By JOHN T. WARD
A four-night campaign of classic rock shows curated by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in coming months will help drive a $20 million expansion Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, officials said Monday.
But the names of the acts to be spotlighted in the series remained under wraps at a press conference held on the stage of the Vaudeville-era venue.
Maureen and Steven Van Zandt with 104.3FM DJ Ken Dashow at the Basie. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
With the capital campaign for the expansion plan halfway to its goal, the event gave theater officials an opportunity to thank big donors; to spotlight the involvement of credit card issuer Citi as a sponsor; and to tease the upcoming series, slated to kick off Friday, January 13.
Theater spokesman Jon Vena said the act, or acts, appearing that night would be announced “soon.”
So what will be different about the acts from those that now play the venue?
“Steven will be hand-picking them,” Vena told redbankgreen. “Steven has a lot of friends.”
In addition to his guitar-playing for Bruce Springsteen and acting work, Van Zandt — a Middletown native who bought his first guitar at Jack’s Music in Red Bank and considered the Basie his hometown moviehouse — holds down a mic as host of “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” a nationally syndicated radio show and platform for his encyclopedic knowledge of rock, both popular and obscure.
“I’m not nostalgic about the sixties,” Van Zandt told the gathering of reporters and local officials. “I never left.” He’s credited with reuniting the Rascals in 2009 after a long separation.
Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zandt, members of the Basie board, serve as honorary co-chairs of the fundraising effort for the expansion, which calls for a new, glass-walled lobby; a long-overdue upgrade to the theatre’s backstage area; a second, multi-use venue for up and coming artists; and new space for area arts nonprofits, partner programs, and the theatre’s ever-growing Performing Arts Academy.
He called it “a vision of one-stop shopping, where kids get an education in all the arts” and then present their work to the public “in venues in the same complex, which I think is a really good template, a really good model” for theaters across the country.
The Basie opened in 1926 as the Carlton Theatre and, after a string of name changes over the decades, was rechristened in 1984 in honor of William “Count” Basie, the jazz composer and bandleader who was born in Red Bank 80 years earlier.