IT’S PRIME TIME FOR SOME PRIME CUTS OF (MARC) RIBLER

Marc Ribler (left) and Steven Van Zandt (photo by Rene van Daimen)

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, February 21 2019

“He got the bug again,” says Marc Ribler of his friend and frequent collaborator Steven Van Zandt, by way of explaining how that iconic prime mover ‘n shaker of the Shore music scene — a guy who, after all, had diversified his portfolio in recent years to score significant successes in the realms of on-camera acting, Broadway theatrical production, satellite radio, education, philanthropy, and everything this side of branded spaghetti sauce — came to rely on the veteran musician as his music director for a newly resurgent iteration of the Disciples of Soul.

“Steven was working with Darlene Love, and asked me to be her music director for some shows,“ recalls the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose own solo trajectory ranges from charting songs for other vocalists, to earning a reputation as an ace interpreter of signature stuff from the classic rock playbook. “We’d do a few of his compositions at each show — ‘‘Love on the Wrong Side of Town,’ ‘Til the Good Is Gone,’ ‘Forever’ — and we all came to the realization that, wow, there’s a great body of work here.”

“A year later he called me to do a one-off festival in London, and, well…ever sonce then he’s been immersed in his own artistry. Right now his music is the center of his universe.”

Having “toured continuously”  in recent years as Van Zandt’s right-hand lieutenant (as well as co-producer of SVZ’s recording sessions), the Brick Township-based Ribler prepares to hit the international road once again, on the momentum of two new projects with the resurgent Little Steven: the just-issued Soulfire Live! box set/ Blu-Ray package, and the May 2019 release of the all-new studio set Summer of Sorcery.

“If he had somehow misplaced that songwriter within, he’s reconnected with it in a major way,” says Ribler of the bandana’d bandleader whose upcoming itinerary brings him to Australia in April, and various European ports of call in May (with some high profile CD release shows planned for New York and LA). “He’s a man on a mission!”

Before all that, however, Marc Ribler returns, in the company of assembled Friends, to the Asbury Park venue where he’s found happy harbor for the past several years — Tim McLoone’s Supper Club, the sophisticated space-age saucer that hosts not just one but twoRib-sticking repasts in the next couple of weekends. This coming Saturday, February 23, it’s a birthday salute to the life and musical legacy of the “Quiet Beatle,” George Harrison — a retrospective for which Ribler is joined by the in-demand rhythm section of Rich Mercurio (drums) and Jack Daley( bass), as well as by keyboardist Andy Burton from SVZ’s band. Then the following Friday, March 1st, it’s an Electrifying Tribute to The Who that finds the core band joined for the occasion by vocalist Dale Toth.

“Everyone in the band grew up with this music…it’s in our DNA to begin with,” observes the chief Friend  whose repertoire of special salute sets also includes a Traffic tribute performed in partnership with Jukes keyboardist Jeff Kazee. “We’ve been celebrating George’s birthday for five years now…both here, and at the Cutting Room in New York…and we like to do it at least once or twice each year.”

Scheduled for 8 pm, the Harrison set traces the personal and professional journey of a Beatle bandmate whose years in the considerable shadow of Lennon and McCartney saw him emerge over time as “an artist with an incredible sense of self…and a genuine humanity.”

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MACK DADDY: THE ‘JAMILY’ PATRIARCH’S AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE IN JANUARY

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 3 2019

For a couple of generations’ worth of Shore music fans, he’s a scene stalwart and a living landmark whose presence remains every bit as reassuring as a favorite club or neighborhood watering hole. To his fellow music makers, he’s the go-to man for all manner of sessions and sitting-in situations; a blues harp ace who can stake out harmonious common ground with acoustic old-schoolers, supercharged axslingers, roots rockers and alt-Americana songsmiths alike — or as local radio linchpin Rich Robinson said, “he could sit in with anybody like he’s played with them forever.”.

But perhaps above all else, Sanford “Sandy” Mack is the keeper of a weekly ritual that rivals any family’s most cherished Sunday-sauce tradition. At 4 pm, during every so-called “day of rest” on the calendar, an extended “jamily” of musical regulars, guest players, fans, friends, and drop-in passersby convenes inside the lobby lounge of the Asbury Hotel for a little gathering known as Sunday Jam— a lovably loose but enviably organized afternoon-into-evening that offers up a sonic smorgasbord of danceable Dead, concise classics, and some often wild workouts on things you’d least expect. All of it presided over by Mr. Mack, the patriarch of this Jamily and the founder of the feast that’s been an Asbury Park fixture for the better part of a decade.

“I’ve been doing Sundays around town for about eight years now,” says Mack, speaking amid the game tables, ultra-designey bar and conversation pit of The Asbury’s Soundbooth Lounge. “I started at Asbury Blues, and continued there when it became The Press Room…it was the first place where I ever did Grateful Dead music…and then (Stone Pony honcho) Kyle Brendle asked me if I would do a Wonder Jam event each week at the Wonder Bar.”

Those Sunday sessions at Lance and Debbie’s Circuit landmark became the stuff of latter-day legend in themselves; happenings that generated their own momentum, drew a fairly fervent fanbase, and soon had a whole lot of top-shelf talents expressing a desire to sit in. But when it came time once again to relocate the moveable feast, Mack was momentarily at a loss as to where to go next.

“I was curious about The Asbury…it didn’t look like my kind of place;; kind of upper crusty, you know…but I reached out to them,” he recalls. “They originally gave me three dates, to see what happens…that was a year and a half ago, and as you can see we’re still going strong!”

