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"Well the Real Thing is back in town/ Ask me if you wanna know the way to Coolsville," invites singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones in her song about that mythical burg. Audience members can take Jones up on her offer at her concert in the Prospect Park band shell on June 15, when the 50-year-old, flaxen-haired chanteuse kicks off the annual Celebrate Brooklyn performing arts series.

The outdoor concert, like all Celebrate Brooklyn performances, is free (with a $3 suggested admission), but pre-show gala ticket buyers get perks that include seats close to the stage where the author of "Chuck E’s in Love" will be crooning songs from her pop-jazz oeuvre.

A $300 gala ticket includes pre-show cocktails, dinner and dancing and VIP concert seats. The Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn membership program gives members early admission to the show at 6:45 pm and access, with gala guests, to the post-show party with Jones, who’s no doubt celebrating the impending release of her three-CD anthology, "Duchess of Coolsville," on June 28.

"By having an opening night gala that coincides with a concert, it’s a unique way for supporters to come together to see what they’re supporting," explained Celebrate Brooklyn Director and Producer Jack Walsh. "They come and actually get to experience one of our events. They get to see the public in the seats and on the grass, an audience in the thousands - especially this year with Rickie Lee Jones - rather than having the fundraiser in a hotel that has nothing to do with [our] program. Here it’s very connected to the meaning of the program."

Walsh said that two famous fans of "Celebrate Brooklyn," musicians John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, are expected to attend the gala and perform the ode they penned for the concert series. (A live recording of their song, taped at a previous performance at the band shell, can be downloaded from their Web site,

This year, Walsh said he is spreading the word to visitors who have enjoyed previous Celebrate Brooklyn events that now is the time to become a member.

"The Independence Community Foundation has given us a $25,000 challenge grant," said Walsh. "They’ll match every new and increased dollar we raise through our Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn program."

The funds raised through the membership program and benefit concerts help to defray the costs of the Celebrate Brooklyn series, which is celebrating its 27th anniversary of bringing free dance, music and movies to Prospect Park.

This year’s Celebrate Brooklyn line-up features artists from as far as Finland and South Africa as well as sounds from as close as the Mississippi Delta in its "American Roots Series." In addition to Jones, "American Roots" includes bluegrass living legend Del McCoury on June 30, country blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite on July 15 and others.

Among the highlights of his "Budweiser Latin Music Series" is the performance by Latin fusion clan Ozomatli on July 14, said Walsh.

"I went to the jazz festival in New Orleans, and out of the 40 bands I saw in three days, the best thing I saw was Ozomatli from Los Angeles," said Walsh. "Hands down, the best. They are amazingly energetic and lively, and the musicianship is first-rate. And they have a blast on stage. They are completely infectious and completely fun."

Walsh predicts that the June 23 performance by iconic South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela will be "one of the most compelling events in New York this summer."

"He went into exile and became a torchbearer for the anti-apartheid movement," said Walsh. "His performance is in itself an amazing show. But in the second half we’re partnering with the Public Art Fund to project the work of South African visual artist William Kentridge, who’s highly regarded and shown in museums around the world. His drawings, filmed in sequence that become moving animation, are scored by Philip Miller.

"[Masekela, Kentridge and Miller] are all coming from South Africa for the show."

Another hotly anticipated import is the Canadian triple bill on June 25, featuring three indie bands: New Pornographers, Stars and The Sadies.

On June 17, Celebrate Brooklyn is partnering with another respected music presenter, the JVC Jazz Festival, for the first time, said Walsh.

"It’s a fabulous triple bill and all three groups are trios," he said of Bad Plus, the Charlie Hunter Trio and the James Carter Organ Trio.

What is returning to Celebrate Brooklyn this year is the popular "Music & Movies Series" beginning with the "Hop-Fu: Prodigal Son" program on July 8. On that night, the audience will be treated to DJs IXL and Excess of Kolabz Crew performing their original score to Sammo Hung’s comic 1982 film, "Prodigal Son," which spoofs the kung-fu genre.

For this year’s edition of Celebrate Brooklyn, Walsh commissioned a new score from Adam Dorn, a.k.a. Mocean Worker, for the 1932 classic "Tarzan the Ape Man." Mocean Worker’s score will get its world premiere at the band shell on Aug. 7.

"Adam is doing very interesting work," said Walsh. "He’s a talented musician. He’ll perform in a pit configuration in a band [for this screening.]"

Other "Music & Movies" events include the Alloy Orchestra performing their score live to a screening of the 1925 silent film "Phantom of the Opera," starring Lon Cheney, on July 22, and a screening of "The Sound of Music" on July 29, projected in Cinemascope on the band shell’s 50-foot-wide, 22-feet-tall screen "as it was meant to be seen," assured Walsh.

Celebrate Brooklyn has a history of supporting artists and has commissioned film scores in past years from the Jazz Passengers and the BQE Project, recalled Walsh. He explained that the commissions allow the artists "an opportunity to do something on a large scale" and he hopes the commission’s premiere will in turn draw audiences to Celebrate Brooklyn "in droves."

"Because," said Walsh, "this is something they can’t do or see anywhere else."


The 2005 Celebrate Brooklyn music, dance, word and film series runs June 15 through Aug. 7 at the Prospect Park band shell in Park Slope. Tickets to the gala, prior to Rickie Lee Jones’ performance on June 15, are $300 and up. The gala tickets include cocktails, dinner and dancing, beginning at 5:30 pm, and reserved seats for the 8 pm concert. Enter at Prospect Park West and Ninth Street. Admission to all concerts is free, but a $3 donation is suggested. For the series’ schedule and more information, call (718) 855-7882 ext. 45 or visit All performances are rain or shine. Check the Web site before you go to confirm dates, times and performers.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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