4/16: …and Tell ‘Em “Joe Sent Me”

Jazz scholar/ WBGO disc jockey Gary Walker and guitarist Vic Juris are among the special guests TALKIN’ JAZZ with Joe Muccioli, in the series that returns to the Count Basie’s Carlton Lounge for three Mondays beginning tonight. 

Start Joe Muccioli to talking and he’ll tell you that “Jazz…grew up with America. It symbolizes American democracy.”

“You put several people into a place, a situation, and you honor all of their abilities, but at the same time you have rules, an underlying structure…a Constitution.”

A Red Bank resident and the Artistic Director of the borough-based nonprofit  Jazz Arts Project, the man they call “Mooche” has done a lot of talking, studying, teaching and listening on the topic of Jazz — and he’s walked the walk as well, having traveled the world conducting, arranging and working with everyone from Joe Piscopo to the London Philharmonic.

In the borough that birthed William “Count” Basie, they know Muccioli as the maestro behind the annual Sinatra Birthday Bash events at the  Count Basie Theatre; as the co-founder of the Jazz Arts Academy program; as the host of the way-cool Summer Jazz series atTwo River Theater — and as leader of the Red Bank Jazz Orchestra, the 17-piece organization that issued its maiden recording Strike Up the Band in 2011.

Add to that the fact that each and every April — a little bend in the calendar they call National Jazz Appreciation Month — Mooche hauls out his formidable “little black book” of Who’s Who contacts, commandeers the Basie Theatre building’s street-level Carlton Lounge, and offers music lovers access to a treasure trove of history, performance, sight, sound and scintillating conversation that could only be called Talkin’ Jazz. It’s a sophisticated series so cool that you’d be tempted to tell them “Joe sent me” at the door, were it not for the fact that it’s entirely free of charge and open to the public. It’s also a Monday evening affair that returns tonight, April 16, with a visit from one of the New York metro area’s most sought-after authorities on all things Jazz.

Author and photographer Tad Hershorn (left) joins Joe “Mooche” for a tribute to the late impresario Norman Granz (right) on Monday, April 23.

As the “morning man” on Newark-based public radio station WBGO Jazz 88.3FMGary Walker has spent some 25 years doing something that theoretically goes against the grain of the nocturnally-spawned music called Jazz — sending thousands of jazz aficionados blinking into the freshly risen sun with a dose of “America’s classical music” to keynote the day. The award winning broadcaster has himself met and interviewed everyone who’s anyone in jazz circles, and he joins Muccioli in the Carlton Lounge at 7pm to share the stories and the skinny on the greatest musicians of the millennium-spanning era.

On April 23, the topic will be Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice — and Mooche’s guest will be Tad Hershorn, music historian, photographer and author of an acclaimed new biography of Granz, the “iconoclastic, independent, immensely influential, often thoroughly unpleasant” promoter, producer and personal manager who boosted the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson; founded the awesome Verve record label and started the legendary Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. Hershorn, who interviewed Granz extensively before his subject’s death in 2001, will offer some rare insights on the man who told him, “Any book on my life would start with my basic philosophy of fighting racial prejudice. I loved jazz, and jazz was my way of doing that.”

The Talkin’ Jazz series goes out on a high note the following Monday, April 30, with a whistle-stop by Jersey’s own Vic Juris, a go-to guitar ace and a “musical conversationalist” who’s performed with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme, to Larry Coryell, Lee Konitz and his own quartet. Equally well known as an educator and author of instructional books, the skilled stylist of the six strings is sure to bring along his guitar as he joins Muccioli for a look back at his long and still-evolving career.

Admission to all of the events in the Talkin’ Jazz series is free, but seating is limited — and registration is both recommended, and as easy as taking it right here.

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