Count Basie Theatre announces 2018 Basie Summer Jazz Fest; Michael Franks, Lee Ritenour / Dave Grusin, Snarky Puppy, Esperanza Spalding + more on board
(RED BANK | FEB 26) The historic Count Basie Theatre, the state’s top-selling performing arts theater and the namesake of jazz great William J. “Count” Basie, has announced its second-ever Basie Summer Jazz Fest, starring Michael Franks, Lee Ritenour + Dave Grusin, Bob James Trio and Lizz Wright on Saturday, June 2, plus Snarky Puppy, Esperanza Spalding and Moonchild on Sunday, June 3.
Tickets for these performances, starting at $40, go on sale this Friday, March 2 at noon through theBASIE.org, phone charge at 732.842.9000 and the Basie box office, located onsite at 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank.
This year, the Basie Summer Jazz Fest lands at the onset of summer at the ‘Jersey shore. The lineup on Saturday, June 2nd will unfold in two timeframes; Lizz Wright and the Bob James Trio will perform between 4 – 6:30pm, while Lee Ritenour + Dave Grusin and Michael Franks will perform beginning at 8pm. Sunday’s lineup is a traditional three-act bill with a 6:30pm show time.
The Basie Summer Jazz Fest is sponsored by Citi, the Monmouth County Freeholders and The Asbury Park Press.
“The slogan that accompanies our jazz shows is ‘Jazz At The Basie… Where It Belongs,” said Adam Philipson, President / CEO, Count Basie Theatre. “And nothing belongs more than genre giants like Michael Franks, Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin, relative newcomers like Moonchild, and established new-era jazz artists like Snarky Puppy and Esperanza Spalding. This weekend demonstrates our commitment to the past, present and future of jazz, in a historic theater named for one of the all-time greats – Red Bank’s very own William James ‘Count’ Basie.”
“The Count Basie Theatre is one of the most vibrant and popular performance venues in Monmouth County and it is so aptly named for our hometown jazz pioneer, William “Count” Basie, Jr.,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry. “I have a deep appreciation for jazz music and welcome any opportunity to showcase the arts at this special place.”
Basie Summer Jazz Fest – The Artists
Over the languorous course of 33 years and 16 albums, Michael Franks has mesmerized an international legion of fans with his one-of-a-kind artistry. Seamlessly weaving lyrics of stunning sensuality, wit, reflection and literary eloquence over music that tastefully utilizes top shelf shadings of jazz, soul, pop, chamber and music from around the globe, Michael Franks the songwriter has set a bar in the music world that places him as nothing less than a statesman of song craft. His best known works include “Popsicle Toes,” “Monkey See-Monkey Do,” “The Lady Wants To Know,” “When the Cookie Jar is Empty,” “Tiger in the Rain,” “Rainy Night in Tokyo” and “Tell Me All About It” — covered by artists ranging from Diana Krall and Natalie Cole to Manhattan Transfer and the Carpenters. As if that weren’t enough, Michael Franks the singer is gifted with a gentle, deliciously expressive voice – identifiable from note one.
Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin
Lee Ritenour has maintained a delicate balance between the individual creative vision and the group dynamic since the beginning of his career. He did his first session work in the late ’60s with the Mamas and the Papas, who dubbed him “Captain Fingers” for demonstrating incredible dexterity while still in his teens.
Since his early recordings in the 1970s, he has earned a Grammy® Award and 19 Grammy® nominations, numerous #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian SJ Awards, and a prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” Award from the University of Southern California. He has recorded more than 40 albums that have yielded 35 chart songs. As a young guitarist, he put his combination of diverse musical styles and brilliant technical chops to work on more than 3,000 sessions with a broad spectrum of artists, and was a founding member of Fourplay, which is considered the most successful group in contemporary jazz.
