Smithsonian Roots Music exhibit coming to Asbury Park, NJ
Mention Asbury Park, NJ and most music fans will think of the debut Bruce Springsteen album, “Greetings from Asbury Park”. However, Asbury’s diverse musical heritage dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when the city was in its heyday as a resort town and summer playground for well-heeled New Yorkers. Former John Phillip Sousa band trombone soloist, Arthur Pryor, brought his orchestra to the Casino in 1904 and began a successful 17 year residency, performing his many original compositions and envisioning Asbury Park as the musical center of America, possibly of the world.
My own opinion about Asbury Park’s place in the creative universe is a bit more measured, but still enthusiastic. I’d like to share a little bit more of our musical history and to tell the No Depression community about an exciting event happening in our city this year.
Throughout the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s Asbury Park’s jazz scene flourished as clubs along Springwood Avenue hosted the biggest names in swing: Billie Holliday, Lionel Hampton, and local hero Count Basie. Bands would often stop over between New York and Atlantic City or parts south, and the countless after hours jam sessions that occurred must certainly have helped form the fabric from which bebop was woven.
When rock and roll came along there were plenty of young and hungry guitar slingers prowling clubs like The Upstage and the world-famous The Stone Pony. Among them were Southside Johnny Lyon, Little Steven Van Zandt, and of course, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
More recently, the city has been the center of homegrown punk, hardcore, and skateboarding scenes (a short-lived skate park at the Casino in the late 90’s has become legendary). The last decade has yielded an exceptional crop of singer-songwriters, most notably two-time John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner Rick Barry and major-label rocker Nicole Atkins.
This year, Asbury Park has been selected to host the Smithsonian Institution Museum on Main Street traveling exhibition, “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music”. The main beat of the exhibition is the on-going cultural process that has made America the birthplace of more music than any place on earth. The exhibition provides a fascinating and inspiring listen to the American story of multi-cultural exchange, and will be housed at the Asbury Park Public Library from March 12 – April 17 2011.
In honor of this event, the city has declared 2011 to be Asbury Park Musical Heritage Year. Many special musical events are being planned for the exhibit’s duration and throughout the year. More information and a complete calendar can be found on the Asbury Park Music 2011 site.
I hope that ND readers who live in our area will visit the exhibit and take some time to appreciate the current creative boom that’s happening in Asbury. Feel free to send me a PM if you have any questions or comments.