JAZZING UP THE WEEKENDS

joemuccioliconductBandleader and Jazz Arts Project founder Joe Muccioli keeps bringing bigger names to town, including Marlene VerPlanck, below. (Click to enlarge)

marleneverplanckSince 2006, the Red Bank-based  Jazz Arts Project has been serving up what founder and borough resident Joe Muccioli calls “straight-ahead, swinging, classic jazz.”

But over the life of the nonprofit’s Summer Jazz Café series, now in its fifth year, there’s also been something of a subtle evolution happening, says the bandleader known to fans and players around the globe as ‘Joe Mooch.’

“Every year, we seem to be able to attract a little bit higher-echelon performers,” he tells redbankgreen. “We’ve been drawing more from national acts and acts that tour internationally.

“Our followers are starting to understand that whenever we bring in an artist, he or she is a top-flight act, even if they’ve never heard of them.”

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WORKING ON A SECOND DREAM, PLUS PIZZA

vincent-sorrisoSicilia owner Vincent Sorriso with custom tiles that depict the seascape of his native Sicily. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Vincent Sorriso says he and his family are fulfilling dream No. 2.

For nearly a decade, the 30-year-old Sorriso and his parents have operated two of the Saladworks franchises, one in the Monmouth Mall and the other on Broad Street in Red Bank. But he says they’ve always longed to replicate what they had done years before, in their home country of Italy, and run a family-owned restaurant.

Within weeks, Sorriso says they will.

The family bought out the struggling Broad Street Filling Station last month and is renovating the space so the newest venture, Sicilia Cafe, will be ready to go by end of August.

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M’TOWNERS STILL STEAMING OVER BUDGET

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Getting a budget in place is going to have to wait another month in Middletown.

A pending review of the 2010 spending plan at the state level pushed back the adoption date to mid-August. Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said the Local Finance Board, which reviews municipal budgets for compliance with state laws and regulations, is backlogged, and Middletown is set to have its done by August 11.

Meantime, the township committee held a public hearing on the $65 million proposal, which would increase average tax bills by $211 annually.

As usual of late, the governing body took a beating from the public.

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HONORS FOR O’HERN & AZZOLINA ADVANCE

oherndaniel2Legislation that would name the Red Bank train station for late mayor and state Supreme Court justice Daniel O’Hern, right, will move to the full state Senate after clearing its Transportation Committee Monday.

Ditto for another bill that would put the name of the longtime Middletown legislator Joe Azzolina on the Highlands-Sea Bright replacement bridge now under construction at the mouth of the Shrewsbury River.

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BLUEBERRY LOVERS GET PIE-EYED

sicklespie2-071710Young contestants got a faceful of purple; so did store owner Bob Sickles, in photo at bottom. (Photos by Peter Lindner; click to enlarge)

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It was a day of the blues Saturday at Sickles Market in Little Silver, which held its annual celebration of New Jersey blueberries — and other blue produce and flowers — with a series of blueberry-pie eating contests that no doubt left an indelible mark on the memories of the contestants.

Fruity factoids: The highbush blueberry was designated as New Jersey’s state fruit in 1993, and some 38 million pounds of the juicy berries are grown here each year.

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BLOTTER: MASKED THIEVES ROB GAS STATION

rbpd2 spotlightThe crime reports appearing here were provided by the Red Bank Police Department for the week of July 9 to July16, 2010. This information appears here unedited.

Theft from a vehicle occurring at West Front St. on 7-9-10. Report of items stolen from parked vehicle: Samsung Digimax Camera, Ipod Touch with charger. A male subject, Albert Abatemarco, age 28 was arrested on 7-9-10 for Burglary, Theft, Receiving Stolen Property, Poss. of CDS, Poss. of Drug Paraphernalia. Ptl. Michael Campanella.

Criminal mischief occurring at Harding Road-Dentist Office between 7-8-10 and 7-12-10. Victim reported that unknown person(s) shot at windows in office with BB gun causing small holes in same. Ptl. Ashon Lovick.

Theft occurring on 7-12-10 at West Bergen Place. Victim reported that two unknown black males between the ages of 14 and 18 approached him, knocked him down to the ground and stole his bicycle and fled the area. Ptl. Dawn Shields.

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SIMS GETS SEVEN YEARS FOR SHOOTING TWO

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Anthony Sims, the Eatontown man who shot two  brothers in Red Bank in November, 2007 and then went on the lam for three months, was sentenced to seven years in prison last Friday, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Sims, now 21,  pleaded guilty in May to two counts of second-degree attempted passion provocation manslaughter and a related gun possession charge. At the time, he was facing a second trial after a Monmouth County jury deadlocked on attempted murder charges.

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FOUR ARRESTED IN CRACK RAIDS

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Red Bank Police have arrested four suspects after a two-prong raid on the West Side Thursday, they announced today.

The busts, which culminated a two-month investigation done in conjunction with the State Police, resulted in the seizure of two caches of crack cocaine, marijuana and a pair of handguns, according to an announcement by Chief Steve McCarthy.

