Conductor and arranger Joe Muccioli takes the baton once again as the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra presents its eighth annual Sinatra Birthday Bash this Saturday, at Count Basie’s place — a set of swingin’ standards that features Red Bank’s Vance Villastrigo (right) among many others.
Don’t look now, but this Friday marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. As a cause for song and festivity, it’s only the second most celebrated birthday in December — but for thousands of fans in the Chairman of the Board’s onetime Jersey stomping grounds, it’s an occasion in which Red Bank plays a significant role.
Count Joe Muccioli among the music-biz pros who’ve got their work cut out for them in the Sinatra Centennial year of 2015 — but that’s all down the road, as the man called Mooche has a big current project on his plate: the Sinatra Birthday Bash, the eighth annual edition of which arrives at the Count Basie Theatre on Friday night.
As conductor-arranger of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra (and artistic director of the borough-based Jazz Arts Project), Muccioli will once again lead his 18-piece organization of “first-call” jazz cats in a program of signature Sinatra standards made Frankly famous over the course of a 50-year career — a set that showcases the vocal talents of a demographically diverse group of guest singers.
Going up at 8 pm, the 2014 Birthday Bash returns to the legendary stage of the venue named for the late Bill “Count” Basie — the “Kid from Red Bank” who collaborated with the kid from Hoboken on a series of now-classic albums in the 1950s and 60s.
The Red Bank connection extends as well to one of the ten featured song stylists on this year’s bandstand: Vance Villastrigo, the veteran Shore entertainer and session ace who’s collaborated with such jazz, blues and pop headliners as Dexter Gordon, Odette, Betty Carter and Blood Sweat and Tears. He’s joined at the mic by fellow Monmouth County music pro Khadijah Mohammed of Asbury Park — and at the keys by Jersey Shore Medical Center’s Dr. Art Topilow, the prominent hematologist, author and educator who also happens to have taken a “Hipstercratic Oath” as a sought-after music director and accompanist.
The program also boasts a pair of guest stars with a respectable basic-cable pedigree — Peter Perrotta (the actor/ singer/ executive consultant who was featured as “Uncle Tony” in A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels) and Ray DeForest (the actor/ producer/ cabaret artist who’s hosted everything from Food Network’s Chef du Jour to the syndicated Design Invasion). The bill is rounded out by a cast of Jersey-fresh vocalists that number among them Lou Abbato, Jesus “Jay” Cruz, Trish Mata, Livia Tedesco, and the duo act Silky and Smooth (Michael Di Maulo, Debbie Aminah).
The Birthday Bash — which, as Mooche reports, has begun turning a modest profit in recent editions — benefits Jazz Arts Project’s youth musical education programs in Red Bank and Asbury Park, and caps a yearly slate of activities that’s come to include an April schedule of Talkin’ Jazz lectures, various special concert events at the Basie, and a Summer Jazz Cafe series at Two River Theater (where the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra returns for an Enchanted Evening of Song benefit on March 7, 2015).
In addition to the big Sinatra Centennial, 2015 also marks the tenth anniversary of the Jazz Arts nonprofit — and while Muccioli can’t go into detail beyond promising “some weird, wild, surprise things” for the 100th Birthday Bash in Red Bank, he’s not shy about naming the “dream cast” that he’d most wish to see up there on the Basie stage: Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, and Joe Piscopo.