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Million_Dollar_QuartetA momentous musical meeting between (left to right) Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley powers MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, when the Broadway hit brings its national tour to the Count Basie Theatre for two Saturday shows; followed closely by legendary crooner Johnny Mathis on Sunday. 

It’s the stuff that pop-music lore and legend is made of — a 1956 in-studio meeting and impromptu jam session between four young alumni of Sam Phillips’ celebrated Sun Records stable: Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis (at the time a session player who’d yet to release a record), and the Memphis label’s most earth-shaking graduate, Elvis Presley. Made all the more amazing due to its happening organically, even accidentally (and tempered by the fact that, according to recorded evidence, Cash bailed after the photo was taken), the session that would come to be called “The Million Dollar Quartet” would eventually inspire a “jukebox” style musical that would play successful engagements on Broadway, in Vegas and numerous other destinations.

When the touring production of Million Dollar Quartet arrives at the Count Basie Theatre for two shows this Saturday, March 18, it will ignore the gospel-oriented material that made up the actual session, in favor of a surefire salvo of hits that mixes the artists’ Sun-era signatures (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line”) with Elvis blockbusters like “Hound Dog.”

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elvisDouble Trouble: Mike Albert and Scot Bruce (above) represent two different eras of Elvis Presley’s legacy, as the King’s eleventh annual Birthday Bash returns to the Basie on Friday night…while Elvis Costello (below) is in concert and on screen for a Thursday night showing of his “live” film DETOUR.

costello detourAs Scot Bruce tells it, Red Bank is “a great place to play;” the kind of town in which “The King is alive and well.” The veteran entertainer ought to know, since he makes it a point every year at this time to pull the tour bus up to the Count Basie Theatre for one of the greater Green’s most cherished winter rituals — the Elvis Birthday Bash, the eleventh annual edition of which takes to the Basie boards this Friday, January 15.

Before Taking Care of THAT Business, however, the Count’s crib makes room for an Elvis of another time and place: Elvis Costello, the Brit-born singer and songsmith who’s matured into a musicologist of remarkable depth and staying power, since exploding onto the scene as a bespectacled and attitude-infused punk-era troubador in 1977. The artist formerly known as Declan McManus (who’s made multiple in-person visits to the Monmouth Street landmark, as has his jazz-chanteuse spouse Diana Krall) will appear this time on the screen, during an exclusive area exhibit of the new concert film Detour: Live At the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall this Thursday, January 14. Recorded during a hometown stop on his recent  international tour, the 100 minute feature shows Costello in an intimate “living room” setting; accompanied by guitar, piano and occasional ukelele (plus framed by projected images of vintage family photos).

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IraGlass(StuartMullenberg)Above: Public radio powerhouse Ira Glass brings his broadcast mojo to the stage of the Count Basie while, below, Elvis is back in the building, in the person (or persons) of Scot Bruce and Mike Albert. 

Friday, January 17:

ScotBruceMikeAlbertRED BANK: “Red Bank’s a beautiful town,” the professional Elvis Presley tribute artist Scot Bruce told us a few years back. “The King is alive and well around there.”

Never more so than January, when Scot teams up with fellow Presley-digitator Mike Albert for an Elvis Birthday Bash that comes to the Count Basie Theatre in its ninth annual edition at 8 pm. It’s a Kingly keynote to a weekend of sights, song, story and socializing that follows the tried-and-true template of “Elvi” events past. Bruce opens the show with a hip-shaking evocation of the early-days Elvis;, the stylistic savant who “changed the course of mighty rivers” way more than Superman ever did. He’s followed on the bill by Albert’s spot-on channeling of 1970s Elvis —— he of the rhinestoned jumpsuits, championship belts, oversized shades and jet-black helmet of lacquered hair. Take it here for tickets ($20 – $40) — and flip the record over for more TCB action this weekend.

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The Elvii Cometh: Scot Bruce and Mike Albert return to the Count Basie Theatre on January 20 for the eighth annual Elvis Birthday Bash.

In an interview a couple of years back, Scot Bruce offered that “When you introduce someone to the music of Elvis, it’s like you’re handing them the key to the universe.”

The LA-based soaps actor (Days of Our Lives) and veteran Elvis Presley tribute artist has worked that cosmic connection with TCB tenacity for much of the past couple of decades, taking his Kingly kung fu to such pop-cultural ports of call as Faith Hill videos, numerous TV commercials, a long-playing gig at Disneyland — and Red Bank’s own Count Basie Theatre. There, on the night of Friday, January 20, he’ll once again be part of an event that’s become the stuff of local tradition, a little thing called the Elvis Birthday Bash.

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