Fifteen years! Has it really been that long? August 3, 2005 was a very special night in Red Bank, New Jersey, and it was honestly one of the best evenings of my life. That was the night when Karen Smith of Montego Bay, Jamaica brought her enormous talent, transcendent spirit, and warm personality to the stage of the sparkling new Two River Theater. Now, after all this time, and with Karen’s permission, we are commemorating that special night by releasing the video of the entire concert. Grab a comfortable chair, get some popcorn and your favorite beverage, and check it out. I think you’ll find it an entertaining and uplifting experience, whether you were in the audience that night or not.
As we exited the theater after the concert, we heard several people say that was the best concert they had ever attended in Red Bank. That was an amazing compliment considering that Red Bank is frequented by so many great entertainers, and is the birthplace of the legendary Count Basie. As entertaining as the evening was, the concert was done for a cause. The Red Bank community had been working for years to improve the quality of education, and that night we brought the entire community together to celebrate our achievements and to raise funds for further efforts. One of the most inspiring aspects of the evening was that every segment of the community was represented, and everyone left even more committed to the success and well being of Red Bank students. I think it was not only the music but the overall spirit of the evening that made the event so special.
I met Karen Smith in the 1990s during one of my many vacation trips to Jamaica. Karen was a celebrated entertainer who performed for everyone from resort guests to the prime minister. She was my favorite Jamaican artist, and I was always struck by her combination of talent and warmth. She has a way of connecting with people that is genuine and inspiring and seems to emanate from the core of her being. When I and my team decided to produce a kind of “unity” concert in Red Bank, I could think of no one better than Karen to be our headliner. I asked, she said yes, and soon thereafter “Jamaica on the Navesink“ was a reality.
Karen brought her own band, but we also put together an outstanding group of local musicians to produce an opening act. My good friend and keyboard impresario Barbara King, the incredibly talented Vance Villastrigo, James Lafferty of the Jazz Lobsters, the vocal group Rain (Delores Holmes, Layonne Holmes, Debbie Vaughn), the great sax man Tommy Labella, and several more folks lent their skills to the effort. I was thrilled to headline the opening act.
It was a special show, a magical night, a wonderful feeling of community. We may not be able to fully recapture the feeling by watching the video, but we can remember. Feel free to click on the link below to watch the show. Rain kicks off the show at 00:50. The opening act with David Tarver and Rain starts at 10:08. The introduction of Karen Smith begins at 47:13.
Lots of pictures were taken the night of the concert, and most have never been published. If you attended the pre-concert reception, chances are good that your picture is included below. Go ahead and browse – and enjoy!