ADDING LUNCH TO THE SONIC SMORGASBORD

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From left: Matt Wade, A Cool Blues Duo (featuring Chuck Lambert and Susan Haugenes), Kati Beddow Brower and  Virago pack the Tunes-To-Go, as Red Bank RiverCenter inaugurates a new LunchMusic series at Riverside Gardens.

By TOM CHESEK

If you’re a music fan of eclectic disposition, you’ve come to the right place. In fact, on summertime Saturday nights, a carelessly distracted connoisseur could literally stumble over the next big thing on the streets of Red Bank.

Beginning June 5 and continuing Saturday nights through August (save for July 3’s KaBoom fireworks night), the outdoor mini-concert series known as Red Bank StreetLife returns to the the sidewalks and storefronts of the Basie-birthing borough — an open-air musical bazaar produced and presented (as it’s been each year since 2001) by the folks at Red Bank RiverCenter.

It’s a regular sonic smorgasbord of jazz stylers and blues howlers, folk strummers and world drummers, bell choirs and barbershoppers and more, spotlighting performers who’ve competed for the coveted StreetLife slots in a series of judged auditions, as redbankgreen detailed here in April.

Before all that, however, RiverCenter is serving up an exciting appetizer to the season’s musical menu — an all-new Wednesday lunchtime entertainment series that begins June 2 at noon in Riverside Gardens Park and continues through the month under the name LunchMusic.

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Appearing on the streets of Red Bank Saturday nights in June will be (clockwise from top left) Al Wright (6/5 at Red Ginger Home), Jo Wymer (6/26 at Ten Thousand Villages), Don Lee (6/19 at River’s Edge Cafe) and The Wag (6/12 at the Dublin House).

Scheduled between 12 and 2p, the free concerts on the bucolic banks of the Navesink are being aimed at “music lovers and any office workers, childcare givers, moms, dads and just anyone who needs a break” on the often Everest-like “hump” of the warm-weather working week, says the promo material. In addition, RiverCenter reports that “many Red Bank restaurants and eateries will be advertising delicious lunch specials packed ‘to go’ so they can easily be taken down to the park!”

The series kicks off this Wednesday with a performance by the Andreach-Chrepta Jazz Duo, a pair of local cats who’ve performed with style and savoir fare at Street Life and other top-down music events. They’re followed on June 9 by one of the area’s hardest-working, highly visible duos — the women warriors of Virago, those Afro-Caribbean rhythmatists who create a joyously intense sound far beyond the apparent boundaries of their acoustic guitar-and-percussion format.

June 16 brings a matinee gig by another Street Life veteran — Kati Beddow Brower, whose Great American Songbook stylings have made her a frequent favorite at the monthly “Reckless Steamy Nights” house parties at the Red Bank Woman’s Club. Then on June 23 it’s Red Bank’s unofficial musical mayor Chuck Lambert, the bluesrock bandleader whose side project A Cool Blues Duo teams him with singer Susan Haugenes in an engaging act that evolved from casual jams between friends and fans in such local haunts as Danny’s.

The series (which could positively prove to be a keeper on the annual cultural calendar) wraps on June 30 with a relatively rare Red Bank gig by one of the most watched young performers on the classic Shore scene — Matt Wade, a singer and instrumentalist whose keyboard skills have earned him “old soul” status from veteran musicians; a GOOD thing from what we understand.

As if that wasn’t enough to digest in one sitting, RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams and her crew are currently putting the final touches on next Saturday’s first round of Street Life offerings, set to occur between the hours of 6 and 9p at five different locations within the downtown retail district.

Those participating businesses — the Dublin House and Red Ginger Home on Monmouth Street; Ten Thousand Villages and River’s Edge Café on Broad Street, and  Rare Breed Shoes on White Street — will be the sites for sounds throughout June. Other businesses “from Broad Street to the Red Bank Train Station and throughout the entire Red Bank business district” are expected to be on board for future Street Life slates in July and August, including a special “Shop Rock & Stroll” program timed to the 56th annual Red Bank Sidewalk Sales on July 25.

In addition, such touchstones of local life as the Monmouth County Arts Council, Funk & Standard Variety Store and the Count Basie Theatre have once again stepped up in support of what remains one of the nicest things about summer in Red Bank.

The June 5 partystarter mixes in a few fascinating newcomers with some of the most iconic artists on the Red Bank music scene — including The Al Wright Unit, profiled recently right here in redbankgreen. A combo of rare ability and even rarer local gigs, the elegant jazz drummer Al Wright, his vocalist wife Ruth Wright (they’re both veterans of the cosmically amazing Sun Ra Arkestra!) and pianist Greg Murphy (Wynton Marsalis, Rashied Ali) will be appearing outside Red Ginger Home.

Also on tap for June 5 is the aforementioned Cool Blues Duo (at River’s Edge), along with Shore blues veterans Gary Wright and Kenny “Stringbean” Sorensen (at Ten Thousand Villages).

There’s a lot more in store for the coming Saturday nights of June, including Middletown’s own perky powerpopsters The Wag (June 12) — a band that seemingly lives for the season in which it can get out and play the park gazebos, portable stages and pup-tacular dog walks of the Shore summer. There’s also a rare solo performance by producer and composer Brian Breen (June 19), about whom we’ve written extensively in relation to his SciFi Musical Comedy Far Out!. And, there’s even the return of Red Banker Jeff MacPherson‘s band Zeke Moffitt on June 26.

Here’s the schedule of free entertainments for June, with more to come through July and August. All listings are subject to change and are presented “rain or shine;” call the RiverCenter office at (732)842-4244 for more info, or check the RiverCenter website for updates to the StreetLife schedule.

SATURDAY, JUNE 5 (6-9pm)

A Cool Blues Duo –River’s Edge Café, 35 Broad Street

Familiar Faces – Dublin House, 30 Monmouth Street

Gary Wright and Stringbean – Ten Thousand Villages, 69 Broad Street

Ed Bowlby – Rare Breed Shoes, 16 White Street

Al Wright Unit – Red Ginger Home, 65 Monmouth Street

SATURDAY, JUNE 12 (6-9pm)

Chip Robertson – River’s Edge Café, 35 Broad Street

The Wag – Dublin House, 30 Monmouth Street

Murphy’s Six String – Ten Thousand Villages, 69 Broad Street

Jenny Woods – Rare Breed Shoes, 16 White Street

Laura Paganucci – Red Ginger Home, 65 Monmouth Street

SATURDAY, JUNE 19 (6-9pm)

Don Lee – River’s Edge Café, 35 Broad Street

The Wannabes – Dublin House, 30 Monmouth Street

Cat – Ten Thousand Villages, 69 Broad Street

Brian Breen – Red Ginger Home, 65 Monmouth Street

SATURDAY, JUNE 26 (6-9pm)

Paul Pugliese – River’s Edge Café, 35 Broad Street

Shore Fire Cloggers – Dublin House, 30 Monmouth Street

Jo Wymer – Ten Thousand Villages, 69 Broad Street

Gina Blechman – Rare Breed Shoes, 16 White Street

Zeke Moffitt – Red Ginger Home, 65 Monmouth Street