Thank You, Jerry Gillotti

The memory is still fresh of walking into Gilly’s for the first time. I had never been to a jazz club before, and my sense of excitement quickly combined with…well…desperation, as I was informed by the owner, a short, squat man sitting in the entrance and taking money, that the show was sold out. That man was Jerry Gillotti, the owner of Gilly’s. I told him the drive to downtown Dayton took over an hour, and my plea for sympathy worked—he let in me and my posse.

All the tables were full that evening, and the club was beyond standing room only—even finding a place to stand took some doing. While tripping over other people’s feet I noticed that the crowd at this dark, small club largely consisted of well-dressed black people who were a bit older than this white boy who might have been all of 19 by then. The band was already playing, and folks who think of jazz as background music should have felt the energy in that room. Leading the group was McCoy Tyner, who had played on the John Coltrane albums that I purchased after Carlos Santana and other rock stars raved about him in interviews. The group that night was on fire. Band members included the fire-breathing George Adams, a tall tenor sax player whose eyes rolled back into his head during his solos. Constantly switching instruments, Guilherme Franco would disappear and then reappear from behind a percussion rack and throw in other visual effects that seemed almost shamanistic. That performance was intense, and seeing it in a small club made it reverberate even more. I knew I’d be back.

Prior to that night my concert-going had mostly been limited to rock shows at big venues, which was fun, but at Gilly’s it amazed me that I could witness such a high level of musicianship, the playing so inspired and so intense, in such a small space. Although I never lived in Dayton, I drove from Celina, Oxford, and Cincinnati to see two other McCoy shows, Betty Carter, Woody Shaw, JJ Johnson, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Muddy Waters, Mose Allison, Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie, Flora and Airto, and many other artists.

Most of the shows I saw there were in the late 70s and the 1980s, when the more “out” jazz enjoyed some popularity and was part of the tour and festival circuit. During a performance by Old & New Dreams, (a group consisting of Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell), the second set opened with “Lonely Woman,” a beautiful and haunting Ornette Coleman composition, and sitting in the front row while listening to Charlie Haden droning, mournful bass solo was mesmerizing. On another night Sam Rivers brought a heady mixture of free jazz and funk. And there was Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition with David Murray, Arthur Blythe, and Peter Warren. The playing was so powerful that evening that increased my fascination with jazz, as it amazed me that I could walk into a room and hear such remarkably musicianship by guys who (other than DeJohnette) I hadn’t even heard of before that night. Later David Murry returned with a quartet that included Ed Blackwell.

One of the last shows I saw at Gilly’s was a series of duets by Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron. That was one of two concerts they played in America on that “tour,” and it was my only opportunity to see either of them. When Mal Waldron soloed, the smoke rising from his cigarillo behind his thick white hair while the spotlight shone down was jazz imagery at its finest. To think that, for years, Waldron worked with Billie Holiday in different formats, including duets, as the final verse of “The Day Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara describes:

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of

leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT

while she whispered a song along the keyboard

to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

The fact that Waldron played at Gilly’s begins to tell you some of the history that passed through the club’s doors.

About the time that I started hitting small jazz shows I caught wind of punk, with its DIY ethos, and something similar has always been at work in the jazz world. Certainly it was in Jerry Gillotti’s DNA. (And somehow it makes sense that Gilly’s hosted some early and now legendary punk and new wave shows when that scene was still in its infancy.) Although both Columbus and Cincinnati were larger cities, neither had a club comparable to Gilly’s. To put it simply, Jerry Gillotti booked bands who shortly before or after that gig were performing at the Village Vanguard. Jazz lovers within driving distance of Gilly’s were quite spoiled, as this was all about one person going out of his way to make something happen. Jerry Gillotti passed away on November 23, 2017, and it should be noted that even though he suffered from increasingly bad health he continued to run the club until the end of his life.

