Funky Fridays with Freekbass is Back on the Air

Funky Fridays with Freekbass is a Cincinnati-based radio program that plays two hours of funk music every Friday from 6 to 8 pm. You can access it in one of two ways: if you live in Northside, you can catch it over the airwaves at 1660 AM; the rest of us can stream it online on radioartifact.com. Gaslight Property is a proud sponsor of the program, which basically picks up where the Friday-night funk show on WNKU left off.

Broadcast from Urban Artifact, Funky Fridays features funk, soul, disco, and hip-hop from all eras; interviews with George Clinton, Ivan Neville, George Porter Jr, Alan Light, Steve Arrington, Ghost Note, and Turkuaz, to name a few; and entertaining banter between the hosts of the show, Freekbass and Chris Donnelly.

Freekbass has been a staple of the Cincinnati music scene and beyond for decades. He formed SHAG in 1992 using the moniker “Freekbass,” a name bestowed by his mentor in funk, Bootsy Collins. Artists Freekbass has collaborated with include Bootsy Collins, Mike Gordon (Phish), Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads, P-Funk), DJ Logic, Steve Molitz (Particle), Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), and Buckethead.

Along with playing guitar in SHAG, Chris Donnelly is a sales manager at Sam Ash Music in Springdale. As a music history raconteur (you’d be amazed at how many musicians he’s met/promoted/provided moral support for) Chris is nonpareil, and he’s perfect for a radio program of this nature.

Does anyone else remember this? Back in the Sudsy Malone’s days, I used to see Freekbass perform in a band called Sleep Theatre. They packed the place every time, playing music that I might call dark wave…something like that. Those were good times. They put out one vinyl album, and one of the songs on it was this, “Flesh Instructs.” Even in this dark pop vein, there was no escaping the funk:

 

 

 

The Proud Rooster Keeps Crowing


An old-school mom-and-pop restaurant in the heart of the Gaslight District, the Proud Rooster has been getting a lot of attention lately. It recently topped a list of recommended mom-and-pops on the Only In Your State website. And last week 94.9’s Sandy and Holly “DJ’s and Diners” tour made its first stop at the Proud Rooster.

The praise is well-deserved, as the Proud Rooster, located at 345 Ludlow Avenue, provides good diner food and the kind of casual charm that befits a family-owned restaurant that’s been an integral part of Clifton’s Gaslight District since Eisenhower was President. (Before that, it was the Hitching Post.) The Proud Rooster is open for breakfast and lunch, and the hours are 8am to 2:30pm Tuesday thru Saturday and 8am to 1:30pm Sundays; it’s closed on Mondays. It serves breakfast staples like eggs, bacon, sausage, and home fries; lunch items include burgers, fries, and fried chicken.

The Proud Rooster has a relaxed vibe, and in the mornings you’ll see plenty of half-awake morning customers rolling in wearing shorts or sweats. While there, you’ll also see lots of sports memorabilia on the walls—photos of Bob Huggins, Sam Wyche, and other well-known coaches. And you’ll see photos and trophies of basketball teams once coached by the owner of the Proud Rooster, Bob “Chicken Man” Doll, who coached girls’ basketball for 28 years at St. Dominic in Delhi. The team won three city tournaments and were runners-up three other years.

When I asked Bob what he loved most about coaching, he said, “To see kids believe in themselves.” The work was all volunteer, and he made it clear that the benefits of playing sports—and his connection with the students—extended well beyond the end of the season.

“People say, ‘I don’t know if I can do that, I’m gonna quit”—well, that’s too easy,” he explained. “You gotta fight for it, and all my kids have done that.

“They start to believe in themselves. Every time I see them now, I think, that’s all my kids. They seem to achieve more when they get out.

“Twenty eight years,” he added, “and I wouldn’t trade a second for it.”

Just as he had an influence on St. Dominic’s eighth graders, Bob had had a positive impact on the Gaslight District—and for that he deserves a yet another trophy.

