RED BANK: CHUCK LAMBERT HITS A MILESTONE

chuck lambert bandChuck Lambert, seen above performing at Riverfest in Marine Park in 2012, turns 65 years old Saturday, when he and his band are scheduled to play Jamian’s Food and Drink. Below, Lambert in downtown Red Bank in 2006. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Chuck LambertIn a way, it’s just another gig for a hardworking musician, one of maybe 250 he does each year in bars, clubs and on sidewalks on the Greater Red Bank Green, as well as in New York, Philly and Atlantic City.

But when Chuck Lambert plugs in at Jamian’s Food and Drink in Red Bank Saturday night, this one will be special for the local guitar legend, and not just because it’s occurring on his 65th birthday.

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RED BANK: PRINCE FANS RAIN PURPLE @BASIE

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rb purple rain 042416 15Hundreds of Prince fans turned out at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank for a free screening of his film,”Purple Rain,” Sunday night, and many honored his memory by donning their finest purple garments, jewelry and lipstick. Check out our photos, below.

Though Prince had never performed at the venue, Basie CEO Adam Philipson said theatre staffers wanted to turn the rock star’s sudden death last Thursday into an opportunity for “joy,” and quickly obtained rights to show the film. Attendees asked to bring canned food for donation to Lunch Break, a Red Bank soup kitchen. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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RED BANK: FREE ‘PURPLE RAIN’ SHOW @BASIE

prince purple rainIn honor of the late, great Prince, the Count Basie Theatre will screen his blockbuster film, “Purple Rain,” on Sunday. (Click to enlarge)

just_inPress release from the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank:

The Count Basie Theatre invites the community to a public screening of PURPLE RAIN this Sunday night, April 24th at 8pm.

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RUMSON: SINGER JAZZES UP CAREER VIA PUNK

deborah dutcher phil kuntz 100515-v2 (2)Deborah Dutcher and Phil Kuntz, above, and the proposed album art, which offers homage to both Elvis Presley and the Clash, below.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

deborah doctor punk 100515It was no accident that Deborah Dutcher ended up touring Europe for 13 years with lead roles in such shows as “Les Misérables” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Singing show tunes professionally was pretty much all she ever thought of doing.

“My mom tells that from the moment I could speak, I wanted to be a singer,” Dutcher told redbankgreen last week. “And I had major follow-through. I never deviated.”

That laser focus, supplemented by a heavy diet of Barry Manilow and the Carpenters, also ensured that Dutcher ended up knowing diddly about punk rock. So when her friend and fellow Rumson resident Phil Kuntz suggested she record an album of punk classics as a way of restarting her career after a decade off, Dutcher was in unfamiliar territory.

The Buzzcocks? The Sex Pistols? Who were they?

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RED BANK: FOURPLAY, THEN SOME SPYRO GYRA

spyrogyra Fusion-jazz force of nature Spyro Gyra is part of a double-bop bill that takes the Count Basie stage this Thursday.

It’s called fusion – a crossroads of modern bop jazz with the more “prog” precincts of the rock record racks, a musical niche that was born in the late ’60s/early ’70s album-rock era, and amazingly shows no signs of having slipped permanently into the cut-out bin of history.

While it can sometimes transmute into a weaponized grade of easy-listening when placed in the wrong hands, the genre’s been graced with the long-run dedication and commitment of some skilled ambassadors. And on Thursday, two such hard-touring combos take it to the jazz-friendly stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.

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RED BANK: COOL JAZZ FOR A COOL FEW

nick clemons 7 090513nick clemons 1 090513Turnout was light  for a show by the Nick Clemons Band – seen above from the concesssion stand – for the season-ending Jazz in the Park show at Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park Thursday night.

Friday night should be clear and cool, according to Weather Underground. (Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: CELEBRATING CISSY AND WHITNEY

Singer and author Cissy Houston visits Two River Theater Sunday to chat with Gilda Rogers and sign copies of her memoir about her daughter, the late Whitney Houston.

By TOM CHESEK

“Any family has its ups and downs, and we all have people in our lives who struggle. This just happens to be about a family of very talented people, whose musical talent brought them everything.”

The family question is that of native Jerseyan Cissy Houston and her internationally famous daughter, the late Whitney Houston. The speaker is Gilda Rogers — author, activist, adjunct prof at Brookdale Community College, former faculty member at Red Bank Regional High School — and, for several seasons in Red Bank, the proprietor of a delightfully eclectic place called Frank Talk.