Memories of Gilly’s shows always return to his voice, which you’d hear before the show and between sets. (He also did the highly caffeinated phone messages announcing upcoming shows.) He had the perfect voice for a jazz promoter—energetic, enthusiastic, hip. “I always thought that if you did it right you could make money doing it but I was wrong,” he said. “You can’t make any money doing it.”

Did that stop him? No. And why not? Because he loved jazz. The idea of starting a jazz club came to him at a Modern Jazz Quartet concert he attended overseas. That show must have moved him deeply, and that’s something that every jazz lover would understand. Somehow a myth has been passed along that jazz is all about massaging your cerebral cortex, but the truth is it’s a deeply human thing. One song that quickly wipes away the notion of jazz as Think Music is “Left Alone,” for which Billie Holiday wrote the lyrics and Mal Waldron, who decades later performed at Gilly’s, wrote the music. Although Billie passed away before they could record the song, Mal went on to play and record it for the rest of his career, not as a crowd-pleaser but as a deeply-felt tribute to Billie. Thank you, Jerry Gillotti, for bending the rules that first night and for bringing in so many great jazz artists over the years, including the guy who used to play with Billie Holiday. You made the world a better place.

Taft’s Brewing Company Opens in Spring Grove Village


Located at 4831 Spring Grove Avenue in Spring Grove Village, Taft’s Brewing Company had absolutely perfect weather for its grand opening last weekend. The event drew a large crowd that including children eager to show their strength at the high striker. The 50,000-square foot space includes a brewery as well as a tap room (“brewporium”) with a wide assortment of beer. Taft’s Brewing Company also serves a New Haven coal-fired, crispy Neopolitan-style pizza and sandwiches. The building benefits from some glass garage doors, which look great and gives the brewporium an indoor/outdoor feel. While there I ran into friends from Spring Grove, Clifton, and Northside, which makes sense as Taft’s is within a stone’s throw of two of those neighborhoods and is part of Spring Grove Village, where new stores keep popping up lately, including Sally’s Treats & Treasures and Flamingo Haven—and I should mention that Flamingo Haven is hosting a community yard sale this Saturday. Taft’s Brewing Company is located near the intersection of Spring Grove Avenue and Mitchell Avenue. Regular hours for Taft’s will be 3pm to 10pm Wednesday; noon to midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; and noon to 9pm Sunday.

Herzog Music Opens Downtown

Herzog Music opened last weekend in downtown Cincinnati, 811 Race Street to be exact. Walking around the three stories devoted to celebrating Cincinnati’s musical heritage…and providing a bridge to the future, I thought that downtown Cinci just got a little more colorful and music-friendly. Herzog Music is a lot of different things at once, and I won’t pretend that this blog entry captures everything going on at the location, which feels like a combination of a retail store, museum, and performance space – but even an incomplete report should be enough to be of interest to any music lover.

On the first floor the main attraction is a huge selection of musical instruments, with many dating back so far that they predate some of the historic recording sessions that took place in that same building. In a room where guitars, basses, mandolins, dobros, and other instruments hung on the wall, a left-handed girl strummed skillfully on  a right-handed ukulele (“You just do it in reverse,” she explained).

I asked her father if this was family where everyone played, and he said no, that was all her. And it’s funny: after the family disappeared for a few minutes, she slipped back in and grabbed a left-handed guitar off the wall and strummed some more. I believe she’s found her calling!

And there were some other strummers.

The second floor had lots of used LPs, and many more will be put out in upcoming weeks.

And here’s a nice touch: you can play the records that you’re curious about. I threw on Maxayn, an old funk album on Capricorn.

After pawing through some records, I noted to Little Billy Catfish, seen here with Bonnie Speeg, that this particular Three Sounds LP was recorded at a club in downtown Cincinnati. Remember the Living Room?

Herzog Music is also a good place to shop for stereo equipment, including speakers, amps, receivers, equalizers, cassette decks, and turntables.

