Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), January 9, 2020
Yes, New Jersey, there is such a thing as a Clarence Clemons Day — and here within the Big Man’s old Shore stomping grounds, that special “day” is, fittingly enough, really more of a two-day deal.
This Saturday, January 11 marks what would have been the 78th birthday of the saxman/ bandleader/ occasional actor (and, briefly, club owner) who defined the look, sound, and personality-packed dynamic of the E Street Band, every bit as much as its hard-working foreman. And, when Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. died of complications from a massive stroke in June 2011, his passing was recognized as something far beyond a one-day headline in the mass media. Flags flew at half-staff here in the native Virginian’s adopted home state; the biggest names in popular music paid tribute to his sound and style from live stages around the world — and two years later, then-governor Chris Christie signed an official resolution making January 11 “Clarence Clemons Day” in the Garden State.
The loss of “CC” also served to spur into existence the Asbury Angels Project, a virtual memorial to departed Asbury Park music pros whose inaugural Class of 2012 included not only Clemons and his E Street colleague Danny Federici, but the city’s “first music superstar” Arthur Pryor, legendary Convention Hall concert promoter Moe Septee, and Upstage Club hosts Tom and Margaret Potter. And concurrent with Clarence Clemons Day in 2013, music promoters BIG RoaD Productions established their Big Man’s Birthday Winterbash, a yearly celebration that presents its eighth annual edition this Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Staged as a benefit for the adoption center and programs of the Eatontown-based Monmouth County SPCA, the Bash returns in 2020 to a pair of longtime landmarks of Jersey Shore nightlife — The Headliner on Route 35 South in Neptune, and Bar Anticipation on 16th Avenue in Lake Como. The two venerable venues will be hosting a fairly eclectic (and multi-generational) mix of talents, ranging from several of CC’s veteran contemporaries on the local scene, to a couple of men who are carrying the Clemons name forward into a new musical decade.
Headlining the Headliner show on Friday evening will be the musician charged with taking over Clarence’s role on the E Street roster — his 39 year old nephew Jake Clemons. The multi-instrumentalist (whose sophomore album Eyes on the Horizon dropped this past September) will be spotlighting his solo material in a full-band set, joined on the bill by Eddie Testa, by Bob Polding — and by the most recent addition to the musical family tree.
At 21 years of age, Jarod Clemons has already set about writing the kind of working-musician’s story more befitting a player several years his senior. The youngest son of Clarence Clemons grew up with his mother Jacqueline Monteau in Connecticut and Florida, where he cut his tuneful teeth in and around the bars of the Tampa Bay area. But up here in the music-mad city that made his father famous, the young veteran with the weighty name was a relative newcomer when he made the decision to relocate to Asbury just last year — a move that resulted in what Jarod calls “the best six months of my past five years.”
Performing regularly at first with fellow Floridian Taylor Davis, Clemons made a memorable impression in settings both old (the Brighton Bar in Long Branch) and new (Danny Clinch’s Transparent Gallery at The Asbury Hotel) — sets that nimbly addressed the proverbial elephant in the room, by including an intimate arrangement of “You’re a Friend of Mine,” his dad’s hit 1985 duet with Jackson Browne.
Having parted ways with Davis in the months since his move, Jarod performs now in fully electrified band mode with The Late Nights, the four piece combo (guitarist Zach Tyler, bassist Alex Fuhring, keyboardist Stephen Verdi, drummer John DiNunzio) with whom he’ll be appearing in Neptune on the 10th. It’s both a capper to a hectic interlude of transition for the emerging bandleader — and a keynote to a coming year of musical exploration, experimentation, and continued excitations.