How do we know it’s spring? Because the Clifton Plaza live music series is back in action. Hosted by the adjoining Aquarius Star’s Om Cafe, the series kicked off Friday, April 26, with the band Vinylraptor.
The series takes place every Friday and Saturday, and runs from April 26 to September 21. For right now the shows will run from 6pm to 9pm, but that will probably change from 7pm to 10pm fairly soon (we’ll let you know).
When I spoke today to Cat Harpen, an employee of Aquarius Star’s Om Cafe, she emphasized that these music events are free, family friendly and a great way to meet new people. “We need some fun on Ludlow,” she added. “It’s time to spruce things up!” Examples of “sprucing up” she gave included Compassionfest, yoga on the plaza, art displayed in the plaza, and a very diverse mix of music. “We also have weekly events happening inside of Aquarius Star’s Om Cafe, such as Lyrical Insurrection every Wednesday through June,” she added, “and musicians who play live music in the store during the week, such as Twig & Leaf.” Continue reading “Clifton Plaza Live Music Series Every Friday & Saturday”
For decades Jimmy McGary was the premier tenor saxophonist in Cincinnati. He passed away twenty years ago, but his music is still very much alive, and I’m happy to report that a new CD has been released that consists of a performance he recorded at the Hyatt back in the 1980s. (To purchase it, call Jimi’s son Sean McGary at 513. 708.2497.)
Recorded on August 29, 1986, Jimmy McGary: Live at the Sungarden Vol 1 consists of music McGary performed as part of the popular Jazz at the Hyatt series in the late 1980s. Any new release by the great tenor player would be welcome, but what adds something even more special to this release is the fact that Jimmy reunited with a drummer who, almost twenty years before the Sungarden gig, often played with Jimmy six nights a week, as a member of the Sound Museum.
And we’re not talking just any old drummer here. When the situations called for it, Grover Mooney was a highly colorful and melodic drummer, but when it came time to kick things up a notch, watch out. Grover was a member of the Sound Museum, which was the Jimmy McGary-led band that James Brown came to visit at New Dilly’s, after which many interesting things happened (you can read about that in the Cincinnati Magazine article I published this month). What all this means is that when they got together in 1986 the saxophonist and the drummer shared some common and very interesting history.
Grover was living in Boston at the time this CD was recorded, and he drove here with the pianist for the session, Pat Battstone, who also lived in Cinci before heading east. The bassist for the session was Ed Felson, currently one of the owners of the Blue Wisp, and someone whose discography includes his work on the Ran Blake Quartet masterpiece Short Life of Barbara Monk.
Technically bebop is about the most difficult music there is to play, but technique is only part of what makes a player memorable. Many of the best bop players had grittiness and a gutsiness to their playing, and those were qualities Jimmy McGary had in spades. Even people who weren’t typically drawn to jazz picked up on that, which helps explain why, during his long stint at Cory’s in the late 1980s, McGary played every weekend to a packed house full of fans who whooped it up so much you would have thought it was a blues concert. It wasn’t, but emotionally it had that same ability to hit you where you live even though by the end of his solos McGary could become very adventurous, including octave leaps with lots of honks and squeals, prompting my friend Greg Turner to elbow me and say, “There’s your boy David Murray.”
That same soulfulness that we heard at Cory’s also comes through on Live on the Sungarden. Sure, the Hyatt’s a fancy hotel, and there were probably some folks there that evening wearing fancy threads and drinking expensive cognac. It didn’t matter. When you listen to Jimmy play, you hear smoky nightclubs and you hear the street. The CD, which consists of standards by folks like Miles, Duke and Prez, strikes a nice balance between uptempo bop and ballads. The accompanying musicians are all top-notch, and that includes guest artists trumpeter Al Nori and pianist Ed Moss. Locally Jimmy was very, very popular when he was alive—unusually so for a jazz musician—and I encourage people to pass the word along on this one, as I’m sure the list of people who would love to have a copy is long. (Again, to purchase a copy, call Sean McGary at 513. 708.2497.)
