BASIE, TWO RIVER GET BIG FUNDING BUMPS

Both the Count Basie Theatre and the Two River Theater Company were major beneficiaries of whopping state funding increases as part of an effort to “create parity” among arts organizations, according to today’s Star-Ledger.

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The Basie’s fiscal year 2008 grant from the state Council on the Arts soared by 42 percent, to $223,325, up more than $94,000 from 2007, and the Two Rivers’ allotment doubled, to $139,477, from $69,183.

“We think it represents an acknowledgment by the council of the growth we’ve had over the past couple of years,” Two River managing director Guy Gsell told the Asbury Park Press. “We’re serving a wider geographic area, and have had an incredible period of growth.”

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CAN WE GET A DECAF BON JOVI, PLEASE?

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Pop star Bon Jovi is suing the Ocean County-based maker of an energy drink called Mijovi for trademark infringement, the Asbury Park Press reports today.

The suit against was filed after the singer and Middletown resident previously known as Jonathan Bongiovanni from Sayreville came across the product at Zebu Forno, the Press’ David Willis reports.

From the story:

But after Bon Jovi saw a can of Mijovi for sale in a Red Bank cafe in January, his lawyers sent [Marcos] Carrington, the founder of Manchester-based The Mijovi Co., a letter demanding that he stop using the name Mijovi.

“It is just unfair,” said Carrington, 37, of East Brunswick. “It is unfair because Mijovi has nothing to do with Bon Jovi.”

The name was inspired by his girlfriend, Jovita Saenz, he said.

The suit continued even after Carrington introduced himself and Saenz to Bon Jovi at an unidentified Red Bank restaurant “to try to clear up the matter and explain the company’s origins,” the Press reports.

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CAN PISCOPO KEEP STRIDE WITH THIS?

Here’s pianist Tony DeSare playing some electrifying stride piano on ‘Fly Me to the Moon‘ during his Jazz Arts Project show earlier this month at the River’s Edge Café.

DeSare, along with Bruce Williams on alto sax, will back Joe Piscopo (yes, you read that correctly; click on his name for more) for his two sets Saturday night at the café, at 35 Broad Street.

A multi-instrumentalist himself, Piscopo includes a straight vocal tribute to Frank Sinatra, not to mention some comedy, in his performances, we’re told.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING LAST WEEK AND NEXT

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The upside, from the glass-is-half-full perspective, is that the new Red Bank Parks & Rec summer guide just now hitting mailboxes contains plenty of listings for events that haven’t happened yet.

We’re talking a full roster of concerts and movies in Riverside Gardens Park, a car show, StreetLife and theater performances.

Cynics, though, might immediately notice that the summer’s half over, and a number of the events listed in the guide are already history.

Among them: the KaBoom Fireworks of July 3, and an appearance at Songwriters in the Park by the artist featured on the program’s cover, Ari Heist. He played last Friday.

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MINGLING AMID THE BLING

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Taking a lesson from art gallery openings, a Broad Street jewelry store is planning to bring a party atmosphere to nighttime shopping this summer with the addition of in-store live music, food and special events.

Hamilton Jewelers is hosting a series of Thursday-night events over the next four weeks with focus on wine, cognac and fine fashion. Two of them, including this week’s, are open to the public; the others are invite-only.

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TARVER BIDS ADIEU TO RED BANK, IN SONG

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After 31 years in Red Bank, entrepreneur, education activist and occasional singer W. David Tarver is leaving town. And he’s going out in style.

Tarver tells redbankgreen that he and his wife, Kishna, are packing up their house at the Bluffs on West Front Street for a move to Birmingham, Michigan next month.

The time and circumstances are right, he says. His daughter, Stacy, just graduated from New York University. His son, Aaron, graduated from Red Bank Regional last month and will be heading to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Tarver’s brother and 85-year-old mother live near the Detroit suburb.

But before he leaves, Tarver has a couple of pieces of musical business to attend to.

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LIVE FROM RED BANK! THAT GUY FROM SNL!

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Joe Piscopo

OK, let’s acknowledge right up front that the dye job’s a little creepy, while the whole “I’m from Joisey” schtick we associate him with could use some Botox, or cyanide, even.

But a quarter-century after his moment in the spotlight, onetime Saturday Night Live star Joe Piscopo has reinvented himself, we’re told, as an entertainer.

Not as a comedian whose routine includes a parody of Frank Sinatra — one of his more memorable skits on SNL — but as a legit jazz singer who does a Sinatra tribute as part of musical act that’s, naturally, sprinkled with humor.

Nobody knows that,” Red Bank Jazz Orchestra director Joe Muccioli says of Piscopo’s love of jazz, and his ability to serve it up. “But he’s been doing this for years. And he’d got pipes.”

