Louie Armstrong and Count Basie, who shared the grooves of many a compilation but never made a record together, are among the topics at a new slate of free TALKIN’ JAZZ events that begin tonight. Below, the Basie bust at the Red Bank train station.
April is National Jazz Appreciation Month, and here in Red Bank, birthplace of the great William “Count” Basie, jazz sounds the keynote for a recently minted (and minty-cool) tradition: an 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.
Hosted for the second consecutive year in the Count Basie Theatre‘s Performing Arts Academy rehearsal center at 111 Monmouth Street (the onetime WaWa that until recently served as headquarters to community stage troupe Phoenix Productions), it’s a weekly Monday series that once again starts a bit late out of the box — having skipped the first Monday of the month in favor of a session that walks the walk and talks the talk tonight.
For its inaugural offering of 2016, the Talkin’ Jazz series welcomes Jay Leonhart, a master of the “walkin’ bass” who talks a great game as well — and who’s shared stages and studios with everyone from Duke Ellington, Mel Torme and Peggy Lee, to Judy Garland, Luciano Pavarotti and Sting. The award winning accompanist, combo leader, session cat and member of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra shares stories, observations, and even uniquely individualistic original songs about his life as a bass player in a 7 p.m. presentation entitled “It’s All About the Bass.”
On the evening of April 18, the man named “Mooche” welcomes Ricky Riccardi, archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, New York, for a discussion on the legacy of the groundbreaking horn player, distinctive vocalist and beloved entertainer Louis Armstrong. Having lectured on the topic around the world, the author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years sits down for an intimate look at the artistry of the one and only “Satchmo.”
The 2016 series wraps on April 25 with an entirely appropriate examination of “The Kid from Red Bank” himself, Count Basie. The pianist, big-band leader and favorite musical collaborator of Sinatra and many others is remembered by author, educator and Grammy winning record producer Ed Berger of the Rutgers Institute of jazz Studies in a presentation that promises to put a swinging soundtrack (and a smiling human face) to the music legend whose name adorns a borough park in addition to Monmouth Street’s venerable venue of entertainment.