41°F few clouds


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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A weekend’s serving of cheek-bulging chow and hip-shaking music take up residence in Red Bank’s Marine Park this weekend. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi. Click to enlarge.)


It was the subject of a behind-the-scenes brouhaha that rivaled the most spirited Battle of the Bands: a “take back the weekend” campaign that pitted some of the mainstays of the Red Bank business community against an established event that many locals believed had both outgrown and turned its back on its host community.

When the calendar flipped to the first weekend in June, 2011, however, the consensus was that Riverfest was a refreshing breath of sweet summertime air off the Navesink — a successful revival of a seasonal signature that Lynda Rose, president of the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, calls “a perfect fit for the town, the businesses and anyone who enjoys being in Red Bank.”

Beginning Friday and continuing into Sunday evening, Riverfest returns to the sloping lawns and waterfront walkways of Marine Park with a three-day, rain-or-shine, strolling smorgasbord of culinary creations, “local organic” music and family-friendly activities.

Billed as “New Jersey’s Largest Food and Music Festival with Free Admission,” it’s both a throwback to an earlier small-town vision of Red Bank, and a summer-season keynote to a new chapter in the borough’s ever-evolving history.

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