By TOM CHESEK
Once upon a tick in time, the sounds now known as “America’s classical music” were something you’d encounter in some smoky, sub-sidewalk level speakeasy the kind of place you’d skulk up to with your coat-collar pulled up high and hat-brim pushed down low. Entreé meant laying a secret knock upon the door and telling the eyeball behind the peephole, “Joe sent me.”
Nowadays it’s the stuff of museum fundraisers and PBS pledge drives; of twelve-disc boxsets and Ken Burns freeze-frames; too much Jazz at Lincoln Center and not enough Johnny’s Jazz Market. Strictly for squares like, dullsville.
So you could color us beat when we came across an e-mail message informing us that, first of all, there is such a thing as a National Jazz Month, and secondly, there will be a series of weekly Jazz Lovers’ Lectures presented every Sunday during that month of April in Red Bank.
When we pinned the word “lecture,” it set off alarms in our head like Coleman Hawkins clamming on a case of 5-Hour Energy Shot. But then imagine our pleasant surprise when we discovered that these free Talkin’ Jazz offerings were being hosted at a location that, for reasons way too stultifyingly baroque to go into here, must remain undisclosed. A location that could only be revealed by reserving seating with a cat by the name of Joe.
Yes Virginia, there really is a Joe, and as it turns out he’s a globe-trotting go-to guy who makes his pad here in the Basie-birthing borough of Red Bank. As co-founding father of the locally based Jazz Arts Project and maestro of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, Joe Muccioli has made it his mission “to preserve, promote and perpetuate the American musical art form known as jazz,” in a town that “has a musical legacy. It should be known for its jazz.”
Sounds a little too egghead for your bop sensibilities? Then dig this: the internationally renowned conductor, arranger and musicologist known as Muccioli is a man who’s as at-ease within the world of academia and nonprofit arts administration as he is jamming on a set of standards with some of the most sought-after session players in the big city.
A true scholar (acclaimed for his reconstructions of the Miles Davis-Gil Evans oeuvre), he’s conducted both the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the backing band for Saturday Night Sinatra Joe Piscopo.
In other words, when Joe speaks, cats from coast to coast listen up and as host/moderator of the Talkin’ Jazz series, Muccioli will be laying down the lore and legend on topics that range from Improvisation versus Composition to “the hip silliness of the Jazz world.”
Every Sunday in April at 2p, old jazzbeauxs and juvies alike are invited to “join a discussion involving historic recordings, legendary jazz artists, the jazz time-line and the evolution of styles;” an opportunity to “hear some of the most important jazz recordings of all time and come away with a new appreciation of this unique art form.”
The series keynotes on April 6 with a program entitled “Close Enough for Jazz; an exploration of the “mysterious art” of improvising,” with Red Bank Jazz Orchestra alto saxman Bruce Williams and trumpeter Ralph Douglas joining Muccioli as they illustrate the ability to, as Gil Evans said, “compose at the speed of light.”
On April 13, Muccioli takes a special historically minded look at “America’s greatest and most welcomed export” with Jazz: the American Experience. April 20 finds Rutgers faculty member Ed Berger dropping by for a discussion on just how and why to Listen! to jazz music. And the series wraps on a fun note, as bassman Bill Crow and saxophonist Andy Farber sit in for an insider’s round of jazz-related Stories, Jokes and Anecdotes.
A Muccioli Merch Table will be stocked with books, CDs, and other materials of interest to jazz lovers at each event. Seating, limited to an intimate 40 persons, is strictly first-come, first-serve, so prospective patrons are urged to reserve their spot in heaven by calling 732.746.2244 or visiting the Jazz Arts Project website.
You’ll receive confirmation (and be told exactly where this soiree is going down) by phone or e-mail. And yeah, when you get there, do like the headline on this story sez.