GETTING JAZZY FOR JOHNNY JAZZ


Red Bank’s jazz royalty gathered in an unassuming pocket park at Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard Friday night as the Al Wright Unit, above, the Chuck Lambert Band and other acts performed for a packed-in crowd of about 100.

The occasion: the third and final of the summer in the Count Basie 365 Cultural Series organized by the borough parks and rec department. The show was a tribute to the late grocer and jazz enthusiast Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta(Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge.)

BUSKING IN THE GLORY OF STREET LIFE

Clockwise from top left: A Cool Blues Duo, Jeff & Elaine, The Al Wright Unit and Peas & Carrots are among the acts taking it to the streets for Red Bank Street Life, the 2012 slate of which kicks off this Saturday evening.

It happens right about the time that Riverfest sounds the keynote to summertime in Red Bank. The sidewalks, storefronts and greens of the Shore’s favorite beach-free destination town ring out with great evening music every Saturday night in the weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Other towns may stake a claim to being Where Music Lives, but when Red Bank StreetLife returns on June 2, it will transform the Borough of Basie into that place where Music greets visitors who arrive by rail; where Music provides an eclectic soundtrack to shopping and dining; and where Music gets mobile on the streets of the downtown and West Side business districts.

Presented by Red Bank Rivercenter (with funding assistance from the Monmouth County Arts Council), Street Life offers up a shuffle-mix that ranges from acoustic Americana to ethnic, and from sweet-Adeline harmonies to a little bit of harmonic dissonance.

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AN EARTHLY RE-ENTRY FOR THE WRIGHT STUFF

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The Al Wright Unit — featuring vocalist Ruth Wright — brings both homegrown cred and a space-trekking sonic legacy back to the Red Bank Public Library on Thursday evening. (Photos courtesy of Red Bank Public Library)

By TOM CHESEK

“In New Jersey there’s a place with much to offer, much to proffer, called Red Bank” — from “Red Bank II,” lyrics by Al Wright

We first happened upon the Al Wright Unit some twenty years ago, back in the original Monmouth Street location of the old House of Coffee — and we found the chamber-jazz combo a flavorful way to chase a ‘ccino. There was Mr. Wright, cutting a dapper figure as the elegant suit-and-tie standup skinsman, with vocalist wife Ruth Wright bringing some classically cool phrasing to a set that spotlighted a healthy number of original compositions.

When the 21st- century edition of the Unit (Ruth, Al and keyboardist Greg Murphy) returns to the Red Bank Public Library tomorrow evening for the latest in a semiannual series of free performances, the drummer and bandleader will do more than pay customary tribute to the town where he’s lived his whole life. He’ll be tapping into a whole other, cosmically amazing legacy that many of his longtime neighbors might not be aware of.

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