popular 1983 movie of the same name — itself adapted from the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd (who did a memorable turn as the film’s narrator), A Christmas Story: The Musical makes its first-ever appearance on the local stage as the annual holiday-season offering from Phoenix Productions, the resident non-profit stage company at the venerable Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: STEVE MILLER BAND JETS IN

steve-miller-band-4The Steve Miller Band takes the Basie boards Tuesday. (Click to enlarge.)

Though he’s not generally associated with the flowering music scene of late-1960s San Francisco, rocker Steve Miller was very much in it as far back as 1966, when he supported Chuck Berry on a live album recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was one stop in a career that’s also been steeped in the blues scenes of Dallas and Chicago enroute to some chartbusting pop success.

Listen for hints of all that when Miller, still rocking at 73, brings his band to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Tuesday night for its only Garden State appearance of his current tour.

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RED BANK: DEAD ON LIVE AT THE BASIE

brianstrattonberkleeMulti-instrumentalist Marc Muller, at right above, leads Dead On Live at the Count Basie Saturday night. Steve Miller, below, takes the stage Tuesday. (Photo by Brian Stratton. Click to enlarge.)

The sonic legacy of the San Francisco Bay area casts its still-potent spell over the famous stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night, sound-tracked by as dead-on a recreation of the Grateful Dead as you’ll find anywhere between Raceway Park and the Pyramids.

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RED BANK: MORGAN PICKS UP THE PIECES

tracy-morgan-mag-1Tracy Morgan brings his standup act to the Count Basie stage for two shows Friday night.

“I’ve tapped into something, man, that nobody else can talk about,” Tracy Morgan said in an interview with a national wire service earlier this year. “I went to the other side and came back bearing gifts… and I’m gonna share all those gifts with my fans.”

In case you missed the headline-making news, the Emmy nominated cast member of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock was referencing his near-death experience in a June, 2014, limo crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, an accident that killed his friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, and left Morgan comatose with multiple injuries, necessitating a lengthy process of physical therapy and speech rehabilitation.

Undaunted, the Bronx-born “cringe comic” (and co-star of films like Cop Out and the forthcoming Fist Fight) has taken to the road once more on a route that leads to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Friday night.

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M’TOWN: 16TH ANNUAL CHALLENGE SET TO RUN

navesinkstartPress release from Jersey Shore Running Club

On Sunday, November 27, the 16th annual Navesink Challenge races, hosted by the Jersey Shore Running Club (JSRC), will take place at Bodman Park, off Navesink River Road in Middletown. Proceeds from the event will benefit Middletown Youth Athletic Association (MYAA), Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF), local first responders, and other local non-profit organizations.

Over the years, the race has attracted a steadily increasing number of runners, from 600 a decade ago to nearly double that in 2015. In the last three years alone, the race has attracted runners from 17 states and Canada. Since 2010, the Navesink Challenge has raised more than $60,000 for its beneficiaries.

The Navesink Challenge is celebrated for its location along one of the prettiest courses in Monmouth County, through the woods and back roads of Navesink. It includes two races: A challenging 15K run beginning at 10 a.m., and a 5K run/walk at 10:10 a.m. Both distances feature scenic country roads and several hilly sections through some of the beautiful properties in Huber Woods, and along Cooper and Browns Dock Roads; areas which have been preserved by MCF for the public to enjoy.

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RED BANK: YES MEN RETURN, BUT NOT AS YES

rick_wakeman-pianoLongtime Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman joins that classic band’s original vocalist Jon Anderson and 80s-era guitarist Trevor Rabin at the Count Basie.

Is it Yes? Actually, no… but then again maybe.

In a week when Yes was nominated (for the third time) for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Red Bank area fans can get a major reminder of what made that prog-rock institution so special when three of its celebrated veterans take the stage of the Count Basie Theatre Wednesday night.

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RED BANK: FRAMPTON COMES UNPLUGGED

peterframptonClassic rock legend Peter Frampton comes to Red Bank with an all-acoustic concert at the Count Basie Tuesday night. 

“It’s all gone,” said Peter Frampton during a TV appearance several years ago, indicating the nearly hairless head where once resided one of the most luxurious manes in all of classic rockdom. “And it’s not coming back.”

Fortunately, the platinum-plated guitarist/ singer/ songwriter hasn’t shed his easy rapport with a live audience, and when he comes to the stage of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre Tuesday night, he’ll be serving up selections from his long career raw, as part of an all-acoustic tour.

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RED BANK: YOK-TOBERFEST IS ON AT BASIE’S

david_sedaris_5004Best-selling author and humorist-storyteller David Sedaris (above) returns to the Count Basie stage on Thursday night…while Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood (below) bring their impishly improv’d interactions back to Red Bank on Saturday.

mochrie-sherwoodEven the most polarized of next-door neighbors could use a good shared laugh experience these days — and even as our Count Basie Theatre continues to reinforce its reputation as a premier stop for big-time touring comics, two separate events in the coming nights serve to point out that  live comedy is a big tent, with room for more than just the tried and true stand-up standard.

