A STONES-Y BIRTHDAY, FOR KEITH AND KEYS

BobbyKeysGimme the Keys: Tenor sax ace (and longtime Rolling Stones lieutenant) Bobby Keys celebrates his 70th birthday — a milestone shared by none other than Keith Richards — with an appearance at the Count Basie Theatre’s FIFTY LICKS concert.

By TOM CHESEK

The first time that Marc Ribler assembled the All-Shore project known as The Fifty Licks Band, it was the eve of a pretty momentous occasion — the 50th anniversary of the debut gig, by a group then going under the name The Rollin’ Stones.

When the Billboard-charting songsmith, commercial jingle composer, and benefit-bash bandleader re-convenes his jukebox Justice League this Wednesday, it will be in honor of a milestone that might conceivably call for twenty more licks. December 18 not only marks the 70th birthday of the irrepressible Keith Richards, but a big Number 70 as well for a man who’s been a cornerstone of the band’s extended family since 1969 — tenor saxophone ace Bobby Keys.

The Texas-born Keys, who’s maintained his end of a forty-year “ax and sax” dialogue with partner (in music and, occasionally, mayhem) Richards, will be spending his special day at the Count Basie Theatre. He’ll be appearing with Ribler and company as the very special guest in an 8 pm event that producer Tony Pallagrosi sums up as “a much different experience than seeing a bar band do a bunch of Stones covers…this really is Stones music, played the way that the Stones play it.”

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FINDING MR. WRIGHT, ON A STEAMY NIGHT

Blues and reggae specialist Gary Wright comes to the historic Woman’s Club of Red Bank for the latest in a series of Reckless Steamy Nights. (Photo by Terri GO Seminoles Walliczek)

By TOM CHESEK

It was no less an old bluesman than John Lennon who said, “the blues is a chair, not a design for a chair or a better chair… it is a chair for sitting on, not for looking at. You sit on that music.”

Of course, when the person in the chair is someone with the skills and savvy of Gary Wright, that functional piece of furniture can be a throne of kings. The Red Bank-based singer and guitarist (who, just to clear things up, is not this Gary Wright) shares a passion for the blues with a great many other veteran performers on the Shore soundscape — but in the hands of this southpaw stringbender, the legacy of the earliest blues recording artists comes alive. You hear the wise cat’s instinctive sizing up of the room and the audience, the troubador’s sense of social justice, and the crossroads at which the scholar’s pure research transmutes into joyous poetry.

A Red Banker for the past 28 years, the Long Island native would become known as co-fronter (with ex-wife Jennifer Wright on vocals) of Terraplane Blues, a band that released two CDs, played several major blues festivals, opened for some pretty legendary acts, and even made it to the finals of the 2000 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

In the years since the Terraplane was permanently garaged, Wright has gigged extensively with reggae unit Predator Dub Assassins; sat in with his friend Chuck Lambert; produced the forthcoming CD by Richie Havens Band veteran Poppa John “Bug”; taken part in multi-artist benefits (such as a recent event in Asbury Park organized by the nonprofit Musicians on a Mission), and even showed up at the odd house party sort of affair — including, in the interest of full disclosure, a 2011 happening that took place at this correspondent’s digs inside the Stephen Crane House.

This Friday night,Wright becomes the latest guest performer to join in the Shore’s longest-running house party — the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation’s renewed series of Reckless Steamy Nights at the Woman’s Club of Red Bank. It’s a rescheduling of a November 2012 date that was postponed due to structural damage to the venerable venue — and if you’ve yet to attend one of these unique and intimate events inside the historic Anthony Reckless estate on Broad Street, you owe it to yourself to take in some fine and fascinating sounds, take a tour of the landmark house, and take a break for conversation and refreshment with likeminded music fans.

The Blues Desk at redbankgreen went looking for Mr. Wright, in advance of what promises to be his first (and, hopefully, far from his last) full-band solo showcase.

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