SCARY SKETCHES, FROM THE UNDERGROUND

Models Kevin Tallon, Nicole Howard, and Saraphina Curry are pictured in a scene from Dr. Sketchy Asbury Park’s GRIMM FAIRY TALES event in Ocotber 2018. Photos by CJ Mars

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 10, 2019

 It’s a truism that applies to any musician, comedian, deejay, trivia quizzard, bingo master, psychic medium, or variety entertainer who ever forged a mutually beneficial relationship with a restaurant or bar: if you want to have a steady gig, you’ve gotta draw.

Hidden beneath the bustling sidewalks of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue corridor, a passionate posse of offbeat art lovers has taken that bit of accepted wisdom to literal, face-value heart — by offering local denizens a genuinely one-of-a-kind diversion; one that speaks in equal measure to expressing one’s soulful self, while indulging in a healthy bit of masquerade and make-believe.

Presented year-round, on the third Wednesday evening of each month, the communal drawing sessions of Dr. Sketchy’s Asbury Park invite participants of all ages and skillsets to “draw together” in a relaxed and yet wildly vivid setting, equipped with live figure models who are spectacularly outfitted according to each session’s designated theme.

It all happens, colorfully and often oh-so-quietly, in the lower-level Basement Bar of the Bond Street Complex, that interconnected colony of rendez-vous accessible via the Bond Street Bar, Capitoline (Cookman Ave.), or Loteria (Mattison Ave.). With sessions starting at 6:30 pm (and lasting approximately three hours, including breaks), the events are neither sober instructional classes nor merlot-marinated Paint ‘N Sips, but a place where — in the words of Carly-Jean Booker — “some super crazy talented people can work alongside people who just want to work on their skills, with a little friendly competition, but no critiquing and no pressure.”

 As the leader and public face of the Asbury Park group’s Team Sketchy, the arts aficionado who goes by the name CJ Mars maintains a “passion project” that’s loosely but officially affiliated with the original Dr. Sketchy events — the popular sessions that began in NYC, and subsequently spread to major cities across the U.S. and several other foreign shores. Call her “Doctor” if you must (in a way that suggests a Dr. Who-like regeneration process that ensures the long-term survival of the Sketchy franchise) — but as CJ sees it, she and her Team mates Tracy Coon, Celia Connaire, and Amanda Mercadante are not only offering their fellow New Jerseyans entree to a genuine international phenomenon (the Asbury chapter is currently the only regularly operating one in the Garden State), but carrying on in the spirit of the local chapter’s founder, Tim Lucas.

Organizing Sketchy sessions in the earlier years of the decade at various venues like the Jenn Hampton-era Asbury Lanes, Lucas made a late-innings convert in Carly-Jean, who “started attending in March 2015, and began to go almost religiously, it affected me so much.”

“I have a BFA in graphic design, and I was always into art, although not really figure drawing,” says the designer in the Ocean County library system. “Knowing people in the Burlesque scene, and getting involved with belly dance, I had friends who got me into some cool things…but I had never seen anything like this. It helped get me out of my shell!”

When Lucas stepped aside from his Doctorly duties, Stephanie Wolter kept the local group going in sessions at the Belmar Arts Council — but a move away from the area left the Shore chapter at sea, until CJ and company stepped in with the determination that “no way are we going to give this up…this has to go on.” And in October 2017 — two years ago this week — Team Sketchy hosted their first event; a Halloween themed offering centered around Witches and Warlocks.

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LIVE THEATER? IT’S NO ZOMBIE ART FORM

Dan Lauria of TV’s WONDER YEARS is among the actors, directors and playwrights taking part in a Theater Brut Festival of Short Plays this weekend in West End…while Ray Dademo and Frank Falisi star as the brothers Mizner, when Ocean Grove’s NENAproductions takes on Stephen Sondheim’s rarely seen ROAD SHOW.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 3, 2019

On a weekend when the Zombie hordes lurch once more along the boards and boulevards of Asbury Park (and the force of nature known as Shatner walks the land, and a couple of veteran Springsteen bandmates play a free concert), a couple of seemingly unrelated happenings serve to remind us that — when it comes to resolutely original, routine-breaking, risk-taking live theater — this place sits squarely within the Land of the Living.

