66°F broken clouds


johnny jazz park 051115 1John Gatta wields giant scissors as he dedicates the new park named for his late brother, Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta Jr. (seen below), as Councilwoman Linda Schwabenbauer applauds. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


ralph johnny jazz 2006 1For 47 years, while cutting meat and selling boxes of rice and cereal, Red Bank butcher Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta Jr. preached the gospel of an American musical art form he deeply loved, and wanted his customers to hear as he heard it.

On Monday night, borough residents showed they had heard, and had been touched by both his love of jazz and his generosity as a grocer.

At a brief ceremony tinged with fondness, humor and a bit of live jazz, the site at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard was named in honor of the late jazz-enthralled butcher.

More →


rb jazz 082214 2ralph johnny jazz 2006 1Anyone who ever had the pleasure of getting an earful of bebop – and a history lesson in jazz – while picking up a pound of ground chuck at the now-gone Johnny’s Jazz Market in Red Bank should consider stopping by the pocket park on Shrewsbury Avenue at Drs. James Parker Boulevard tonight at 6:30 p.m.

That’s when borough officials will officially rename the park for the late butcher and irrepressible jazz maven Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz‘ Gatta Jr., who ran the shop for almost 50 years – always with his beloved jazz playing in the background.

Gatta, a lifelong borough resident, died in 2011. The park is the site of a series of summer jazz concerts hosted by the borough.  (Photo above by Trish Russoniello; below, by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)





ralph johnny jazz gatta 2006


rb jazz 082214 1 He presided over what had to qualify as one of the quirkiest neighborhood grocery stores in the history of retailing, let alone Red Bank.

Now, four years after his death, the beloved jazz-enthralled butcher known to all as “Johnny Jazz” is to about to get a neverending solo.

More →


keith marks 082214“Pied Piper of Jazz” Keith Marks keynoted a new slate of free outdoor jazz concerts on August 22 — a Count Basie 365 Cultural Series that continues Friday evening with vocalist Valarie Adams and showband.

Like a lot of institutions in the town that birthed the great “Count” Basie, it honors the “Kid from Red Bank” who became one of the pivotal bandleaders of jazz’s golden age — a living link that’s rooted in a place where the likes of Al Wright and Joe Muccioli continue to uphold the tradition.

Continuing for the next three Fridays at West Side Park (aka “the pocket park”) on the corner of Drs. James Parker Boulevard and Shrewsbury Avenue (aka DJ2 ‘n Shrew), the third annual Count Basie 365 Cultural Series also pays tribute to a real unsung hero of the art form — Ralph Gatta, longtime proprietor of Johnny’s Jazz Market, and an aficionado whose exuberant passion and expertise on all things jazz were second to no one’s.

A project of the mayor-appointed Red Bank Borough’s Vision Committee, the series kicked off on August 22 with a concert by a frequent summer-season guest performer — jazz flautist Keith Marks. The music resumes on September 5 with the return of another staple of summer concert stages, Valarie Adams and the Dimensions, with the dynamic showband bringing their encyclopedic setlist of soul/ Motown/ funk favorites beneath the stars at 6:45 pm.

More →


DrMaryGattaAuthor Dr. Mary Gatta visits River Road Books on Thursday evening, for a discussion of the challenges faced by unemployed women in the current workforce system.   

As a senior scholar at Washington, DC-based Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), and an adjunct professor at Rutgers University, Dr. Mary Gatta has been a go-to authority for some time on the challenges that women in the workforce face, in an age of downsizing, outsourcing, furloughing, income disparities and a Great Recession that doesn’t know when to quit. But it wasn’t until the academic went “undercover” as a client of a NJ One Stop Career Center, that she gained the first-hand perspective informing each page of All I Want Is a Job!: Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System, her new book from Stanford University Press.

