There’s nothing like being greeted by the bright echoes of music as you step inside from the pouring rain. On this particular day I was visiting the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for the monthly Jazz of the Month Club performance, featuring the Jamey Aebersold Quartet. It wasn’t hard to find the musicians, since their tunes bounced all around the library atrium, and as I slipped into my seat I settled down and let the warm jazz beats warm my cold body.
The Jamey Aebersold Quartet, the third performer in the Jazz of the Month Club, featured an extremely talented group of musicians, led by an award-winning Jazz master and educator. Jamey Aebersold, who led the group on the alto sax, received the 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award, the highest jazz honor in America. A native of New Albany, Ind., Aebersold has been playing Jazz for more than 50 years, and has gained international recognition as a Jazz musician and educator. It was perhaps the educator in him that couldn’t resist adding tidbits of the pieces and artists they performed.
The quartet played several Jazz tunes, including “Lament” by J.J. Johnson, “Hi-Fly” by Randy Weston and “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington, one of the most famous Jazz compositions. As I listened to the lively beats I couldn’t help but look around at the rest of the audience. While a couple people slept in the back row, most were intently focused on the performers, nodding their heads, tapping their toes or even dancing in their seats. Peeking out at passersby, I noticed a few that were even dancing as they walked, and I saw more than one librarian sneak a peek between tasks.
At one point, Aebersold pulled a Jamaican pianist into the performance and gave him a rehearsal for their next song in “be-dos,” singing the melody in gibberish. As strange as that seemed, Aebersold’s next instruction confused me further: “There’s a two-bar break on bar…something. You’ll hear it.” While we all laughed, I couldn’t help but wonder how the pianist could follow those instructions, but to my amazement he jumped right in without missing a beat, improvising as if he’d known the tune all along.
As a Jazz enthusiast, it was wonderful to hear the different styles of Jazz played in a way that drew crowds from all sections of the library. Older adults sat patiently through the program while younger audiences slipped in and out. But no matter how long they stayed, all seemed to leave with an expression of peace and pleasure at the simple but beautiful tunes wafting through the building. It was evidence of what Aebersold described by saying, “The world’s a mess. But we can make it better by playing some music.”Did this event sound interesting? Check out similar programs at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Main Branch:
There was little reading happening at the Boone County Public Library on Native American Day on Nov. 14. A life-size tipi sat on the lawn of the main branch, and inside the sound of drums carried from the second floor. In a corner of the children’s area sat craft tables where kids could make pinch pots out of clay, and Sioux dancers wandered around in traditional dress and face paint.November, which is Native American Heritage Month, was the perfect time to host this event, although it took library staff several months of planning to get it ready. Adult Programmer Kathy Utz says this was the first-ever Native American Day at the library. “This is totally an experiment for us,” she says. “It’s really turned out to be a good program, and people are interested in it.” Utz added that one of the library’s goals is to expose the community to different cultures. “We always like to broaden the horizon of Boone County and to see something they haven’t seen before,” she said. They certainly achieved the desired effect, for as I wandered through the various stations, I can honestly say I’d never before experienced so much Native American culture in one place.
Chaske Hotain, a group of Sioux drummers, performed with brothers and sisters from around the country, beating the rhythms of their ancestors. Wearing their traditional dress, the dancers presented various Native American styles, at times inviting the audience to join them as they circled gracefully inside the wide perimeter of chairs. “It’s great … I’ve never been to a powwow or anything like that before, so I didn’t know what to expect,” says Kaitlin Barber, public service associate with the library’s local history department and the one who arranged the demonstration. “It’s really surpassed my expectations.” Outside the crowd was just as enthralled, and children could scarcely contain their excitement to enter the life-size tipi. It was surprising how many could fit into what looked like a small space — as I stood there I watched at least 30 people file in and settle comfortably on the floor. As I listened in I heard the owner, Tim Deane of Morristown, Tenn., describe the hand-made, authentic Sioux articles inside.No matter which corner of the library you found yourself, there was something exciting to greet you. Patrons and performers alike took advantage of the vibrant atmosphere, and all around I could see the results of exposure to a different culture. This is what Jordan Padgett, youth services programmer, says the library strives to provide: “That is part of what we do here at the library, is really engage the community and reach them where they’re at. [And] providing stuff that amplifies what they’re already learning is a big key.”
