Have You Heard of Nextdoor Clifton?

Annunciation School in Clifton

A couple months ago someone suggested I join Nextdoor Clifton, the Clifton version of Nextdoor, which describes itself as a “free private social network for your neighborhood community.” I did so not knowing if it would be worth my time. Now that I’m a veteran, though, I can say that Nextdoor Clifton is a highly useful website that also helps you feel more connected with your neighborhood.

Many people post on Nextdoor looking for recommendations. This person needs a piano tuner, that person wants a landscaper. Someone else is looking for a good gutter cleaner. I find this part of the social network particularly useful; it reminds us that sometimes you have to go beyond Google and actually communicate with people who have experience in an area where you don’t.

Along with a “Free Items” section, people post things they want to sell or buy. A friend of mine posted that he was searching for a turntable, and people responded; the one he ended up buying was only a few blocks away from where he lived. Likewise, I announced that I bought records, and again people responded.

Part of the appeal, then, is the convenience factor. Rather than drive twenty miles to buy something, you can walk a couple blocks.

Nextdoor is also a useful tool for finding out about neighborhood events. A current example would be this posting in regard to Annunciation School, which has been a part of Clifton for 100 years:

Annunciation School Open House


School Tours and Classroom Open House
for prospective students and their families
Pre-School – 8th Grade

3545 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
(513) 221-1230

3:00-5:00 p.m.

Internationally-Known Jazz Performers Play For Free at Seasongood Pavilion

My ears have been buzzing lately from conversations about the Blue Wisp, which has been in a state of flux for several months. One of the tricky things about making a jazz club work these days is that there aren’t a lot of new names getting anywhere near the attention of the older icons—yet many of them have passed away, leaving a gap that has yet to be filled.

So how do the younger guys get their names out there?  One way is to host the It’s Commonly Jazz series at Seasongood Pavilion, which takes place every Thursday this month from 6pm to 8pm. The next four concerts all spotlight younger jazz artists whose playing draws from the tradition yet has a distinct style. This Thursday (8/8), for example, features the trumpeter Etienne Charles, who blends Caribbean music with jazz. Next Thursday(8/15)  tenor saxophonist  J.D. Allen will perform. Allen performs frequently in an atypical sax-bass-drums trio format. The pianoless lineup offers greater harmonic freedom, but it’s also very challenging, and Allen has gotten a lot of attention due to his ability to make a statement in that context. Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter (8/22) and vibraphonist Warren Wolf (8/29) are also jazz artists who, though young, have already built impressive resumes. Continue reading “Internationally-Known Jazz Performers Play For Free at Seasongood Pavilion”

Soul Burst, the New Singing Bowls CD by Ron Esposito

It’s always a good thing when one of your friends finds some success in the music world, and I’m happy to report that lately singing-bowl artist Ron Esposito has done exactly that.

Recent TV shows on which Esposito’s recordings have been heard include Hawaii 5-0, Nashville, Touch, Common Law and Ray Donovan, and his music has also been heard on John Diliberto’s Echoes.

Meanwhile Esposito has continued to record new material, and his third CD, Soul Burst, should focus more attention on his unique talent. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth wrote, and if you agree with that, consider this a remedy. Quiet, dreamy and introspective, Soul Burst is a soothing blend of World and Indian music that includes sitar, tablas, bansuri, harmonium, and a mixture of brass bowls and quartz crystal singing bowls. Fans of ECM and Windham Hill will enjoy it, and it seems so appropriate for New World Bookshop that I think they should re-open it just to give it a spin. Singing Bowls is music you can meditate to, but you can also become fully immersed in the soundscape, as with Dark Side of the Moon. Continue reading “Soul Burst, the New Singing Bowls CD by Ron Esposito”

Special Events Every Night on Ludlow Avenue!

Did you know that there are special events and special prices seven nights a week on Ludlow Avenue? Here’s something to stick on your fridge: once-a-week special events and specials that take place every week on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.

  • Sundays

Sitwell’s serves Belgian waffles from 8am to 4pm.

  • Mondays

Habenero’s serves $5 burritos + $2 Tecate bottles.

J. Gumbo’s Clifton serves $5 red beans and rice .

  • Tuesdays

Habanero’s serves $2 tacos + $2 Dos Equis draft beers.

Esquire Theatre hosts “Bargain Day.” All seats are $6 for the whole day.

Olive’s hosts “Trivia Tuesday” from 7pm to 9pm.

  • Wednesdays

Olives on Ludlow has a wine special from 5pm to 9pm; all bottles are half-price.

Sitwell’s hosts the Faux Frenchmen, a gypsy jazz quartet.

Arlin’s serves 45 cent wings + $2.75 imports.

  • Thursdays

Arlin’s has free pool.

J. Gumbo’s Clifton serves $1 fountain drinks.

  • Fridays

Ludlow Wines hosts a wine tasting from 5pm to 8 pm.

  • Saturdays

Ludlow Wines hosts a wine and beer tasting from 5pm to 8pm.

J. Gumbo’s Clifton serves hangover jambalaya, which uses beer instead of water to cook the rice, making it spicier. This special costs $8 for a bowl of hangover jambalaya + a drink.

