The Southgate House wasn’t the only storied and beloved local music venue to shut down after its New Year’s Eve 2011 show. Last Saturday also marked the end of local Jazz institution the Blue Wisp Jazz Club … at least at its home on Eighth Street between Broadway and Sycamore. Unlike the Southgate, fans of the Wisp shouldn’t be sad, though. A new, bigger, better Blue Wisp will open just a few blocks away this weekend (if all goes as planned). Instead of having a gem stolen away entirely, the crown jewel of Cincinnati’s Jazz scene is getting buffed up, polished and put in a much nicer, more prominent display case.
The venue’s owners are moving to its new spot at the corner of Race and Seventh streets, onetime home to restaurants like RedFish and Bagpipes. At press time, the ugly orange/purple/lime green Bagpipes sign was still up, but the vintage Blue Wisp sign could be seen tucked away near the front windows, ready to be hung. The owners have been busy moving into the new spot — where they’ll be more visible, have much more space and flexibility and be able to offer a full food menu — since the day the Eighth Street location closed.
This Friday is what the schedule labels the “Soft opening of Phase One of the new Blue Wisp,” featuring music from the Ellen Rowe/Ingrid Jensen Quintet ($10 cover) at 8 p.m.
and, at midnight, free late-night Blues from Delbert Williams. Saturday, the Wisp presents its Blue Wisp Young Lions High School Jazz Band, which plays a free set at 6 p.m., followed by an 8:30 p.m. performance by local Jazz act Triage ($5 cover), featuring singer Eugene Goss, keyboardist Billy Larkin and drummer Ted Wellborn.
Future bookings so far appear to be in line with what the club has offered over its nearly 35-year history in town, from its original location in O’Bryonville through its moves to Garfield Place — within spitting distance of the new location — and then Eighth Street, where it has been since 2002. There will still be a strong emphasis on some of Cincy’s best Jazz players (yes, the Blue Wisp Big Band will continue its every-Wednesday residency), with a nice mix of nationally-known touring artists as well as many of the specialty events the current management has instituted over the past few years. On Sunday, for example, the club hosts a 2 p.m. performance by Bowling Green State University Jazz Singers with nationally acclaimed guests Kim Nazarian (vocals) and trombonist Jay Ashby ($10), followed by a 7 p.m. show by Colorado-based saxophonist/recording artist/educator/label founder Josh Quinlan (a CCM grad) and his quintet. The club also has March 2 reserved for an appearance by Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, a well-known, progressive Jazz outfit with a strong following in the Jam band scene.
It was a tough year for live music venues in 2011 (R.I.P. Dirty Jack’s, Play By Play, Mad Hatter, Radiodown and Southgate House), but with the Blue Wisp entering an exciting new era, it’s great to see 2012 start off on such a promising note.
Visit www.thebluewisp.com for a complete rundown of upcoming shows.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org