The great Bucky Pizzarelli makes himself at home in River’s Edge on July 25-26, with a pair of evening concerts and a free all-ages jazz workshop.
By TOM CHESEK
So, whaddaya hear from the Mooch?
Last time redbankgreen caught up with Joe “Mooch” Muccioli, the globe-trotting jazz conductor, arranger and impresario was holding court at Zebu on Broad Street, interviewing applicants for the prospective position of personal assistant.
Now, while nobody would confuse Muccioli with Diddy, few would dispute that the ace jazzbo’s supremely busy schedule lecturing at schools and theaters; leading orchestras in Europe; backing his pal Joe Piscopo in Saturday-Night Sinatra salutes merits the organizational mojo of an A-list assist.
We don’t know how the interviews went down, but the next time we heard from him the founder of the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project was in Quebec, where he and Piscopo were appearing at the 2008 edition of Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. The bandleader is due back home in the Basie-birthing borough of Red Bank today, after which he presumably has less than twenty-four hours to put the finishing touches on his latest labor of love and agita, the Summer Jazz Café.
Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and bassman-jokester Jay Leonhart are the draw for the opening weekend of the Summer Jazz Café series.
It’s the third year for the seasonal showcase series of intimately scaled dinner-and-show concerts, which begins this weekend and continues through August 2. It’s also the second consecutive series to be hosted by River’s Edge Café on Broad Street, whose owner and chef Bob Guido has whipped up a “new menu of eclectic Italian cuisine and desserts” offered especially for these performances. With the entertainment charge fixed at a recession-busting $15, and the food-order minimum also set at a reasonable $15, a budget-conscious body can make quite a sophisticated night of it, for less than it would cost to garage your car for a few hours in Manhattan.
Friday, July 11/ Saturday, July 12 The series kicks off on an engagingly offbeat note with a two-night stand by the bassist and satirical songwriter Jay Leonhart, an accomplished sideman who’s played with everyone from Sinatra himself to Sting.
He’ll be showcasing his “clever songwriting, often laced with dry humor” at the River’s Edge, joined on Friday by pianist John Colianni (a regular member of Les Paul‘s Monday-night Iridium band, and a veteran of both Lionel Hampton and Woody Allen combos). On Saturday Leonhart welcomes trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who also joins him that afternoon for a free “Legends and Lions” jazz workshop to be held at 4p down at Asbury Park’s Salvation Army Hall.
This first weekend also offers up the first in a Singer’s Showcase series of opening acts, each of them scheduled for 6:30p at the Café. Friday features the vocal duo of Blue Moon J (starring Lady Laranah Phipps and Jamilla Josephs), while Saturday brings in standards specialist Sheri Lindsey-Chaln. The ladies are all backed on piano by the inimitable Dr. Art Topilow oncologist, recording artist, and expert on exotic frogs.
Friday, July 18/ Saturday, July 19 The Café welcomes one of the most highly regarded women in jazzdom, tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, for a pair of sets in which she’s teamed with the quartet led by pianist Norman Simmons. Mayhew has established her credentials with everyone from A (Toshiko Akiyoshi) to Z (Frank Zappa) and every Clark Terry or Cab Calloway in between, while Simmons has lent support to smooth vocalists (Carmen McRae, Joe Williams) and pantheon gods (Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon) alike.
Friday, July 25/ Saturday, July 26 Calling Bucky Pizzarelli a “guitar legend” just barely scratches the surface of a 60-year career that’s seen the Jersey-bred instrumentalist play with everyone from Benny Goodman and Doc Severinsen‘s Tonight Show Band, to second-generation stringplinker John Pizzarelli. He’s joined on Friday by New York piano-lounge McDreamy Tony DeSare, and on Saturday by the rhythm section of Ed Laub and Jerry Bruno. The senior Pizzarelli also conducts a free “Legends and Lions” all-age workshop at 4:00p on the 26th.
Friday, August 1/ Saturday, August 2 The series makes it one for the ages in its final weekend, as veteran pianist Morris Nanton appears with his long-running rhythm section of Norman Edge (48 years with Nanton’s combo) and Jeff Brillinger (marking a mere quarter century of service). Guitarist Vinnie Correo makes it a foursome for Friday’s show.
Start time for all Jazz Café shows is 7:30p; reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (732)741-7198. And no, it’s not necessary to tell ’em “Joe sent me,” but who can resist?