New Jimmy McGary CD

Jimmy McGary Live at the Sungarden Vol. 1

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:

Pat Battstone:

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 !! “

“no shit”

“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.

William Ackerman Interview in The Absolute Sound

I began writing for a magazine called The Absolute Sound about five years ago. For those of you who haven’t heard of The Absolute Sound (hereafter referred to as TAS), it was founded in 1973. Primarily TAS focuses on audiophile stereo equipment; it also contains a music section, and I publish reviews, interviews and feature articles in that part of the magazine.

Writing about music is something I’ve always enjoyed, and from the beginning contributing to TAS was fun. Quickly, though, I grew to love it. Partly that’s due to a coincidence: I was a vinyl record lover even when records bordered on extinction, and shortly after I joined the magazine a vinyl resurgence began taking place. It turns out I was at the perfect place to celebrate that  surprising bit of news. I doubt any magazine on the planet grumbled more about the fact that vinyl had become an endangered species; now we celebrate both analog and continually improving digital recordings.

That’s part of what I love about the magazine. Also, I chat a lot on the phone and email back and forth with people from around the world who are connected to the music industry in one way or another. As opposed to corporate behemoths, these folks selling music, stereos, record cleaners and other accessories work on a smaller scale, emphasizing quality over quantity. Often they’re testing unknown waters and taking risks, and they do so because they’re driven by a passion. Examples include the Rune Grammofon label, whose new deluxe 7-LP release by Norwegian musician Arve Henriksen epitomizes the labor of love record-making can involve. The Lithuanian label NoBusiness Records also come to mind; in a few years this new small label has put out dozens of avant-garde jazz records on vinyl. I’m also impressed by the Paris-based Sam Records, whose passion for reissuing killer jazz LPs includes recreating album covers from the original artwork. And there’s Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, a record pressing plant that didn’t even exist a few years ago. People must have thought they were crazy to open a plant at that time; now they need two full-time shifts to keep up with demand. Continue reading “William Ackerman Interview in The Absolute Sound”

Annette Shepherd, Eclectic Torch Pop Singer

For the first time ever I stepped foot in The View Cucina Friday night, and as soon as I walked in I thought, why haven’t I come here before? A lounge-y kind of cocktail-y vibe quickly came over me, to the point where I half-expected Dean Martin or Julie London to come peeking out from behind a corner.

What enhanced the vibe was the music, which seemed to fit the space and the ambience so well you mighta thought the music was created first and then the room was designed to complement that. On guitar was Brian Lovely, who along with a host of other musical pursuits performs every Wednesday at Sitwell’s with the Faux Frenchmen. As with that ensemble, Lovely combined jazz with a gypsy style, and he blended in perfectly with a female vocalist who was unfamiliar to me. After one song (a cool rendition of a Dean Martin’s “Sway”)  the band went on break, whereupon I learned that she was Annette Shepherd, who I’d read about in cyberspace but never heard before. While I was able to hear another set, and enjoyed it (especially the cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love”), I was disappointed to learn that I missed, in the previous set, her take on “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Continue reading “Annette Shepherd, Eclectic Torch Pop Singer”

A New Delivery Service – What a Great Idea!



A door hanger ad appeared on my doorknob a couple days that, when I looked at it, sparked this thought: Shazam, that’s a good idea!

It’s one of those ideas that many of us have imagined at one point or another—especially when it’s late at night and we have the munchies but we’re too tired to go out for food—but it’s one thing to imagine something and another thing to do it.

The Midnight Express (513.462.1562) is a new business serving the Clifton and downtown area that delivers food and beverages from nearby restaurants from midnight to 6 am seven nights a week. On their door hangar they throw out suggestions that include fast food (White Castle, Skyline) and fancier fare (Shangai Mamas); they also deliver from places like Walgreens and CVS, which means they don’t limit what they can deliver. As the mastermind behind The Midnight Express (Cassidy Mullen, aka “Dr. Midnight”) put it when we chatted on the phone, “You tell me what you want the Midnight Express to be, that’s what we will be.” Continue reading “A New Delivery Service – What a Great Idea!”

Guitarist Peter Banks Passes Away

Today I learned that Peter Banks, the original guitarist for Yes, passed away a few days ago. Because Banks belonged to Yes before The Yes Album, their first big-seller, he’s not nearly as well-known as his successor, Steve Howe. A musical footnote he is not, however, as I learned when, ages ago, I purchased a copy of his first solo album, Two Sides of Peter Banks. The two things you would fear from guitarists—their own bad vocals plus a never-ending display of virtuosity—are absent. The record is entirely instrumental, and it’s also quite tasteful, with some sweet acoustic work as well as some colorful electric guitar. Vinyl enthusiasts who enjoy this track from Two Sides should be aware that the record isn’t expensive or particularly rare, which underscores my belief that, while records that are worth a lot acquire a certain mystique, there are all kinds of mind-blowing albums out there that you can snag for a few bucks. And while Peter Banks made other good records (the first Flash album also sticks out), Two Sides of Peter Banks is a good place to start. Here’s “The White House Vale” from that album: Continue reading “Guitarist Peter Banks Passes Away”