setzer-photoBrian Setzer (above) and his swingin’ Orchestra sound the keynote on a week’s worth of music at Basie’s place; a smorgasbord of sounds that includes appearances by Travis Tritt, The Duprees, and the Difford-Tilbrook partnership that brought you Squeeze (below).

Glenn Tilbrook & Chris Difford at Union Chapel on 8 November 2014.

Glenn Tilbrook & Chris Difford at Union Chapel on 8 November 2014.

Over at the Count Basie Theatre — where the coming of December heralds a packed schedule of Christmastime confections, right up to the doorstep of New Year’s — the twelfthmonth’s earliest days and nights offer up a buffet that includes music both seasonally standard and all-seasonssecular, in addition to the sort of golden oldies that comprise a sacred songbook in themselves. Arriving in town this Wednesday, December 2 atop a hybrid sleigh that’s fuel-injected with a little bit of each, Grammy-getter Brian Setzer returns with his big-axe Orchestra on an annual Christmas Tour that finds the onetime Top Cat of The Stray Cats suiting up for a set that tumbles selections from his three albums of Yuletide yippee with Stray Cat signatures (“Rock This Town,” “Sexy + 17”) and vintage jukebox juggernauts from the likes of Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley and more. It’s a big show that breaks down all humbug resistance with its rockabilly-roadrace pace and the frontman’s road-tested panache in the role of guitar-slinging retro leader of the 18-piece big band. Tim Lowman, the high-energy one-man blues-shock band known as Low Volts, opens the 7:30 pm festivities, so fly here for tickets ($58 – $118) — and flip the record over for more.

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skylinersOriginal lead vocalist Jimmy Beaumont brings the 2015 edition of the Skyliners back to the Basie stage for a Friday night “Stars of Rock and Roll” doo-wop extravaganza.

They’re most often categorized as “oldies” – making them all too often the purview of know-it-all collectors, aging man-cave troglodytes, or that guy in the track suit who wouldn’t cut you a break on that scratched-up single by the Jive Five.

But look past all that and you’ll discover that the slow-dance masterpieces of the doo-wop years – sublime slices of streetcorner soul, in an era of barely restrained passions – can still do the job, some 60 summers after they first blared out of AM radios in the neighborhood candy store or someone’s Dad’s borrowed Desoto.

On Friday night, several of the form’s foremost practitioners assemble on the stage of the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank for a pop-idol package presented as “Stars of Rock and Roll.”

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billy brownBllly Brown joins the Duprees for an afternoon of classic doowop and soul at the Middletown Arts Center. (Photo by Marian Cicarele, courtesy of

Valentine’s Day isn’t until next Saturday, but February 8 might be declared “Valentine’s Sunday” by virtue of it being the date for a special matinee concert at the Middletown Arts Center, one that puts an intriguingly local spin on some of the most romantic records of the 1960s and 70s.

Running from 2 to 4 pm, the concert stars a set of Garden State favorites with a multi-generational fanbase: Jersey City’s own Duprees (“My Own True Love,” “Have You Heard” and the sublime “You Belong to Me”) paired with a Jersey Shore guy whose smooth brand of vocal soul took him to the top of the pops, years before the Boss ever set his hungry heart on the Billboard charts.

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dupreesSee the pyramids along the Nile…or keep it here in Red Bank, when The Duprees appear as part of a Holiday Doo Wop fest on the Count Basie stage. 

It’s a concert event as big as the famous Count Basie stage — and as intimate as a streetcorner in the old neighborhood, especially given the shout-outs to local candy stores, and other landmarks of long-ago Brooklyn, North Jersey and the Bronx. Substitute the corner lamppost with a candy-striped North Pole and you’ve got the Holiday Doo Wop edition of the popular oldies package-show series, coming to station stop Red Bank on Saturday, December 6.

In this latest presentation from promoter LAR Enterprises, a jukebox worth of 1950s (and early 60s) chart-toppers are chased with some period-perfect arrangements of seasonal standards, on a bill headlined by two of the era’s genuine hitmaking machines — Jersey City’s own Duprees (“My Own True Love,” “Have You Heard” and the sublime “You Belong to Me”), and Herb Reed’s 2014 edition of The Platters (“Only You,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “The Great Pretender”).

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