Dave Grusin has been a highly successful performer, producer, composer, record label executive, arranger and bandleader. His piano playing ranges from mildly challenging to competent to routine, but he’s an accomplished film and television soundtrack composer. Grusin recorded with Benny Goodman in 1960, later playing electric keyboards with Gerry Mulligan and Lee Ritenour in the mid-70s. In 1978, Grusin and producer Larry Rosen established GRP Records, which developed into one of the top contemporary jazz and fusion companies. GRP was later taken over by Arista, then by MCA. Grusin continued recording through the ’80s and ’90s, doing numerous projects from fusion and pop to working with symphony orchestras. He’s also conducted the GRP big band, continued scoring such films as The Fabulous Baker Boys, and doing duet sessions with his brother Don, and Ritenour. Besides his numerous GRP releases, Grusin’s also recorded for Columbia, Sheffield Lab and Polygram.
Bob James Trio
The career of Bob James is long, varied and continues to evolve at every turn. From his first days in Marshall, Missouri, the music of Bob James has captivated audiences throughout the world.
Discovered by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, James recorded his first solo album, Bold Conceptions, that year for Mercury Records. 58 albums and innumerable awards would follow through five decades. He honed his skills working with Creed Taylor, working on albums for artists like Hank Crawford, Grover Washington, Jr, among others. While with CTI, James found great popular success overseeing significant hits for Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Maynard Ferguson, and Kenny Loggins.
While recording his album Grand Piano Canyon in 1990, James reunited with longtime friend, drummer Harvey Mason, Jr. It would also be the first time James would work with guitarist Lee Ritenour and bassist Nathan East. This would be the start of something beautiful, as these early sessions ignited a spark which would engulf the Jazz world as Fourplay.
The Bob James Trio is James, Michael Palazzolo on bass & Billy Kilson on drums.
Acclaimed vocalist Lizz Wright is a steward of American music, bringing brilliant color and vibrancy to singular original works and compositions by some of the greatest songwriters of our time. Wright has garnered widespread attention as one of the most venerable popular singers of her generation through the release of five critically acclaimed albums. From her breakout Verve debut album Salt to her latest album Grace on Concord Records, Wright lives life filled with beautiful possibilities centered on the power of song.
Through an inimitable voice that The New York Times touts as, “a smooth, dark alto possessed of qualities you might associate with barrel-aged bourbon or butter-soft leather,” Wright sings with a soaring reflection of the cultural fabric of America. She lies beneath the script of human history transcending social divides with an offer of love and deep sense of humanity. Her music accepts the beauty of reality and a collective experience of belonging. For the listener, Wright’s songs embody a tradition that allows us to always feel at home, wherever we might be physically or emotionally.
The last four years have brought dramatic changes for Snarky Puppy.
After a decade of relentless touring and recording in all but complete obscurity, the Texas-bred/New York-based quasi-collective suddenly found itself held up by the press and public as one of the major figures in the jazz world. But as the category names for all three of the band’s Grammy® awards would indicate (Best R&B Performance in 2014, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album in 2016 and 2017), Snarky Puppy isn’t exactly a jazz band. It’s not a fusion band, and it’s definitely not a jam band. It’s probably best to take Nate Chinen of the New York Times’ advice, as stated in an online discussion about the group, to “take them for what they are, rather than judge them for what they’re not.”
Snarky Puppy is a collective of sorts with as many as 25 members in regular rotation. They each maintain busy schedules as sidemen (with such artists as Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and D’Angelo), producers (for Kirk Franklin, David Crosby, and Salif Keïta), and solo artists (many of whom are on the band’s indie label, GroundUP Music). At its core, the band represents the convergence of both black and white American music culture with various accents from around the world. Japan, Argentina, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico all have representation in the group’s membership. But more than the cultural diversity of the individual players, the defining characteristic of Snarky Puppy’s music is the joy of performing together in the perpetual push to grow creatively.
