Remembering JJ Cale

After guitarist, songwriter and vocalist JJ Cale passed away a few days ago, memories started popping up of a musician who, in his own understated, behind-the-scenes, low-profile way left a big mark on music.  Yesterday I typed up some of those memories and sent them to a website I’ve never submitted to before – – and discovered this morning that my article is now in print. Here’s a link to my piece in





Book Signing at Japp’s Tonight

Japp's Cocktail BoardI certainly hope that the event taking place at Japp’s tonight will start a trend. Too often book signings take place at boring old bookstores, whereas the preferred location would be a bar, and especially one that serves a vast array of cocktails. Molly Wellmann, the owner of Japp’s (i.e., cocktail central) has just published her first cocktail book, Handcrafted Cocktails: The Mixologist’s Guide to Classic Drinks for Morning, Noon & Night. Rather than devote the evening to discussing cocktails in the abstract, Molly and Japp’s will be making them, a process that inevitably deepens the understanding of this rare science for eager students (until the next morning, that is). Here are some details:

• Molly wants to throw a party for the first 75 people who pre-order the book at Japp’s for $20 ($5 off sticker price). Everyone who RSVPs will get a signed copy of the book and a free class in the Japp’s Annex where Molly will demonstrate how to make some of the cocktails in her book, hang out and of course, drink with you. Continue reading “Book Signing at Japp’s Tonight”

The New James Brown Release

A half-century ago James Brown took a huge risk, self-funding his first-ever live album because the main man at Cincinnati’s own King Records, Syd Nathan, assumed it would tank. Nathan was wrong and James Brown was right, and the rest is history: Live at the Apollo became a huge success. The Godfather of Soul continued to perform and record at the Apollo, and two later releases from the historic theater chronicled the evolution of an artist who was constantly breaking new ground. A fourth Apollo live concert was recorded with plans for a release and then shelved. Selections from all four of those recordings appear on Best of Live at the Apollo: 50th Anniversary, which you can order online or buy at local record stores such as Shake-It Records and Everybody’s Records.

Because three of the live records were double LPs, there was a lot of material to choose from. The emphasis from all four shows remains on uptempo numbers of moderate length, with no ballads to be found; the groove is established early on, and it never stops. And while the music here spans an almost ten-year period, the record flows along smoothly, getting a little funkier with time, but that seems like such a natural progression that there’s nothing strained about it. Best of isn’t focused exclusively focused on the biggest hits, but there are plenty of songs that even casual James Brown fans will know, including “Cold Sweat,” “Please, Please, Please,” and “Sex Machine.” I recommend this release to anyone who wants to throw in a CD at their next party and know that, from beginning to end, everything on it is danceable. Continue reading “The New James Brown Release”

First-Ever Taste of OTR August 10

Over-the-Rhine is hosting its first annual Taste of OTR on August 10 from 11 am to 11pm at Washington Park. This will give the neighborhood a chance to celebrate and recognize its wide variety of restaurants, bars, coffee houses and other businesses, many of which have popped up in the last few years. Vendors include The Anchor-otr, Taste of Belgium, Eli’s BBQ, Coffee Emporium, Findlay Market, Dojo Gelato, The Lackman, Lavomatic, MOTR, Taste 513, Venice on Vine, Cafe de Wheels, Moerlein, Lucy Blue, and Urban Gill.

Some vendor spots are still available. If interested, contact for more information.

Music will also be performed throughout the event, with the following bands on tap: Continue reading “First-Ever Taste of OTR August 10”

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”

MJ’S Play Old-School Soul + Funk at Arlin’s Saturday

Have you heard the MJ’S? They play old-school soul and funk, and they’ll be playing a free gig in the patio behind Arlin’s Saturday from 10pm to 2am. Every time the MJ’S play Arlin’s they draw an enthusiastic crowd of old fans and new converts, and it makes it all the sweeter that the show will be outdoors.

It’s tough to find a weak link the MJ’S. Along with being a good singer, lead vocalist Ronnie J Foster is a convincing front man. Justin Hall is a versatile guitarist who wowed us the last time out with his rendition of Funkadelic’s psychedelic opus, “Maggot Brain.” Keyboardist Joel (Razor Sharp) Johnson has worked extensively with Bootsy Collins, bass player Mark Becker finds deep funk grooves wherever the music roams…and since the MJ’S have been juggling drummers, I’ll hold off there. Continue reading “MJ’S Play Old-School Soul + Funk at Arlin’s Saturday”

Video of Northside 4th of July Parade!

Here’s some footage of the Northside 4th of July Parade. On reflection, the rain made it feel like a Dionysian rebirth, and visually I liked how everything seemed shiny due to the rain.

The rain threw a wild card into things, I suspect, and when folks did start moseying down that hill the first round seemed all squished together, with Jim Tarbell aka Mr. Cincinnati leading the pack:






Continue reading “Video of Northside 4th of July Parade!”

Northside 4th of July Parade: Sights and Sounds

No one has experienced previous Northside 4th of July Parades complained about the rain that fell throughout the event, not even when it intensified near the beginning. (It let up shortly thereafter.) This time the sauna-like conditions created by high temperatures with high humidity were not part of the equation, and the large and festive crowd was lucky to avoid that business. Here are some pictures of the occasion, most of them self-explanatory, while a couple include some commentary.











Continue reading “Northside 4th of July Parade: Sights and Sounds”

The Acetate I Found: “Band Practice 1963”

The other day when I was flipping through some records I ran across two 33s that were recorded at 501 Terrace Ave., which is right down the street from me. One of the LPs is an acetate dated 1963, but between tracks at a couple points someone announces that some of the tracks were recorded a couple years before that. (Acetates, by the way, are made in very limited quantities, with no intention, usually, of a commercial release, so I’m always curious when I find one – but their quality declines quickly, and the next time a needle drops I’ll be downloading it digitally, to make sure the music survives.)

The music on the acetates consist of “traditional jazz” (Dixieland or “hot jazz” or other terms that are used to define this style). Presumably the music was never officially released, and of course I wanted to know who recorded it and what their history was. Did they play around Cincinnati, and did they continue to play music?

Fortunately two between-track monologues listed personnel (which underwent some changes) along with the instrument each person played. The musicians included: Bob Heidrich, trumpet (and apparently the tracks were recorded at his house); John Cantrell, clarinet; Jack Fessler, banjo; Jack Horning, drums; Jim Osborne, trombone; Bill Sporr, piano; Ken Steagman, sousaphone; and Tom Harter. (In most cases these spellings are what linguists refer to as a phonetic stab in the dark).

1963 was awhile ago, and there was no guarantee when I visited cyberspace that any information would surface about the musicians—but a quick search proved fruitful. It turns out that at least two of the musicians still play traditional music, although not in Cincinnati; I’m pretty sure I got the right people because their name, instrument and genre all matched.

Interestingly, one of the musicians is the father of Mark Boone Junior, who’s played (more often than not) a bad guy (including a crooked cop) in dozens of movies and TV shows. His biggest roles include the Christopher Nolan films Memento and Batman Begins and FX’s Sons of Anarchy, where he plays Bobby Munson.

I’ve taken the initial steps in trying to track down some of the musicians involved with this project, and thus far it’s been a bust, but it’s still early in the process. I’m curious, though, if anyone reading this has any idea who any of the musicians are and how to reach them. I’d love to find out more about these musicians.