In fact, with more professional and semipro companies active in the area than at any time in recent memory — and several more ambitious fledgling troupes prepping for their turn in the spotlight (Asbury Park Theater, Dromio Theater, and Shore Thing Improv — about which more to come in this space), those who branded the art form a “fabulous invalid” in general, and a walking-dead issue on the local front, have to up and admit that the live local stage is most definitely No Country for Old Zombies.

THE SCENT OF BRUT

The French defined “Art Brut” (“raw” or “outsider” art) as a creative work that “colors outside the lines” of socially accepted, polite, or even legal norms — and while “Theatre Brut” as practiced by the folks at New Jersey Repertory Company is done entirely according to copyright law, Equity rules, and public permit, the (more or less) annual festival of that name represents an opportunity for the Long Branch-based company to assemble an allstar team of their favorite frequent-flyer guest artists — having fun, and playing fast-and-loose with expectations, in a way that allows actors, directors, and playwrights to invade each others’ wheelhouse.

Going up for four separate sessions between tonight, October 3 and Sunday, October 6, the 2019 Theater Brut Festival of Short Plays presents 16 never before seen works, loosely collected under the assigned theme “Some Like It Hot.”

It’s the eighth such event presented by NJ Rep co-founders SuzAnne and Gabor Barabas, and the third to be hosted inside the West End Arts Center, the reborn and repurposed elementary school building (occupying a whole city block worth of Long Branch’s West End neighborhood) that’s the subject of some truly ambitious plans for future seasons. It’s also the centerpiece of the latest West End Festival of the Arts, a five-day fling that kicked off Wednesday night with an all-star poetry reading hosted by poet/ educator/ editor/ musician Daniel Weeks and his magazine This Broken Shore (there are also concurrent visual art and photo exhibits on display for the duration of the weekend).

As with previous years’ themes (some of which have included “The Seven Deadly Sins,” “The Circus Comes to Town,” and “America’s Pastime”), playwrights are invited to submit scripts that interpret the given title in any number of ways — and, as SuzAnne Barabas explains, the concept of “Hot” has inspired the authors to deal with topics that range from sexual relationships, to climate change — and even “elements from the movie Some Like It Hot, like gangsters and drag!”

And, as is the custom, those playwrights are a diverse lot, ranging from award-winning veterans to newcomers — and even a couple of scribes who are more familiar as faces on our nation’s TV screens.

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MUSIC FROM BIG PORCH, DURING THIRD ANNUAL FEST IN AP

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 26, 2019

See, here’s the thing now: just in case you think we’ve closed the books on the big outdoor events of Summer (and Local Summer, Indian Summer, etc.), here comes still another multi-stage music festival promising to make a joyous noise in the weekend ahead. That said, think of Porchfest Asbury Park as the answer, the alternative, maybe even the antidote, to the street-closing sprawl, corporate branding, tightly regulated checkpoints, (traffic) jams and (wrist) bands of last week’s mega-extravaganza — a homegrown, street-level staycation that’s “for the Shore, played by the Shore,” in the words of Jordan Modell.

A co-chair of the Asbury Park Homeowners Association — the organizers and producers of Porchfest AP — Modell and his all-volunteer team are putting the finishing touches on this year’s third annual event; one that commandeers the front-facing spaces of nearly two dozen private residences and commercial properties around the city, for a strolling/rolling sonic smorgasbord that goes up this Saturday afternoon, September 28. Inspired by the original Porchfest project in Ithaca, NY — and supercharged by Modell’s past involvement with the successful yearly event in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain — the Asbury edition showcases more than 100 local/regional bands and solo performers, working in a mad myriad of styles, even as it shows off some of the grandest and most inviting porch-architecture in this celebrated seaside city.

