As the audience filed out of the auditorium at the end of South Orange Junior High School's annual talent show circa 1966, it was regaled with a thunderous fusillade from a drum kit pounded by a bespectacled kid whose mighty beats would one day resound in arenas and crackle on late-night TV. To the distraction of a generation of New Jersey teachers, Max Weinberg honed his chops on a succession of desktops, from Mrs. Chase's Marshall School classroom to Mr. Willard's seventh-grade history class and on through Columbia High School. The rest is far better documented: Weinberg joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band before Born to Run (after answering an ad in the Village Voice) and in the decades since defined the Mighty Max signature sound with a distinctive combination of power and finesse. When Conan O'Brien entered the late-night TV talk-show scrum, the Max Weinberg 7 was the house band, carrying over to Conan's ill-fated Tonight Show run. Whether Weinberg will be there when Conan's new show debuts on TBS in the fall has been the subject of wild and woolly speculation. In the meantime, Weinberg has put together a classic, horn-heavy 15-piece big band (without a vocalist, incidentally) to tackle the repertoire of a couple of other Jersey kids, Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, as well as the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinson, and drum icons Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. The word is there'll also be swing arrangements of Beatles tunes and a few Springsteen nuggets.
Wed., July 14, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m., 2010