Charlie Wilson and King Reeves at the Greenwich Tavern Sunday, December 30

At 8:00 p, Sunday, December 30, The Greenwich Tavern will host an evening of music featuring two acts that are some of the best jazz musicians in the city. The opening act, the very talented jazz  and lovely April Alosio, has been around long enough to have an album out on vinyl (I know, because I own it), and the artists she’s worked with include the phenomenally gifted guitarist Fareed Haque. April has a fine voice that sounds equally at home with both bossa nova and jazz standards, and I look forward to catching up with her.

The headliners for the evening are the duet of King Reeves on vibes and Charlie Wilson on piano. In my mind the two of them together are the best jazz group in the city. In fact, I like King and Charlie even better as a duet than when they form two-fifths of a quintet, as they sometimes do. In the more scaled-down setting their sense of time is more elastic than it could ever be in a larger group setting. Also, you can tell that they push each other. If Reeves is that much more groove-oriented, when the situation warrants Charlie whips out some Filthy McNasty himself—and just about the time you think Charlie Wilson has out-razzledazzled  all competitors by deconstructing and reconstructing a melody in every possible way, Reeves comes back with something even wilder. Really there’s no need for a rhythm section, as these guys are gonna swing no matter what. Continue reading “Charlie Wilson and King Reeves at the Greenwich Tavern Sunday, December 30”

A New James Brown Biography

I recently finished RJ Smith’s The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, and the impression I came away with was that by the time JB’s first single came out every day of his life was action packed.

In fact, I would guess that some days contained so many plots and sub-plots an entire novel could be written about one of them.

Probably there are thousands of stories to tell, and what impresses me about The One is Smith’s ability to tie together so many tales and still craft an entertaining and highly readable book. The One clocks in at just shy of 400 pages, but so much is packed into those pages that, considering how much information it contains, you would expect it to be twice that length.

Much of the book is focused on Cincinnati, where James Brown recorded countless singles and albums for King Records, hung out, met people, made friends and enemies, and worked with local musicians.

My favorite part of the book is where Smith recounts how Bootsy Collins added something to the band’s chemistry that helped take James Brown’s music to the next level. What happened seemed to be a combination of serendipity, raw talent and the kind of immersion in music that people experience when they’re aware that they have a chance to break something open.

Speaking of serendipity, I should mention that RJ Smith, whose extensive writing creds include gigs with Village Voice and Spin, is now moving to the city where James Brown recorded for King Records. A prior resident of Detroit and LA, Smith was recently hired as an editor for Cincinnati Magazine. As a music geek, I’m excited that he’s moving here, especially at a time when recognition of our rich musical history seems to be growing.

Thomas Pynchon in Cincinnati?


I have some friends whose endeavors – be they artistic, commercial or a combination thereof – I’m about to publicize, but because readership tends to lag when eggnog get consumed and mistletoe talks I figured I would choose one of my own pieces to go under-read.

So here it is, folks, a slice of history, a blast from the past. In 1996 I read a couple short stories at a literary reading at York Street Cafe, back when Terri Ford presided over that superb series. At that point my goal in life was to write four-page short stories as opposed to the more open-ended and expansive fiction to which I am naturally drawn. I never quite achieved that goal, but I did whittle my stories down to reasonable lengths. After my York Street reading someone called me from City Beat to ask if she could run my Thomas Pynchon piece in City Beat in place of the literary news that she normally covered, and I said yes. Continue reading “Thomas Pynchon in Cincinnati?”

Want to Learn an Instrument? Try The Music Salon


Sean McGary, owner of the Music Salon, recently announced that The Music Salon recently moved to Silverton, next door to the DrumCenter of Cincinnati.  I’ll have more details soon, but in the interim I recommend calling the same number as before – 859.444.6231 – to look into music lessons.

The Music Salon / 859.444.6231

Do you want to learn how to play an instrument? If so, you should know about a new music studio that opened recently in Dayton, Kentucky, a mile down the road from Newport on the Levee.

The Music Salon teaches both beginners as well as musicians who know a few things but are eager to advance to the next level. One-on-one private lessons are offered for guitar, bass, piano, vocals, drums, and most brass and reed instruments.

Along with boasting a long track record of performing and recording in a wide variety of musical settings, the owner of The Music Salon also has great pedigree, as you might guess from his last name. Sean McGary is the son of Jimmy McGary, a tenor saxophonist who was one of Cincinnati’s best jazz musicians ever.