Best of all, it represents an opportunity for multiple generations of creative people to connect with an audience of casual, committed, or even delightfully accidental listeners — in a format that offers attendees freedom of choice, freedom of movement, and absolutely free admission.

“The key word here is diversity, all around,” says Modell. “A really diverse range of sounds, in a diverse selection of settings — this year, we’re pleased to welcome our first host house in the southwest corner of town, and we hope to have more on board in the years to come.”

Continuing a recently minted tradition, Porchfest AP sounds the keynote at noon with an official kickoff inside Booskerdoo (1321-A Memorial Drive at Sunset Avenue), spotlighting singer-songwriter Ashley Delima. One of the coffee house’s neighbors at the Shops at Sunset Point strip — City by the Sea Veterinary Clinic — is among the newly added venues for 2019, with Modell explaining that “Dr. Tom has been very enthusiastic about the event…he’s sponsored one of our other porches,” an endorsement that allows each sponsor VIP porchside seating and a banner logo display.

Despite the participation of two commercial addresses (the other being frequent festival forum Hotel Tides on Seventh Avenue), the focus remains on the residential properties that transform into concert venues but once each year, with Modell emphasizing that “we like the fact that it’s private homes for the most part…it helps keep things More Asbury, For Asbury.”

With five more host properties in the mix for this year (and about 30 more acts taking part), Porchfest presents a walkable itinerary that the festival founder has praised as “a truly amazing mix of music, culture, and history,” and a perfect fit with the spirit of 21st century Asbury.

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MOTION ON THE OCEAN, AT SEA.HEAR.NOW’S CLAMBAKE

Oceanport native Fred Schneider (center) returns Shoreside with The B-52’s, for a 40th anniversary tour spot in the 2019 Sea.Hear.Now Festival.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 19, 2019

In that “uncompromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizin’” place called Asbury Park — where Local Summer is practically as big a deal as everyone else’s “regular summer,” and it’s never a fashion faux-pas to wear Life after Labor Day — the season of open-air concert activity continues to expand its horizon ever closer to the flat-earth edge of autumn’s threshold. And, even as Fall 2019 officially drops ready-or-not this coming Monday, Summer saves up what’s arguably its biggest finishing-move salvo for the weekend ahead.

Going up for its sophomore edition this Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, the Sea.Hear.Now Festival commandeers an ample slice of the city’s beach, boardwalk, Bradley Park, and briny Atlantic for A Celebration of Live Music, Art and Surf Culture that spills over into several circuit-satellite locales. While the born-big event has been SOLD OUT since right around tax-filing time, there’s still a chance to get in on some of the ancillary action and after-parties taking place at such local landmarks as The Stone Pony, Wonder Bar, House of Independents, and The Saint — and potentially partygoing parties are advised to check into it right now, at seahearnowfestival.com.

Unlike such hyper-local hootenannies as last weekend’s Bond Street Block Party, and next weekend’s Asbury Park Porchfest (or that downtown strolling smorgasbord AP Underground, returning on October 19), Sea.Hear.Now takes much of its cues from the national/ international profile of its founder, photographer, and fellow-traveler musician Danny Clinch. Following up on the 2018 schedule co-headlined by Jack Johnson and Incubus, Clinch’s Between the Sets and producing partners C3 Presents secured a slate of performers topped by one of the most consistently popular concert tour and festival-circuit draws of the past 25 years — the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling Dave Matthews Band — as well as by another, more recently minted (but still precious metal-plated) act: Jersey-bred, Denver-based folkrock/ alt-Americana band The Lumineers.

The rest of the schedule’s no slouch, either, representing a shuffle-mix of Hall of Fame trailblazers (Joan Jett) and punk-electronica upstarts (Matt & Kim); frequent Asbury flyers (Donavon Frankenreiter, Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys) and occasional returnees (Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Chan “Cat Power” Marshall, St. Paul); world-beat emissaries from other shores (Steel Pulse), and even some able ambassadors from our own big back yard — notably Ken “Stringbean” Sorensen and The Boardwalk Social Club, the blues-roots unit that boasts the distinction of generally being the first and the last band playing out of doors each extended-summer season (the latter courtesy of their still-ongoing stand outside AP Yacht Club/ Langosta Lounge every Monday eve).