Returning to the Basie boards for a third (or is it fourth?) appearance tomorrow night, October 13, author and essayist David Sedaris once again displays the audience-friendly skills that have allowed him to transfer his celebrated sense of humor from the printed page (Holidays On Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and other best selling collections of essays, observations and occasional tall tales) to the performance stage, as witness his Grammy nomination for the audio version of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. It’s a dexterity that’s allowed him success in formats ranging from Off Broadway theater to public radio and even children’s books — with a road show that will find him reading from his excerpted works, riffing on recent events, and interacting with the audience, sometimes in ways that might give pause to even the most “fearless” of comedy-club commandos.

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RED BANK: FREE SHOW BY ARMY FIELD BAND

jazz-ambassadors-us-armyThe US Army Field Band’s “Jazz Ambassadors” unit deploys to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre for a free concert next Wednesday.

In its assembled glory, it’s a formidable force — and its many crack commando units and surgical-strike teams allow it to perform missions that range from a Dixieland septet and harp-flute duo to a Son Tropical big band.

When the uniformed members of the Jazz Ambassadors of the US Army Field Band take the Basie stage next Wednesday, they’ll be carrying on a tradition that’s seen various iterations of the USAFB treat the Red Bank audience to a free display by the most formidable musical force in the free world.

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RED BANK: STEWART GOODYEAR AT THE BASIE

stewart-goodyearPianist Stewart Goodyear helps usher in a new season of New Jersey Symphony concerts at the Count Basie Saturday evening. 

Continuing a decades-long and beautiful relationship with the Count Basie Theatre, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra returns to Red Bank Saturday night for the first in a new season of concerts — and to sound the keynote in the company of a performer who’s been branded a “phenomenon” by music critics and fans alike.

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RED BANK: CETERA (ET CETERA) AT THE BASIE

ceteraPop crooner and former Chicago frontman Peter Cetera (above) takes it to the Count Basie stage on Thursday night…while Jay Siegel (below) brings The Tokens of “Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame to town in a Friday package of Old Time Doo Wop.

jay-siegelAs a charter member of the pop institution that is the band Chicago, his was one of several different voices that took the lead on their 1970s radio hits — most notably “25 or 6 to 4” and “Feeling Stronger Every Day.” As the group survived and thrived into the 1980s, however, it was the buttermilk-soul voice of Peter Cetera that best defined the Chicago sound, during a next-wave run of signature recordings that included “If You Leave Me Now,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Baby What a Big Surprise,” and “You’re the Inspiration.”

The singing bassman brought that crooning capital to a solo career that kicked off in earnest 20 years ago, and that has netted him multiple nominations for Grammy Awards — and even an Oscar nod, thanks to a slew of soundtrack standouts from such films as Karate Kid 2, Pretty Woman, Three Men and a Baby and Chances Are. It’s all part of a considerable catalog that forms the foundation of Cetera’s set, when he visits the Count Basie Theatre tomorrow night, October 6, for a concert that keynotes an October musical interlude on the famous stage.

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RED BANK: BROMBERG, BRADLEE AT THE BASIE

david-bromberg-2-500x332Master multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg (above) brings his Big Band AND special guests to a belated-birthday concert at the Count tomorrow night…while Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (below) maintain the retro-rocking groove on Wednesday.

PMJ-PR-shotIt’s become something of an annual must-see appointment for music-mad fans on the greater Red Bank Green — or it might have been, had it not skipped a year in 2015. But when Grammy-lauded multi-instrumentalist and musicologist David Bromberg returns with his 12-piece Big Band to the Count Basie Theatre tomorrow night, October 4, he’ll be making up for hurt feelings and lost time with a special Big Band Bucket List Birthday Bash that finds the well-mannered virtuoso and good-humored entertainer (who turned 71 this past September 19) joined for the occasion by some folkie friends who are headline-worthy performers in their own right.

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RED BANK: 3RD ANNUAL COMPETITION IN ‘FX’

project-fx-2017Press release from Count Basie Theatre

The third annual edition of PROJECT FX, the statewide student film competition presented by the Count Basie Theatre and Bank of America, is now live at www.projectFXbasie.com. Starting now, students enrolled at any New Jersey high school or college can visit the site to learn about entering the competition, with an internship experience with Sony Pictures Classics, a high-end Sony camera, and $1,000 cash at stake as the contest’s grand prize.

On Saturday, March 18, 2017, the Count Basie Theatre will proudly host the daylong PROJECT FX Festival, which will include workshops with film industry professionals, plus a showcase of the top vote getters in both the high school and college categories.

PROJECT FX is open to students enrolled in any New Jersey high school or college as of September 1, 2016. Students have until January 15, 2017 to enter their films, which will then be judged upon by a panel of regional and industry-wide experts. Last year’s PROJECT FX competition and festival attracted more than 80 high school and college applicants from throughout the state (go here to view last year’s finalists).

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