Understandably, Sean got the musician bug at an early age, and he’s been involved in a wide variety of noteworthy projects, including a lengthy stay with Freekbass. As a member of Freekbass, he recorded with Bootsy Collins, Catfish Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Buckethead. Continue reading “Want to Learn an Instrument? Try The Music Salon”

A Nice Rendition of a Classic Christmas Carol

This blog entry is quite simple: it consists of one song that I would like you to hear. It is performed by a friend of mine, Jeff King. He’s playing, on mandolin, an old Christmas carol, “Go Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”

Before he moved off to rural pastures Jeff was quite active musically in Cincinnati. During its glory days he played Friday afternoons at Sudsy Malone’s, and he also was also a frequent performer at Murphy’s— and, well, probably twenty other places. Among the artists he opened for at Bogart’s were Leo Kottke, America and John Prine.

Because of Jeff’s amazing technical ability on instruments plus his vast knowledge of musical theory, fellow musicians had a great deal of respect for him and were eager to learn from him. One example: Rob Hamrick, who at that time sang for Sleep Theater and is now with Tone Farmer, took lessons from Jeff, and if you’ve heard Tone Farmer—a band with a rich harmonic palette and sophisticated songcraft—you can see why Rob might have sought out Jeff as a teacher.

So who did Jeff King study under? More than any other musician, Michael Hedges had a deep and lasting influence on Jeff. Every time Hedges would play Bogart’s a wide-eyed Jeff King would, the next week, play me tapes he surreptitiously recorded at the show. Hedges had a penchant for bizarre tunings on acoustic guitar, and Jeff King had a penchant for hitting rewind and play over and over again on his bootleg cassette tapes until he figured out what the hell Hedges was doing. After Jeff began incorporating Hedges songs into his setlists, he led many folks from around the area to discover the extremely innovative guitarist.

Michael Hedges and Jeff King ending up becoming friends. One weekend Jeff and some buddies hung out with Hedges, and interestingly, there was no shop talk—no questions about what strings he used or any of that business. Surely that indicates that Hedges like Jeff’s company—a break from the business.

Every year Jeff King sends a video of his version of a Christmas carol for his buddies, and they’re always excellent, but this one stood out for me. Is there a whiff (or more than a whiff) of Michael Hedges in this video even though the performance is on mandolin rather than guitar? Definitely. And there’s also a solid arrangement that really brings out the mysterious melody that makes this Christmas carol so memorable.


Ed Kluska’s New Book

Remember New World Bookshop? A small, privately-owned bookstore in the heart of the Gaslight District, that was an integral part of the neighborhood for thirty-three years? New World was owned by Ed Kluska, who along with running a bookstore offered astrological readings, taught meditation, and helped develop the local New Age community.

The bookstore is no longer, but everything else Ed Kluska did before  it closed he continues to do from his home in Clifton – and that includes writing. This week Ed published a book entitled Mayan Calendar Ends, Fiscal Cliff Begins: There’s Hope for 2013.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Ed does not think the world is going to end on December 21. Okay, I’ll say just a little bit more: he does, however, see evidence that something significant is happening, and we should know about it.

If you’re interested in Ed’s new book, you can call him at 513.861.6100 to arrange a payment, or you can simply mail him $18 ($15 plus $3 postage). The mailing address: Ed Kluska / 545 Ludlow Ave. / Cincinnati, OH / 45220.

I should also mention that, along with publishing a website, Ed writes a newsletter that you can subscribe to. To do so, visit his website at

And now to editorialize, briefly: this is an exciting event. New World Bookshop helped make the Gaslight District such a unique and desirable neighborhood. New World’s spirit lives on in the work Ed has done since then and in his new book. I’m sure that many people reading this blog entry will have fond memories of that store, and you should be aware that Ed is available for consultations on relationships, children, business, etc. (check his website for more information).

At the Esquire, Care Package Collection for Our Troops This Sunday


This Sunday promises to be a big day at the Esquire Theatre. As part of Cincinnati’s newest holiday tradition, the Second Annual Interactive White Christmas event will be taking place. Both screenings of the classic movie White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney have already sold out, but you can still celebrate the spirit of Christmas by showing some love for military personnel currently assigned overseas.

To go along with their White Christmas theme, the Esquire Theatre is working with the Yellow Ribbon Support Center to collect items and send care packages to our troops. If you’d like to help, you’re welcome to bring cards, letters and much-appreciated items for Active Duty Military Personnel this Sunday, December 16, from 12:30 pm to 9 pm.

The items to donate include: Continue reading “At the Esquire, Care Package Collection for Our Troops This Sunday”

Live Footage of the Heartless Bastards at the Northside Tavern




Three years ago the Heartless Bastards returned to Cincinnati to play a packed house at the Northside Tavern. Somehow I managed to wedge myself into the middle of the crowd, drink beer, and shoot some footage.