Then there’s an internationally renowned act that carries with it a Jersey Shore connection that might still be a surprise to some — The B-52’s., fronted as ever by perennial party-starting toastmaster (and onetime resident of Oceanport, NJ) Fred Schneider.

In the process of gifting the world with perhaps the most epic beach bake anthem of all time in “Rock Lobster,” the alumnus of Shore Regional High School, who found community and delightfully unlikely rock stardom in the fertile music scene of Athens, Georgia, has never exactly exploited his roots in the sandy Shore soil. Drawing instead from elements of Southern culture, gay culture, thrift-shop pop culture, and the benificial-bacteria culture of infctious fun, Schneider and his cohorts Kete Pierson, Cindy Wilson, and Keith Strickland (plus the late Ricky Wilson) created something all their very own; a universal party music that breaks down all resistance in the squarest (and don’t-carest) audiences.

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THE RIBEYE BROS. BRING THE MEAT ‘N MORE, TO BLOCK PARTY & BEYOND

The Ribeye Brothers showcase some prime cuts during a prime slot at the Bond Street Block Party on Saturday, September 14…then return to Asbury town for a special “Taint at The Saint” evening on September 19. Photo by William DeVizia for Cool Dad Music

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 12, 2019

 They’re the indoor/outdoor carpeting that ties the music-mad ROOM together — connecting the 20th century Shore scene with the hypercurrent hipsterverse; the roots-rock traditionalists with the alt-rock trailblazers; the experience of playing before international stadium-size audiences, with the bump ‘n grind of an old neighborhood go-go bar.

Here in the Local Summer interlude — when many of the season’s busiest bands curtail their activities, and some of the Shore’s most venerable venues up and fold their patio umbrellas for a long winter’s nap — the year-round institution that is The Ribeye Brothers is perhaps more visible and audible than ever; pushing the open-air envelope well into the post-Labor Day afterbirth, seeking out and exploring strange new places to play, and boldly Going There with an all-new, as yet untitled, recorded music project.

Pretty ambitious and confident for a group whose thematic stock in trade has been the musical tale of woe — short and bitterly sweet blasts of “detached garage” rock with titles like “Drinkin’ and Stinkin,” “Swagger Turns to Stagger,” “D.W.I.,” “Disappointment Punch,” “Wrong End of the Leash,” and that crossover crowdpleaser, “Sh*t Car.” Working a side of the street once occupied by classic “tears in my beer” country, the songs of former Monster Magnet men Tim Cronin and Jon Kleiman are vroomed-up vignettes of rejection, recidivism and ruin, narrated by characters whose dreams of grandeur have been curb-jawed by store-brand booze, romantic betrayals, suicidal brooding, and an unerring instinct for the Bad Choice.

Even when Cronin and company channel Andy Griffith’s megalomaniacal Face in the Crowd character in “Lonesome Rhodes” (a purported favorite of no less a public figure than The Boss), or landing songs on the soundtracks of network TV shows (Criminal Minds) and indie features (Let Me Down Hard), there’s a fatalistic (but fun) vein of Eeyore-attitude soaked into every fiber of “the band who hates themselves more than you do.” But, whether the Sons of Mrs. Ribeye are stomping out a brand new number or cutting up on covers of old Black Sabbath (or very old Pink Floyd), the fact remains that, for the band’s devoted audience, a Ribeyes roast is a guaranteed and garage-rested good time — or, as this correspondent has said before, “the most raucously pounding pity party you’ll ever encounter.”

