RED BANK: BASIE STARTS MASSIVE EXPANSION

Dozens of local politicians and players in the arts world turned out for the event. Below, Basie board members Steven Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zandt. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A $23 million expansion of Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre formally got underway Wednesday, beginning what’s expected to be a 20-month endeavor to turn the Vaudeville-era venue into a powerhouse for live performance and arts education.

The aim, musician and actor Steven Van Zandt told an al fresco gathering, is “to make Red Bank an example to the rest of the county of what it is possible to do” in elevating the arts.

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FAIR HAVEN: SELDIN STORMS BACK AT 70

Shore music legend Stormin’ Norman Seldin returns to the scene of a legendary months-long stand when he observes his 70th birthday Saturday night in Fair Haven.

With all due props to Count Basie, he’s the “other” Kid from Red Bank, even if he’s long since earned a senior discount at IHOP.

To aficionados of the Shore music scene, Stormin’ Norman Seldin is still the same ginger-haired, piano-pounding prodigy (at age 13, the youngest person to become a member of the American Federation of Musicians) who’d staked out a career as a singer, bandleader, promoter and record label owner by his teens — and who, through his old combo the Joyful Noyze, introduced audiences to a bigger-than-life talent by the name of Clarence Clemons.

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RED BANK: VAN ZANDT LINEUP TO ROCK BASIE

van-zandt-guadagno-111416-1Steven Van Zandt and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno on stage at the Basie Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

basie-marquee-111416A four-night campaign of classic rock shows curated by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in coming months will help drive a $20 million expansion Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, officials said Monday.

But the names of the acts to be spotlighted in the series remained under wraps at a press conference held on the stage of the Vaudeville-era venue.
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RED BANK: BASIE PLANS MASSIVE EXPANSION

Basie expansion 1 102615An architect’s rendering of the expanded Count Basie Theatre includes additions on the east and west sides of the existing structure. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

just_in1Red Bank’s Vaudeville-era Count Basie Theatre is in for a massive, $20 milion expansion that will turn it into a “creative campus” dedicated to the performing arts in coming years, officials said Monday.

Incorporating adjoining properties acquired in recent years, theater officials plan to “move toward our longtime vision of an entire city block dedicated to the performing arts,” Tom Widener, chairman of the theater’s board of trustees, said in an announcement released Monday morning.
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RED BANK: FOUR MEN FOR ALL SEASONS

midtownmenThe Midtown Men return to the Basie stage Saturday for a stylish salute to the music of Frankie Valli and his 1960s jet-set contemporaries. 

The sleek-suited Mad Men of TV may have linked their last cuff – but we’ll always have The Midtown Men, that quartet of actor-singers whose 60s sharkskins and smooth retro style has taken the music of Frankie Valli and his contemporaries to all new audiences (and heights).

As group member (and Tony winner) Christian Hoff observed during one of their previous forays to the local stage, “You know it’s hot up there when the color of your suit changes from light blue to deep purple…but something about wearing those clothes keeps you focused, keeps you in the period…like wearing the uniform of a great ball team.”

Being former cast members from the Tony-winning Broadway smash Jersey Boys — and co-producers of their own internationally touring and recording act — the Midtown Men (Christian Hoff, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard, J. Robert Spencer) continue to sweat the details of a project that pays particular tribute to the soaring sound and catalog of the Four Seasons, as “home team” an act as the Garden State’s ever produced. And when the guys take it to the Count Basie Theatre stage this Saturday, May 30, they’ll more than just follow in Frankie’s footsteps — they’ll be on the turf of Steven Van Zandt and the E Street Band, with whom they collaborated on the single “All Alone on Christmas.”

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RED BANK: VAN ZANDT IN THE VANGUARD

van zandtMiddletown’s own “Little” Steven Van Zandt — photographed outside the Count Basie Theatre in 2008 — is one of the inaugural recipients of the Basie’s Vanguard Awards, honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

When the students of Rockit! at the Basie take the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre on Friday for their annual summer concert, A Tribute to Woodstock and The Age of Aquarius, they’ll be sharing the boards with a genuine Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — Middletown’s own contribution to E Street history (and King of Most Media) Steven Van Zandt.

The musician, arranger, producer, actor, writer, director, human rights activist, and international radio DJ will be taking time out from his myriad of projects to accept one of the Basie’s inaugural Vanguard Awards, honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. He’ll be joining his wife Maureen Van Zandt, Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry and Monmouth County Arts Council executive director Mary Eileen Fouratt during a ceremony at the August 22 event.

