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A GREAT BUNCH OF NIGHTS ON MONMOUTH

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Red Bank-based jazz maestro and historian Joe Muccioli conducts a new series of ‘Talkin’ Jazz’ events at the Count Basie’s Carlton Lounge, beginning Monday with the documentary film A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM.

By TOM CHESEK

Last time we looked in on Joe Muccioli, the Red Bank resident was assembling his annual Sinatra Birthday Bash at the Count Basie Theatre — a big-band blast that’s arguably the most visible, and audible, offering put forth each year by Jazz Arts Project, the nonprofit arts entity that Muccioli co-founded a few years back here in the Basie-birthing borough.

In a previous interview, the internationally renowned jazz conductor-arranger-scholar praised the “democratic” underpinnings of his favorite music, noting that “if you can play — if you can show me something, whoever you are — I’m listening.”

As it turns out, the man called Mooch is not simply a good listener — he’s been known to talk a great game on the subject of the American musical art form known as jazz.” Here in National Jazz Appreciation Month, he’ll be backing it up with his third annual series of Talkin’ Jazz events, presented for the next four Monday evenings at the Carlton Lounge — the cool and comfortable “VIP” room on the ground floor of the Count’s crib.

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A genuine Who’s Who of jazz greats circa 1958 congregates around a Manhattan stoop, in Art Kane’s iconic image entitled A GREAT DAY IN HARLEM. The film about the photo screens on Monday evening, with commentary by a familiar figure from the Red Bank business scene of the 1980s.

An intimately scaled slate that mixes lectures and storytelling (by host Muccioli as well as by a crop of guest speakers) with a cool listening-party kind of vibe, the series kicks off on April 5 with a screening of A Great Day in Harlem — filmmaker Jean Bach’s study of a single snapshot so legendary, it’s taken on the iconic status of the Iwo Jima flag raising.

On assignment from Esquire magazine in 1958, photojournalist Art Kane brought together the biggest collection of jazz greats ever assembled — black and white, male and female, “old farts and young ’starts” — for a class picture of everybody who was anybody in the robust New York scene of the day (well, almost everybody: check this interview with the great Mose Allison from our satellite site Red Bank oRBit).

To accompany the screening, Muccioli has invited an old friend and a familiar face to anyone who remembers the downtown Red Bank retail scene of the late 1980s and early 90s. A former president of the New Jersey Jazz Society, Joe Lang once owned and operated the second-hand record shop The Hit Parade on Monmouth Street (later relocated to the east side of Broad); now based in Chatham, the veteran jazz journalist has made a specialty of presenting jazz-themed films in recent years, at libraries and other public forums.

As we post this story, Muccioli has yet to issue confirmation of the guest speakers at the followup nights in the series (scheduled for 7:30p on April 12, 19 and 26) — although he points out that past years have boasted the involvement of some well known musicians and scholars, and that among the upcoming events will be a special salute to the musical legacy of Mary Lou Williams.

The Talkin’ Jazz series remains free of tuxedo’d pretension, free of nightclub noise — and free of charge, with seating, limited to an intimate 40 persons, strictly first-come, first-serve. Prospective patrons are urged to reserve in advance by calling (732) 746-2244 — and as always, the Mooch Merch Table will be stocked with books, CDs, and other materials of interest to jazz lovers at each event.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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