A complete and accurate catalog of the contents lying about, under and atop the bandstand at Schwartz’s Point Jazz Club is a mystery known only to Ed Moss and Jesus.
A very partial list includes several small boxes full of unopened CDs; an old chrome free-standing ashtray holding several maracas of varying colors; a three-legged stool, upon which a small amp is perched. The amp is itself is covered by an old tapestry upon which are stacked a number of musical scores, assorted drum sticks and an old cassette recording of the Society Jazz Orchestra performing at Mozart’s, as well as several old photographs.
Beneath the grand piano is a little stereo, more drum sticks, a tambourine and a small briefcase stuffed with aging charts and scores. In the corner, the province of the bassist, is another small amp, assorted musical paraphernalia and a shop vac. A soprano sax lies casually across the strings of the opened piano.
The mystery of the bandstand is altogether apropos given how Schwartz’s Point itself is a mystery to most Cincinnatians, despite the fact that many drive by the club on a regular basis.
Schwartz’s Point Jazz Club occupies the lower half of the faux-stone and plaster, not-quite-flatiron building that sits on the north end of the five-way intersection at Vine Street and West McMicken Avenue, just north of Findlay Market. If you’ve driven up Vine from Over-the-Rhine to the area around the University of Cincinnati, you’ve probably seen it.
The club’s anonymity is a shame, as Schwartz’s Point is everything a Jazz club should be — intimate (the club seats only 30 or so people), warm (the walls and floors are covered with an assortment of carpets and wall-hangings) and comfortable. Journeyman Jazz pianist Ed Moss’ personal labor of love, Schwartz’s Point harkens back to a time when clubs were intimate and music was everything. Moss has gone to great lengths to create a club to best showcase the music played within.
Moss calls the club and its uniquely triangular listening room “an incredibly hip acoustic situation. There is no bounce and it all works, it doesn’t matter if it’s solo, trio or orchestra. The place is designed for music.”
Moss, who lives upstairs from the club, has previously owned other clubs and restaurants around Cincinnati, most notably the Italian restaurant Mozart’s, which sat across the street from The Mad Frog in Corryville.
Schwartz’s Point was designed to emulate the small back-alley Jazz clubs of Paris, clubs Moss played in his youth.
Schwartz’s features a variety of Jazz and is open Fridays and Saturdays, as well as Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Tuesdays belong to the Society Jazz Orchestra (SJO), an eight-piece band Moss started in 1979. Tuesday nights are also special because Moss cooks a full dinner buffet for the patrons. Tuesdays at Schwartz’s Point has to rank among Cincinnati’s most unique and reasonably priced nights out on the town. For $10, you not only get a night of stellar, top-shelf, big-band Jazz from dedicated and talented players — you also get a home-cooked dinner.
The SJO normally plays two sets, the first being more standard big band fare, while the second features more lively and sometimes more experimental music. The SJO is a powerful ensemble, the individual efforts of its members rising and merging to create a full, rich sound that fills the small club.
“You can get a hell of a lot of sound out of five horns,” Moss notes.
On Wednesday nights, Moss hosts a Jazz workshop. He recently created the workshop in the hopes of bringing together club players and those learning their craft up the hill at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.
“Some things you can’t learn in a classroom,” Moss says. “You can learn theory and get help learning your instrument, but you have to learn on the bandstand.”
On Friday and Saturday nights, Moss plays with guitarist George “Oz” Ostrum, an accomplished Blues player from Chicago who, after landing in Cincinnati and moving up the street from Schwartz’s Point, happened to wander into the club one night. Ostrum struck up a conversation with Moss, who agreed to work with Oz. Ostrum, for his part, promptly began learning how to play Jazz. This unique symposium has been going on for some time now and Oz, himself the son of an accomplished pianist, has developed some fearsome Jazz chops.
Of Ostrum, Moss says, “He’s such a natural player, he can do anything. I’ve never seen anyone come in off the street and do that.”
Moss himself is no musical slouch. He began playing at age 4, “plunking at my grandmother’s piano.” At 10, his father took him to hear Duke Ellington at the Keith Albee Theatre in his hometown of Huntington, W.V., and Moss was hooked. He formed his own band in junior high and high school.
Moss eventually earned, in just three years, a music degree from Huntington’s Marshall University. He then found his way to Indiana University for a fellowship at age 20. In commuting between Indiana and Huntington, he came to know — and began to play in — Cincinnati. He played the clubs of Mount Adams and elsewhere in the ’60s and, in time, came to play with many area musicians, including local Jazz legends like Jimmy McGary and Dee Felice.
Ed Moss opened Schwartz’s point, in fits and starts, beginning in October 2008. The club was initially just a practice space with people coming by to watch. Visits from friends, family and others became more regular and a tip jar appeared. Over time, Moss went legit and obtained a liquor license. Since that time he’s worked hard to entice musicians and patrons alike to his club.
Like many labors of love, it can sometimes be tough. Moss fears that many are reluctant to patronize Schwartz’s Point because of its location between OTR and Corryville. Some stay away claiming a lack of parking.
These concerns puzzle Moss, who says that adjacent on-street parking is plentiful and that he’s never known anyone to have a problem on the street while visiting the club. Yet, one of Cincinnati’s best-kept secrets all too often goes undiscovered.
It’s a curious mystery, indeed.
For more on SCHWARTZ’S POINT JAZZ CLUB, visit schwartzspoint.com or call 513-651-2236.