And don’t forget PA speakers, mixing boards, mics, and all that other stuff you need to perform live:

Speaking of live, when I walked up to the third floor I witnessed a live performance from the same gentleman I saw strumming an acoustic guitar on the first floor. His name is Andrew Hibbert, and he recently recorded an album (some or all of it at Herzog) that will be coming out pretty soon – we’ll have to keep track of that, as he’s a very talented musician whose skills include some first-rate yodeling a la Jimmie Rodgers.

There will be other musical performances at Herzog Music, and there will also be music lessons. So far I’ve only scratched the surface, but that’s okay – you can get a fuller picture by visiting yourself. As I left the building, it struck me that, as much as I enjoyed looking at records and vintage guitars and historical photos, what I liked best about Herzog Music was the way it brought people together. There’s a lot of history in that building, but there’s more to come.

 

So You Wanna Win A Pulitzer Prize?

On the day our family left Des Moines, Iowa—this happened in August of 1972—my self-image changed completely. Whoever I thought I was before vanished, and the city where I was born and where I lived until we headed upstate also underwent a mental revision. School would start in about a week, and I planned to make sure that my fellow eighth-graders understood right away that the new kid from the cosmopolitan epicenter of Des Moines (population 250,000) had a thing or two on folks from Storm Lake, which only 10,000 people called home. As I walked around downtown—or “uptown,” as the locals called it for some upside-down reason—before classes started I assumed culture shock would soon overwhelm me. Although Storm Lake had its charms, with wide, tree-lined streets, and a picturesque downtown, when I saw farmers driving pickup trucks and walking around in overalls I pictured myself starring in a TV show that was basically the Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. I was prepared, when I met my future classmates, to convey all kinds of attitude.

That plan, it turns out, dissolved almost instantly. As dumb as I was, I soon realized that I was very lucky. Both in and out of the classroom, my grade school years were wonderful—lots of friends, endless fun and laughter—but the junior high I attended, larger and more impersonal than Perkins, was about as laid back as a prison. It was a dangerous school where students were afraid of other students and where law and order came hard and fast, much more so than at Perkins, although at Perkins you got a better education. When our parents announced that, in Storm Lake, their six children would be attending a Catholic school once again after a long hiatus, I thought oh no, here it comes, my assumption being that nuns were even meaner in small towns than in booming metropolises like the one where I grew up.

But the eighth-graders at St. Mary’s were the rowdiest classmates I would ever have, and no teacher could hold us back. I remember a day when maybe half the class stayed after school. At some point the teacher left; I can’t remember if she planned to return or if we were simply supposed to remain there on the honor system. We responded by tipping over desks and throwing books on the floor and basically wrecking the room. No one said anything to us the next day. Now that was my kind of school. I remember wondering if the public school, which was right across the street, was even rowdier. All of my guy friends that year were from St. Mary’s, but the girls I cavorted with were all from the public school; therein lies everything I know about the public schools of Storm Lake between 1972 and 1973 (or at any time, for that matter).

That only begins to tell you what was good about Storm Lake. The house we moved to was bigger and older than the one in Des Moines and had beautiful woodwork inside. It was located across the street from a park, and beyond that was the lake. Lakeshore Drive was part of the route that all the teenagers made as they scooped the loop, and in my mind Storm Lake was one big circle where all the fun people passed our house at least once a day. The soda fountain at Ben Franklin’s, the grain silo on the main drag, the huge motorcycles that all the St. Mary’s student kept crashing, wide alleys, and even, strangely enough, the squealing pigs at Hygrade, all those things and countless more contributed to Storm Lake’s charm. To me it was like a countrified and modernized version of American Graffiti, with nature hippies instead of guys with short, slicked-back hair. When John Fogerty sings “We could make music at the Greasy King” during “Sweet Hitchhiker,” my mind flashes immediately to the burger joint—can’t tell you the name, can’t tell you the street—where we went after the football and basketball games (unless, that is, we were roaming the railroad tracks with the public school girls).

