RED BANK: SUMMER JAZZ SERIES RETURNS

Saxman smoothie Dave Koz joins funky bassmaster Larry Graham for a summit of musical styles as the Count Basie Theatre inaugurates its Summer jazz Fest series this Wednesday. 

One’s a platinum-plated instrumentalist whose smooth stylings have seen him top the charts as a bandleader and make beautiful music with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Stevie Nicks. The other’s a pioneer of slapping/thumping funk bass technique who wowed the crowd at Woodstock, climbed the Billboard R&B charts and took his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Together on the road this summer, Dave Koz and Larry Graham are living proof that jazz is a big tent, and when the co-headliners roll into Red Bank this Wednesday, they’ll be sounding the keynote to the 2017 Summer Jazz Fest schedule at the Count Basie Theatre.

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RED BANK: ‘CAFÉ SOCIETY’ JAZZES TWO RIVER

Harmonica/vibes virtuoso Hendrik Muerkens (right, with vocalist Angelita Li) joins his Samba Jazz East combo to inaugurate a new series of Summer Jazz Café events Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater.

“We’ve curated this summer series for more than a decade now,” says Joe Muccioli, noted conductor/arranger, impresario and artistic director of Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project. “Each night is truly a unique experience, paying homage to a bygone era of swinging, yet elegant café society.”

Whether he’s auditioning hopefuls for the annual Sinatra Birthday Bash at the Basie; kicking it old-school scholarly via his Talkin’ Jazz lectures; working with the student cats and kittens of the Jazz Arts Academy, or programming the summertime Jazz in the Park series at Riverside Gardens, the man called “Mooche” is one passionately productive guy — but perhaps his greatest passion is reserved for Summer Jazz Café, the annual slate of intimate weekend occurrences that return to the borough of Basie this Friday and Saturday.

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RED BANK: JAZZ IN JULY AND BEYOND

Warren VacheTrumpeter Warren Vaché sounds the keynote for a new series of Summer Jazz Cafe events at Two River Theater this weekend. Keith Marks, below parks it at Riverside Gardens for the first in A slate of free outdoor jazz concerts Thursday night.  

Keith MarksAlthough it keeps a year-round beat that includes December’s annual Sinatra Birthday Bash, the spring series of Talkin’ Jazz lectures and the ongoing sessions of the Jazz Arts Academy, summertime means the livin’ is also busy for the Jazz Arts Project, the nonprofit arts organization based here in Red Bank, the borough that gave the world Count Basie (to say nothing of the late and legendary Johnny Jazz).

It’s a flurry of activity that really hits home in this first full week of July, as Jazz Arts and artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli introduce a new schedule for a seasonal signifier — the celebrated Summer Jazz Café at Two River Theater — along with the return of a relatively recent warm-weather diversion: the free series of Jazz in the Park concerts at Riverside Gardens Park.

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RED BANK: WRAPPING UP A JAZZY JULY

LayonneFaddisLayonne Holmes leads the New Standard Jazz Ensemble in a Thursday local debut at Riverside Gardens. Trumpeter Jon Faddis plays the Two River Theater’s Summer Jazz Café Friday.

Whether you’re a serious jazz aficionado – you know, the kind who hears a record and can name the session date, all of the players, and what they had for lunch – or simply one who digs all that a sophisticatedly swinging set does to the general mood, you’ve got to appreciate the fact that it’s been a July to remember, jazzwise, in Red Bank.

This weekend sees the final entry in the 2015 Summer Jazz Café series at Two River Theater, while the music plays on at Riverside Gardens during the free Thursday night slate of Jazz in the Park concerts; all of it programmed by borough-based Jazz Arts Project and artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli.

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RED BANK: SLICES OF PIE AND PIZZARELLI

SherriBuckyMiss Sherri Ehrlich displays her grown-up pop side in the park as Sherri Pie plays a Thursday night freebie at Riverside Gardens. Guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli joins Ed Laub at Two River Theater’s Summer Jazz Café Friday and Saturday .

A well known “kindie-rocker” of the Greater Red Bank Green shows her grownup pop chops during an up-past-bedtime concert, and a granddaddy of the Jersey jazz scene displays the stuff that’s made him a cross-generational favorite as Red Bank’s resolutely jazzy July continues at Riverside Gardens Park and Two River Theater, brought you by Joe “Mooche” Muccioli and the borough-based Jazz Arts Project.

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RED BANK: LADIES SING THE JAZZ

Eryn Shewell, above, leads the Whiskey Devils to the water at Riverside Gardens Thursday night. Charenee Wade, below, channels the late great “Lady Day” Billie Holiday Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater’s Summer Jazz Cafe.

Charenee WadeWith a spot-on tribute to an iconic diva of Jazz’s golden age, and a look at one of the Shore area’s most versatile vocal stylists, it’s all about the chanteuse this week in Red Bank.

