Gaslight Property is a proud sponsor of the 40th annual Panegyri Festival taking place this weekend at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at 7000 Winton Rd. in Finneytown. Hours are Friday 5pm to 11pm, Saturday 3pm to 11pm, and Sunday 1pm to 8pm. Admission is $2 per person, with children 12 and under free. There’s free parking and a shuttle from St. Xavier High School. The Festival offers authentic and delicious Greek food, dancing combined with bouzouki music, and church tours of Ohio’s oldest parish by knowledgeable church members. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Cincinnati Freestore-Foodbank. Always a popular event, this festival is a fun place to take the whole family to eat, dance, and socialize.
As part of the free “Wednesdays on the Green” series taking place at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Jake Speed & the Freddies will be performing this Wednesday, June 25, starting at 7pm. One of the most popular Cincinnati bands, Jake Speed & the Freddies combine clever songwriting, strong musical chops, and a sense of humor. Seems like I always catch them outdoors, where they seem right at home. The ten-week “Wednesdays on the Green” series still has plenty of other shows lined up; here’s the schedule for the rest of the series:
- July 2: The Sunburners Steel Drum Band
- July 9: Son del Caribe Salsa Band
- July 16: Tracy Walker & Friends
- July 23: Baoku Moses & The Afrobeat Band
- July 30: Sound Body Jazz Orchestra
- August 6: BONUS! Cincinnati Shakespeare presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Here’s some footage of Jake Speed performing “Queen City Rag” to help get you in the mood:
There’s a lot of talk these days about the closing of the Blue Wisp downtown, and there’s also plenty of talk about reopening the wandering jazz club in a new location. Matter of fact, lots of people would like to see it end up in Clifton, as you’d know if you’ve signed up with Nextdoor Clifton, which I highly recommend. Already people are stepping up to help keep great jazz alive in Cincinnati. Starting this Wednesday, and for at least the next six weeks, Japps Annex will be home to the Blue Wisp Big Band. Admission to the Annex is free while admission to Japps proper is free as always.
I started attending shows at the Wisp when it was still located in O’Bryonville. Some of my first concerts there included Johnny Lytle, Joe Lovano (who came there often), Cal Collins, Tim Hagans, and the Blue Wisp Big Band. My memory is still clear of seeing, through a cloud of smoke, Steve Schmidt leaning over his piano with a cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth while launching into a solo. I suspect that the Wisp will be back with us soon. I hope so, as it has a history, character and a tradition of hosting great jazz. Below are five concerts that I’ve seen at the Wisp. These are from the previous three Blue Wisp locations as opposed to the most recent one. The last time I was at the Wisp I saw a Bernie Worrell show where the P-Funk legend was joined by lots of local and area musicians for a superb evening of music. Technically the music wasn’t jazz, but it was all about improvisation, even when the dj Tobe Tobotius Donohue scratched records on his turntable.
Dave Liebman. When the Dave Liebman Quartet came to the Wisp, it was the opening weekend of the Eighth Street location. Arguments that Cincinnati can’t sustain a jazz club were negated by their opening night performance, which was packed, and arguments that can only straight-ahead jazz can draw and please a crowd was also negated, as a young, curious crowd seemed quite pleased to hear something so radically different from the norm in any genre. The music was way out, including the most circumlocutious version of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” that you could ever imagine. The final set closed with a version of John Coltrane’s “India” that shook the rafters.
Red Rodney/Ira Sullivan Quintet. A great show that featured some jazz heavyweights fronting a band that included some younger guys, including the fabulous Joey Barron on drums. You best believe Joey had a capricious streak that evening, throwing in crashes when no one (band members included) expected it. Ira Sullivan played numerous instruments throughout the evening, including, at the end, trumpet, as he and Red Rodney duked it out in a trumpet duel that was (pardon the pun) red hot. Afterwards, Red Rodney complained that his lip hurt after such a fiery battle—but hey, sometimes you gotta take one for the team.
Tal Farlow. Even a dumbo like me knows that when a legend like Tal Farlow hits town you best get off the La-Z-Boy and go hear some live music. On that evening he was joined by Kenny Poole, who shared some impressive licks of his own. I remember clearly the size of Tal Farlow’s fingers—ginormous they were, making it easy (yeah, right) to rip off some lightning-fast licks with perfect intonation and, when it turned ballad time, coax some beautiful tones out of a guitar model that was named after him.
