Umphrey’s McGee will be performing at the Taft Theatre on Friday, January 30, at 8pm. Just at the band has broken new ground musically, merging extended improvisation with progressive rock, they’re offering a new concert experience during this tour. Upon entering the Taft, everyone attending the show will be handed a Sennheiser in-ear monitor wireless pack and a pair of high fidelity Audio Technica headphones. That’s the same equipment the band uses, and the show will combine a live concert experience with audiophile sound quality. When it comes to headphones, many of us have only heard cheapies playing mp3s, and hearing music as layered, intricate, and energetic as this promises a superb audio experience. Thinking about it takes me back to my early days with Koss headphones and Quadraphonic receivers and five-way speakers that, when cranked, rattled the walls. The Taft show, then, will combine a touch of nostalgia with cutting-edge technology. As this live footage of UM’s “In the Kitchen” shows, the concert will also prove visually stimulating:
There was joy and jubilation Wednesday night in Clifton due to the reopening of Fries Cafe. People who went without a beer for the nine months that the long-established watering hole was closed suddenly were able to drink beer again. (My fact checker just informed me that’s a bit far-fetched – but still, it felt that way as people muscled their way up to the bar and shouted their drink orders.) So how’s the new Fries, you ask? Did they decide, during that long stretch of time between closing and reopening, to “modernize” the place, with a disco ball and some thump-thump electronic dance music blasting out of speakers, turning a friendly, casual neighborhood bar into a fancy nightclub? Heck no. It still feels as real and unpretentious as ever. And it still has a fine selection of beers (see photos). And it’s still a friendly place as opposed to a snobfest. There is one difference, though: it smells a lot better. I snapped a few photos while I was there, including a couple of Riley Martin, an iconic Clifton canine whose charismatic cameo made a special night even better (he’s never one to miss a photo-op). I’ve always been a fan of Fries, ever since I got kicked out of there at 9 o’clock in the morning on my first day in Cincinnati. I knew then that this was the town for me. If everyone’s too friendly it softens you up, and who wants that?
The Listing Loon (at 4124 Hamilton Avenue in Northside) is one of the few places around Cincinnati with an acoustic piano, and it has a nice, intimate atmosphere to go with it. For two nights—Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17—Patrick Battstone will be performing there for free from 8:30 to midnight. These performance are a combination of a homecoming, musical performances, and two separate CD release parties. Friday, January 16 is the CD release for Beyond the Horizon, his latest solo effort, and on that night Patrick will be performing solo. Saturday, January 17 is the CD release for a live recording of the Sound Museum, a legendary group from Cincinnati that ended up crossing paths with James Brown. The CD is entitled The Sound Museum Live at New Dilly’s. The personnel for the Sound Museum included Jimmy McGary on tenor saxophone, Kenny Poole on guitar, David Matthews on piano, John Young on bass, and Grover Mooney on drums—and the amazing Popeye Maupin on vocals. Grover’s son, Moses Mooney, will be playing drums with Patrick on Saturday. Admission is free both nights, and the dark, cozy room is a splendid place to listen to music, especially with craft beers on hand and a superb wine selection.
Patrick is a Cincinnati native who studied at Berklee and has been part of the Boston jazz scene for decades. At the same time he remains well-grounded in (and appreciative of) the Cincinnati jazz scene—he knows all the players, and he’s worked with lots of them, and he’s also deeply appreciative of Cincinnati’s rich jazz history. So come to the show, stay late, and drink a lot. As Patrick so aptly put it, “The more you drink, the better I sound!” Here’s a video of Patrick performing “Over the Rainbow.”
One day a friend of mine was playing a record by Keith Jarrett called The Mourning of a Star. While the LP was playing I flipped the cover over to the back side, where I encountered a poem by a writer who I didn’t recognize. This was truly one of those times where a poem reached out and grabs you (or, as Bob Dylan put it, “Every one of those words rang true/And glowed like burning coal”). Although it was a long time before I saw that poem again, the memory of reading it the first time remained vivid, and when someone mentioned it to me ten or fifteen years later, I immediately knew what he was talking about.
It turns out the person who brought it up was the poet who wrote it. Terry Stokes was a creative writing professor at the University of Cincinnati, and the two of us had been hanging together for months before I connected the dots between the writer and the poem. That happened when Terry was telling me about a poem that he published in Esquire. Soon thereafter Terry was contacted to find out if he would be willing to have his poem appear on an album cover by Keith Jarrett, and Terry gave his permission.
“I got fifty dollars from Esquire,” Terry explained, “and fifty dollars from Keith Jarrett. So I made a hundred bucks for my poem.“
Not bad – and especially because so many more people would be able to read the poem due to the fact that it was on the back of an album cover by such a popular musician.
By that point I had figured out that Terry and I had already bumped into each other long before I saw his poem on the Keith Jarrett album cover. At a Miami University writer’s conference where I also met Cameron Crowe and P.J. O’Rourke I had heard Terry give a reading and chatted with him at one of the parties that took place every night.
Attending that conference convinced Terry to move to this party of the country. Englight professors John Weigel and Milton White had much to do with that – and happened to be the two teachers who had the deepest influence on me as a writer, artist, reader, teacher, whatever.
After Terry retired from teaching, I heard less and less from him, and it’s been over ten years since we spoke. We became friends at a good time for both of us. During that period I was editing a offbeat literary magazine called Evil Dog that published lots of interesting writers from this area. In a small way the buzz was kind of on about that magazine, which – in part because I worked downtown at that time and made lots of downtown friends – seemed to connect with people who normally didn’t read literary magazines. Terri Ford, Aralee Strange, F. Keith Wahle, and Terry Stokes – those were some of the writers who helped make the magazine something special (and fun, too!).
The poem on the Keith Jarrett album cover was called “Natural Disasters.” That was also the name of the book where it appeared as the lead-off poem, and today I scanned it so others could read it. When I read “Natural Disasters” I think of all my friends who “wrestled with the lion.” Those seem to be the kind of folks I hang with, and Terry Stokes was one of them. As another year ends while a new one begins, it’s natural to take stock of things and look inward – and this poem by an old friend certainly inspires that.