Sandy Mack will once more sit at the head of the figurative table this Soundbooth Sunday, January 6 — but before that, the harpist and a crew of his fellow Jam-mates will be performing a very special gig that’s required an unusual degree of rehearsal: a set paying tribute to The Allman Brothers, scheduled as part of A Celebration of Jam Bands.

Going up this Friday, January 4 at Asbury Lanes (where Mack and company were one of the first acts to play the reborn bowl-a-rama in a “soft opening” event last spring), the program further features the Grateful channelings of The Cosmic Jerry Band, as well as a Phish tribute featuring members of Secret Sound.

It also represents a return to the Duane/Gregg catalog for Mack, who teamed with Marc Ribler for a classic Allmans tribute a couple of years back. Joining in for the occasion will be Jam standby Mike Flynn, key man Arne Wendt, guitarist Big John Perry,  plus bassists Mike Caruso and Mike McKernan, drummers Kevin Johnson and Dan Donovan, and special guest Matt O’Ree. Stu Coogan of 90.5 The Night Brookdale Public Radio hosts the tenpins taproom throwdown, with doors at 7 pm and admission a positively spit-take-inducing five bucks.

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BOWEN APETIT: JT, FEILES GIVE A SUNDAY-SAUCE TASTE OF A NEW PROJECT

Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, November 15 2018

On paper at least, it looks like a bit of an oddball team-up; a partnership between a couple of performers who — while they can each boast some deep Asbury roots and a fervent local fanbase — have earned their musical street cred working two very different corners of that musical street.

On the one hand, you’ve got JT Bowen, an R&B/soul exciter in the classic spirit of Otis Redding; a gospel-infused entertainer with a preacher’s passion, who’s long specialized in fronting big, brassy, funky-sassy organizations on the stage — and whose long association with the late and legendary Clarence Clemons ranged from the 1960s outfit The Chosen Few, to the major label recording and touring project CC and the Red Bank Rockers.

On the other hand, you’ve got Arlan Feiles, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Jewish kid from LA who — while he’s shared stages and studios with generations of local and/or internationally renowned music makers — has spent decades on the scene as the quintessential lone-wolf solo troubador. It’s a finely tuned songs-and-stories approach that’s allowed him to excel in settings that range from the corner of your favorite coffeehouse, to the Paramount Theatre, where he captivated the crowd during last spring’s TEDx Asbury Park program.

This Sunday afternoon, November 18, Mr. Bowen and Mr. Feiles convene inside the intimately scaled space of the Asbury Park Music Foundation’s headquarters (located inside the Lakehouse complex on Lake Avenue), for the latest in a series of Sunday Sessions sounds-and-syllables events. It’s actually an encore duet for the artists who previously shared a mini-set at that TEDx happening — and who also played for an audience of people on the go, during an August set at Newark Liberty Airport.

As anyone who’s followed Arlan or JT at any time within the past several months already knows, the 3 pm matinee also serves as an appetizer for a very special endeavor: Dig Deep, a full album of Feiles originals, interpreted by Bowen and currently being prepped for release under Bowen’s name with the help of a fan-based fundraising campaign. Check out the title-tune teaser on YouTube, and you’ll hear a powerful cry for dignity and respect; put forth with a sense of slowly simmering, righteous anger by JT’s big voice (and a surprisingly chunky rocked-up rhythm guitar) — in a way that evokes the sort of early 70s symphonic-soul heat, and bitterly cold urban landscapes, of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack and their contemporaries.

“I first met Arlan a little over a year ago, when we were both in a show at the Strand in Lakewood,” says Bowen in recalling the origins of the highly anticipated project. “I heard about him as a writer…I introduced myself and we hit it off right away, like I knew him for a long time.”

“He’s an all around real nice guy, and a very spiritual person too,” adds the singer of his new collaborator — who, for his part, told Madison Marquette’s Gary Mottola on the TEDx stage that “I’d known about JT for a long time…he’s a local hero.”

“As I shook his hand, it occurred to me that we needed to work together,” Feiles continued during the interview with Mottola. “I told him, your voice is so powerful, and it needs to share a powerful message.”

Thus did the 71-year old veteran find his newest collaborator, in a career that’s seen partnerships with Marc Ribler, and, most famously, the Big Man.

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A Stonesy-y Birthday, for Keith ‘n Keys

BobbyKeysGimme the Keys: Tenor sax ace (and longtime Rolling Stones lieutenant) Bobby Keys celebrates his 70th birthday — a milestone shared by none other than Keith Richards — with an appearance at the Count Basie Theatre’s FIFTY LICKS concert.

The first time that Marc Ribler assembled the All-Shore project known as The Fifty Licks Band, it was the eve of a pretty momentous occasion — the 50th anniversary of the debut gig, by a group then going under the name The Rollin’ Stones.

When the Billboard-charting songsmith, commercial jingle composer, and benefit-bash bandleader re-convenes his jukebox Justice League this Wednesday, it will be in honor of a milestone that might conceivably call for twenty more licks. December 18 not only marks the 70th birthday of the irrepressible Keith Richards, but a big Number 70 as well for a man who’s been a cornerstone of the band’s extended family since 1969 — tenor saxophone ace Bobby Keys.

The Texas-born Keys, who’s maintained his end of a forty-year “ax and sax” dialogue with partner (in music and, occasionally, mayhem) Richards, will be spending his special day at the Count Basie Theatre. He’ll be appearing with Ribler and company as the very special guest in an 8 pm event that producer Tony Pallagrosi sums up as “a much different experience than seeing a bar band do a bunch of Stones covers…this really is Stones music, played the way that the Stones play it.”

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