We’re here in the beautiful Axelrod PAC auditorium in Deal Park, NJ, on this gorgeous August 24, 2017 evening anxiously waiting the start of tonight’s show starring Asbury Park’s very own “soul sensation,” Remember Jones, live with a 12-piece orchestra!
In the audience we spot Jacob, 11, a fifth grader from Scotch Plains. An aspiring actor who has performed in regional productions of Kinky Boots and who will soon appear in his first Off-Broadway production, Jacob tells us, “This is my third time seeing Remember Jones perform. My dad got me interested in him and his music.”
When asked what appeals to him most about Remember Jones, Jacob replies, “I have his first CD, Ladies and Gentlemen, Remember Jones, and I also have his newest EP, Tranquilizer, on my phone. I like the songs ‘Viola’ and ‘Let ’Em Look’ the best — I like their originality, and they’re bluesy — and I just I love how the music all morphs together.”
As a young showman himself, Jacob says about Jones, “I like when you see him perform live, Remember Jones always gets everybody into the show — you always want to know what’s coming next — and he’s really funny, too.”
A true fan, Jacob concludes by revealing, “I bought a Remember Jones poster tonight and I’m hoping to get it autographed so I can frame it and put it in my room!”
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With about 20 minutes remaining before the show begins, we make our way up the aisle where we catch up with Remember Jones’ guitarist, Zac Silva, a talented musician who studied at Boston’s venerable Berklee College of Music.
“The first time I played at the Axelrod was two years ago when Remember Jones did his Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen show here,” states Silva.
Going on to perform with the Remember Jones band for the next two years, Silva comments, “It’s just been awesome. We’ve done a couple of tours — we did Chicago and Milwaukee — and we just recorded our latest EP in Nashville. It’s been a lot of fun!”
And with respect to this evening’s concert, Silva adds, “Altogether, we’re a 13-piece band tonight, and I love playing with all of these musicians — they’re a great group of people to work with.”
We also catch up with Remember Jones’ gifted percussionist, AJ Merlino, currently a professor of music at Albright College in Reading, PA.
“Playing with Remember Jones is a unique experience,” states Merlino. “There is no one driving force. We all bring different perspectives to the table, so the music is a culmination of all of our personalities.”
Going on to acknowledge, “We collaboratively work together so the music is always evolving and changing,” Merlino suggests, “Its’ really something like a puzzle that we are putting together.”
And with respect to playing such a wide variety of music tonight at Axelrod PAC, Merlino concludes by stating, “There’s really something here for everyone.”
The lights start to fade and we make our way back to our seats just in time to see singer Bre Cade take the microphone and happily announce to the now-packed house filled with music lovers of all ages, “Ladies and gentlemen… Remember Jones!”
Looking sharp in matching red outfits, Remember Jones and his entourage — Mark Masefield and Roshane Karunaratne on keyboards, Zac Silva on guitar, Billy Vegas on bass, Andrew “Juice” Davis on drums, AJ Merlino on percussion, Joe Gullace on trumpet, Dennis Daley on saxophone, Ian Gray on trombone, and Bre Cade, Brielle Von Hugel and Sean Matthew Whiteford on background vocals — all take the stage, filling the Axelrod with their big, soulful sound on their opening number, “Introducing Jones.”
Moving on to a sparkling cover version of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Jones struts his stuff all over the stage, giving the audience 200% on every note.
In response, the crowd hoots and hollers while they applaud!
As the full sound of Jones and the band fills the auditorium with its intricate musical arrangements, the audience is treated to The Friends of Distinction’s “Grazing in the Grass,” the complex vocal harmony parts perfectly executed as the horns expertly groove out in front.
Everyone moves to the beat on stage as each musician adds his or her own flavor to this cornucopia of sound and motion.
A featured number tonight is NJ songwriter Arlan Feiles’ brilliant composition from Ladies and Gentlemen, Remember Jones, “Everybody Steals.” On this number, Jones steals the show with his emotional interpretation, singing up, down, and around the melody, pouring his soul into the song’s meaningful lyrics for all to see, hear, and feel.