It was at the third task that I was perhaps least accomplished, as people were bumping into me every second or two, but I filmed some of the show and then created a youtube page devoted to that performance.

Although my camera work that evening was less than perfect, I had the good fortune of filming an exciting live band – so it feels good to finally post the footage I took that evening of the Heartless Bastards in their second incarnation, before the second guitarist was added. Here’s the Heartless Bastards performing “Done Got Old.”

You might also want to check out some of my other videos on that same youtube page, cincinnatishines, which is all footage I shot. It includes a couple other songs from the Heartless Bastards show, plus other locally-shot footage of performances by Radiohead, William Hooker with Ed Ricart, Jane Bunnett with Candido, Zamuto, Sao Paulo Underground, Carmon DeLeone, uKanDanZm, A Juliet Bender, Donald Fagen, and Santigold.

*** A quick note to subscribe to this website if you’d like to hear about things going on in Cincinnati, and especially in the core of the city (Clifton, Over the Rhine, Northside, downtown, etc.). You can do so on the right side of this webpage. Also, feel free to call me at 513.281.3266 or email me at to tell me about events that you would like publicized; I do it all the time.

Pictures of the Holidays on Ludlow

Santa Claus at Holidays on LudlowI strolled up to Ludlow Avenue last night and snapped some photos of Holidays on Ludlow, and this morning I got up and went into the dark room to look at all the negatives and decide which pictures I should develop and, more importantly, which was the best picture of all.

Sometimes that’s a tough decision because nothing really stands out, but this time we have a clear winner.

Let’s start, though, with the also-rans. Here’s a photo of the wall inside Brown’s Tours and Travels, where travel agent Suzanne Sanchez helps people plan their dream vacation, including destination weddings, which are all the rage these days. Her office is located at 3410 Ormond Ave; her phone number is 513.731.3369; and her email address is   This rather psychedelic photo is a combination of Christmas lights and brochures for vacation packages to exotic places (like Norway, for instance):

Next, the free carriage rides:

And the Sinfonian Brass Ensemble playing Christmas carols:

That was near the Clifton Plaza, where I chatted with Rob Taylor from Gaslight Property; they were collecting canned good donations that will be given to FOCAS Ministry’s Foodshare program. The collection was very successful that evening, but it’s not over:  Gaslight Property will collect canned good donations through the New Year at their office at 311 Howell Avenue in Clifton. As I continued to walk, I saw Lagniappe performing in front of what will soon be our newly revived grocery store (which would be good, because then I won’t be hungry all the time):

There was a big crowd inside Ludlow Wines:

There was some serious hat-making taking place at Aquarius Star, where I took this photograph of hatmakers hard at work:

While I was there I met Missy Miller, who’s the Program Coordinator for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. In that role she’s passed along information to me about upcoming events at the Center that we’ve posted on the website, so we had met in cyberspace – but it was good to meet her in person and witness the  hatmaker handiwork:

Those were some of my favorite pictures, but now all that’s left are the very, very best photographs of the evening. Winner of the runner-up prize is this pic of Christopher Pazowski in a photo-op with none other than Santa Claus:

And finally the winner (and by a landslide). While at Aquarius Star I of course asked permission for all the photos I took. “Will she let me take her picture?” I asked an adult as both of us faced a child who was wearing one of the recently-made hats. “Her? She’s a ham,” the adult said. The child was happy to have her picture taken, and it shows. (If someone knows her name, can you email me at; I’d like to give her credit.)


Five Reasons to Check Out Holidays on Ludlow This Friday

A celebration of Christmas in the heart of the Gaslight District, Holidays on Ludlow returns to Ludlow Ave this Friday, December 7 from 6-9 p.m.  There will be free parking in the Merchant Lot on Howell Ave. after 5 pm. Here are (drum roll, please) the top five reasons to check out Holidays on Ludlow:

  • It’s a great way to get in the Christmas spirit. There will be free carriage rides with luminaria along the route, caroling courtesy of the Clifton-Fairview German Language Choir, and free pictures with Santa Claus.
  • This is an event for both children and adults. “We’ll have bobbing for apples, tea parties, and Kiddie Cocoas for the little ones,” Sitwells wrote on their Facebook page. “No worries, parents, we’ve got our delicious Spiked Mulled Cider for you!”
  • It’s a chance to do some shopping. On the off-chance that you haven’t finished all your Christmas shopping, this is an opportunity to support lots of local business within walking distance of each other.
  • Arts and crafts. Holidays on Ludlow will include holiday hat making at Aquarius Star plus a snowflake making contest.
  • It’s a chance to help the needy. Gaslight Property will once again be hosting a canned food drive on the Plaza during the event. Please bring your cans and other non-perishables and be generous with our less fortunate neighbors during the holidays.