Recently I’ve been emailing and chatting on the phone with the pianist for these sessions, Pat Battstone, who continues to play jazz in Boston. In part, I wanted to learn a little more about Grover Mooney, and I am going to be sharing some of Pat’s memories of Grover in future blog entries. Pat wrote some words on the Sungarden gig, and rather than encapsulate what he wrote, I’ll just turn the blog over to this very entertaining writer:
Spring 86- i’m sharing a 2nd floor of a duplex with Grover and his family. ( this is about the 5th time we are living in either the same or close quarters ). Im starting to play jazz after not playing for 8 yrs ( went to college, did the casting gig, studied classical pno ) .. I’ve started studying with Joanne Brackeen in NYC once every 3-4 weeks. The house situation allows us to play pretty much anytime either in his side or mine.( ive got 2 baby grands – a steinway on my side and a vose on his ) there is a family of junkies below me so they are laid back. upstairs, from me there is a low life, beer drinkin taxi driver who is dragging the scene.. I finally spook him out of the place ( an old wm s burroughs trick of putting on music that is very dissonant but can barely be heard. I think i used a Scriabin “mystic”chord and left it on a synth all day for weeks ) He leaves within a month. so there’s nooe upstairs. its like the old daze.. we have a session house!! and im getting my jazz chops back together. ( more on the sessions later )
Grover and I do some recording and it wasnt bad. I start hustlin gigs and send out tapes to cincy. I think Steve Schmidt and Phil DeGreg helped get me the contacts. The mgr at the Hyatt calls back and would like us in his lounge .. Grover and i are thinking of going to visit our mothers. So, we get dates at Hyatt and at CoCos.. Ed Felson has just moved from Boston to Cincy so he’ll be playing bass.
word is out and there is a buzz in cincy.. the Moon man Returns!! Nemo calls up and asks if there is anything he can do.. Sandy Suskind is also helping get a crowd going.. Moss is in the shadows but we all know he’ll appear and take over the piano ( we’re just not sure how ) .. McGary gets wind or this and goes to the Hyatt..
“Do you have any idea who is playing here next week?”
“Some piano player from boston and a drummer that came from here (duhh)”
“are you kidding me?? You dont have a fricken clue?? This man is a music school all in one person !! “
“Yea, no shit, and you are hiring me for that gig !!” — that was mcGarys way.. This gig’s for me ! that was it
McGary comes in when we are getting set up and tells us that he’ll be playing. “hope that is ok”.. shit !! im not the level of musician for this gig.. But mcGary had such a good nature, he made you do what you could.. and he never asked if you could play at a tempo, he just counted it off and you played it.
Moss makes his appearance near the end of the night and I give him the seat.. He, Grover and Jimmy had a long history of playing together so this was reunion time.
I brought a Teac reel2reel and a number of good ampex tapes. Night one the sound guy was very good and we got a lot of things recorded ( unfortunately, the tape ran out during moss’s solo ). Night 2 we played more adventurous but the sound guy was incompetant and didnt think much of turning the recorder on. so most of the tunes are missing beginnings and endings..
There is a lot of funny shit going on between songs. Jimmy used to tell stories or crack jokes between the tracks. I remember him doing a gig up here a few years later – at the end of the gig, the bass player says – when i get to be your age, I want to be like you !!
So Grover passes 5 years back and Shawn Marsh wonders if i have any tapes ( do you know Shawn?? Hes close friends with Cassandre Steep. He’s also grover’s 1/2 1/2 brother ) . He knows someone who can bake them.. ( whatever that means. ) Well that takes a while and i end up getting the tapes back without them being baked. Old Ampex tapes need to be put in a well regulated oven – so they are literally baked to get the glue and the particles set correctly, else you get a pile of brown dust at the bottom of your tape deck and that is the end of whatever was on it.
Theyve been sitting next to me for 4 yrs waiting to get baked. Last Aug.. Arthur Quitman bugged me about them. Felson didnt even remember doing the gig, but he said he’d kick in a few $$ if i were to try to do something. So, I found a baker, and he did good!! there’s no hiss between cuts.. I used audacity to get the edit points and went to my friend who did the mastering for the other CDs . that took 4 hrs and we had a CD’able copy. Artwork was next and got a good price, then it was off to diskmakers and the result is what’s in your hand.
