Talk about bringing down the house before he plays so much as a lick: Red Bank-based blues/ reggae specialist (and bats-left guitarist) GARY WRIGHT has had to postpone his first full-length gig in several seasons this Friday night — scheduled for the historic Woman’s Club as the latest in a series of Reckless Steamy Nights — due to falling ceilings and other not-uncommon maladies benighting the life of a dedicated bluesman. (photo by Terri GO Seminoles Walliczek)
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 love and 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.
Talking to the native of Syosset, Long Island, you also get to meet the supreme baseball fan — the kind who recalls every detail of a childhood trip to see the infamous 1962 Mets play the Mays-McCovey-Marichal era Giants at the old Polo Grounds. The kind who can rhapsodize for hours on the awesome 1970s era of Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson. The kind who actually got the opportunity to try out for the Yankees in 1984, as a lefthanded-hitting outfielder.
Boss Steinbrenner’s loss was ultimately the regional music scene’s gain, as Wright — a Red Banker for the past 28 years — 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, November 30, Gary Wright becomes the latest guest performer to join in the Shore’s longest-running house party — the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation’s monthly series of Reckless Steamy Nights at the Woman’s Club of Red Bank. 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. UpperWETside went looking for Mr. Wright, in advance of what promises to be his first (and, hopefully, far from his last) full-band solo showcase.