By Tom Baldino
Several months ago, I was approached by Jill Merriman, VP of the Red Bank Woman’s Club, about creating a fundraising event. Since we have a long-standing relationship with them dating back nearly twenty years, hosting “Reckless Steamy Nights” and more recently the “Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic” in their home, The Anthony Reckless Estate, I immediately agreed.
Now I had to find a venue and musicians willing to donate their time and talents to support this willing cause. Board member John Dammacco said he could line up Salty’s Beach Bar which had hosted the IBC last month, and I would line up the acts for this all-afternoon event. Since we wanted to showcase both jazz and blues with bands fronted by women, I asked Jo Wymer, Sharon Lasher and Audra Mariel. I filled the final slot with my good friend Ron Rauso’s trio, “The Burners.” Joseph Riggio made a wonderful poster and we were on our way. Sharon told me her regular bandmates were not available so she was trying to put together a female band, which I thought was a brilliant idea.
Then we got some terrible news, less than two weeks before the event, AJ Perna, Jo Wymer’s bass player, passed away unexpectedly. Understandably, she withdrew, and we were all in shock. A celebration of life will be held in memory of AJ at the Iron Plough Winery on November 26th. Fortunately I was able to get one of our recent member bands, The Outcrops, with lead singer/guitarist Cassidy Rain to fill in. Things were going well, other than the prediction of summer like temps, until the morning of the event when I heard from Audra Mariel that she woke up ill and would not be able to perform. Fortunately, Audra’s bandmates, Doug Clarke on guitar, and Gary Mazzaroppi on upright bass, did an opening instrumental set which was much appreciated by the folks on hand as well as myself. Songs like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time,” were a great way to begin the afternoon. Artist Charlie Meidhof came in tow with a full complement of his framed artwork, one piece which was auctioned off for the event, with Sharon Lasher being the high bidder.
Jill and her volunteers ran the 50/50, as Sharon’s followers began to fill the room. When her band took the stage, we could hardly believe it. Seven women and two men debuted as Ladies & The Tramps, and what a band it was. The band consisted of Sharon on vocals, world class women’s billiards champ Dawn Hopkins on bass and vocals, Kevin Hill filling in at the last minute for Mare D’ Tropea on guitar, Niki Arrowsmith on keyboards and vocals, Lynley Evans on vocals, Marissa Thomson on Djembe, Karen Lee Schwartz on Sax, flute and vocals, Joe Grillo on sax and Jeralyn Casale on drums. They kicked off their set with Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” and the four part harmonies were heavenly. They then tore into a terrific version of Junior Wells’ “Little by Little” with Sharon’s powerful vocals filling the room. They continued with a great set of songs that showcased the many talented musicians on stage and which came to a finish much too soon.
They were followed by The Burners, JSJBF member Ron Rauso’s tribute to Hammond B-3 great Charles Erland. With Ron on his vintage ES 330, Dan Kostelnik on the B-3 mk2, and Dave Sang on the drums, they wove a magical groove through an organ drenched hour long set that closed with a version of the Spiral Staircase hit, “More Today Than Yesterday,” which had the audience chanting “one more song.” Alas, we were on a schedule and they departed the stage to much applause.
Last up were The Outcrops, a young blues-based band that had played for us at Reckless Steamy Nights back in February and were gracious enough to make the trip down from Sussex County to fill in for Jo Wymer. For this trip, their original drummer, Sam Goldstein, joined Bryan Schroeder on guitar, Jason Casanovas on bass and the aforementioned Cassidy Rain. Most of the audience had not seen them before, and I heard plenty of positive comments as they progressed through their set list of original compositions sprinkled with some well- chosen covers. The biggest praise I heard was “they remind me of Tedeschi Trucks without the slide.” They finished their set to much applause and I told the crowd, “you have just listened to the future of this music.”
All in all it was a successful day. We heard some great music, raised some much-needed funds for the Woman’s Club and had a fun day. As I like to tell people, if you’re not having fun, then I’m not doing my job. A huge thank you goes out to board members John Dammacco and Gary Neuwirth who took care of the back line and managed the stage, while Joanne and I manned the door.