Clearly we had found the Promised Land, but after a year we he headed east, to Ohio. Since then I’ve only been back to Storm Lake a few times. Even though the houses aren’t as big as they were in my memory (how could they be?) and I lost track of my old buddies and your perspective tends to change as you grow older, I still think Storm Lake was the right place and the right time for me.
         With a family of eight, it’s hard, after people have moved around the country, to reunite everyone, but recently seven Wilsons were in the same house, including our oldest sister, who’s now the only family member living in Iowa—close to Storm Lake, in fact. She brought to Celina, Ohio (where my parents now live) a copy of the Storm Lake Times that contained the jubilant article its co-owner and editor, Art Cullen, wrote after the Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting. The judges commended the Times for “editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa.” Along with shedding light on the nitrate pollution caused by bad farming practices, the paper exposed the dark money used to suppress that conclusion. The damage isn’t limited to Buena Vista County, where Storm Lake is located. “It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico,” Cullen wrote in an editorial. “It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes.” If you think about it, the story has parallels to Flint, Michigan—or more directly to Celina, Ohio, where similar shortsightedness has forced officials to post a closed sign for entire summers on a lake that has long been a big tourist draw.

There is a message here. Typically the Pulitzer Prize goes to the big city papers, but not this time. The judges deserve credit for recognizing the value of a twice-a-week newspaper with a circulation of 3,000. And the staff at the Storm Lake Times deserve credit for taking their role as journalists seriously instead of delivering the fluff (or clickbait) so many magazines and papers resort to in a desperate attempt to “build their base.” “We’ve always believed that the Storm Lake Times should be as good at covering Storm Lake as the New York Times is at covering New York,” Cullen has written. Ultimately no matter where you are there’s a story to be told. That’s true if you’re a journalist or a fiction writer or a songwriter—meaning you don’t have to move to Greenwich Village to tap into something vital.

And sometimes the wide-open spaces far from the madding crowd are the best launching pads for progressive ideas. No one thought much of it when, in August of 1973, some folks decided to ride their bikes across Iowa. Since then RAGBRAI has become a huge event that prefigured the ecologically-conscious and fitness-minded bicycle craze. Storm Lake was one of the stopping/starting points for that first ride, and Lakeshore Drive was on the route. As a result I found myself chatting, in my own front yard, with some of the Des Moines crowd, including co-RAGBRAI founder Donald Kaul, whose Over the Coffee column was a highlight of the Des Moines Register, and his son Chris Kaul, one of my grade school buds. Here you see Donald Kaul explaining to some old-school Iowans that highways were built not for cars but for bicycles and tractors.

While preparing this screed I discovered that that, along with growing up in Storm Lake, Art Cullen went to St. Mary’s and was probably (based on our ages) one grade ahead of me. No one in my family seems to know him, myself included. Whatever his school history, I hope his class behaved better than we did, as we gave the nuns more than enough grief. Now, though, he’s raising all kinds of hell. I always thought Storm Lake was a good place—and I’m sticking to that story.

QCA Records

Spring Grove Avenue is one of those great old Cincinnati streets with so much history that even if you don’t know the story behind the buildings, as you’re driving along you know that every warehouse and factory stores countless tales tracing back to the days when they were packed with workers and the wide, four-lane street where you now have plenty of elbow room was a lot more crowded. Some places have closed up shop—but not all of them, and you still see semis doing what they did decades ago.

It makes perfect sense that in the middle of all that sits the building belonging to QCA, a company that started making vinyl records in 1950. After all, making records is a mechanical process where you get your hands dirty in the same way that you do in a huge factory. The process involves nickel and silver and cutters and PVC pellets and electro-plating and machines that do everything from making the stamper to ensuring the spindle hole is dead center. The technology of music reproduction has changed a lot since 1950. Some of it has gone away—and some of it has returned. The fact that it in this case the inevitable race to obsolescence wasn’t so inevitable surprised everyone, but that’s what happened after a resurgence of popularity for vinyl. Along with equipment that was used for scrap metal or converted for use in other industries, entire pressing plants have disappeared since vinyl records seemed to have gone the route of dinosaurs.

