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 ORK’S GOT PLENTY OF GERSHWIN

Grammy-nominated trumpeter Jon Faddis inaugurates a new series of “Talkin’ Jazz” events at the Count Basie tonight — then joins the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra this Sunday for a salute to George Gershwin.

By TOM CHESEK

April, in case you didn’t know, is National Jazz Appreciation Month, and here in the borough that birthed the great William “Count” Basie, a man called “Mooche” is preparing a savvy smorgasbord of treats for classic jazz buffs and curious cats alike.

It’s a pollen-cloud of activity that goes up this evening, April 9, with the first in an annual slate of Talkin’ Jazz presentations.

Hosted by globe-trotting jazz scholar/arranger/bandleader Joe Muccioli at the Count Basie Theatre, the free series kicks off with a presentation by trumpet ace Jon Faddis at 7 p.m. The Grammy nominee makes his first of two appearances this week on the Basie stage, with a discussion of “Legacies and Legends in Jazz: from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to Miles Davis and Beyond” that’s capped by a screening of Bird — director Clint Eastwood’s 1988 biopic of Parker, with Forest Whitaker in the title role and Faddis featured prominently on the movie’s soundtrack.

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BIRTHDAY BASH FOR BLUE EYES AT THE BASIE

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie — seen suiting up for an episode of the 1960s TV variety show Hollywood Palace — return in spirit this Friday night, when the Skinny Kid from Hoboken is celebrated in song at the venue named for the legendary “Kid from Red Bank.”

By TOM CHESEK

Call it Frank’s World — a land that stretches from the Hoboken clamhouses, where a young and skinny Frank Sinatra first sang for his supper, to the Atlantic City casinos and big-town auditoriums where the established entertainer played to sellout crowds well into his eighth decade. And in between, a thousand pizza joints and ristorantes where the Sinatra soundtrack has never stopped.

Frank’s World took a beating all around when Hurricane Sandy swaggered through the region — a catastrophe that birthed a bevy of benefit concerts and allowed the area’s professional musicians to step up in the way that musicians have long been known to do. It’s a phenomenon about which Joe Muccioli observes, “I know people who have been on call to take part in all sorts of benefit events who are themselves in the same boat as the hardest-hit people in the area.”

The conductor of the 18 piece Red Bank Jazz Orchestra (and artistic director of the borough-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project) returns to the Count Basie Theatre this Friday for one of his most passionate pet projects — the Sinatra Birthday Bash, the sixth annual edition of which takes the famous stage of the place named for one of Sinatra’s favorite partners in swing, William “Count” Basie, at 8 pm.

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A CHANGE OF SEASON, A HAPPENING WEEKEND

Red Bank musical movers and shakers Chuck Lambert, Joe Muccioli and the Al Wright Unit’s Ruth Wright pay tribute to the late Ralph “Johnny Jazz” Gatta, in a special outdoor concert Friday.

While there’s still technically plenty of summer sand left in the hourglass, the coming of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair to the greater Red Bank Green adds an ever so slightly melancholy touch to the senior-diet Dog Days of August. We detect a nagging hint of Back to School seriousness; a wrapping up of outdoor entertainments; a change of gears and seasons that’s keynoted by a tuneful tribute, a look ahead to Halloween and a merrily Menopausal musical.

redbankgreen has assembled an even dozen diversions in this pre-Labor Day interlude, starting with a handful of things going on beneath the setting sun and stars.

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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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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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JAZZFEST SETS SUMMER ON A COOL SIMMER

nikki-parrottLes Paul’s Trio, featuring bass ace and songbird Nicki Parrott, returns to Two River Theater for Summer JazzFest.

You won’t find a sign over the door. In fact, you won’t even find a door, at least not anything you’ll spot from the street. Inside, you’ll find a sophisticated crowd and the finest top-shelf jazz sounds this side of a classic film noir. You’ll even find a guy named Joe, sizing up your chances of getting in.

But procrastinate just a little bit too long before you check this place out, and you’ll find no trace of its ever having been there. Like, how cool is that?

The coming of summer means the return of the Summer JazzFest series (formerly Summer Jazz Café) to the Marion Huber room inside Red Bank’s Two River Theater — an annual offering via which jazz impresario Joe “Mooch” Muccioli and the borough-based nonprofit Jazz Arts Project transform the “black box” performance space into an environment that boasts big-city tableside seating, subdued lighting, great coffee and desserts (including Mooch’s own berry vinaigrette), and some breathtaking talent hand-picked from his formidable black book of friends.

The new, expanded 2011 series kicks off on the weekend of July 1 and 2, with a never-before-on-the-Shore act so intriguing, you’ll either be pinching yourself to confirm that it’s actually happening — or kicking yourself because you missed it when you had the chance.

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