Tim mcloone 2011Tim McLoone and Holiday Express (above) make their annual fundraising whistle-stop on the Count Basie stage this Thursday, followed on Friday by the “Souled Out” (but still very much on sale) return of Christmas Baby Darlene Love (below).  

darlene-loveNo matter how many times Darlene Love appeared on David Letterman’s show to deliver her soaring signature “Christmas (Baby please come home),” it somehow stayed fresh across four decades, five presidential administrations and countless hairstyles.

Likewise, Holiday Express manages to keep it fresh despite spending most of the year in a crisper, only to be taken out for a blizzard of seasonal performances.

And somehow, the Count Basie Theatre does it up in style every December with crowd-pleasing sets by both acts, which roll into Red Bank in the nights ahead.

Read on for details…

This Thursday sees the annual Basie visit of Holiday Express, the Tim McLoone-founded winter-wonderland Wall of Sound whose dozens of other seasonal tour stops remain off-limits to most audience members.

Which isn’t because you’re not cool enough, connected enough, or cash-money enough to score tickets. It’s just that admission to those Holiday Express events is unavailable at any price, unless you’re one of the more than 15,000 residents of regional homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, children’s wards and other places that form the heart of the Holiday Express itinerary — places whose residents are often without any family or friends, and whose sole ray of light is that annual visit by the big jinglebell band. And just as the music is the gloriously loud locomotive that pulls the nonprofit’s all-volunteer humanitarian train, so does the Basie show help to fuel and fund the Express operations and its two touring teams of musicians and support personnel.

Now in their 23rd season, McLoone and his all-star squad of vocalists and instrumentalists take it to the Basie stage for a 7:30 p.m. set of standards that ranges from the sacred and stately to the secular and silly. And they’ll be joined by two mayors — Bob Neff of Little Silver, and Pasquale Menna of Red Bank —  making good on  a wager made on the recent Battle of Ridge Road state football championship between Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional high schools (Shrewsbury Mayor Don Burden won’t be there because of a schedule conflict, but will be there in spirit, Neff tells redbankgreen). Take it here for tickets ($50 – $125) — and rock around the tree for more.

The aforementioned David Letterman may have departed network life for full-bearded retirement, but for Darlene Love, it’s a busier holiday season than it’s been in years, thanks to the buzz generated by her contribution to the pop-documentary 20 Feet from Stardom and her 2015 album release Introducing Darlene Love. Produced by E Streeter/ songwriter/ actor/ radio personality/ activist (and Basie board member) Steven Van Zandt, the album frames the 74-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s voice in gloriously grand arrangements of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Joan Jett and more. And when Love comes to town this Friday for the next edition of A Souled Out Christmas, she’ll be highlighting material from that project in an evening that promises the participation of special guests.

Of course, the versatile singer who played a major part in Phil “Bad Santa” Spector’s 1963 Christmas album can be expected to belt out her classic covers of “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s a Marshmallow World” and more, in an 8 p.m. show (presented by impresario Sammy Boyd)   from which proceeds benefit the nonprofit music education program for disadvantaged communities Little Kids Rock. Tickets ($59 – $129) can be reserved right here — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for details on the Basie returns of Christmas concerts by Brian Kirk, the Monmouth Civic Chorus, and Bobby Bandiera (with friends like Jon Bon Jovi, Deborah Harry, Southside Johnny and more).