QCA (Queen City Album) is still here, however. Since 1950, the company has been making records, first as vinyl albums, then cassettes and CDs. Once, like King Records, a soup-to-nuts facility that offered everything from a recording studio to album covers, QCA switched its focus when demand for vinyl plummeted. As vinyl returned, QCA jumped back in, and it’s now involved in several steps in the process of putting together a record. It creates labels for both LPs and 45s, make record sleeves for 45s and is involved in the design of album covers, and I should add that because UltraSuede Studios is in the building, you can once again record on the same premises where your vinyl record might be pressed. And QCA once again masters and creates stampers for vinyl records. Those stampers get sent to Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, which means that when it comes to creating a vinyl disc, you can get it all done in the same state.

During vinyl’s initial golden age, Cincinnati was blessed to have QCA, King, Shaw, and Rite cranking out LPs and 45s, a situation that’s extremely rare for a medium-sized city. As a decades-long record collector, I’ve treasured many of the albums and 45s that were recorded and/or pressed at these facilities. Of those businesses, QCA is the only one still going. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, but I never had an excuse to go there—not until yesterday, when a friend who’s releasing an album on vinyl invited me to tag along as he talked business with Jim Bosken, the president of QCA. Even with the vinyl revival, newly-recorded classical music seldom comes out on wax. As the music editor of The Absolute Sound, I will write about the making of this record partly because of the unique New Classical + Vinyl combination, but also because Mark Lehman has long been involved with the magazine and I want to spread the word about my friend’s album. I snapped some photos during my visit yesterday, and while I’ll swing back around and say more later about this experience, this is already a lot of words – and besides, the pictures have their own story to tell.

What Would A Bookstore Bring?

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Recently on nextdoorclifton someone posed the question, “What store is missing?” in reference to Ludlow Avenue’s business district. Possibly over a hundred people have responded by now, and while the answers have been all over the place, there were some repeats. I was pleased—and quite surprised—to see how many people exclaim that they would love to see a bookstore return to the Gaslight District.

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In a way it seems funny that folks would long for something that in the spiritus mundi tends to be looked upon as antiquated and old-school. As our reading, like everything else, becomes increasingly electronic and digital, the physical book cast set aside for convenience, don’t bookstores have about as much of a place in our world as a zoetrope?

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Well, not so soon (and besides, I’d love to own a zoetrope). You may have noticed that record stores (and especially the independent ones) are suddenly all kinds of popular, after that three or four minutes when everyone was convinced that our musical future would totally revolve around our computers. Recently, and tellingly, I’ve seen ads promoting books as “the new vinyl,” which makes sense. And just as veteran Cliftonites remember what it’s like to have a bookstore in the neighborhood, younger folks brought up on walmart are acutely sensitive to the difference between zero personality and color.

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Having a bookstore (actually there were two at one point) added a lot to the Gaslight District. On nextdoorclifton.com someone mentioned—but couldn’t remember the name of—Kellerman’s, a store on Ormond that lasted, I don’t know, maybe a year or two. The owner of that store envisioned, but couldn’t quite pull off, a store like Kaldi’s (which, a few years later, pulled all the pieces together and became an enormous success). New World lasted decades, and the people in the neighborhood never took it for granted. Unfortunately, though, big box stores had a ravitational pull over the masses, and amazon could undersell anybody by a huge margin. Since New World folded ebooks entered the equation, providing even more competition to small bookstores, which folded all over America (it wasn’t just Ludlow Avenue).Bookstore on Ludlow Avenue 010            Well, the big boxes are almost all gone, ebooks sales tapered off long before people expected them to, and amazon has built an actual brick and mortar store because it has learned something those of us with any sense have known all along: bookstores are the ultimate platform for marketing books. Not only do you find out that a new book has hit the shelves (I still remember when Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon appeared in New World’s window after everyone thought the famous postmodern novelist had pursued a permanent disappearing act), plus the atmosphere of books gets under your skin. A bookstore on Ludlow Avenue would never be able to offer big fancy amazon-level discounts, but people are waking up to the fact that where you buy something can be as important as what you buy. It can erode a neighborhood, or it can help support a neighborhood.

