New Jersey Stage

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Asbury Park Celebrates New Harmonies Exhibit With Show At The Paramount

By Colie Brice

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Last Sunday, 3/13/11 I attended The Smithsonian's New Harmonies: Celebrating Asbury Park Concert at the Paramount Theatre. In keeping with the theme of the Smithsonian's exhibition, local representatives of distinctly American musical genres were supposed to perform on the Paramount stage.  I arrived in time to see the formidable Steve Forbert do a few of his strong and capable tunes, yet I was utterly dismayed by the lack of a local, homegrown folk smith.  Where the hell was Rick Barry, Micheal Brett, George Wirth, or Keith Monacchio for God's sake?  Did anyone planning this event even know who's who on the local scene?  No offense to the great Steve Forbert, but this was a squandered opportunity to showcase any number of terrific local songwriters to a receptive audience of true Jersey Shore music fans.  Asbury Park also has a huge population of great female musical artists and songwriters, where were they?

Next up was drummer/jazz impresario Chico Rouse's band with the absolutely incredible Jeff Levine on organ,  my apologies, but I didn't catch the guitar player's name or sax player's name). The quartet grooved with the smooth ease of pros and sounded great due to exemplary efforts of Jason Dermer of Asbury Audio - crystal clear highs, toned lows, and articulate mids at a reasonable volume ensured luxurious sonic enjoyment.

This was followed by Nicky Addeo a popular regional R&B singer who was backed up Steel Mill featuring original E Street Band drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez.  Mr. Addeo reverently led a doo-wop reunion featuring former members of Asbury groups such as the Broadways and the Uniques.  It was quite moving to see some of these old school cats get some of the props they've long deserved.  Highlights included Bobby Thomas, who sang with the Asbury group the Vibranaires covering the Orioles' "Crying in the Chapel." Billy Brown of Ray, Goodman and Brown fame casually riffed on a snippet of "Love on a Two-Way Street", before everyone, including Lopez on bass vocals, came together for a rousing rendition of "Gloria."

Steel Mill was up next and Vini's soaring tenor vocals and exuberant performance had the aura of a Lion in command of his pride.  Fellow band mate and S.O.A.P. (Sounds of Asbury Park) honoree Steven Lusardi demonstrated tasteful restraint, sheer poise, and smoothed it all out with his utterly tasty, dynamic B3 work (yes I'm biased).  Adam Glenn (additional keyboards), Ed Piersanti (bass) and John Galella (guitar) all made fierce and indelible contributions as well.  Steel Mill plays with the aggression and conviction of a young band on a do or die mission and I suspect anything led by Vini will never play with anything less than full force, Rocky I type power and ambition.

The night culminated with a full stage packed with jamming Asbury Park musicians.  A classic Asbury Park rock 'n roll spectacle!

There he was.. Southside Johnny, the Godfather, holding court and belting away on vox and harp. Then there was fellow Juke and touring Bon Jovi member Bobby Bandiera, exchanging leads with local guitar heroes Sonny Kenn, Billy Hector, and younger gun Matt O'Ree.  What was amazing was the level of professional dynamics among such an arsenal of guitarists.  All greats in their own right.  Max Weinberg beat the hell out of the kit with his trademark precision and notoriously bombastic energy.  Jeff Levine's organ playing gave a revivalist tinge to the overall mix.  I didn't catch who the bass player was, but the man held it down. Not an easy task with such a full stage.  One nice thing to see was local blues guru and living legend Kenny "Stringbean" Sorensen up there as well.  GRAMMY Museum Director, Rock & Roll historian, and long time Jersey music scene advocate Robert Santelli did a great job hosting the event throughout the evening and provided real informative context of the artists who were performing.  Bob's obviously a good dude.

All in all it was great to see the usual dignitaries prove it one more time, I just wish there had been more room on the bill for some of the current Asbury Park based musicians who deserve a chance to be heard in that setting.  The city is currently promoting its heritage with its "Where Music Lives" marketing campaign and indeed Asbury Park's musical legacy is a great one.  Yet there is a certain hypocrisy when simultaneously, places like Old Man Rafferty's, the Brick Wall, the Twisted Tree, and even artists in residence such as Geena find it increasingly difficult to practice or perform live music anywhere along Cookman Avenue.  Perhaps the slogan would better read - "Where the Music Lives Quietly In Permissible Places.."?  Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that the city is embracing and promoting its musical heritage more aggressively, I just think the folks organizing this effort are a bit out of touch with what's really going on.

Colie Brice is an active Asbury Park musician, scene promoter, and 25 year music industry veteran.