Prolly the best we could have done wrt the sound and more than adequate grapics. ( Turns out graphics are what costs on a cd – it aint the music – its the printign costs . )
So.. there’s a long winded account of the odessey.. some good ole Jimmy mcGary stories. and a little production history.
PLEASE NOTE: I HAD THE WRONG DATE FOR THE ISHWAT SHOW, IT’S NEXT MONTH, SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION
This Friday 4/19On Friday, May 17 the hip-hop band iswhat?! will have an album release party at MOTRPub. The new release is called things that go bump in the dark, and it is available on both CD and vinyl. It should be a fun night, and a chance to show some support for a band that’s been getting attention around the globe. In fact, I’m guessing that it’s because iswhat?! is so busy touring that this album release party didn’t happen a little sooner. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about the album, and here’s what I wrote:
things that go bump in the darkis the new full-length release by Cincinnati’s iswhat?!, a hip-hop band that has toured the US and Europe and performed with major jazz artists, among them Archie Shepp, Oliver Lake and Hamid Drake. It’s a fine record, and I’m happy to report that, along with being available as a CD or a download, this full-length release had come out on vinyl. Locally the CD and LP are available at Shake-It and Everybody’s; online you can buy it on cdbaby and iTunes.
If you’ve caught ishwat?!, chances are you’ve seenNapoleon Solo Vox fronting a trio. On things that go bump in the dark band members change and band sizes fluctuate with each song, and others artists share some of the vocal duties. My sense is that Napoleon is still the mastermind behind the music, but, like Kip Hanrahan, he constantly shuffles musicians in order to make the words and music come to life. Continue reading “iswhat?! Album Release Party at MOTRPub NEXT MONTH”
Bernie Worrell’s hour-long set at Shake-It yesterday did not let up; constant non-stop highly-danceable funk was delivered. Good songs, and a good band composed of young musicians who were clearly enjoying themselves immensely, as you might imagine considering that they were playing with a major funk legend. Tonight (4/16) the band will be performing at the Blue Wisp; if you have questions about the show, call 241-WISP. This footage I taped gives you a taste of what went down last night and will go down tonight, although from comments that were made near the end of last night’s gig I get the impression that they’re going to add a turntablist and a rapper to the mix!
In other music news, two very talented female jazz vocalists will be performing this week, both on Friday (4/19) night, but at different venues. Andrea Cefalo will be at Chez Nora in Covington, and she’ll be accompanied by Al Beasley (drums), Billy Larkin (piano), and Eugene Goss (vocals and percussion). I had a chance to interview Andrea a few months back, and here’s a link to that blog entry:
Keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who was a key member of Parliament-Funkadelic when the innovative funk band became huge, is playing a free in-store at Shake-It Records today at 7 pm, and he will also perform live at the Blue Wisp tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 16) at 8 pm at the Blue Wisp. Tickets for the Wisp show are $20; call 241-WISP for more information. Bernie is touring with his own 9-piece Funk Orchestra that includes a horn section, and if a funk guru performing at a jazz club seems like a stretch, it’s worth noting that in 2011 Bernie recently released an album of jazz standards (performed his own funky way, of course).