 

Buy Tickets Now for the Clifton House Tour on May 10

Clifton House Tour

 

Every third year on Mother’s Day the Clifton House Tour pays homage to the beautiful historic homes that are part of the reason Clifton has so much character. This year on Sunday, May 10 there will be homes from the 1800s to 1970 highlighting several different styles, including mid-20th century modern, Italianate, and early Shingle Style.

Tickets for the event are already on sale and can be purchased in advance at the following Clifton merchants: Ace Hardware, Hansa Guild, Ludlow Wines, and Skyline Chili. You can also buy tickets online at www.cliftoncommunity.org. They’re $18 in advance and will be $22 on the day of the tour. Day-of tickets can be purchased at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center on Clifton Avenue and at Clifton Plaza on Ludlow Avenue.

And this is an event for the whole community. Local businesses throughout Clifton will be open during the tour to provide food, refreshment, and shopping for those looking to extend the day. A free shuttle will escort visitors from two locations: Clifton Cultural Arts Center at 3711 Clifton Ave. and Clifton Plaza at 333 Ludlow Ave.

Along with being a lot of fun, the Clifton House Tour is for a good cause. The tour proceeds are reinvested in the community through the various projects of Clifton Town Meeting (CTM), which include the Clifton Chronicle, and events such as the Memorial Day Parade and Picnic, Lantern Walk, CliftonFest and carriage rides for Holidays on Ludlow.

For more information, email contactctm@cliftoncommunity.org or visit www.cliftoncommunity.org. 

Lentz and Company on Ludlow Avenue

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Now that spring is here, everyone’s getting out more. That means more people will be dropping into some of the small shops in the Gaslight District, so it’s time to highlight some of them. When Lentz and Company opened on Ludlow Avenue a year and a half ago, its “carefully curated collection of kitsch” added a colorful touch to the neighborhood. Mad Men may be about to call it quits, but its spirit lives on at this nostalgic store. Recently I dropped by and snapped some photos of some of the latest items for sale there. As the pictures below show, along with vintage goodies the store sells interesting new art by local artists. Here’s a link to Lentz and Company’s Facebook page; “like” it and keep up with the latest news from the store at 339 Ludlow Avenue!

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Fries Cafe Is Back!

Fries Cafe 001There 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?

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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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Come See the Cliftonfest Mural In Progress!

Mural 014It’s a beautiful day outside, and if you’re paining a mural in anticipation of Cliftonfest it’s even better. These folks were hard at workplay today, and seeing them inspired me to take a few snapshots of the colorful work of art that’s gracing the building where Om Cafe resides. They predict that they’ll be out there for two more weeks; hopefully they’ll have more days like today – sunny and just the right temperature. Come check them out! This year Gaslight Property is a proud sponsor of Cliftonfest, whose Facebook page you can check out and like: cliftonfestfacebookpage.

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Where Will the Blue Wisp Go?

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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.

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From Deep Inside the Forest

Another Part of the ForestIn 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.”

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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…

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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:

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Clifton Plaza Farmer’s Market Returns

1898225_10151971573343036_399450311_nClifton Plaza Farmer’s Market (located in the courtyard next to Om Eco Cafe on Ludlow Avenue) is back, offering a chance to show some support for local farmers and shop for fresh produce that takes place EVERY MONDAY from 5:30pm to 8pm. The Market blossomed into a fun and popular event last year,  making it one of the things that makes Clifton a special place. So come shop and mingle, and tell your friends too! One of the vendors returning from last year, Amanda Bowman, is a Gaslight Property resident. Amanda has created a blog devoted to growing and preparing food, eclectikuchen.blogspot.com. “I’ve seen the life of food from seed, to seedling, to growing up in the soil,” she writes in her blog. “I’ve seen what I’ve worked hard to maintain become a bountiful harvest, delivering colorful and vibrant specimens to chefs, who appreciate the pure flavor, and the fact that what they are using is grown close to where they artfully craft it.” That spirit is there in spades when you visit the Clifton Plaza Farmer’s Market. Here are some photos from my visit there yesterday:

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