JAZZ & BLUES FEST BUSTS ITSELF IN THREE

stage2The 2009 edition of the festival was the last at Red Bank’s Marine Park, and there are no signs of a return. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival, once a summer staple in Red Bank that was unceremoniously scratched off the calendar and has since been on a wayward journey for a permanent home, is taking the show on the road this year.

After a stint on the pavement at Monmouth Park, the festival’s foundation announced it’s taking a totally different direction — three, actually — making one-day stops over three months in as many towns.

“It is what it is right now,” festival organizer Dennis Eschbach told redbankgreen. “We’re going in a different direction this year.”

That direction points outside Red Bank, where the event, formerly known as the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival, was a widely anticipated tradition at Marine Park the first weekend in June. It beat an exit to Oceanport last year because of construction at the park.

But the move to the track didn’t score rave reviews from festivalgoers, and Eschbach said, “some things were good. Other things, it just didn’t work out.”

Its place in Red Bank is taken this year — and on the same dates as the event had taken place in the past — by Riverfest, a reincarnation of the jazz festival’s predecessor. At the time, it was a decision made by the borough council that stirred controversy and raised questions about the relationship between the town and festival’s committee.

Eschbach isn’t harboring any hard feelings, though.

“I hope they have a good weekend, because it’s only good for Red Bank,” he said of Riverfest. “If that’s what the town wants to do, it’s fine.”

Rather than the traditional three-day feast of food and music, the jazz & blues event will be spread out over Saturdays in July, August and September in Middletown, Long Branch and Asbury Park, respectively.

A return to Red Bank isn’t completely out of the question, either, Eschbach said.

“It was only a temporary move. I never said never for Red Bank again,” he said, adding, “We’re just not ready this year.”

By breaking up the event, Eschbach said it has the advantage of more exposure to a broader fan base. And with so many more spring and summer events in Red Bank, pulling in sponsors for the event would have raised a new level of difficulty, he said. Jazz & Blues’s shift to a traveling show, while tapping new markets, is also a somewhat simpler way to back the event.

“It’s a very different thing, doing the festival, than it was six, seven years ago,” Eschbach said.

Here’s the fest’s schedule, from a press release:

MIDDLETOWN JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL

July 23, 2011 ? 11a.m. to 8:00p.m.

Middletown Arts Center, 36 Church Street

12:00?1:00 Colts Neck Swing Band

1:20?2:20 The Cobra Brothers

2:35?3:35 Nine Below Zero

3:50?4:50 Mike Barris & Friends

5:10?6:10 Kimon & The Prophets

6:30?8:00 Ron Sunshine & His Orchestra

LONG BRANCH JAZZ & BLUES FESTIVAL

August 27, 2011 – Noon to 9:30p.m.

The Great Lawn (on the Boardwalk) at Cooper Avenue

1:00?2:00 JSJBF Youth Project Band

2:15?2:45 Gary Cavico (solo)

3:00?4:00 Andy Rothstein and Friends

4:15?5:15 The Gina Fox Band

5:30?6:30 NY Blues Project

6:45?7:45 Jonny B & The Bluesblazers

8:00?9:30 Lionel Young Band (Winner of the International Blues Challenge)

ASBURY PARK BLUES FESTIVAL

September 17, 2011 – 11a.m. to 8:00p.m.

Mattison Avenue between Bond & Emory

12:00?1:00 Stringbean

1:15?2:15 Willie Mitchell Collaberation

2:35?3:35 The Incinerators

3:55?4:55 Mikey Jr & The Stone Cold Blues Band

5:15?6:15 Upstage Jam Band

6:30?8:00 Pat Karwan Band