I’ve seen Bernie a few times – with the Talking Heads, the Golden Palominos, Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods – and, back in the antediluvian era, the Mothership Connection tour with Parliament-Funkadelic. Seeing that spaceship landing on the stage of Hara Arena really did a number on me – so much so that I wrote about it many years later for crawdaddy.com, which has since folded, but before that happened some other websites grabbed hold of it. Here’s a link to the article for anybody who has a couple extra hours:
The theme of this particular blog entry is goings on around Short Vine, and I encourage any readers brave enough to follow what might like seem a circuitous verbal trail to remember that. My adventures began the night I handed out umpteen beer cozies at a table for Gaslight Property at Bogart’s while Wish You Were Here, a Pink Floyd tribute band, played a long show that included, along with both earlier and later material, all of Animals and Wish You Were Here. The club was packed, and even in the back, where I was sitting, crowd members were singing along whenever Pink Floyd’s biggest hits were performed. I was able to leave the table long enough to film one song:
It was twenty years ago today that Nelson Slater first spoke to me about releasing his follow-up to Wild Angel, an LP that came out on RCA in 1976. I’m happy to report that the album has now appeared; it’s called Steam-Age Time Giant, and it came out (as should every album) on vinyl. Here’s a link to a recent blog entry I wrote about the record:
This Friday, April 12 Nelson will be playing at Daniel’s Pub, which is still there after all those wild years, at 2735 Vine Street. Great things have been happening on Short Vine lately (including some new developments at Bogart’s), and this will be an opportunity to bring some of the old spirit back. Going to Daniels will bring back old memories for us veterans and launch new ones for the newcomers. Folks, this is an event, let’s get out and show some support! The music starts at 9, Something Groovy will be Nelson’s special guests, and other performers include Grow Horns, Large Hadron Collider, and The Special People. Also, rumor has it (we’re not certain yet if this is just another one of those unfounded internet rumors) that Mr. Jerry Parker will be in attendance Friday evening.
My article in Cincinnati Magazine’s April issue covered lots of ground—decades, actually, but the connecting thread was a band that in 1968 started performing at a club in Mt Adams six nights a week and remained at that location for about a year. The name of that band was the Sound Museum, and it was led by saxophonist Jimmy McGary. After the Sound Museum crossed paths with James Brown, a spinoff of that group became Grodeck Whipperjenny, and that same band recorded an album that is credited to James Brown even though his contribution was minimal.
In the article I discuss three albums that were recorded by Cincinnati Musicians during that period. Although it wasn’t released until 1980, the Sound Museum’s jazz recording Two Tone Poems was recorded at Jewel Recording Studio in 1968. More rock-oriented, the eponymous Grodeck Whipperjenny is a 1970 release, and the funkier James Brown release Sho is Funky Down Herecame out in 1971. There’s a lot of overlap in personnel on these records, which is intriguing because the scope of the music is so broad. As David Matthews explains in the Cincinnati Magazine article, with Grodeck Whipperjenny he was (due to James Brown’s prompting) exploring what was for him a different style of music. So there was an element of naiveté—but when you combine that with brilliance, interesting things can happen.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to those three records, and one of the things I came away with—and couldn’t fully explore in what was already a lengthy article—was the depth of talent in the city during that period. In the article I said a lot about the talents of Jimmy McGary and David Matthews, but I should say more about the other musicians. Other than David Matthews, there’s one musician who appears on all three albums. Guitarist Kenny Poole is the epitome of lyricism on Two Tone Poems, where he has a dry tone you’d associate with the jazz tradition that was his foundation. He sounds much dirtier on Grodeck Whipperjenny and Sho is Funky Down Here; here his playing ranges from straight-up in your face rock and funk to wide-open improv (as on “Evidence for Existence of Unconscious”). Many people in Cincinnati love Kenny’s playing but who aren’t aware of these recordings, and I hope that some of them will be able to enjoy the same sense of discovery that I experienced when I first listened to these albums. (I should mention here that Grodeck Whipperjenny and Sho Is Funky Down Here are both widely available. You can also hear them on youtube, and representative tracks from all three records appear at the bottom of Cincinnati Magazine’s link to my article.)
I first saw Kenny Poole one of the first times I went to the Blue Wisp (the old one in O’Bryonville), where he sat in the whole evening with Tal Farlow, one of the most important guitarists in the history of jazz. I caught Kenny a few times after that, but then there came a long period where he wasn’t playing the clubs as much (turns out private parties and corporate affairs were more lucrative and probably less of a hassle). Then one night Jim Hall performed at Xavier’s jazz guitar series, and Kenny was in attendance. At intermission I asked what he thought of the music. That question launched what turned out to be an amazing soliloquy. Kenny raved about Jim Hall in the most unbridled fashion. He listed Bartok and Stravinsky as influences, and he also threw in a bunch of other names that I can’t remember anymore. “He sounds like so many people,” Kenny said, “and none of them are guitarists!” I loved the Jim Hall concert, but on that evening I got as much pleasure from listening to a fellow guitarist gush about one of his heroes.