The band was formed by bassist and primary composer Michael League in 2003, starting inconspicuously enough as a group of college friends at the University of North Texas’ Jazz Studies program. Three years later, a serendipitous intersection with the Dallas gospel and R&B community in Dallas transformed the music into something funkier, more direct, and more visceral. It was at this time that the group absorbed musicians like Robert “Sput” Searight (drums), Shaun Martin (keyboards), and Bobby Sparks (keyboards), and were heavily influenced by legendary keyboardist Bernard Wright (Miles Davis, Chaka Khan, Marcus Miller).
A four-time Grammy® award-winner, activist, and educator, Esperanza Spalding has, in the past decade of artistic journey, continually married genres, pushed boundaries and created groundbreaking work. Spalding is, as a musician, composer, vocalist and lyricist, expansive, iterative and shape-shifting, open and progressively innovative.
A voracious live performer, she is attentive in her studies towards what the process of playing live – whether sharing the stage with Herbie Hancock, Prince, or the LA Philharmonic – presents to the structure of a song. That channeled energy runs through her catalogue of dozens of collaborative and six solo albums.
On Spalding’s most recent project, Exposure, she set out to create an album from start to finish in 77 hours, while streaming the whole creative process live on Facebook. This demanding feat of musicianship was an artistic marathon that yielded not just a 10-song album, but a community of sleepless fans who watched every second.
Her groundbreaking livestream garnered 1.4 million views, over 4 million minutes of views and nearly 400,000 reactions, comments and shares along the way. Before Exposure ended, all 7,777 copies of the album (priced at $50) had sold out.
Exposure was a logical next step for this visionary artist. In March 2016, she released Emily’s D+Evolution, a daring tapestry of music, vibrant imagery, performance art and stage design. The album was an electrifying take on the power trio, adorned with rich vocal arrangements and touches of synthesizer.
Following an inspirational episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” that featured Yo-Yo Ma, Spalding pursued study of her first instrument, the violin, at a time when most children her age were just learning to read. At age five she was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon in her hometown of Portland. By the time she exited the program at 15 as a concertmaster, she was composing and playing acoustic bass professionally with local bands.
The latter became the instrument most central to her work: she joined her first band as a bassist and vocalist, Noise for Pretend, the same year she left Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Following the groups run, Spalding became one of the youngest bassists in the classical performance program at Portland State University. Spalding moved on to Berklee College of Music, and upon graduation at 20 became the prestigious school’s youngest-ever instructor.
Spalding was the laureate-invited performer at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and subsequent concert, when President Barack Obama won the Peace Prize in 2009. In addition to her Grammys®, she has been the recipient of such other prestigious awards as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Artist, the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for the Performing Arts, the Frida Kahlo Award for Innovative Creativity, and the ASCAP Foundation Jazz Vanguard Award.
In July 2017, Spalding was appointed Professor of the Practice of Music at Harvard University, where she will teach a range of courses in songwriting, arranging, improvisation and performance, while also bringing her commitment to music as a voice for social justice.
Moonchild’s candid style of soul and new-school jazz has propelled them onto a swirling, emotionally charged journey of the heart. Since 2014, the Los Angeles trio have dedicated their time and energy into honing dreamlike and ethereal compositions which explore the intricacies of relationships with emotional nuance. The band cites influences like D’Angelo, Hiatus Kaiyote and J. Most as playing a key part in expanding the group’s musical horizons.
Following two years after their widely-praised album Please Rewind, their latest album, Voyager, marks a new level of maturity in the band’s sound. Building on their trademark sound, the band brought in a harpist and string players to their usual line-up, enriching standout motifs; these range from the importance of making time for loved ones, to the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and missing someone, to the deep bonds shared between mother and child.
Since cementing themselves into the vibrant LA soul scene, Moonchild have released two albums and collaborated or toured with highly-respected names in the soul-jazz crowd including Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Leela James, The Internet (Odd Future’s Syd tha Kyd & Matt Martians) and more. Along the way, Moonchild have accumulated a host of iconic supporters from Robert Glasper and Laura Mvula to James Poyser, Jazzy Jeff, Jose James, 9th Wonder and Tyler, The Creator, who have all shown love for the band.