RED BANK: WORDS AND JAZZ ON MONMOUTH

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.

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RED BANK: JAZZ IN JULY AND BEYOND

Warren VacheTrumpeter Warren Vaché sounds the keynote for a new series of Summer Jazz Cafe events at Two River Theater this weekend. Keith Marks, below parks it at Riverside Gardens for the first in A slate of free outdoor jazz concerts Thursday night.  

Keith MarksAlthough it keeps a year-round beat that includes December’s annual Sinatra Birthday Bash, the spring series of Talkin’ Jazz lectures and the ongoing sessions of the Jazz Arts Academy, summertime means the livin’ is also busy for the Jazz Arts Project, the nonprofit arts organization based here in Red Bank, the borough that gave the world Count Basie (to say nothing of the late and legendary Johnny Jazz).

It’s a flurry of activity that really hits home in this first full week of July, as Jazz Arts and artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli introduce a new schedule for a seasonal signifier — the celebrated Summer Jazz Café at Two River Theater — along with the return of a relatively recent warm-weather diversion: the free series of Jazz in the Park concerts at Riverside Gardens Park.

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RED BANK: A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR FRANK FANS

PicopoFloydDeanaJersey guys Joe Piscopo and Uncle Floyd Vivino join Dino’s daughter Deana Martin for a special Sunday afternoon Sinatra Centennial Birthday Bash.

In case you haven’t heard, December 12 marks the 100th anniversary of the humble Hoboken debut of Francis Albert Sinatra — the beyond-iconic “Chairman of the Board” whose birthday is the second most celebrated such affair on the twelfth-month calendar page.

It’s an occasion that’s being observed in swinging style from “New York, New York” to “”LA Is My Lady” and every casino cocktail lounge, piano bar and pizzeria in between — with a certain house right here in Red Bank a crucial part of the proceedings.

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RED BANK: AN ‘ENCHANTED’ ANNIVERSARY

Enchanted_Evening_50Jazz chanteuse Champian Fulton and Tony Corrao (left)  join host Bob Tuzzo and Joe Muccioli’s Red Bank Jazz Orchestra for An Enchanted Evening of Song, celebrating ten years of Jazz Arts Project excitement with a Saturday night concert at two River Theater.

Hard as it is to believe, it’s been a whole ten years since the nonprofit Jazz Arts Project first formed in Red Bank, with the aim of fostering  an appreciation of “America’s classical music,” here in the borough that birthed the legendary Count Basie — to say nothing of giving fans of sophisticated swingin’ sounds an excuse to get dressed up and dig some local events with a big-city vibe.

Since that time, the Jazz Arts org has made a big, bold, glorious noise courtesy of concerts starring the flagship Red Bank Jazz Orchestra and its skipper, conductor-arranger-artistic director Joe Muccioli. Not content to offer just a couple of shows each year, Jazz Arts has stayed busy around the calendar, with annual offerings like April’s Talkin’ Jazz lecture series, the Summer Jazz Cafe at Two River Theater, and December’s Sinatra Birthday Bash at the Count Basie Theatre. In addition, the Project continues to nurture the next generation of monster talents, through its educational partnership with the Basie, and its Head Start-style programs (such as an ongoing endeavor with the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County) that gives kids from at-risk and challenged communities the tools and the skills they need to make life-changing music.

In March 2014, Jazz Arts Project took to the Two River stage for the first in a new series of special concert events entitled An Enchanted Evening of Song — and when “Mooche” and members of the RBJO reconvene on Bridge Avenue this Saturday night, March 7, they’ll be reuniting with featured stars of last year’s show in a swingin’ gala affair that celebrates the milestone anniversary of a real community resource, and a genuine class act.

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TONY, TINA, BOBBY, SANTTU-MATIAS & MORE

ChampianTuzzoAbove: Champian Fulton, Bob Tuzzo and Tony Corrao take the bandstand when the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra presents “An Enchanted Evening of Song” at Two River Theater. Below, twentysomething European conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali makes his NJ Symphony debut at the Basie. 

Friday, February 28:

SantuRED BANK: While it admittedly ain’t Shakespeare, the interactive “environmental” phenomenon known as Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding can be said to be one of the most influential theatrical offerings in a generation — even indirectly spawning a stroll-through spin on Macbeth at a seedy Manhattan hotel.

Beginning tonight, and continuing for four more performances this weekend, lovebirds Tony Nunzio and Tina Vitale repeatedly renew their vows in a production presented by the Count Basie Theatre — hosted NOT at the venerable Monmouth Street venue, but practically next door, at the nearby Buona Sera Ristorante. It’s there that guests can “eat, drink, dance, converse and get caught up in the festivities” as they stand in for Tony n’ Tina’s various extended family members and frenemies. The comedy and the comedic “drama” unfold with seatings at 7:30 pm Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, and 12 and 6 pm. Sunday. Tickets ($100) include the ceremony, reception, baked ziti dinner, champagne toast, wedding cake, music and dancing. A $150 VIP option includes a “classic Italian meal and seat up close to the action.” Check here for reservations, close to selling out as we post this — and toss that bouquet for some more great catches and matches, as we Mach it into March.

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RED BANK: TALKIN’ HOT JAZZ IN JULY

He plays seashells by the seashore: trombonist and “seashellist” Steve Turre  brings his quintet to the Two River Theater on Friday and Saturday.

By TOM CHESEK

Whoever coined the phrase “Le Jazz Hot” might well have been thinking of the muddy, muggy banks of the Navesink in the months of July and August, as the borough that birthed Count Basie tends to fill its superheated summer days and trez-cool nights with the sorts of sounds that honor the legacy of the legendary Kid from Red Bank.

The musical fireworks start Thursday, when the waterfront walkways of Riverside Gardens reverb with the first of this year’s open-air Jazz in the Park junkets. Then, on Friday and Saturday, the Marion Huber room at Two River Theater is transformed once more into  a cool cavern of candlelit tables, classic coffeehouse vibes and close-up concert dynamics — when the series known as Summer Jazz Café turns that “black box” space into the area’s best-kept-secret nightspot.

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SWINGING INTO SINATRA AT A BASIE BASH

Joe Muccioli (left) conducts the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra in the fifth annual Sinatra Birthday Bash event, Friday night at Basie’s place — an occasion that also marks the release of the RBJO’s first CD, below.

By TOM CHESEK

rbjo-cd-coverPerhaps the smartest thing that Frank Sinatra ever did in his 82 years on “Frank’s world” was to come out swingin’ into the month of December — a cold and sometimes cruel month of holiday pressures and pleasures, to be sure, but also a season of giving in which a new commemorative box set or tribute arrives swaddled in gift wrap at each anniversary of the Chairman of the Board’s birth.

At the Count Basie Theatre — that regional headquarters for everything from Scrooge and the Nutcracker to the Messiah and various jinglebell rockers — there’s one seasonal signifier that trades the Santa hat for a sportily cocked fedora, and it’s a little local tradition called the Sinatra Birthday Bash.

The brainchild of the Red Bank-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project and its artistic director — globetrotting arranger-conductor and jazz scholar Joe Muccioli — the annual concert event brings together a marvelous mix of voices with the 17-piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, an organization of sought-after session aces hand-picked and conducted by the maestro named “Mooche.” Best of all, they get to do their thing on the famous stage of the place named for one of Sinatra’s favorite partners in swing, William “Count” Basie.

This Friday night, December 9, Muccioli and company celebrate the 96th birthday of “Old Blue Eyes” in a fifth annual Bash program that also marks a milestone for the RBJO — the release of the acclaimed orchestra’s first commercial recording.

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