A slow haunting version of the classic 60’s Bacharach/David tune “Walk On By” is creatively transformed, the staccato background punctuating Jones’ wailing melody as the band builds underneath to cheers from the crowd.
Inviting the audience to “Stand up and join the dance party!” Jones and the band launch into their latest single, “Tranquilizer,” from the EP of the same name.
Looking around, one can see 11-year-old Jacob dancing by his seat, starting the dance party as the rest of the crowd joins in by tapping their feet, nodding their heads, and waving their hands to the infectious beat.
Ironically, Jones and the band are anything but tranquilizing as they sing, “Shake your a** down to the grass,” much to the audience’s delight!
Another number from Ladies and Gentlemen… is Rick Barry’s “All of Your Mistakes Have Names.” On this clever number, Jones coolly relates the stories in the song during the verses and ratchets it up with the vocalists, groovin’ horns, and rockin’ rhythm section each time the catchy refrain rolls around.
Another treat on this number is band member Ian Gray’s cool trombone solo.
One of our favorite Remember Jones’ songs performed tonight is Lindsey Miller’s amazing “Miranda.”
With the sound of the organ introducing Joe Gullace’s potent trumpet solo, the bold and brassy sound of this piece fills the room as Jones relates his compelling story, his voice soaring with emotion at times, crying tenderly and softly, all the while showcasing his vocal and theatrical talents.
The interplay between Jones’ vocals and the musicians builds to a frenzy which — when it finally arrives at its conclusion — causes the audience to respond in a way which indicates that this song is clearly one of their favorite numbers of the evening.
Next, background vocalist Brielle Von Hugel is featured on an up-tempo rendition of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ Motown smash, “Dancing in the Streets.”
Then Bre Cade takes her turn in the spotlight as she performs an energetic version of Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”
On an irresistible new number from the Tranquilizer EP, “You Got That Somethin’” all three singers — Cade, Jones, and Von Hugel — give us that “somethin’” that only Remember Jones and his band can give. Singing and dancing together, trading solos and riffs, the trio eventually joins back in together on the tune’s hooky chorus, all to audience cheers.
Background vocalist Sean Matthew Whiteford is featured on a rollicking version of The Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout.” The horn players are upfront and dancing with the singers as Whiteford works it out with the crowd, shaking it up and dancing about.
One of our favorite cover tunes in tonight’s show is Remember Jones and the band’s soulful rendition of The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” a song which is as pertinent today as when it was originally recorded in 1971. Drummer Andrew “Juice” Davis and percussionist AJ Merlino keep the rhythm happening as the band pulsates and the singers move and groove to the soulful sound.
After making the audience so very happy with their version of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “You Made Me So Very Happy,” RJ and the band follow up with a soulful cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You,” the rich, full, and clear sound of Mark Masefield’s piano perfectly supporting Jones’ edgy vocal.
Moving on to Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright,” Masefield becomes one with the keys, playing with his entire body.
Then, much to the audience’s amazement, a lighting round of solos featuring Roshane Karanaratne on voice box-controlled synthesizer, Masefield on piano, Davis on drums, and Merlino on percussion takes place — all rotating turns in the spotlight as directed by Jones at breakneck speed!
Ultimately, they all come back home, the audience joyfully singing, “Yes, I’m feelin’ alright!” as the backup singers dance and Jones sings backup to the audience’s lead vocal!
Trading solos and jamming also permeates another Ladies and Gentlemen… number, “Let ’Em Look,” which is followed by a wonderful cover version of “My Tears Dry On Their Own.” The multifaceted band expertly performs this complex piece which combines Ashford and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to an original partner melody created by the late great Amy Winehouse.
Brielle Von Hugel is featured on Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” lights flashing and the music bursting with energy. Then, special guest artist singer/producer Richard Barone — creator of Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s, a recent CD which includes cool duet performances with such beloved guest artists as Dion and John Sebastian — takes the stage to perform with Jones.
What follows their duet is a pair of Dean Martin tunes — “Sway,” with its up-tempo Latin feel, and “For the Good Times,” where Masefield’s tasty organ playing deftly supports Jones’ unique vocal styling.