The intimately scaled “Art Bistro and Bookstore” on Shrewsbury Avenue hosted an expansive schedule of entertainments and activities that ranged from personal appearances by famous writers, live jazz sets and civic debates to pie-tastings, yoga classes, hair stylings and events in which Rogers invited one and all to share their favorite old record albums and dance. Since closing the storefront space two years ago this month, Rogers has kept the name and spirit alive via Frank Talk Multimedia Network, an umbrella brand for a typically wide-ranging slate of endeavors involving music, video, theater and motivational speaking.

As a Community Affairs liaison at Two River Theater since September 2011, Rogers has worked with the performing arts center’s creative team to bring several special events to the Bridge Avenue venue — including a salute to Red Bank’s fondly recalled “Johnny Jazz,” Ralph Gatta. And this Sunday afternoon — just two days after what would have been Whitney Houston’s 50th birthday — she’ll welcome Cissy Houston to the Rechnitz auditorium stage for an event keyed to the veteran singer’s memoir, Remembering Whitney.

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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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RED BANK: BIG BAND HOSTS BIG TROMBONE

Conductor Joe “Mooche” Muccioli with the “freight train” that is the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, which takes to the Count Basie Theatre boards for the first in a new series of themed concert events Sunday.

By TOM CHESEK

Red Bank doesn’t have riverboat casino gambling. There’s no year-round Santa Claus Village no go-kart track. You’ll need to head way out of town to take a winery tour, or find a decent shad festival.

What the town does have is its very own Red Bank Jazz Orchestra — a 17-piece organization of “first call” cats that’s a source of some pride for the borough that birthed the great William “Count” Basie, and the envy of pretty much anyplace this side of Lincoln Center.

Conducted by Red Bank’s own Joe Muccioli — globe-trotting jazz scholar/arranger/bandleader, and artistic director of the borough-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project — the RBJO is identified most closely with the Sinatra Birthday Bash, the annual event that commandeers the Count Basie Theatre for a tribute to the Chairman of the Board. The momentum generated by those Sinatra salutes over the course of the past six years (and the collective itch by the assembled players to do this more than once or twice a year) spurred the man they call “Mooche” to look into starting up a series of showcase concerts starring the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra — a slate of events that would team the RBJO with special guest performers, and spotlight great composers or classic musicians.

This Sunday afternoon, February 24, the first of two scheduled Jazz Orchestra events at the Basie gets underway, when intrepid trombonist Wycliffe Gordon joins maestro Mooche and the gang for a happening that’s being called nothing less than “a soulful journey through jazz history.”

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RED BANK LIBRARY GETS HUGE CACHE OF CDs

J.R. Ford, left, and Jim Willis roll one of several loads of CDs into the library Friday afternoon. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Several thousand CDs collected by a North Jersey man who had “heartbreakingly awesome taste” in classical music and jazz have been donated to the Red Bank Public Library just in time for a fundraiser for the financially strapped facility.

Library officials, who recently had to cut hours of operation for budgetary reasons, hope to put some, if not all, of the collection up for sale as part of the annual book sale fundraiser scheduled for February 2. In the interim, they’re looking for volunteers who know their Rachmaninoff from Rahsaan Roland Kirk to help sort the cache.

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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.)

SOUNDS ALL OVER TOWN

Red Bank offered a sprawling buffet of delights for music lovers Saturday night as the Brookdale Big Band, right, laid down a smooth bed of Basie, Ellington and other greats at Riverside Gardens Park in a benefit for the borough library, while Attractive Nuisenze, above, and Tri City Jazz, below, were among the handful of acts buskingthe sidewalks  as part of the summerlong StreetLife program. (Click to enlarge)

CHURN: COMICS, FURNITURE, BURGERS & MORE

The reality show about comic book aficionados is being taped once again at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash as well as at 28 Broad Street, above. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Production of the second, full season of ‘Comic Book Men’ got underway Monday, giving a prominent vacancy in downtown Red Bank something to do for the next 10 weeks while its owners continue trying to attract a more permanent tenant.

The reality show, which had a limited run earlier this year on AMC, is set in Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, owned by filmmaker Kevin Smith, and follows the jostlings of the shop’s employees and customers.

Additional footage, featuring Smith and an Algonquin Rectangular Table of comic book aficionads shooting the breeze, is to be recorded on a sound stage built across the street from the store, at 28 Broad.

That’s the former home of Prima’s Home Café, a furnishings store that vacated back in January, when the building changed hands for $1.175 million, according to property records.

