Above: Rosemary Riddle Acerra — daughter of the great Sinatra arranger-conductor (and onetime Rumson resident) Nelson Riddle — joins author and music historian Will Friedwald (below) for a new slate of Talkin’ Jazz events hosted by the Count Basie Theatre — a schedule that begins Monday, April 20, and puts the focus on Frank.
If it seems like there’s just that much more of Ol’ Blue Eyes in the pre-summer wind — from two-part HBO documentaries, to countless tributes — it may have something to do with the fact that 2015 marks the centennial birthday of Jersey’s own Francis Albert Sinatra. Then again, it may just be business as usual here in the NY/NJ stomping grounds of Frank’s World; a land where you’re never far from a Sinatra signature song coming from the nearest pizza joint, piano bar, or even public library.
Here in Red Bank, National Jazz Appreciation Month means the reoccurrence of a recently minted (and minty-cool) tradition — the annual Talkin’ Jazz slate of edu-taining presentations, brought to you by the borough-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project and hosted by that homegrown organization’s artistic director, internationally noted music scholar, conductor and arranger Joe Muccioli. Relocated this year to the Count Basie Theatre‘s Performing Arts Academy rehearsal center at 111 Monmouth Street (the onetime WaWa that until very recently served as headquarters to community stage troupe Phoenix Productions), it’s an offering that begins an abbreviated schedule this Monday evening, April 20 — and that puts the spotlight squarely on Sinatra.
In an interview that appeared several years back on redbankgreen‘s satellite site Red Bank oRBit, Rosemary Riddle Acerra recalled her late father (the legendary Grammy-winning composer-arranger Nelson Riddle) and his long-running association with the Chairman of the Board; observing that “when Dad and Sinatra came together, there was a spark of electricity…Frank was very excited about this new sound when he heard it, and his career was re-energized after that; he became the singer that we really remember today from that point.”
A onetime resident of the greater Green who was in the first graduating class of Rumson High School in 1939, the elder Riddle enjoyed an epic career that spanned Bing Crosby to Batman; Judy Garland to Linda Ronstadt — and for Monday’s 7 pm program, Rosemary joins The Man Called Mooche for a freewheeling (and free) discussion of one of popular music’s greatest collaborations; a run of recordings (particularly those classic Capitol albums of the 1950s and early 60s) of which it’s been said, “It quickly became apparent that Riddle, of all the arrangers the singer had worked with, complemented Sinatra’s talents better than anyone else.”
The Talkin’ Jazz series continues on Monday, April 27 with a program that salutes both Sinatra and another iconic vocalist whose birth centennial was observed here in 2015 — Billie Holiday. Joining Muccioli that night will be Will Friedwald, the music journalist (The New York Times, Village Voice, New York Observer, Entertainment Weekly) and author of the award-winning Beyond, Sinatra! The Song is You: A Singer’s Art. Friedwald chats with Mooche about Billie, Frank, and a jazz vocal tradition that spans Bessie Smith to Bebop, in an intimate 7 pm gathering that’s blessedly free of tuxedo’d pretension, free of nightclub noise, and free of charge.