Rocking the house with Jones’, Andrew Clelland’s, and Keith McCarthy’s whimsical “When I Used to Do You,” the group segues into an electrifying rendition of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” the entire Remember Jones band rockin’ out on stage.
After announcing to the jacked-up crowd, “This kid sang the words along to all of the Remember Jones’ songs tonight,” Jones invites 11-year-old Jacob to join him on stage.
At first, Jacob seems a bit overwhelmed.
Within moments, however, Jones has him rockin’ out like a pro to cheers, claps, whistles, and a standing ovation!
Following a heartfelt encore of Tranquilizer’s “Why Don’t They Cry?” Jones’ soulful vocal gymnastics are featured as Silva’s guitar expertly plays all around him.
Afterwards, the audience remembers Jones with one last heartfelt ovation.
As the thoroughly-entertained crowd pours out of the auditorium and into the Axelrod lobby, we chat with several members of the audience who share their experiences regarding tonight’s concert by Remember Jones and his band.
Harold from Toms River comments, “You don’t get to see anything like this anymore — you never get to hear great old tunes played by a great new band. The level of talent here is unstoppable. This is my first time seeing them and I’m floored. I loved seeing this caliber of musicianship, and I was particularly amazed by their performance of ‘Miranda.”
Bruce from Monroe Township asserts, “This group is so original — so different. Remember Jones is real — he’s genuine. I have tremendous respect for the musicians in this band. And Remember Jones is a true gem of the Jersey Shore — there’s an energy that comes from him and his group — and it goes back and forth between the musicians and the audience making this show so great I could have stayed here and listened for two more hours.”
Rhea from Monroe Township agrees, noting, “Remember Jones is so inventive — and he’s 100% natural. He’s also a true performer — he never even took a break for a drink of water. I hope he goes very far!”
Carmen from Colts Neck adds, “Remember Jones was amazing. I look at him and I imagine all that’s going through his mind when he’s performing — it’s like a movie I can watch in my mind. Not to mention, the audience just loves him.”
Donna from Brick concurs, stating, “I’ve seen him perform before in Asbury Park. He’s totally energizing!” whereas Sandy from Brick reveals, “The caliber of the music is so great, and he makes you feel like you are a part of his family.”
Lastly, Kari from Brick discloses, “I actually went to high school with Remember Jones. I saw him perform back then in school — and, today, I still enjoy seeing him performing in different shows!”
In addition to audience members, we also get a chance to chat with a few more musicians who rocked the stage tonight with Remember Jones.
First we talk to expert drummer Andrew “Juice” Davis who discloses, “I’ve only been with the band for two to three weeks now, and it’s been amazing!” before going on to add, “It’s also great having a percussionist like AJ Merlino in the band — when we’re playing, it’s like we’re having a conversation!”
Next, we chat with top-notch vocalist Bre Cade, a long-time performer with Remember Jones, who discloses, “He and I are best friends — we met at the Count Basie Theatre twelve years ago doing a show together. We love to laugh together — we have so much fun — we even went on tour together.”
Adding, “It’s cool working with this group — the music is always evolving and changing,” Cade continues by acknowledging, “It challenges us, too — it makes us stronger and tighter as a group,” before noting, “And it’s great to see all the fans here tonight — it’s especially heartwarming to know we have fans of such a wide variety of ages.”
Lastly, we chat with Remember Jones himself who comments, “This is our third time performing at the Axelrod PAC. The first year we did Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and the second year we did a Motown review show, so this year, I thought about having a theme, but I was told, ‘Just do whatever you want.’ And both the pro and con of being told you can do whatever you want is really daunting!”
Going on to add, “My strength of putting on a show like this is making it flow, so I let the musicians worry about playing all the right notes and I keep the energy flowing,” Jones also discloses, “I always consider my audience a band member. No matter what the size of the audience — whether it’s ten people or a thousand people — they are part of the vibration. So, for me, the audience is always a part of the flow, they’re always a part of the sound, and they’re always part of our family!”
For more on Remember Jones — including information on recordings, future performances, and more, please go to rememberjones.com. To learn more about future programming at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC — including their upcoming production of Remember Jones starring in Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical from Nov. 4 through Nov. 19 — please click on axelrodartscenter.com.Photos by Love Imagery
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