I got to see Kenny Poole one more time, this time by chance. Occasionally I would drop by Awakening Coffee House in Hyde Park to hear jazz, and one night Kenny Poole happened to be filling in for the regular guitarist. Kenny was a great bebop player—in fact, I remember a rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” that burned—but this evening he was more in more a bossa nova mode. Among the highlights that evening was a beautiful rendition of Bacharach’s “The Look of Love.” Kenny passed away not too longer after that, and I feel lucky to have a chance to at least have a glimpse of how his art was still evolving near the end of his career.
Kenny Poole was, like Jimmy McGary, a Cincinnati jazz musician who stayed here. He recorded at different points of his career, however, and word got out. In fact, the video that I posted here has almost 90,000 hits and long string of very positive comments. Way back in the day Kenny was performing with the likes of David Matthews, James Brown, Michael Moore, Grover Mooney and Jimmy Madison. For this solo performance decades later he was playing music that’s similar to what he performed at Awakenings the last time I saw him. As with Jim Hall at Xavier, this solo guitar music is characterized by warmth, subtlety and richness. The song, by the way, is “Brazil;” if you want to hear it sung, look up Antonio Carlos Jobim’s version on youtube.
A few days ago an article I wrote appeared in Cincinnati Magazine. The piece focused on a slice of Cincinnati musical history that wove together so many styles it would be impossible to say which genre was at the root of it all. It’s a story of a jazz group that ended up morphing into a psychedelic band for one album and a funk band for another; the jazz group also released, posthumously, a very experimental jazz album. All of these things took place in Cincinnati while James Brown was recording at King Records here, and the plot thickened as soon as he entered the picture.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot to the story. When I pitched it to Cincinnati Magazine I created what was quite possibly the longest query letter ever. I had never written for them before, and this was an out-of-the-blue pitch. There was some interest on their part, but there was no guarantee that it would be a good match.
I went ahead and wrote the article, all 5,500 words of it (the first draft, that is; eventually we trimmed it down to about 4,000). Shortly after I sent it an interesting twist of fate occurred for an article that very much hinges on the activities of James Brown: RJ Smith, author of the recently published JB bio The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, joined Cincinnati Magazine’s staff. Prior to that time RJ had never lived in Cincinnati, so that was a huge and quite welcome coincidence; he ended up providing invaluable assistance during the editing. Also, the magazine did a great job of designing and laying out the piece both in print and online.
As I stated near the end of the article, ultimately this is a story about friendship, and I made several as I delved into this slice of Cincinnati musical history. The people I talked to the most were David Matthews, Carmon DeLeone and RJ Smith. It’s also because of this article that I was able to meet Lou Lausche, Carol McGary, Sean McGary, Phyllis Boyce and many others. I also benefitted from chatting with someone I already knew, Shawn Marsh, who I nicknamed “Shawn Marsh of Sound Museum fame” (sometimes shortened to “Sound Museum fame” or “Sound Museum”) for reasons that—well, I’ll let him explain it to you.
I’m going to write a couple entries on the musical side of this subject, but that will make a lot more sense after you’ve read the article. Here’s a link to the Cincinnati Magazine article:
Today I spoke on the phone with Eric Sosinski,the bassist, co-lead vocalist, music director and manager of Wish You Were Here, the Pink Floyd tribute band that will be performing at Bogart’s this Saturday, April 6. Eric lives in Cleveland, but during our conversation I learned that one of the other members of Wish You Were Here (Jamie Combs, who plays guitar and handles the other lead vocals) is from Cincinnati; Jamie is also a member of the popular local band Fourth Day Echo. Eric also informed that band members will be doing a meet and greet at the merch table about 8:20 that night, so walk over and ask him your Pink Floyd questions. These were mine:
How long has Wish You Been Here been together?
We formed in late 1995. It’s one of the longest continually running Pink Floyd tribute bands. We’re coming up on 20 years, and it’s been a successful run.
What’s the biggest challenge about playing the music of Pink Floyd live?