On Thursday, May 1, the author visits River Road Books for a discussion and signing session centered around the book, a report that chronicles the struggle to navigate the often frustrating complexities of the public workforce system — and the ongoing struggle to survive — through interviews with unemployed women of all ages and backgrounds, along with the “street-level bureaucrats” who service them.

More →


rb 135 shrewbury 040914Two years after the death of jazz-crazy butcher Ralph “Johnny Jazz” Gatta, his longtime butcher shop on Shrewsbury Avenue in Red Bank has been gutted and renovated. Building owner Donna Reck tells redbankgreen she’s looking for a tenant for the space, which is zoned for neighborhood business.

What type of business would you like to see there? The street gets lots of motor traffic and abuts an area that’s about to get more than 150 new homes, when the West Side Lofts and Station Place projects are complete. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


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.)


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.

More →



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.

More →



Ralph “Johnny Jazz” Gatta (pictured at left with Gilda Rogers of Frank Talk) is the subject of a special salute, and the Gambone Project provides the grooves, as the second annual Jazzy Father’s Day Brunch expands into the Two River Theater this Sunday.


Since opening the doors of her Frank Talk Art Bistro and Bookstore on Shrewsbury Avenue in autumn of 2008,  author and educator Gilda Rogers has kept her intimately scaled “cultural oasis” humming with activity — hosting everything from book signings, live music, film and theater, to yoga classes, hair makeover sessions, public forums with politicians and a high-profile appearance by Amiri Baraka last December.

When it comes to naming a single “signature event,” however, the Red Bank Regional faculty member doesn’t hesitate to cite A Jazzy Father’s Day Brunch at Frank Talk. Now in its second year, the party scheduled for this Sunday has quickly grown into a celebration of local lore and life that ought to be of interest to lovers of great sounds, fine food, dear old Dad and good old Red Bank, in no particular order.

Here in 2010, the brunch has expanded — not unlike Pop’s waistline — into the spacious new host venue of the Two River Theater. And, along with the home-cooked delights and homegrown sounds that have come to define the day, Sunday’s event will honor the “living legacy” of a notable neighbor who served as the inspiration for the Father’s Day affair — hipster historian and longtime West Side merchant Ralph “Johnny Jazz” Gatta.

More →


johnny-jazz-042710Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta at Riverview Medical Center on April 27. (Click to enlarge)

Johnny Jazz is not dead. Repeat: JOHNNY JAZZ IS NOT DEAD.

In fact, for a guy with throat cancer, he’s actually doing pretty well, family members tell us.

But according to a persistent rumor, repeated in laudatory comments posted here on redbankgreen, the beloved West Side grocer/jazz aficionado Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta passed away.

One comment, which was deleted by our moderator after it was discredited, even gave a specific date of his purported passing to the great bandstand in the sky. “Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer yesterday,” the author wrote Friday night.

Wrong. But family members are finding themselves awash in premature condolences.

“It’s bizarre,” says niece Mary Gatta, who compares the rumor to those of Elvis sightings.

More →


jj_2010_1Ralph Gatta at Riverview Medical Center yesterday, and a note to his customers, below.

Ralph Gatta, a butcher and grocer known as ‘Johnny Jazz’ to generations of Red Bank’s West Siders, has hung up his cleaver after 47 years of enveloping his customers in a cocoon of jazz sounds, imagery and anecdotes.


The owner of Johnny’s Jazz Market posted a handwritten notice closing the Shrewsbury Avenue store on its front door nine days ago, one day before he was hospitalized with complications of throat cancer. Because of his illness, he won’t be back, he tells redbankgreen.

The closing marks the end of one of the oldest mom-and-pop groceries operating in Red Bank. Even more, though, it is the fade-out for a grubby museum of sorts curated by a jazz lover whose brother says is “from Mars” with his fanaticism.

“I can’t bend, won’t bend, don’t know how to bend,” Gatta told redbankgreen on a visit to his room at Riverview Medical Center yesterday, explaining why jazz played non-stop on his store’s stereo and jazz memorabilia hung from every available surface.

More →