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A MONTH OF ‘LE JAZZ HOT’ ON THE GREEN

Trumpeter Claudio Roditi sounds a keynote to a month of jazzy happenings in and around Red Bank, with a Weekend in Brazil that kicks off the Summer Jazz Cafe series at Two River Theater.

Red Bankers generally don’t need any reminders that theirs is the borough that birthed the great William ‘Count’ Basie. Still, a recent return visit by Grammy-winning retro pop-jazz harmonizers The Manhattan Transfer served to demonstrate the degree of respect that the hometown of the legendary “Kid from Red Bank” inspires from coast to coast, as LA-based Tim Hauser and company (who actually recorded some sessions with the late great bandleader for their 1985 album Vocalese) shared a set-within-a-set of Basie-related numbers as a special treat for the Count Basie Theatre audience.

As the calendar strikes July, the greater Red Bank green’s reputation as a musical mecca for sophisticated cats and kittens begins to warm up in earnest, with the superheated days and trez-cool nights of the post-Fourth interlude offering up an unparalleled number of opportunities to take in various things jazzy.

It all clicks in this weekend, with the first in the annual Summer Jazz Café series at Two River Theater — a nocturnal excursion complemented by a day-trip whistle stop at the Middletown Jazz & Blues Festival. Then on Thursday the 12th, the waterfront walkways and sculpted terraces of Riverside Gardens reverb with the first in the open-air 2012 Jazz in the Park outings.

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…AND YOU CAN TELL ‘EM “JOE SENT ME”

Jazz scholar/ WBGO disc jockey Gary Walker and guitarist Vic Juris are among the special guests TALKIN’ JAZZ with Joe Muccioli, in the series that returns to the Count Basie’s Carlton Lounge for three Mondays beginning tonight. 

Start Joe Muccioli to talking and he’ll tell you that “Jazz…grew up with America. It symbolizes American democracy.”

“You put several people into a place, a situation, and you honor all of their abilities, but at the same time you have rules, an underlying structure…a constitution,” he says.

A Red Bank resident and the artistic director of the borough-based nonprofit  Jazz Arts Project, the man they call “Mooche” has done a lot of talking, studying, teaching and listening on the topic of jazz — and he’s walked the walk as well, having traveled the world conducting, arranging and working with everyone from Joe Piscopo to the London Philharmonic.

Here in the borough that birthed William “Count” Basie, we know Muccioli as the maestro behind the annual Sinatra Birthday Bash events at the  Count Basie Theatre; as the co-founder of the Jazz Arts Academy program; as the host of the way-cool Summer Jazz series at Two River Theater — and as leader of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, the 17-piece organization that issued its maiden recording Strike Up the Band in 2011.

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BUT WILL THE SIGN BE HAND-SCRAWLED?

Jj_07By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank officials are mulling a ceremonial renaming of a portion of Shrewsbury Avenue in honor of grocer Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta, who died last Saturday at age 74.

Gatta, a lifelong Red Banker, died at Barnabas Health Hospice at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. He was buried Wednesday at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Middletown.

A butcher who infused bebop, played loud, into his every working hour over nearly five decades behind the counter at Johnny’s Jazz Market, Gatta served as a living encyclopedia of jazz arcana among the boxes of cereal and detergent in his store.

He was also, he was fond of telling visitors, a front-row witness to the West Side’s transition from a neighborhood dominated by African-Americans and immigrant Italians to one with a Spanish accent – changes he heartily embraced.

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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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SCAT SIGNING

jazzinparkA Red Bank employee updates the borough message board at Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard on Monday to tout the free Comcast Jazz in the Park series at Riverside Gardens Park on Thursday nights at 7 p.m., this week featuring Don Carter. There are free movies, lunchtime concerts and songwriter-at-sunset events in the park, too. See the Red Bank Visitors Center website for details. (Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)

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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RED BANK: WORKING UP A SWEAT

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Chuck Lambert’’s day job is not exactly the kind of gritty, back-breaking slog typically associated with the blues: he’’s a “membership services associate” at Red Bank’’s Community YMCA. That’s right, he’’s the guy who’’ll give you the orientation tour, set you up with access to the Cybex machines or heated indoor pool, and do it all with purring, irresistible charm.

But Lambert has also had glimpses of “the seamier side of what the world can show you,” he says, —and he’s not just talking about the men’’s locker room at peak occupancy. For starters, some of the musicians Lambert has played with have been run over by the music biz, or drugs, or just plain bad luck, without having any sort of safety net for themselves or their families. “Music— — the blues in particular— — has its pitfalls,” he says over tonic water at the Downtown Café. “Next thing you know, they’re having a benefit concert for you.”

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