Beginning Thursday night, a three-night interlude of cool jazz sounds wafts into Riverside Gardens Park and the Two River Theater, programmed by borough-based Jazz Arts Project and its co-founding father/artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli.

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RED BANK: JAZZ IS ALIVE AND KICKING

BruceWms TonyDeSareSaxman Bruce Williams kicks off a summer schedule of free Jazz in the Park sessions Thursday night at Riverside Gardens… while Friday and Saturday find Café-society crooner Tony DeSare playing a two night stand at Two River Theater.

Like, who says Jazz is a moribund museum piece, fit more for starchy concert-hall settings than those people’s-choice settings that made it what it is? Certainly not the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project, an organization that keeps a porchlight burning in the town that’s gifted the world with Count Basie, Al Wright, and the immortal Johnny Jazz.

Now in its 10th year of operation, the nonprofit overseen by artistic director Joe “Mooche” Muccioli has stepped up its game – with the return of the celebrated Summer Jazz Cafe series, an expanded slate of Jazz Arts Academy offerings, and (for the first time in the event’s long-running history) a schedule of free Jazz in the Park concerts that’s been programmed in full by Mooche and company.

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RED BANK: NOW YOU HAS JAZZ

Sweet WhiskeyVocalist Maggie Worsdale fronts the Sweet Whiskey Band in a set of “Songs Under the Influence,” Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater. (photo by Roberto Muolo)

April may be National Jazz Appreciation Month  — a fact driven home locally and yearly by Joe Muccioli‘s Talkin’ Jazz series at the Count Basie Theatre — but things really heat up jazzwise in this Basie-birthing borough during the month of July, an interlude during which several weekends’ worth of Summer Jazz cafe events at Two River Theater are keynoted by open-air Thursdays at Riverside Gardens’ Jazz in the Park series.

The 2014 slate of outdoor concerts (presented by Red Bank Parks and Recreation Department) continues on the evening of July 24 in a classically cool vein, when drummer Darwin B. Oden and his combo return to the banks of the Navesink for some improvisatory, exploratory sets ‘neath the setting sun and stars. The music kicks in at 7:30 pm (weather permitting; call Parks and Rec at 732-530-2782 for day-of-show updates); bring lawn chairs or blankets, and dress comfy casual  — then go home, get dressed for a sophisticated night on the town, and reconvene at Two River for an extra special Friday and Saturday session.

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RED BANK: WREMBEL BY THE RIVER

Stephen-Wrembel(1)

French-born “Gypsy Jazz” guitarist Stephane Wrembel is the star of this week’s edition of Summer Jazz Cafe, Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater.

The comparisons to the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt are pretty well irresistible — after all, we’re dealing here with a European-born guitarist trained in the Gypsy campsite tradition around the French countryside. And then there’s the association with the City of Lights; a love affair that culminated in his recording of the theme for Woody Allen’s hit film Midnight in Paris.

Ask Joe Muccioli, however, and the artistic director of Red Bank’s Jazz Arts Project will tell you that Stephane Wrembel possesses a style all his own; a self-described “Impressionism approach” that finds the Belgian-born (and Brooklyn-based) composer cooking with regional ingredients that range from flamenco fury to guitar-god classic rock. Gigging in support of the recent release Dreamers of Dreams, Wrembel comes to the “black box” space at Two River Theater for a two-night stand this Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19 — the latest in the 2014 slate of Summer Jazz Cafe events.

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RED BANK: PERSONS OF JAZZY INTEREST

houstonpersonHouston, we have a promenade: soul-bop sax legend Houston Person inaugurates a new session of Summer Jazz Cafe events, Friday and Saturday at Two River Theater.

If it’s the dog-day nights of summer, then it’s surely time to sound the cool-cat keynote for Summer Jazz Cafe, the annual stand of sophisticated entertainments that transforms the “black box” space at Two River Theater into the smartest little speakeasy you’ve ever entered into (although, if you’re making that entrance a little too fashionably late, you won’t see its like again for another whole year). Going on for the next four Friday and Saturday evenings, the series is the seasonal pride and joy of Red Bank’s own Jazz Arts Project and its artistic director, Joe Muccioli. And, as the man called “Mooche” explains, the Cafe events not only offer up intimately scaled and affordably priced evenings with several generations of world-class talent, but “make possible the next generation of musicians, as we fund our education programs through ticket sales to our events.”

This Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, sees a rare Red Bank area appearance by a 79 year old tenor sax legend that Muccioli and company “have been wanting to bring here for the longest time” — Houston Person, the specialist in “soulful hard bop” whose 30 year partnership with the late vocalist Etta Jones was but one extended interlude in a long career as bandleader, producer, and ace sideman for Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Dakota Staton and many others. Described as “a master of popular songs played in a relaxed, highly accessible style reminiscent of the great Ben Webster,” Person brings his quartet to town for a pair of 8 pm sessions.

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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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