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BASIE NAMES FIRST VANGUARD AWARDS

van zandtSteve Van Zandt, seen here outside the Count Basie Theatre in 2008, is one of the inaugural recipients of the Basie’s Vanguard Awards honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Press release from Count Basie Theatre

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician and actor Steven Van Zandt and his wife Maureen Van Zandt, Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry and Monmouth County Arts Council executive director Mary Eileen Fouratt were named as the recipients of the Count Basie Theatre‘s inaugural Vanguard Awards, honoring lifelong devotion to the arts in New Jersey. The first class of Vanguards will be honored during an event at the Basie on Friday, August 22.

Also that evening, Rockit! at the Basie will present its annual summer concert, A Tribute to Woodstock and The Age of Aquarius. The show will feature curation and input from Mr. Van Zandt himself, and monies raised from the concert will go towards future Rockit! scholarships, the theatre’s bus-in program offering area districts and students a low-cost option to experience the theatre’s cultural programming, and for professional development sessions associated with Mr. Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll: An American Story program.

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M’TOWN: MIGHTY MAX GIVES BACK TO THE MAC

MaxWeinbergE Street Band drummer and Middletown resident Max Weinberg does it “talk show” style, in a benefit for the township’s Arts Council that takes place at the Middletown Arts Center on Sunday night, November 17. (click to enlarge)

Press release from Middletown Arts Council

On Sunday, November 17, the Middletown Arts Center (MAC) will host An Evening with E Street’s Max Weinberg to benefit the Middletown Arts Council, with the 7 pm event presented as a talk-show style question and answer format, followed by a VIP meet and greet reception.

Event moderator Tom Cunningham — host of the Bruce Brunch, which airs on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. on 105.7 The Hawk Classic Rock Radio — will engage the audience in lively conversation with Weinberg, and show rare video footage from his star-studded career.

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WEINBERG DRUMS FOR NEW SUBDIVISION

weinberg-drivewayThe entrance to E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg’s estate on McClees Road in Middletown. Below, Weinberg at this week’s planning board hearing. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

max-weinberg2Eight years after getting his knuckles rapped by Middletown’s foremost land conservationist over a plan to subdivide his estate, drummer Max Weinberg was back before township officials this week, asking for an OK to further slice up land that they once said should never be split again.

The timekeeper for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and former Conan O’Brien sidekick is hoping to subdivide the 16.2-acre parcel on which his home sits so he can sell nearly half for development.

So Weinberg returned to the planning board Wednesday for a bit of déjà vu, asking the board to lift a deed restriction placed on his McClees Road property in 2003, when he and his wife, Becky, subdivided their 37-acre property into four lots.

“Times change. Economics change. Conan’s come and gone,” said his attorney, Michael Steib. “One of the decisions is to market this property. And they’ve learned a 16.2-acre parcel of property is hard to market.”

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CLEMONS RECALLED AS A TRUE ‘BIG MAN’

clarenceClarence Clemons, right, backs up Stormin’ Norman Seldin, behind the piano, at the Lock, Stock and Barrel in Fair Haven sometime in the late ’70s. (Photo courtesy of Norman Seldin; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

He’d already soared into the music industry stratosphere alongside Bruce Springsteen when Clarence Clemons bumped into an old friend, the guy who helped get him his start in the Jersey Shore music scene, and asked if he could sit in, like old times, playing the saxophone.

The late-1970s encounter took place in Sea Bright, where Clemons had a home and was known for towing local kids around with fishing poles for some post-tour R&R.

And earlier this year, to celebrate his 69th birthday, Clemons bought a plane ticket for a longtime friend and former bandmate to fly down to Florida to sing at the party.

Clemons, who passed away Saturday from complications of a stroke, invested as much of himself in his friends and community as he did in his music, friends told redbankgreen in interviews this week, following the Big Man’s death.

Flags will be flown at half-staff throughout New Jersey in Clemons’ honor Thursday. A funeral service was held Tuesday in Palm Beach, Florida.

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‘MAGIC WAS HAPPENING’ AT BIG MAN’S WEST

clemons-big-mans-westClarence Clemons playing at Big Man’s West in Red Bank in an undated photo courtesy of Lewis Bloom Photo. The Monmouth Street space is now home to a gym. (Click to enlarge)

big-mans-westHe’s best known, of course, for his blaring, evocative saxophone solos as a member the E Street Band behind Bruce Springsteen.

But Clarence Clemons, who died of complications from a stroke at age 69 Saturday, also staked out a bit of turf as an impressario of sorts, right here in Red Bank.

Clemons’ club, Big Man’s West, at 129 Monmouth Street, managed to pack a lot of musical history into just a few years of operation in the early 1980s before it succumbed to financial pressures, says George McMorrow, a Red Bank business owner who managed the club through its final months.

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