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If a bookstore were to return to the Gaslight District, it would have to do everything right. It should probably do the following:

  •           Include used books. This close to a university, people are constantly purging and collecting.
  •           Have a local authors section—and not just the new ones. How about books by Dallas Wiebe or (to go back a couple more years) Lafcadio Hearn?
  •           Include new novels. Those were popular at New World, and, here’s a case where bookstores + distributors had their system down.
  •           Sell gift cards. New World sold a lot of gift cards; they added up after a while.
  •           Sell records and compact discs as well. Records and compact discs could be both new and used. The new and already highly successful Plaid Room Records in Loveland handles a lot of pre-orders for vinyl, which is an ideal business model.

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I worked part-time at both Kellerman’s and New World, and I still remember what bookstores brought to the neighborhood. Kellerman’s had lots of fun literary readings that brought together people in the literary community. I well remember how, on Friday nights at New World, people would walk in with ice cream cones asking, “Can I bring in ice cream?” (“That’s required,” I would answer). Some had had a drink or two before strolling in, and there was much frivolity on those nights. Sunday afternoons were quieter, with people sitting down and getting lost in a book. I got called in for New World during its last few weeks, and when people walked in the sense of loss to come was palpable. These are things I think about when I think about what a bookstore would bring to the Gaslight District. You can’t bring back the past, but you can start building new memories.

Have A Look at The New Clifton Branch Library

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Last week I paid my first visit to the Clifton Branch Library, and I couldn’t have timed it better. This was during what will forever be remembered as The Great Blackout of 2015 – the power was off all over Clifton, and it lasted for a couple hours. I live a few blocks away from the library, and I assumed that even though the power was down in my building the new branch would be fully operational. Turns out the power was off there too, although that didn’t stop lots of people from going in and out of. It was fun roaming around the darkened rooms where Boss Cox used to hold court while getting a taste of both the old and the new. Librarian Eric Davis showed me around the place, and I snapped some photos while discussing features that the new, much larger location offers that the older one didn’t. The new things include two meeting rooms, one with a huge TV screen. The porch has several chess/checker boards, and looks charming; also, there are bike racks. There are more computers than in the old place; the branch now has 12 PCs and 4 Macs in one room, 8 teen computers, and 5 for kids. There’s a solarium that’s already a hit with children, plus a reading room with lots of natural lighting. The new place also has study carrels where you can plug in electronic devices. It seems to me the library did a seamless job of blending new technology with the warm old architecture that characterizes the building and the Gaslight District in general. Below are a bunch of  photos, most of them taken before the lights came back on.

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Short Vine Springs Back to Life

On a sunny day last week I strolled over to Vine Street in Corryville and snapped some photos and talked to some business owners, all of whom were happy to see construction wrapping up, revealing an attractive streetscape and a neighborhood that has a nice mix of spiffy new storefronts and long-established businesses. Finally you could look down the entire street without seeing orange barrels or construction vehicles, and it was clear that the work paid off:

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One of the newer shops, Red Mango Cafe, has a nice juice bar. Here’s a link to its Facebook page:

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The sandwich shop Which Wich has been there a few years now; I wrote about them in this earlier Short Vine update.