Though still a Red Bank-based band by pedigree, the lineup of Cronin (lead vocals), Brent Sisk (guitar), Kleiman (guitar, vocals), Joe Calandra (bass), and Neil O’Brien (drums) can stake just as much of a claim to the coverage area served by your friendly neighborhood Coaster and Link newsweeklies, with the latter three hanging their hats these days in Neptune, Eatontown, and Asbury Park respectively. In fact, Asbury habitues might better know O’Brien under his alter ego DJ Foggy Notion, with the man and his milk crates remaining a fixture at Anchor’s Bend, Salvation Lounge, AP Yacht Club and numerous other nightspots (in addition to the odd participation in performance-art events like Andrew Demirjian’s Lines in the Sand, presented on the AP beach this past August by DC’s Transformer collective).

This Saturday, September 14, the Brothers (with adopted sibling Sweet Joey filling in on drums) are among the featured acts taking it outside at the 2019 Bond Street Block Party, the annual presentation of the Bond Street Complex venues (about which more momentarily) that commandeers the stretch of Bond between Cookman and Mattison Aves for a festival of bands, beers and BBQ that runs from 1 to 10 pm. Then on the evening of Thursday, September 19, a busy-season Neil rejoins his mates; once more steering the back of the firetruck as the band opens for the satirically satanic stylings of Witch Taint (‘the most extreme Norwegian Black Metal band from Gary, Indiana ever, probably”) at that downtown boxcar berthplace of rock, chief engineer Scotty Stamper’s The Saint..

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REMEMBER JONES WELCOMES YOU TO TOMMY’S HOLIDAY CAMP

An all-star team of talents celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Who’s rock opera TOMMY, with three performances of a special concert adaptation in Ocean Township.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), September 5, 2019

Rain or shine, the Labor Day holiday just passed is traditionally a time of last-licks recreation and relaxation for most; a somewhat arbitrary DMZ between the interlude in which we are expected to “make memories,” and that in which we return our attentions to the great filled-beyond-capacity IN box of our lives.

Not so much Anthony D’Amato. Given his superhuman schedule and otherworldly work ethic, the singer/actor/ bandleader/ producer/ director and master-showman impresario best known these days as Remember Jones can be forgiven for maybe not knowing what season it is, which tour stop on the itinerary, or even exactly which full-length show he’s performing at this moment.

In truth, however, the new heir to the mantle of Hardest Working Man in Shore Business remains completely in command of his faculties, his frankly awesome musical organization, and his vision for a continuously evolving career that’s seen the big Remember Jones band crisscross the country as crowdpleasing ambassadors for the Jersey Shore scene — all the while continuing to explore (and stake a significant claim to) nearly every corner of the popular music landscape.

Having just come in off the road from an extensive 30-city tour — and keeping the momentum going with shows in Atlantic City and Long Beach Island — Mr. Jones and company ushered in September with a full-set outdoor concert at Asbury’s Springwood Park — the capper to a “Funky Fresh Market” event that found D’Amato also lining up the numerous opening acts, coordinating the food trucks, and pretty much taking on everything short of serving as parking valet.

Labor Day proper found the troupe devoting the entirety of that alleged day of rest to some intensive rehearsals for their latest project:, TOMMY in Concert — an all-star, golden anniversary salute to that game-changing album of the classic rock era; one that commandeers the auditorium of the Axelrod Performing Arts Center for three performances this Saturday and Sunday, September 7 and 8.

Speaking at the end of a ten-hour rehearsal session at the Ocean Township venue where he mounted an acclaimed concert version of HAIR in 2018, D’Amato/Jones confides that “they wanted me to do a Woodstock celebration as a follow-up, but I felt that it had kind of been played out by this point…I wanted to do something different; a full recreation of The Who’s original Tommy that will make you believe you’re ‘hearing it again for the first time’.”

While it shares a 50th anniversary with that generation-defining festival — and while it did manage to have a presence on the Woodstock stage, as The Who performed some of its score during their featured set — Pete Townshend’s rock opera of a deaf-dumb-and-blind kid represents a bit of of a break with the spirit of those Three Days of Mud and Music on Max Yasgur’s farm. Taking off from Townshend’s earlier character-driven songs (plus little mini-epics like “A Quick One While He’s Away”), and inspired in part by his own spiritual explorations, Tommy has some pointed things to say about twisted family dynamics, self-imposed isolation, cults of personality, plus the many temptations and weirdnesses of life on post-WWII planet Earth.