Several of our local theaters produce shows this time of year that are a kind of antidote to the usual fare of A Christmas Carol and other happy, merry tales. Three get under way this weekend:
I went to a rockin’ party earlier this week, and you can, too — if you turn up for the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues, through Dec. 20. That’s right, a whole month of good times and sad in the intimate Shelterhouse Theater, doubling as Big Mama’s after-hours Blues bar. Every year around this time the Playhouse puts on a show as an alternate holiday choice to A Christmas Carol (which gets underway next week). This year it’s a warm-hearted good time featuring three excellent singers and a couple of very accomplished Jazz musicians (especially local Jazz pianist Steve Schmidt) performing off-color tunes, full of double-entendres and scandalous joking. The first half of the two-hour performance is mostly about lusty interaction via tunes like “Rough and Ready Man,” “I Got My Mojo Workin’ ” and “You Bring Out the Boogie in Me.” After intermission the party continues briefly (including some cute audience interaction to the tune of “I’m Not That Kind of Girl” — but then the tone darkens with passionate songs of grief (“Death Letter”), mourning (“Good Morning Heartache”) and then hope (“Change is ’Gonna Come”). Felicia P. Fields, a Broadway veteran who played a major role in the original staging of The Color Purple, anchors (and I use that word quite literally) the banter and the singing, but she is ably matched by Caron “Sugaray” Rayford, a massive force of energy, perspiration and rhythm. Chic Street Man sings and plays several guitars (especially a steel number with a gorgeous ring), and his sly, sinuous presence is a perfect complement to Fields’ and Rayford’s more ebullient performances. Don’t go if you’re offended by sexual innuendo, but if you’re looking for a “low down dirty” time, call now for a ticket: 513-421-3888
One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, As You Like It, is the first step of holiday happiness at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The story of tomfoolery and romance in the Forest of Arden kicks off tonight; it’s around until Dec. 12, when it’s followed by the tenth annual staging of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). In case you missed it, Cincy Shakes announced this week that by mid-2017 it moves to its own spectacular new space in Washington Park, the Otto M. Budig Theatre, with nearly 100 more seats than its Race Street facility. (Read my story in this week's issue for more.) Until then, you need to line up for tickets, since many of the company’s performances sell out quickly. Tickets: 513-381-2273
Another “kind of” holiday show getting started is Know Theatre’s production of All Childish Things, opening tonight and onstage through Dec. 19. In a story set right here in Cincinnati (Norwood, in fact), it’s 2006 and two guys are still yearning for the galactic adventures promised by Star Wars when they were kids. One guy lives in his mom’s basement; the other has a girlfriend who could care less about The Force. They think their big break might be residing in a warehouse full of collectible Star Wars memorabilia. Zany shows rooted in childhood have become a holiday staple at Know Theatre, and this is right up that weird, happy alley. Tickets: 513-300-5669
And if you’re really longing to get the holidays under way, you have the perfect opportunity with a tour stop by a production of White Christmas at the Aronoff (next Tuesday through Dec. 6). It’s a stage version of the popular film; the tour features stage Cincinnati and Broadway veteran Pamela Myers in a cute, outspoken role. She performs a number titled “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” a perfect summary of her illustrious career. Tickets: 513-621-2787
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
As a perfect accompaniment for its current High Style: Twentieth-Century Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection exhibition, the Cincinnati Art Museum is offering a free screening of the new documentary Dior and I this Sunday at 2 p.m.
The film, by director Frederic Tcheng, shows the high-pressure process by which new designer/creative director Raf Simons prepares to debut a line of clothing at Fashion Week.
Tcheng’s previous fashion documentaries include 2008’s Valentino: The Last Emperor and 2011’s Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel.
The screening is part of the monthly Moving Pictures series. It occurs in Fath Auditorium and no reservations are needed. There is a parking fee for non-members.
Jens Lekman, the acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter whose weeklong residency at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center is now in its third day, has finished and posted the first five songs in his Ghostwriting project.
You can hear them here.
Through Thursday, Lekman will be meeting with 11 people (it was supposed to be 12, but one had to cancel) whose written entries about their experiences were selected by him for song adaptations.
He will be discussing their stories with them, creating lyrics and then recording — with a small combo — songs that he posts for the world to hear. The participants receive a USB copy in a gift box. Read more information about the project here.
Listening to the five songs posted so far, one can hear that his knack for melody is up for this challenge. “What Was Worth Saving,” “Cartwheels” and “The Love It Takes to Get By” are particularly memorable. Because of an issue with one song on Monday night, Lekman compensated by recording two versions of another, “Northeastern Ascent.” Three more songs are scheduled to be finished and posted online tonight and another three on Thursday evening.
On Friday at 8 p.m. at the Woodward Theater, Lekman will perform in concert with the MYCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble, a string section of Price Hill youth under the direction of local musician/composer Eddy Kwon, who also adapted the arrangements. Some of the Cincinnati-composed songs will be included.
Tickets are available at contemporaryartscenter.org for $20 (or $15 for CAC members) now and should still be available at the door.