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The tasty and friendly Caribbean restaurant Island Frydays is another store that has been there several years, offering good food, a chill vibe, and some fine reggae music as part of their dining experience. Here’s a link to their Facebook page:

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The 86 Club is a coffee house and concert venue at 2820 Vine Street with nice employees and some very comfortable places to sit/drink coffee/peck away at your laptop/read the paper. If you’re looking for a friendly, spacious, comfortable coffee house, this is the place to go. Here’s a link to their Facebook page:

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Here’s another shot inside the 86 Club:

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Next I chatted with Randall Henderson and Katie Reynolds, who were chilling in front of the Corryville Library. Both of them said they lived in the neighborhood and were happy to see the new changes on Short Vine:

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The attractive and business-savvy Joyce Burson, with a nice, confident smile, stood in front of Cute Pieces, her very stylish clothing store at 2726 Vine Street. Here’s a link to her Facebook page, and here’s an insightful article about Joyce and her store before it moved to its current location:

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At 2722 Vine I encountered Exclusive, a clothing store with lots of team jerseys, ballcaps and other sports-related items. The owner, Congo, has had two businesses (this one + the Steak and Lemonade store) for ten years, so he’s a Short Vine veteran, and he’s confident that in this post-construction phase Short Vine will become all that. A nice guy with a good sense of humor, he’s also – as the picture testifies – Cincinnati Reds fan. Here’s a link to his Facebook page:

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And don’t forget Taste of Belgium, a restaurant and bar that in warmer weather has lots of outdoor tables. After snapping a photo of the bar I asked what their best beer was, and that question sparked a huge controversy. The bartender rated Old Rasputin above all the others, while two hard-at-work researchers argued the merits of Triple Karmeliet and Pauwel Kwak. Clearly I’m going to have to go back there and settle this controversy myself. Here’s a link to the Facebook page for the Corryville location of Taste of Belgium, at 2845 Clifton:

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Just off Short Vine is the stylish and tasty restaurant + bar, Hangover Easy, which has a killer breakfast menu:

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A centerpiece of the neighborhood is Bogart’s, which has been a successful venue for decades and actually, as this earlier blog entry makes clear, has made some significant improvements lately.

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Here are a few other picture of stores on this street that boasts a diverse mix of small businesses that combine to make Short Vine a great neighborhood to shop in and visit. Come check it out – it’s prettier than ever, and there’s plenty to do there!

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Bob Huggins For Mayor

bob huggins 003From 1989 to 2005 the University of Cincinnati had the most dynamic, charismatic, and intense basketball coach in the NCAA. The memory of watching Bob Huggins and his posse walk out out onto the court every game is imprinted permanently in the minds of sports fans everywhere. Brimming with attitude, Hugss & Co. lumbered out there like they were preparing for a street brawl. They played as tough as they looked, with a tenacity on defense that few teams have rivaled.

Ah, the good old days. As you may know, Bob Huggins continued to coach – and as you may also know, he would still be coaching at the University of Cincinnati were it not for some odd decision-making from a decision maker high up in the Ivory Tower. Bob Huggins now coaches for West Virginia, and as a result I have gone from caring less about their program to being a huge fan. I wish them luck in the upcoming season; everything starts with the right coach, and Bob Huggins is definitely the right man for the job. What prompted these reflections on Huggy Bear was eating breakfast at the Proud Rooster at 345 Ludlow Avenue the other morning. There’s a lot of sports memorabilia on the walls, and when I’m there I always look around a little, but for some reason I never fully digested the photograph at the top of this blog entry. Back in the glory days the Rooster was so enthusiastic about Huggs that they put up a sign that said Bog Huggins 4 Mayor and then took a photograph of the sign, framed it, and put it on their wall. Admittedly, my photo of the photo didn’t do it justice, but that doesn’t matter, because you need to see the original anyway, which you can do the next time you’re seeking breakfast food or fried chickcn.

Where Will the Blue Wisp Go?

Tal Farlow 001

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.

http://youtu.be/dZ9El7k4mNo