 As the Tommy phenomenon took hold of the popular imagination, the ambitious rock record project took on a whole other life of its own; first with a 1972 orchestral album that boasted contributions from Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, and Richie Havens among others — and, eventually, a Tony winning Broadway musical that departed somewhat from past incarnations, in terms of song selection and the relationships of the characters.

In between appeared Tommy: The Movie, a 1975 carnival from director Ken Russell that starred Who singer Roger Daltrey in the title role — and that paired the first-time actor with a supporting cast that included Ann-Margret, Jack Nicholson, Oliver Reed, and (as the Pinball Wizard), a height-of-his-popularity Elton John. Still, while the Remember Jones conception of Tommy takes some crucial cues from these past endeavors, this golden-jubilee tribute promises to be a thing unto iteself.

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ANOTHER BAND OF BROS LIGHTS UP A.P., FOR A SPECIAL BROTHERVERSARY

L-R; Candle Brothers Phil Russo, Pat Guadagno and Frank Sabo are joined by Rich Oddo and specal guests, as they celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” in Supper Club style, this Labor Day weekend.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 29, 2019 

When word got out that those famous Brothers were due in Asbury Park, the waterfront became a supercharged hive of activity, as crews erected a custom-built stage, traffic was diverted from streets and sought-after parking spots, and the cameras rolled for the benefit of a fervent international fan base.

Well, okay, the superstar siblings were The Jonas Brothers, and the occasion was this past Sunday’s video shoot for the MTV Video Music Awards. But even as other Shore locales prepare to close the books on another summertime season, this coming Labor Day Weekend serves merely as a gateway to an action-packed Local Summer in Asbury Park — and another band of Brothers will help sound the keynote.

While the various members of The Candle Brothers are “family” in band-name only, the musical combo boasts a degree of fraternal solidarity that would make the figurative Mama Candle proud — and this Sunday, September the First, the veteran musicians celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” with a special retrospective concert, upside the space-age boardwalk landmark that is Tim McLoone’s Supper Club.

In a year of golden anniversaries (Woodstock, moon landing, Miracle Mets), that 45-year milestone might appear a bit less momentous, but for Pat Guadagno, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to reconnect once more with some of his greatest and longest-running colllaborators — and, as the Monmouth County musical mainstay adds with a laugh, “we’re not sure if we can make it to 50!”

As legend has it, The Candle Brothers were born full-grown one night in 1974, when Guadagno and Frank Sabo were harmonizing on Everly Brothers songs at Merri Makers Magnolia Inn in Matawan — and a lounge patron referred to them as “The Candle Sisters…because they always go out together” (“guess you had to be there”). Well, the playful name stuck, sort of, and when the duo joined forces with fellow singer-musician Phil “Red River Russo, it was as The Candle Brothers that they sought out gigs at whatever bar, bistro, back deck, boardwalk or beachtop bandstand would have them.

These days, those Candles blowouts are down to an average of one per year, a state of affairs that dates to Sabo’s having relocated to Florida (‘maybe the secret to a successful musical marriage is living so far apart”). But even as Guadagno continues to navigate a solo career as a master entertainer who can command any room — from the iconic Count Basie Theatre (home now to the singer’s annual big-band Bobfest birthday salutes to Mr. Dylan), to the most intimate corners of your favorite friendly neighborhood watering hole — this Candle Brothers show represents a significant slice of living history, for a singer who’s been very much a part of it.

Having grown up in a household with “parents who were really into music,” young Pat took equal amounts of inspiration from seeing Sammy Davis Jr. at the Garden State Arts Center, as the Rolling Stones at Convention Hall. The future professional musician was there in the audience when the Freehold area teen band The Castiles played the Marlboro YMCA (“I knew then that their guy Bruce on guitar was something special”), — and he had already seen both Jimi and Janis, by the time that he (almost) made it to Woodstock.