On Saturday, June 21, expect to see some disbelieving faces pressed against the windows of the River’s Edge Café on Broad Street, when Piscopo rolls into the eatery for two performances.

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FIREWORKS TRAFFIC ADVISORY: BE PATIENT

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A full three hours before the first of some 4,000 pieces of fireworks is lofted into the sky above the Navesink Tuesday night, the streets of central Red Bank will be closed to vehicular traffic.

Which for the crowd — estimated in past years to have been 170,000 strong — means one of three things:

• Get here early, find a convenient parking spot and relax in town for five or six hours.

• Be ready to walk to your chosen viewing spot from outside the downtown.

• Make friends with somebody with a boat, pronto.

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LOOSE PANTIES = BOFFO BOX

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A play about a young woman’s falling underwear helped arouse record interest in the Two River Theater in the season just ended.

Bootstrapped by ‘The Underpants,’ comedian Steve Martin’s racy farce, as well as receipts from the musical ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’,’ the Bridge Avenue theater company posted its strongest returns ever, both in both seats sold and revenue, the TRTC reported.

Attendance for the season’s plays soared 31 percent, from 23,242 in the 2006 season to 30,463 this year, said theater spokeswoman Jayme Powers.

Revenue from ticket sales, meanwhile, was $747,817 this season, a jump of almost $200,000.

“Every time we think it can’t get any better, this community surprises us by buying more tickets and supporting our work more deeply,” TRTC board president Ann Unterberg said in a prepared statement.

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COUNCIL TO CLUBS: ‘SHUT IT’

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Once a month at Teak, after the diners have finished their Asian-fusion sushi, a merengue band sets up in the front room and the place explodes with sounds from south of the border.

In fine weather, the large windows on three sides of the room are thrown open, turning the place into a throbbing lanai on Monmouth Street as salsa dancers spill out into the parking lot.

Well, it may be the dead of summer, but it’s time to button up, borough officials say.

The borough council is dialing up a campaign against nighttime noise with a proposal that would force clubs and restaurants to shut their doors and windows after 11p when they’re playing music, whether live or recorded.

“As more and more places go to big open windows — which is lovely — the noise is becoming more intolerable for the neighbors of those establishments,” says Councilwoman Grace Cangemi.

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A SPICY, SAVORY & SPECTACULAR SELLOUT

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Faces, fashions and flavors from around the world were on display last Saturday night at the Red Bank Primary School for the annual International Night, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

‘HS MUSICAL’ PHENOM HITS BASIE STAGE

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

First came the Disney Channel movie ‘High School Musical‘ in January, 2006.

Then the video and the soundtrack broke sales records, giving rise to a concert tour and an ice show. ‘High School Musical 2,’ the cable sequel, is coming out in August. There’s talk of Broadway. And though critical response has been lukewarm, ‘High School Musical’ is now practically an industry.

When Red Bank’s Phoenix Productions announced auditions for ‘High School Musical,’ 306 kids auditioned for 48 parts, says assistant executive director Elaine Eltringham. Running this weekend only at the Count Basie Theatre, the four-performance run is nearly sold out, with only balcony seats remaining.

Clearly, some people can’t get enough of ‘High School Musical.’

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EIGHT-BAR BLUES: FESTIVAL SHRINKS TO FIT

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The Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival might be forgiven for having one monster case of the blues. In recent years, it’s been battered financially and encountered its fair share of literally stormy weather.

Yet the people who pull it together soldier on, this year presenting what corporate types might call a “rightsized” 21st annual edition of a free event that manages to draw music, food and crafts lovers by the tens of thousands, when the weather cooperates.

And almost as if reaching for a good-luck charm, the festival kicks off tonight amid forecasts of iffy weather with local favorite Billy Hector. The firey blues guitarist reprises a headlining role of a few years back that drew the biggest opening-night crowd in the event’s history.

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A SECOND LIFE AT THE INTERNET CAFÉ

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI
Joe Cullity doesn’t like to make a big deal out of his hip injury, and speaks reluctantly about the day he got it — September 11, 2001.

“I was lucky I was late for work,” he says. “I lost a lot of my friends that day.”

A software designer for the New York Mercantile Exchange, Cullity was inside Tower One, waiting at the elevator bank to go up to Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading firm, when the first plane hit the building.

“I walked to the back and saw all this debris coming down and flames and people running like hell,” he recalls. “Then I went to the front. Everybody was looking up at the building. I was standing under the door. After a few seconds I ran like a bastard across the street. At that time we thought it was an accident, an idiot controller. We had no idea.”

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