It’s a time of year when any perceived steaminess is probably just one’s breath fighting its way into the arctic air. But over at the old Anthony Reckless estate (home of the Womans Club of Red Bank), things are heating up with the first in a new season of Reckless Steamy Nights music events.
The intimate, house-party style concerts — a long-running monthly series that takes a holiday hiatus each November and December — remains a genuine “best kept secret” within a fast-changing nightscape of borough life, a presentation of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation that raises spirits even as it raises funds for a scholarship program of the JSJBF.
When the front door to the old Reckless place creaks open this Friday evening, the historic house at 164 Broad Street inaugurates the 2016 slate with an encore appearance by a nationally known jazz scholar, music educator, guitarist and bandleader whose live appearances have become all too rare in recent years: Toronto-born, Monmouth County-based Mike Barris.
A sought-after authority on Frank Sinatra, a former faculty member at Brookdale Community College, and a journalist whose exhaustively researched, passionately profferred, staggeringly insightful articles have appeared in the Asbury Park Press, the Wall Street Journal and the go-to jazz periodical Downbeat (check out his recent piece on violinist Christian Howe here), Barris was said in this space a few years back to “walk the walk he talks so well,” as a dextrous guitarist with a particular specialty in the early days and nights of the quintessential American art form. Take it here for audio clips of Barris and band in action.
We can also vouch that his instinctive chops and veteran player’s ear are every bit the match for his professorial command of musicology — as when he backed vocal powerhouse Khadijah Mohammed (returning to Red Bank in March for “An Enchanted Evening of Song” at two River Theater) in a summer 2015 mini-set that coalesced, elegantly and organically, just seconds after the two performers met.
When Mr. Mike commandeers the parlor beginning at 8:30 pm Friday, he’ll be performing once more in the company of some longtime friends and musical partners: borough-based vocalist Jennifer Jordan, fellow guitarist Doug Clarke (who’s worked with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Jerry Lewis) and Middletown’s own Tom Bender (the trumpeter who’s balanced gigs with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton with a tuxedo’d tenure in the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra).
Present in spirit will be the early jazz greats to whom Barris and Friends pay tribute — an august assembly that includes Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and the iconic gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. It’s an evening of “infectious rhythm, scorching vocals and inspired improvising” with the edu-taining bonus feature of “informative tidbits about the players who initially created the music,” as well as the cultural trends that birthed this thing called Jazz.
Admission to Friday’s event is by $10 donation, with attendees welcome to BYOB (complimentary snacks will be offered). The house party continues (with an invitation to tour the historic home and learn more about the Woman’s Club programs) through 11 pm — and Reckless Steamy Nights resume on Friday, February 26 with local favorite Poppa John Bug and the Jam Band. Call (732) 933-1984 for more info.