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RED BANK: JAZZ IS ALIVE AND KICKING

brucewms-tonydesare-5236327Saxman Bruce Williams kicks off a summer schedule of free Jazz in the Park sessions Thursday night at Riverside Gardens… while Friday and Saturday find Café-society crooner Tony DeSare playing a two night stand at Two River Theater.

Like, who says Jazz is a moribund museum piece, fit more for starchy concert-hall settings than those people’s-choice settings that made it what it is? Certainly not the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project, an organization that keeps a porchlight burning in the town that’s gifted the world with Count Basie, Al Wright, and the immortal Johnny Jazz.

Now in its 10th year of operation, the nonprofit overseen by artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli has stepped up its game – with the return of the celebrated Summer Jazz Cafe series, an expanded slate of Jazz Arts Academy offerings, and (for the first time in the event’s long-running history) a schedule of free Jazz in the Park concerts that’s been programmed in full by Mooche and company.

It all kicks off this Thursday evening at Riverside Gardens Park on West Front Street, when Jersey-bred saxmaster Bruce Williams – a veteran music educator and mentor to scores of groovy grads in the Jazz Arts Academy program– leads his Quartet in an open-air jam (complete with complimentary Navesink River sunsets) that sounds the keynote at 7:30 pm. Take it here for complete schedule details on the 2015 Jazz in the Park series, presented by Red Bank Parks and Recreation.

As at the absolute coolest nightspots of those in-the-know, you won’t find a neon sign burning above the entrance to Summer Jazz Café, the seasonal signifier that initiates a four-week residency at Two River Theater this weekend. And, while you don’t necessarily have to tell them “Joe sent me” at the door, there’s an undeniably engaging in-crowd vibe to these talent-packed sessions that transform the Bridge Avenue building’s Marion Huber “black box” space into a BYOB setting for sophisticated sounds, subdued lighting, and a sublime selection of desserts. Throw in free off-street parking in the theater lot, and you’ve got an apres-dinner (or ante-barhop) option that’s sure to class up any night on the town.

The café is open for business at 8 pm this Friday and Saturday, with the return of a frequent-favorite visitor to Red Bank– pianist/ vocalist Tony DeSare and Trio. Channeling the best of the songbook-era crooners into a smoothly contemporary style, the New York City-based cabaret artist has been praised by no less than the New York Times as “one of the most promising young male performers.”

Take it here for tickets ($25) or further information on upcoming events in the Summer Jazz Café series. Keep it tuned to redbankgreen for much more on the cool-cat sounds happening in the dog-day interlude. Then go here for details on the Jazz Arts Academy’s Summer Camp Week (July 27-31), during which players aged 13 to 19 can learn from and collaborate with Jazz Arts faculty members and visiting guest artists — as well as for info on a new menu of guitar, piano, and vocal workshops that are open to ages from 14 on up to the most grizzled of cats.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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