I’m in New York City this week to check out some Broadway shows, so I’m missing the opening night of the Cincinnati Playhouse’s production of Low Down Dirty Blues. It’s the holiday “alternative” to A Christmas Carol, and alternative it is. It’s set in a nameless Blues club on Chicago’s South Side that’s closing for the night. But that’s just when the party heats up as a group of musicians assembles for an after-hours jam session to swap stories and perform favorite tunes, especially numbers from the bawdier side of the Blues, tunes by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton and more. “It is a spicier kind of Blues, specifically one that has two sides to it," says Dan Wheetman, the production’s co-creator and music director. "On one hand, it is a more intimate look, it is a smaller group and a smaller palate… It’s a story about the people, these people in this club and their stories, which includes the music but it is more of a personal talk about what brought them to where they are.” I’m eager to see it. Onstage through Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-421-3555
It’s that time of year when families begin thinking about going to the theater together. Getting an early start are musical productions for the entire family. Once choice is Seussical, based on the works of Dr. Seuss, at Northern Kentucky University. It opened on Thursday and continues through Nov. 22. Tickets: 859-572-5464 … The other is a production of the musical Mary Poppins by Cincinnati Music Theatre at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. This is perhaps the city’s most ambitious community theater company, typically undertaking big musicals and doing a good job with them. It opens tonight and continues through Nov. 21. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … If you miss the latter, you’ll have a chance to see a different production: The Covedale Center will be presenting it Nov. 27-Dec. 27.
Continuing and finishing: A keep-’em-guessing murder mystery with just two characters, Sleuth, continues its run at the Carnegie through Nov. 22. (Tickets: 859-957-1940)… This is the final weekend for Mad River Rising at the Cincinnati Playhouse (final performance is Saturday; tickets: 513-421-3888); Andy’s House of [BLANK], an original musical at Know Theater (also winding up on Saturday; tickets: 513-300-5669); and an old-fashioned farce, Fox on the Fairway, at the Covedale (Sunday’s matinee is your last chance; tickets: 513-241-6550).
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Every piece of art has a story, but what we don’t often remember is that
the story of the artist can be even more enthralling. Donna King of River’s
Edge Pottery Studio shared not only her trade but her history with a group
during a pottery demonstration at the Covington branch of the Kenton County
Public Library. The demonstration, which was scheduled for only two hours,
stretched out as King engaged her audience in a series of stories.
She begian by slamming the clay on the wheel, making a large thump. “You’ve
gotta get really really tough with it,” she explained. After centering the blob
of clay on the wheel, King went to work on what she tells us is going to be a
bowl. “With my students, the first thing I have them do is make a bowl,” she said.
As we watched, King masterfully poked a hole in the middle of the clay lump,
eventually widening it out to form a discernable bowl shape. Once she was
finished with it, King set it aside and grabbed a larger lump of clay, which
she again threw on the wheel. This one was to become a vase, and King eagerly
shared her technique for designing her pieces, which includes using a variety
of objects to create patterns. Leaves, feathers and lace are a few of her
standard tools, but she’s also used Hot Wheels cars, plastic placemats and
pages from adult coloring books. “Sometimes I use a feather, sometimes I use
sugar, and one time I actually used cat’s whiskers,” she said, laughing.
The library demonstration was King’s second at the Kenton County Public
Library. The artist, who has been creating pottery for nine years, originally asked
to display pottery for the Clay Alliance of Cincinnati, but when the library
reached out requesting her to come give a presentation last fall, she gladly
accepted. “It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s
just been an adventure.” The artist says she’s traveled all over the community
doing demonstrations and classes and has worked with several Girl Scout troops
and taught classes at Christian schools in the area, as well as teaching
private or group classes. “I’ve had them as young as two years old, and up to
86 years old,” she said “People who say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try
that,’ and I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’ ”
Find this interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:
Nov. 12: Scarf
It Up: Learn to knit from a local hobbyist. (Durr Branch)
Nov. 17: Coloring for Adults: Unwind at the Erlanger branch with this creative past time. (Erlanger Branch)
Nov. 19: Holiday Sewing: Machines and fabric are available for you to come make a holiday gift. (Covington Branch)
“Florala.” That’s where you are when you head down the ramp to see Know Theatre’s production of Andy’s House of [Blank]. It’s set on the state line between Florida and Alabama, but it’s recreated in two-dimensional cardboard props (telephones and ice cream cones) and decorations (comically taxidermied animals, including the backside of a dog) imaginatively designed and executed by Sarah Beth Hall. The tale is filtered through the often-divergent memories of two guys who were 16 in 1998, holding down their first jobs in roadside oddity shop and museum of “unmailed love letters.” The “guys” are Paul Strickland and Trey Tatum (truly from Florida and Alabama). They serve as the narrators — or perhaps the “recollectors” — of the oddball musical tale of Andy (Christopher Michael Richardson), the proprietor, and Sadie (Erika Kate MacDonald), the girl he had a crush on as a kid. The show was a well-received entry in Know’s “Serials” earlier this year, a story told in five 15-minute episodes. Strickland and Tatum have stitched those pieces together, and director Bridget Leak has given the piece continuity and flow. Their ebullient enthusiasm is obvious from start to finish — Tatum pounds away on an electric keyboard, Strickland (who composed the 20 or so songs) plays guitar and sings almost operatically, and Richardson and MacDonald (both with gorgeous voices) affectingly play two people caught in a looping time warp. In fact, all four characters are living out the theme repeatedly spoken and sung: “Every day is just a variation on a theme.” The music is great, and there are lots of laughs along the way, but the story is a serious, poignant rumination about love, longing and how to move forward by looking back. At two-plus hours (including an intermission) it feels a tad long, but every moment is a treat to watch. Onstage through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669
Opening this week: Anthony Schaffer’s Sleuth, a humorous but taut murder mystery is at The Carnegie in Covington. It’s a two-man show about a famous mystery writer who’s out to murder a man having an affair with his wife. There are a lot of twists and turns in this tale, so it’s fun to watch if you pay close attention. Through Nov. 14. Tickets: 859-957-1840 … Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa fascinated Cincinnati Playhouse audiences back in 2013 with his “sequel” to The Crucible, Abigail/1702. Falcon Theatre is offering two related one-acts by him, The Mystery Plays, inspired by the tradition of medieval theater that dealt with the imponderables of death, the afterlife, religion, faith and forgiveness — but from a thoroughly American perspective. In the first piece, a horror film director survives a train wreck only to be haunted by someone who didn’t make it; in the second, a woman travels to a rural Oregon town to make peace with the man who murdered her parents and her sister: He’s her older brother. Through Nov. 21 at the Monmouth Theatre in Newport. Tickets: 513-479-6783
Continuing: Cincinnati Shakespeare’s excellent production of Arthur Miller’s classic drama Death of a Salesman has its final performance on Saturday evening. It’s worth seeing, but tickets might be scarce. Tickets: 513-381-2273 … Mad River Rising at the Cincinnati Playhouse is a compelling study of place and aging, an old man trying to forestall the sale of his family farm. It continues through Nov. 14. Tickets: 513-421-3888 … Covedale Center’s staging of the comedy Fox on the Fairway, a tribute to cinematic farces from the 1930s and 1940s, is onstage until Nov. 15. Tickets: 513-241-6550
Tune in to WVXU (FM 91.7) on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. to catch LA Theater Works’ production of Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man. This show, about a young Jewish Confederate soldier marking Passover 1865 with his family’s newly freed slaves in a crumbling mansion in Richmond, Va., at the end of the Civil War, is a powerful work. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati staged this show very effectively in 2012.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
After a successful symposium here last month, FotoFocus is taking its Robert Mapplethorpe presentation, The Perfect Moment: 25 Years Later, on the road. (The Cincinnati symposium was called Mapplethorpe +25.)
In observance of the 25th anniversary of the unsuccessful obscenity trial in Cincinnati of the Contemporary Arts Center following the exhibition of The Perfect Moment there in 1990, FotoFocus will sponsor a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at New York’s cutting-edge New Museum, 235 Bowery.
It will be moderated by Kevin Moore, FotoFocus’ New York-based artistic director, and feature Amy Adler, law professor at New York University School of Law; Jennifer Blessing, senior photography curator at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; and Britt Salvesen, curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at Los Angeles County Museum. The latter three were on a panel in Cincinnati.
Mark Lewisohn, the internationally recognized Beatles historian who is working on his epic All These Years biography of the Fab Four’s story, will discuss the first book completed and published in the planned trilogy — Tune In — at 7 p.m. next Tuesday in the Main Library's Reading Garden Lounge, 800 Vine St., Downtown Cincinnati.
Lewisohn’s talk is free. No registration is required, and a book signing will follow his appearance. Books will be available for purchase courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
Ten years in the making and consisting of hundreds of new interviews and information learned from access to archives, Tune In follows the Beatles from their childhoods through 1962 when their first hit record, “Love Me Do,” gives indication of the greatness ahead.
The English author began writing about the Beatles in 1983, and had previously published The Beatles Live!, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, The Beatles Day by Day and the Complete Beatles Chronicle before turning to this project.
He is now busily at work on the second volume and has come to Cincinnati to do research at the Main Library.