“Me and my buds Tom and Charlie sent away for seven-dollar tickets that never came…so we never went,” he recalls of that weekend in August 1969; adding that “I wanted to go because I wanted to see Bert Sommer,” in reference to the late folk singer who’s been called “the forgotten man of Woodstock.”

As for the Candle boys, the little group of “saloon singers” from Jersey burned themselves into the memory of some huge audiences nationwide, with the help of a particular oldie-but-goodie.

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DIG IN TO THOSE IN-DIG-ENOUS SOUNDS THAT ABOUND ALL AROUND

L-R; Karl Denson (August 23), Billy Hector (August 24), JT Bowen (August 24) and The Sensational Soul Cruisers (August 25 PLUS August 27) are among the foundational sounds to be found in days to come, here within NJ’s capital community for live music.

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 22, 2019

 It’s known as “indigenous music” in certain scholarly and appreciative circles — and, while it doesn’t connote the sort of sounds that might have been in the air before the first settles arrived on this shore, it’s all about the Jazz and the Blues (and, by extension, pretty much everything else) that form the backstory of America. Here in NJ’s capital community for live music, the place where the sand meets the surf has also historically been a place where diverse groups of people meet up; in ways that have spanned the spectrum from tinderbox-tense to terrifically tuneful.

With arguably more original music organizations working this patch of sandy soil than ever before, more places to put ‘em in — and a heightened sense of the Shore scene’s past, present, and future — it’s no accident that numerous nonprofit entities have stepped up with a shared mission to both preserve the best of the past, and to promote the now and next generation of players. Orgs like the Asbury Park Music Foundation, the nascent African American Music Project, the Red Bank-based Jazz Arts Project, and the Lakehouse Academy continue to make their presence felt in a myriad of ways — but for sheer continuity and consistency of cause, they’ve all got to tip their hat to the 30-plus years’ mission of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation.

“It’s a passion with me…I do it to support live music,” says Tom Baldino, a retired banker who first joined the all-volunteer JSJBF “around the turn of the century…that sounds like a long time ago!” — and who has served as the organization’s president for the past seven years.

“I go back a few years myself…the first show I ever saw was Jackie Wilson at Convention Hall, in 1959,” adds the graduate of Asbury Park High School (and veteran of numerous teen-years jobs on the boardwalk). “I was supposed to be at the movies that night…but I ditched the Mayfair to attend that show, and I’m glad I did.”

While the lifelong music fan remembers the Asbury of the late 1950s and 1960s as “a magical time to be there…I even got to sneak into the old Orchid Lounge once or twice,” his focus remains very much rooted in the here and now — with a particular emphasis on the annual Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival, the 2019 edition of which goes up this Saturday, August 24 on the Great Lawn area of the Long Branch boardwalk.

Running between 1 and 9 pm — and followed immediately thereafter by a display of fireworks — the one-day event assembles an eclectic collection of pure jazz, R&B, electric blues and bluesrock artists from across the region for the ninth year on the LB waterfront (following a single year’s stand at Monmouth Park). It’s a more concentrated successor to the weekend-long festivals that were once hosted at Red Bank’s Marine Park — large-scale affairs that, while regularly boasting some pretty awesome national/ international names, often had to take a seat as Mother Nature blew the meanest solos (folks still whisper of that fateful and fogged-out night when an allstar band of festival refugees, including Levon Helm, David Johansen, and Howlin’ Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, commandeered the now-defunct Olde Union House restaurant for an impromptu jam that made Shore music history before getting shut down by the fire department after just two songs).

By contrast, “we’ve been really lucky with the weather since we moved to Long Branch…and the people of the city have been really supportive of us, beginning with Barry Stein, as well as the police, Public Works…and I’ve got to give a shout out to Mayor Pallone and his staff, who’ve been so accommodating, and who have allowed us to continue our mission.”

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