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FED MONEY FLOWS FOR CROSSWALK OPS

cops-in-crosswalks2Sgt. Michael Furlong demonstrated the new “Cops in Crosswalks” program that will take place in Red Bank throughout the year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Chief Steve McCarthy wasn’t just in a good mood or having a better-than-usual day on Thursday.

“I’m ecstatic,” Red Bank’s top cop said.

The reason for his cheer was one that he thinks will have a lasting effect on the borough, because it has a problem, he says: in the last five years, McCarthy says more people have died crossing the street than in homicides.

“That’s why one accident is too much,” he said.

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BOOT CAMP ON THE BLUFFS

work-out-2Organizers hope to get 100 people out for a free workout at Riverside Gardens Park Monday night. (Photos by Peter Lindner; click to enlarge)

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Who needs a gym when you have Riverside Gardens Park?

The Red Bank slice-o-heaven overlooking our beautiful Navesink River has quietly become home to a series of boot-camp style fitness classes for all.

Every Monday night in July, trainers from Outdoor Fit in Tinton Falls have been putting on a free community workout in the park. The last one attracted several dozen people willing to bend, stretch and lift, al fresco, for an hour as sunset approached.

For the next one, on July 19, they’re hoping to attract 100 participants.

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REFLECTIONS ON 30 YEARS AT THE SLICER

humanbites_fairwinds1 Warren Abrahamson with his daughter, Corinne, and some neighborhood clients at Fairwinds Deli in Fair Haven. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Bites1_SmallFor 30 years, Fairwinds Deli has been serving up belly-busting lunches in Fair Haven. By the end of the summer, the aprons and slicers will be boxed up and moved out. But this is nothing to lose your lunch over. Really. Owner Warren Abrahamson is riding a zephyr, not a squall, out of 770 River Road. Abrahamson tells redbankgreen he’s renovating property just a short walk away, at 698 798 River Road, and will open a new and improved Fairwinds Deli.

“It’ll be bigger. It’ll be my own,” said Abrahamson, 46.

In this edition of Human Bites, redbankgreen sits down with Abrahamson, of Middletown, to feed him some questions.

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CAR CRASHES INTO TREE IN FAIR HAVEN

fh-crashA woman driving a charcoal gray Nissan crashed into a tree on River Road opposite Fair Haven’s around 1p Thursday. She received medical attention at the scene.

No other details on the accident were immediately available.

Fair Haven Fire Chief Jim Cerruti said, “Nobody’s too seriously hurt. That’s the good thing.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

GUINNESS TO SHUCK UP RED BANK

white-st-lotThe White Street municipal parking lot will be the site of Red Bank’s first Guinness oyster festival in September. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It looks like downtown Red Bank will ring in the fall season by playing host to a daylong ragbag of an aphrodisiacal and Irish bent.

Mirroring the annual oyster festival across the pond, in Galway, Ireland, and other major cities, Red Bank is bringing in brewery giant Guinness to sponsor a spree of beer (ahem, ale), food and music dubbed the Only One Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival on Sunday, September 26.

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RBR’S TOP TOWNIE

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Headed for Pittsburgh in September: logic-loving Michael Lumish. (Click to enlarge)

Continuing an annual tradition, the Red Bank Council this week threw a quick spotlight on the town’s highest-ranked student among graduating seniors at Red Bank Regional.

This year, that’s Michael Lumish, of Alston Court.

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KA-CHING: SATURDAY TICKETING RETURNS

dscf3005A parking enforcement officer writes a ticket in the White Street parking lot on Wednesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The first ticket was written up at 9:24a. The last was 3:42p.

In that six-hour period this past Saturday, one parking enforcement officer  — wrist still intact —  wrote up 203 tickets for parking meter violations. That’s 34 tickets per hour.

Make no mistake: the grace period is undoubtedly over.

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SUCCESS COMES WITH STRUGGLES AT PARKER

parker-clinicJoseph Aochoa, of Keansburg, has been visiting the Parker Family Medical Center since its start in Red Bank 10 years ago. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Joseph Aochoa wasn’t sure what to make of the trailer on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank that he pulled up to 10 years ago looking for a medical check-up. It didn’t matter. The care he was about to get was free.

As he is today, Aochoa was then struggling to keep employment long enough to qualify for health benefits, and he needed treatment for diverticulitis. The volunteer doctors inside the trailer could do it for him gratis.

“I thought it was just a bunch of people trying to be nice to others,” Aochoa said. “So I try to the same thing when I’m out, so I can help people.”

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AT THE BASIE: THIS SPACE FOR ‘RENT’

rent-photo-1-lae280a6lly-piscopo

Billy Piscopo rehearses “La Vie Boheme” in the Phoenix Productions staging of RENT, opening this weekend at the Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a show that’s described by the director as iconic and beloved; one whose “fierce honesty” and “lack of artifice” has made it a genuine favorite of a whole generation of stage performers.

