December 12th 2021 – By Tom Baldino
After a one-year hiatus, the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation resumed our annual Holiday Party, celebrating 34 years, in front of a sold out crowd at McCloone’s Supper Club on the famed Asbury Park boardwalk. The event kicked off with opening remarks by President Tom Baldino, followed by a wonderful set of tunes by one of the shining stars of the Mark LaRochelle Youth open Mic, Carlotta Schmidt. Her interpretations of songs like Leon Russell’s “Masquerade” and the Lennon/McCartney composition “In My Life” showed a vocal maturity far beyond her 14 years. The two closing numbers, “Silver Bells” and “Jingle Bell Rock” got great audience participation and put everyone in a holiday spirit.
Jonny B & the Blues Blazers musical revue was scheduled to headline the Long Branch Jazz & Blues Festival in August, but Mother Nature had other plans, and for the second year running the Festival was postponed. When we knew the Holiday Party was going to be a reality, he was the first person contacted. While the stage at McCloone’s is not nearly the size of the Great Lawn, Jon was able to get a twelve-piece band on it, and what a band it was! The core members of the Blazers, Nat Seely on drums, Moby Medina on bass, Karlus Trap on guitar, and Jon Barone on harp and vocals were joined by Ryan Gregg on keyboards, Gary Oleyar on violin, Mary McCrink and Deanna Jividen on vocals, Tom Pascale on sax, and Kathy Cannizzaro on trumpet. In addition, JT Bowen of Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers and Peter Baron from the band Mountain brought the show to another level! During two one-hour plus long sets, we heard everything from originals like “Stumble & Fall” to the Stones “Tumblin’ Dice” and “Happy”. Mary McCrink, a member of Tim McCloone’s Shirleys, shined on “Blind Eyes” and “Turn Up the Heat”. When Mary and Deanna teamed up on “Tell Mama,” the room was rocking. Peter Baron surprised the crowd with a terrific version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” and if you closed your eyes you would have thought the late Leslie West was in the room doing “Theme From An Imaginary Western” and “Mississippi Queen”. Karlus Trap chipped in with some great fret work and singing on the band’s rendition of “Run, Run Rudolph,” a Holiday staple made famous by Chuck Berry. JT’s unmistakable vocals on the Bruce Springstein penned “Savin Up” and the classic Sam & Dave gem “Soul Man” were followed by Koko Taylor’s “Let the Juke Joint Jump” and his always pleasing closer, “Mustang Sally”. Kudos to Jon for putting this great show together, adding his signature harp licks and vocals where needed. It was a show that those who were there will be talking about for days and weeks to come.
During the second break, the hard working Board of the JSJBF was introduced by President Tom Baldino and a round of applause was given to Chris Zemla chair of Community Outreach; Treasurer Emil Katterman; original Board member, Richard Skelly; Technology Committee Chair, John Fernandez; Co-Chairs of the marketing Committee, Charlie Wuth & Gary Neuwirth; Joseph Riggio, who runs the Mark LaRochelle Youth Jam. and Marketing/Promotions Co-Chairs Wayne Kessler & John Dammacco. Unfortunately, Vice President Dennis Eschbach was unable to attend as he is still battling cancer. A special mention was given to our Foundation Manager, Doris Lazur, as well as outgoing Board members Joe Hughes and Jim Murphy. We also thanked Gene Iadanza who chaired our IBC Committee for many years.
We then picked the winners of the holiday basket which was donated by Juel Kern and Jim Murphy; they were members Janet & Bob Musso. Janet is a past judge of our local IBC and will be accompanying this year’s representatives, the band Shadetree Mechanics, some of whom were in attendance, andsolo James Dalton to Memphis this January. The winner of this years’ guitar, a Fender American Stratocaster, which was donated by former board member Joe Hughes and accompanying Crate G-40c amp with Bugera cabinet which were modified and donated by member Jon Kalfus, a Matawan resident, and paralegal and musician Peter Quilla. A pair of tickets to see Beth Hart at the Count Basie Theater that were donated by long-time members who we are sad to say are moving to North Carolina next month, Lou and Joan Acevedo, were auctioned off and won by Board member John Dammacco.
It was a wonderful night of music, friends and family. We are looking forward to our next big event at McCloones, Blues-A-Palooza on February 6, 2022.