Jazz chanteuse Champian Fulton (above) is among the guest speakers — while Ella Fitzgerald and “Kid from Red Bank” Count Basie are among the topics — when the annual Talkin’ Jazz series returns Monday.
“If you can play — if you can show me something, whoever you are — I’m listening,” said Red Bank-based jazz maven Joe “Mooche” Muccioli in these paperless pages several years back. It was a statement that underscored the democratic attributes of jazz music — and at the same time, it served to drive home the point that a true jazz player has got to go beyond talking that talk, and walk that walk.
During the National Jazz Appreciation Month of April, however, it’s also about talking the talk — particularly when the spoken word serves to illuminate the music that’s been called America’s one truly homegrown art form.
And here in the eminently jazzy town of Red Bank, the words and music are in swinging sync Monday, when the annual Talkin’ Jazz series of free presentations takes it back downtown for its milestone 10th edition.
Presented by Jazz Arts Project, the borough-based nonprofit Muccioli leads as artistic director — and held at the Count Basie Theatre‘s Performing Arts Academy — the lecture series represents an intimate gathering that offers music lovers access to a treasure trove of history, performance, sight, sound, sweet science and scintillating conversation, all in an atmosphere that’s blessedly free of tuxedo’d pretension, free of nightclub noise, and free of charge.
The long-running series was the brainchild of Muccioli, the musician/ arranger/ bandleader who’s talked the talk (lecturing, studying, teaching and listening on all things jazz) and walked that walk (touring extensively and conducting orchestras on several continents) for decades. Having relocated some years back to the borough that gave the world the one and only “Kid from Red Bank” Count Basie, Mooche co-founded Jazz Arts Project as vehicle for promoting the art form’s past, present and future — whether it’s through the annual Sinatra Birthday Bashes (and other events featuring the Muccioli-led Red Bank Jazz Orchestra), the Summer Jazz Cafe slate at Two River Theater, the free concert series at Riverside Gardens, or the Jazz Arts Academy program cultivating the next generation of jazz innovators.
As it turns out, the late great Bill Basie — the man whose name adorns not only the landmark house of entertainment but a borough recreational field, as well as a stretch of Mechanic Street — is himself the subject of Monday’s inaugural entry in the 2017 Talkin’ Jazz series, set to keynote at 7 p.m. The guest speaker for this “One for the Count” presentation is Darrell Lawrence Willis Sr., a veteran educator, Basie Theatre board member and founder of the grass-roots theater troupe Dunbar Repertory Company who will be presenting the play Butterfly Confessions at the Basie’s upstairs rehearsal space, beginning April 21.
From the stomp/swing sounds of the big Basie bands, the series pivots to a 1950s-era “cool” vibe on the following Monday, April 10, when guest Sanford Joseph cooks up a “Mulligan Stew” tribute to the sax/clarinet man and combo leader Gerry Mulligan. Then, on April 17, the series concludes with “100 Years of Ella,” a birth-centennial salute to the ever-awesome Ella Fitzgerald — starring pianist-chanteuse Champian Fulton, herself a frequent guest artist at many a Jazz Arts event.
While you’re under no obligation to tell them “Joe sent me” when you get to the door at 111 Monmouth Street , it’s highly recommended that you make reservations for these limited-seating free events, all of which commence at 7 p.m. Take it here to RSVP — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for regular updates on Jazz Arts Project doings, including the annual Enchanted Evening of Song concert, scheduled for May 6 at Two River Theater.