Other burgs may jostle for the “music city” label, but when it comes to jazz on the Jersey Shore, no other town can boast the William ‘Count’ Basie-birthing pedigree and passionate preservationism of Red Bank. And no one has worked harder to keep that cool blue flame burning than the people of the Jazz Arts Project.
The borough-based nonprofit that gave us the annual Sinatra Birthday Bash, the Summer Jazz Café, the Talkin’ Jazz series and our very own Red Bank Jazz Orchestra have another, recently minted tradition here in the waning days of daylight-savings time. And when conductor-arranger-artistic director Joe Muccioli and the RBJO take the stage at Two River Theater this Saturday night, they’ll be compensating for that lost “spring-ahead” hour by living large during the third annual event known as An Enchanted Evening of Song.
Described as “an enchanting journey through the pages of the Great American Songbook,” the 8 p.m. show’s a fundraiser for one of the project’s most cherished endeavors: a series of “Head Start”-style music education programs in Red Bank and Asbury Park, dedicated to providing kids from at-risk and underserved communities with the instruments, the instruction and the mentorship they need to make some beautiful music.
Together with the organization’s Jazz Arts Academy partnership with the Count Basie Theatre, the educational sessions (conducted through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County) nurture a Generation Next of young musicians here in the area where Count Basie and Duke Ellington first tuned toward their royal destiny; where under-the-radar nightspots hosted some memorable vocal and instrumental talents; and where the likes of Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton and more made a part of their touring circuit.
Among the guest singers joining maestro “Mooche” Muccioli and company are several veterans of those Sinatra salutes past — including Asbury Park native Khadijah Mohammed, a powerhouse presence and versatile vocalist who’s at home with a sultry standard (or Sinatra-swaggering “That’s Life!”) as she is delivering a set of funk-pop-R&B originals and crafty covers alongside her brother Talib in their must-see band The F.L.O.W. Show.
The bandstand is further fortified by jazzy chanteuse Livia Tedesco and smoky piano-club crooner Tony DeSare, with Jazz Arts board member (and moonlighting serenader) Bob Tuzzo once more serving as master of ceremonies, and globe-trotting jazz scholar Muccioli “standing in front of the freight train” that is the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra.
Take it here for tickets ($25 and $50, with a $100 VIP option that also includes prime seating and entry to a pre-show cocktail hour).