A renaissance guy in Red Bank: Harry Connick Jr. makes his first-ever two night stand at the Count Basie this week and the man from NOLA might stand a bit of sightseeing while in town.
By TOM CHESEK
They walk among us, sometimes shopping in the broad daylight of Broad Street, spelunking the nooks and crannies of the Antique Center, sampling the fare at everything from the most sophisticated sit-downs to way-cool WaWa.
We’re talking celebrities, baby many of them in town for a whistle-stop tour gig at the Count Basie Theatre. While the pimped-out tour buses come and go outside the Monmouth Street landmark with regularity, however, every so often a headline act plants it here in the greater Red Bank Green for something more than a one night stand. So it is this Wednesday and Thursday, as the Count’s crib plays host to a still-young veteran who’s long worn the mantle of Renaissance Guy: Harry Connick Jr.
When the jazz pianist, pop stylist, songwriter, composer, Broadway leading man, screen actor and Krewe founder visits the Basie-birthing borough for a pair of concert events on April 20 and 21, he’ll be bringing along his big band (with perhaps a separate trailer just to tote that résumé) in a full-on recreation of his most recent studio set, the collection of jazz and pop interpretations known as Your Songs. Having ably prosecuted his long-playing career through a deft mix of fanbase-friendly favorites and a pretty delightful flair for the unexpected, we’re hoping that New Orleans-rooted Connick (who, we should point out, maintains a place in the city with his family) gets to feeling a little exploratory during his hours in Red Bank and we’re here to toss out a few suggestions to play that stay to the fullest.
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: It being Jazz Appreciation Month, jazz exponent Connick would do well to drop in at Butterfly Fine Arts on Broad, where the Art of Jazz exhibit plays on through April in a parade of pix, paintings and memorabilia curated by the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project.
From there, a jaunt to the nearby Backward Glances is in order, as Cindy Wolfson Ciullo’s kitschy-cool vintage boutique has long been the area’s exclusive outlet for (and greatest champion of) t-shirts bearing the logo of NOLA landmark J&M Music Shop. The shirts (all profits from the sales of which were donated to the New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation in Connick’s beloved home city) are now officially SOLD OUT but for you, Harry, stockroom miracles can happen.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Harry Connick Jr. and his Big Band perform Your Songs in Concert at the Basie in the first of two shows presented by the Count Basie Theatre Foundation and Concerts East. Take it here for tickets ($50 – $145) and call (732)224-8778, extension 118, for info on a $300 VIP option that includes preferred seating and a post-show meet ‘n greet with the headliner.
LATE WEDNESDAY/ EARLY THURSDAY: A wind-down at the neighboring Jamian’s Food and Drink could conceivably include a late-nite entree of Cajun Shrimp maybe even an impromptu jam on “Junco Partner” with reggae masters Random Test?
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: We seriously doubt that anyone in the Connick company is getting up early for the Spring Birding Walk out on Sandy Hook, so a good start to the day might be a brunchy lunch built around the Cajun chicken sandwich at the always-ready-to-serve Walt Street Pub.
Before soundcheck, a crucial stop at another Red Bank landmark, Jack’s Music Shoppe. Recording artists of all stripes have been known to pop into Jack’s for a casual shopping excursion as well as a cagey look at how their own product is displayed and featured, in a manner not unlike how the bread-truck guy rearranges the potato buns at the supermarket.
THURSDAY NIGHT: Harry Connick Jr. and his Big Band perform Your Songs in Concert at the Basie in the second of two shows presented by the Count Basie Theatre Foundation and Concerts East. Take it here for tickets ($50 – $145) and call (732)224-8778, extension 118, for info on a $300 VIP option that includes preferred seating and a post-show meet ‘n greet with the headliner.
LATE THURSDAY: The orchestra’s been loaded into the tractor trailer and the driver’s honking the horn, but if Harry’s feeling frisky he may want to clock out his Red Bank adventure with a dash over to The Downtown for the latest in their famous Rock & Roll Karaoke sessions. The band from NYC’s Arlene’s Grocery may rival Connick himself for the sheer number of songs they’re ready to launch into at a moment’s notice and while they may not be able to agree upon “Danny Boy” or “The Oompa Loompa Song,” we know for a fact that all concerned are fully equipped to stomp the hell out of “Johnny B. Goode.” Plus, what would you pay to hear Harry Connick Jr. class up tunes like “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, or Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”?