A variety of ingredients, all stirred-up with the beach as the backdrop and intoxicating — that was the music scene in New Jersey this past summer, almost over but maybe a few more warm breezes of sound before the end of the year. It all starts well before the students get out of school and family SUV’s invading the beach. In fact, it never ends with the venues and nightclubs that dot the Shore like fortresses against the winter chill.
A recent rainy night at The Saint, a smaller Asbury Park brother to the Stone Pony, dripped like a melting jello shot. Blues artists, locals like Pat Guadagno, and distant, Jon Dee Graham from the Texas border country, brought together audience and performers, a few of us reluctant to abandon flip-flops. The Saint is only two decades old, but within it reminds of heartbreaks you think you had gotten over. It’s not only about more established performers but also younger acts. My first trip to The Saint was several years earlier to see a young Staten Island band “Hollywood Hangover” with a dynamic front man, Walter Pehowich.
Brookdale Public Radio 90.5 The Night, one of the country’s few remaining public-supported and commercial-free stations, keeps Indy music flowing like a warm drink until it moves to its “Summer Stage” and the Beach in Belmar. Not all the acts conquered the Stage, but then others who may be overlooked surged upon the audience. This year it was Ben Fuller, Simone Felice, and 7Horse, who rose out of the sand to parlay a gritty, rock & roll that you could feel grinding between your toes.
Jersey Shore music is complemented by the surf as humidity bastes New Orleans and Mississippi Delta Blues. The common components are the venues and performers that are in daily combat with obscurity, winning on the day of the show with their audiences but too frequently forgotten the next morning. Record contracts may be the hope but success is defined by an immersed audience, and perhaps a slightly larger fan base after their one-night stand. As with Brookdale Radio, the front man for alternative rock on the Shore, the changing business model offers few options to both the highly talented and the entertainingly persistent. Long Branch’s Celtic Cottage frequently lives up to its Irish ambiance but also offers a regular stage for such rising talents as Steve Reilly, accompanying guitarist Steve DeVito, and the “Rain Band.” (See: Steve Reilly in his original “Skeleton Trees”
“Tim, Andy, & Joe” bring guitar cohesion to the far-flung 9th Avenue Pier that has advanced as a sunset refuge overlooking Shark River. The Dublin House, Taste, and Jamian’s in Red Bank offer unique venues that bring together demographically some of the most diverse audiences. Monday night is not only a night for football, wings, and beer, but Pat Guadagno at Jamian’s and one of the best covers of “I Am a Patriot” and the “Sultans of Swing” with amazing acoustic guitar. Back in Asbury Park, when not playing for the UN’s “Global Citizen” platform, Sandy Mack puts together some of the most compelling jam sessions from such diverse venues as upscale McLoone’s Supper Club to the “doggie bar” defined Wonder Bar, the two venues separated by the width of a street on the still evolving Boardwalk.
If this blog sounds as a celebration or roll call of Jersey Shore music, at least in part it is. “Jersey Strong” became the slogan after the devastation following Hurricane Sandy, (See: Linked by Tragedy of Disaster – Revived by Music ) but neither sympathy nor obstinance could define recovery without a compilation and lineup that is Jersey Song. Jersey summer song is defined by the music festival, particularly the three venues — Asbury Park, Long Branch, and Point Pleasant — and dates of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Festival.
Refrain & Harmony – “Exit 0” “Exit 0”
It usually starts and ends at the southernmost tip of the Jersey Shore and the Garden State Parkway, the “Exit 0 International Jazz Festival” in Cape May. (“See: Where the Road Ends, the Music Begins ) Every May the town lives up to its celebration of the return, before the Cape’s population swells from the 3 or 4 thousand full-timers to the hundreds of thousands that feed the mood of summer.
Jazz & the Power of Seduction
Exit 0 International Jazz Festival Executive Producer, Michael Kline, is a former New Orleans resident, jazz radio host, and music-artist agent. He describes jazz, America’s original art form, as speaking “a universal language that has the power to transcend, to rejuvenate, to cleanse, to energize, and to unite.”
This Spring all my senses were titillated in the cultural tourism mecca that is Cape May. The Festival was a three-day magical cocktail of world-class musicians, a variety of musical genres, regional epicurean delights, and a vive d’esprit infused by a seductive ocean breeze permeating the atmosphere.
I’m not a synesthete and able to see or taste music like my husband, Ambassador Mo Sacirbey, and friend and renowned author, Maureen Seaberg, who together with her husband accompanied us to the Festival and stay at the Victorian Motel. However, all my senses blended to propel Maureen and me onto the stage of Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers. It was the headliner’s grand finale, “A Night in New Orleans,” and Kermit did request a dance card from us — “all ladies on stage.” As George Gershwin said: “Life is a lot like jazz — it’s better when you improvise.” We did, also joining the revelry of a New Orleans second-number.
This Round Over, but Last Call Will be in November
A concoction of everything seductive: Jazz – Latin, & New Orleans; Blues – Soul – R&B – Rock- Hip Hop – Funk – Gospel – and Reggae is on the bill of fare November 7-9 at the autumn International Jazz Event. Meet Your Music and award-winning, critically acclaimed artists, rising nouveau artists, and local favorites. Join Headliners who perform at Cape May Convention Hall, and sample over 30 sets of music in intimate club venues in this veritable jazz village.
Be Seduced and Fall in Love with the Four Headliners
The Cookers – This jazz supergroup, a melting pot of melodic, harmonic sophistication, (sax, trumpet, piano, and drums) sets the mood for an evening of mesmerizing expectation. Jon Batiste & Stay Human – Compelling, electric young artist, who hails from a New Orleans musical family, is a cast frequent on HBO’s Treme, whose pure stamina, accessibility, and appreciation in live performance just may have you join in a “second line.” Rene Marie: “Vulnerability and Sensuality, they’re sides of the same coin.” – A top vocalist whose sultry, sensuous voice works like a magnet to draw you into the mood. Monty Alexander & the Harlem-Kingston Express – Influenced by Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, he also accompanied Jersey idol Frank Sinatra at “Jilly’s” a New York City club in 1963. This legendary pianist provides a blending chemistry of Jamaican reggae and North American jazz and will be a sensational climax to the evening.
The drink, “Sex on the Beach” has a few variations, from the International Bartenders Official Association version to the one favored by Hard Rock Cafe. Regardless of preference, the combinations as well as variety define Shore Music, and frequently new ingredients and blends thrown in on the spur. Still, there is a tradition and style that flows like a current and a warm Summer breeze. — Reminisce Frank Sinatra, New Jersey’s own, and his rendition of “Summer Wind.”
PERSONAL SUMMER PHOTO ALBUM:
Celebrating with Kermit Ruffins – Cape May &
Summer Stage of Songwriters on the Beach – Belmar