Jersey guy Francis Albert Sinatra: his birthday is marked every December with merriment and song, and perhaps nowhere more so than here in the heart of downtown Red Bank. And why not, given that we’re home to a hallowed hall christened in memory of one of the Chairman of the Board’s partners in pop perfection: piano player, bandleader and “Kid From Red Bank” Bill “Count” Basie.
Each year our own Joe “Mooche” Muccioli — noted conductor, arranger, scholar and artistic director of the nonprofit Jazz Arts Project — fires up the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra for a grand concert that salutes the signature songs and style of Sinatra with the help of some special guest vocalists. Last year’s Sinatra Birthday Bash helped celebrate the iconic singer’s centennial last year, and when it returns Sunday afternoon, the RBJO will mark its own milestone — the 10th edition of the event— joined by a familiar face from boomer-era TV, as well as by a performer with a pedigree that traces back to Sinatra’s fabled Rat Pack.
That familiar face belongs to Don “Donny” Most, forever remembered as Richie’s goofy pal Ralph Malph in the 1970’s hit Happy Days. Most has cultivated an acclaimed voice in his own right. In recent years, the actor-singer-filmmaker who issued his first pop album back in those happy days of network TV exposure has reinvented himself as a smooth-crooning specialist in Great American Songbook standards, fronting a slick jazz combo and performing at venues like Manhattan’s 54 Below, and Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Then there’s vivacious vocalist Deana Martin, a one-degree-of-separation connection to the great Dino himself, and a returning favorite who graced the Basie stage at last year’s Bash. The headline guests will be augmented by five fellow featured performers — Zack Alexander, Marcus Goldhaber, Kathy Graham, Steve Kazlauskas, and Jerry Pearce — and other promised surprises, on a program that finds Muccioli conducting his own big-band arrangements of Sinatra signatures from the Chairman’s half-century professional prime.
It’s an event that’s helped make Red Bank a crucial station stop in Sinatra’s World — a land that stretches from the clam-broth houses of Hoboken and the most legendary venues of “New York, New York,” to the grand casinos of Vegas and the soundstages of “L.A. Is My Lady” (plus every piano bar and pizza parlor in between).
Presented at the earlybird hour of 4 p.m., it’s also a show from which proceeds will be dedicated to the youth educational programs of the borough-based Jazz Arts Project. Go here for tickets ($25 – $100), with the top-tier admission price gaining entry to a pre-show reception, premium seating, and a special commemorative gift. Or go here for more info on other upcoming “not necessarily the holidays” events at the Count Basie, including Norah Jones (12/6), An Evening of Comedy keyed to Jon Stewart’s new HBO show (12/8), and the return of “Long Island Medium” Teresa Caputo (12/15).