It won a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize; ran for a dozen years on Broadway; has single-handedly been credited with reinventing the modern American musical — and has spawned a legion of followers who’ve been branded everything from “the most passionate” to “the most annoying” of fanbases.

When Rent comes to Red Bank this Friday night for its first-ever staging by the borough-based Phoenix Productions, one might think that it’d be a ready-made coup for the Count Basie Theatre‘s resident nonprofit theatrical troupe — a slam-dunk “Phoe-nomenon” with a built-in audience.

Instead, as Phoenix artistic director Tom Frascatore points out, it’s “not at all a safe bet for us. In fact, it’s a bit of a dice roll.”

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POND DREDGING DELAYS RILE RUMSONITES

pomphreys-pondState officials say Pomphrey’s Pond, across East River Road from borough hall, will get its long-awaited dredging later this year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After a series of near-misses and a mechanical breakdown that pushed neighbors over the edge of patience, a pond across the street from Rumson Borough Hall will get a dredging that has been planned for four years later this summer, officials said Tuesday.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has guaranteed that Pomphrey’s Pond is a top priority to get permission for the maintenance — but not just yet.

To residents’ chagrin, DEP representative Cindy Randazzo said that the pond cannot be dredged before September because the warm weather will have negative effects on the wildlife. A survey taken Monday showed that there are sunfish living in the pond, she said.

“Come September, you’ll be first on the list to be dredged,” Randazzo said. “That’s a promise from me.”

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RECEIVER STUBS OUT ASHES CIGAR CLUB

ashes2-071210A passerby peers into Ashes Cigar Club Monday night. (Click to enlarge)

The court-appointed receiver in a complex series of lawsuits over Ashes Cigar Club has shut down the Red Bank restaurant and nightclub and has no plans to reopen it, he tells redbankgreen.

It could take months to find a buyer, says attorney Bunce Atkinson, who stubbed out the last hope of rekindling the business on July 7, when he directed that it be closed for good. Information about the reasons for the shutdown were unavailable until this morning.

Meanwhile, two groups of investors who claim to have had stakes in the bar’s liquor license have been squeezed out, and the state is looking to impose fines over identities having been hidden from regulators, Atkinson says.

“There’s going to have to be a fine paid” to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, he says.  “It’ll come out of the sale of the assets.” The former owners won’t see another dime from their investment, he says.

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BAND ON THE RUN

buskers-071210Members of The Stolen steal some time in Riverside Gardens Park, above, and on Monmouth Street, below. (Top photo by Peter Lindner; click to enlarge)

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While visitors to downtown Red Bank may be used to seeing alfresca StreetLife musicians in the summer, some may have done a double- or triple-take Monday night, thanks to one combo that was seemingly everywhere.

The Old Bridge-based foursome, featuring four guys aged 14 to 17, made a handful of stops, playing a couple of tunes at each location — including Riverside Gardens Park, top, and Monmouth Street, right — before rushing off to the next spot for a few minutes of stolen fame. In fact, when not busking, all four are members of a band called The Stolen.

COUNCIL APPROVES SANDWICH BOARD SIGNS

hot-topic rightRejecting the advice of the borough planning board, the Red Bank Council last night said merchants may put sandwich-board advertising on sidewalks outside their establishments through the end of this year.

Overruling concerns that the signs would pose a safety hazard to pedestrians and violate the intent of the borough’s master plan, the council voted 5-1 for an ordinance permitting free-standing signage, which they said is needed to help stores attract customers in a difficult economy.

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FAIR HAVEN TREE LAW GETS ANOTHER LOOK

zoe-gallagher12-year-old Zoe Gallagher made her case to the borough council Monday night to amend Fair Haven’s tree ordinance. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven is looking at revising its tree ordinance, and is doing so after a push from an unlikely source: a 12-year-old borough girl.

Zoe Gallagher, who made waves last month after a dozen trees were chopped down across the street from her Poplar Avenue home, Monday night asked the borough council to amend its ordinance in a way that she thinks will offer more protection for trees in town. After hearing her make her case, the council moved to introduce the amended ordinance and send it along to the planning board for review.

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MIDDLETOWN MAKES TOP 100

welcome-to-middletownA Money Magazine perennial biennial: Middletown. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Middletown, NJ, unlike its myriad namesakes up and down the East Coast, can boast of certain things that make it particularly noteworthy in the small-town America category. In between its oft-congested nerves of commerce, Routes 35 and 36, lie acres of cherished open space; a burgeoning arts center pulses; a high school football team that hangs championship banners regularly; and, still, a cinematic landmark sells cigarettes to touristy film wonks.

It’s for these diverse reasons and more that plenty of people, including high-profile folks like Bon Jovi and Debbie Harry, choose to call it home. Others, like legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, choose to stay forever.

“There’s people who are filthy rich and there’s working class,” said Tim McCarty, who’s lived in Middletown for 15 years. “It’s not pretentious in any way.”

The editors at MONEY Magazine seem to think Middletown (population: 69,000) is pretty OK, too. The magazine named Middletown No. 89 on the 100 Best Places To Live list in its August edition.

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