Sun Ra. Did I really see Sun Ra, and did this really take place in Cincinnati? I guess it did. Stranger still, the most avant-garde extraterrestrial to visit planet Earth devoted a good chunk of his set to playing stride piano on some old Disney tunes, including the closer, “Zip a Dee Doo Dah.” A few months I caught Sun Ra again at the Public Theatre in New York City, at a fundraiser for Jimmy Lyons. (The same show also included performances by Walt Dickerson, World Saxophone Quartet, and Archie Shepp, among others.) You could tell he was a favorite in that neck of the woods—like an old friend.
Charlie Rouse. My friends and I were not prepared for what we witnessed on the evening that we saw this tenor sax immortal at the Wisp. I remember that we sat at the bar that night. I know that because we kept falling off our bar stools when Charlie was soloing. No amount of music theory could explain why he was such a powerful player. With great jazz musicians, there’s something that comes through in their playing that comes from within that penetrates to the very heart of jazz and makes you realize why it’s such an amazing and deeply human style of music. Charlie, who had a long run with Thelonious Monk, played mostly Monk that evening. I think he opened with “Played Twice” and also dipped into “Rhythm-n-ing” and “Round Midnight.” My friends were so blown away by the first set that they split to have a jam session in which they hoped to catch some of the spirit they’d just experienced. I stuck around and met Charlie. As he signed an album I basically gushed the whole time, and I’m not ashamed that I did. The second set opened with Monk’s “Epistrophy,” for which Charlie launched into a lengthy solo that was nothing less than sublime. So yes, a lot of magic has taken place at the Wisp, and I’m hoping for more.
In early 2011 a business called Classical Glass moved from Main Street in Over-the Rhine to a new location. Shortly thereafter Mike Markiewicz showed me the space they’d left. Classical Glass was a studio as opposed to a storefront, and the room looked dirty, dark and dingy. I had a hard time imagining it being transformed into a record store.
Mike Markiewicz didn’t, however. After all, he’d overseen Kaldi’s, Sibylline Books and Iris Book Cafe as they went from nothing to something. Each helped to make Over-The-Rhine a better place. But could he do the same with a record store? He believed he could.
Progress at the store moved at what like a glacial pace, to the point where I wondered if it was ever going to open, whereas Mike knew it would. Mike and I talked a lot back then, and he was pumped about the store. “This will be my masterpiece,” he said.
Even then, though, he was thinking beyond that. He kept talking about moving out into the woods and living a bare-bones existence after a few years of the record store. There would be music, but not the massive collections he had accumulated (and then disposed of) repeatedly. “Two hundred albums,” he said. “That’s it. Only the essentials.”
What Mike would take to the woods was revealed in bits and pieces to me over time. After Another Part of the Forest was in full swing, with records filling both floors, I continued to drop in on him. He always had a record he wanted to play me that he had to search to find, and sometimes it eluded him. In fact, it often eluded him. But when he did find the record I needed to hear, my musical universe expanded. Often during those visits our discussion would return to the records that he would take to the woods. The three artists he made it clear would definitely accompany him to the woods were the twentieth-century classical composers Martinu and Messiaen and the jazz musician John Surman.
Heavyweight stuff, in other words: the kind of music that, even though you listened to it while busses zoomed past and sirens howled in the distance, you left OTR and entered a different world, a place that was often dark and turbulent and was full of the “ugly beauty” that inspired a Thelonious Monk song title.
Mike passed away a week and a half ago. His death come suddenly, although the extreme exhaustion that was evident when I visited him during his last several months made the fact that he was extremely ill less of a surprise. When the store was getting up and running he predicted that he would head to the woods after three or four years. Ever since he passed I’ve been thinking about that trip he wanted to make but didn’t. On the other hand…
On the other hand, when a person names a record store Another Part of the Forest you have to wonder how far away the woods really were in the first place. Maybe he entered the woods when he opened the store, or maybe he’s there now. He always seemed oblivious to the noise and the commotion surrounding him. Quiet and introspective, he was tuned into something else. As many times as we talked, and as often as those conversations focused on big fat metaphysical issues, I must say that part of him remained elusive. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth said, but for Mike it wasn’t. He kept it at bay. He did his thing. He lived the way he wanted to live, a nonconformist who in spite of crazy odds did all sorts of good things for the best neighborhood in a city that people are finally starting to appreciate. I miss the guy more every time I return to his masterpiece. I wish that just one more time he could drop the needle on a record. This time, though, it’s my turn to drop the needle. Listen close, my friend. You’ll recognize the tune: