This time last year, the Brookdale Big Band, a crowd-pleasing organization founded by faculty members of Brookdale Community College, took to the stage of BCC’s Performing Arts Center to mark a musical milestone: the 30th anniversary of the inaugural BBB concert in 1985.
When founder-conductor Joe Accurso and company return to the PAC bandstand this Saturday night, they’ll be celebrating an even more glittering occasion: the upcoming 50th anniversary of BCC, the school that rang its first classroom bell in 1967 on what had been until then a horse farm.
Scheduled to get in full swing at 8 p.m., the set, presented under the theme of “The Impossible Dream,” promises a program of jazz standards from the great organizations of the 1940s and ’50s, including pieces by Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman and Red Bank’s own Count Basie. The top-notch collection of 18 area players includes longtime vocalist (and BCC speech professor) Barbara Baron, renowned Broadway trumpeter Joe Mosello, and a sought-after musician’s musician whose standup bass has walked with legends — Fair Haven’s Gary Mazzaroppi.
A member of the Brookdale faculty and a veteran virtuoso who enjoyed a long-running association with the late great guitar innovator and raconteur Les Paul, Mazzaroppi has accompanied jazz giants from across the spectrum, ranging from Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry, to Marian McPartland, to fusionists Bela Fleck and Chuck Mangione — and even Willie Nelson in his songbook excursions. The bassman earned an early dream gig when he got the opportunity to work regularly with Tal Farlow, the internationally renowned guitarist who retired to a quiet life of sign painting at his home in Sea Bright (with occasional intimate sets at a highwayside restaurant in Highlands).
Speaking of dreams, impossible and otherwise, the school’s press statement on its anniversary observes that “Few believed that a 100-year-old horse farm could be transformed into an elite academic institution. Few believed that students would line up to take classes in converted barns, or that ‘a college without walls’ would take root in Monmouth County.
“In the five decades since, Brookdale has awarded tens of thousands of college degrees. Generations of students have found their voice, discovered their passions, and changed their lives right here, at the old horse farm. That’s what ‘The Impossible Dream’ means to us. It means success in the face of overwhelming odds. At Brookdale, we believe in Impossible Dreams, because we used to be one. And we help make them happen every day.”
Tickets for Saturday night’s concert are $17, with discount admission offered to seniors, local high students and Brookdale students and alumni. To purchase tickets take it here or call the PAC Box Office at (732) 224-2411 — and go here for a full listing of events in Brookdale’s slate of 50th anniversary observances, continuing throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.