by Mike Breen
Despite losing their namesake venue, beloved local jazzers to continue every-Wednesday shows at Japp’s
Much has changed for the legendary Cincinnati live music venue the Blue Wisp Jazz Club over its 40-plus-year existence. Though it has consistently been the club for Jazz in Cincinnati over most of that period, the Blue Wisp has moved four different times over four decades. In its most recent locale at the corner of Race and Seventh streets downtown, the club owners also tried to attract more business by serving food and varying the types of music performed. But it wasn’t enough and the Blue Wisp has once again closed its doors (though various reports suggest it could find yet another new location in the future).
One thing that hadn’t changed at the Blue Wisp, at least since it began in 1980, is the Blue Wisp Big Band. The group of all-star local musicians has maintained one of the longest residency in the region, performing its skilled take on vintage Big Band Jazz like clockwork every Wednesday. The band is a Cincinnati institution. When the Wisp shut down, the members of the Big Band were determined to not let their remarkable run end with a whimper. Instead, the Blue Wisp Big Band sought to continue its every-Wednesday residency at another venue. (In case you’re wondering, the group owns its moniker, so they can legally continue to use the “Blue Wisp” name.)Veteran local Jazz pianist and Blue Wisp Big Band founding member Steve Schmidt says they’ve landed their new spot, Japp’s Annex on Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, and will pick up its Wednesday night shows beginning this week. Schmidt says the group will perform every Wednesday at Japp’s, at least through the end of July, when they’ll reassess the situation just to make sure it’s a good fit. The Big Band will again be playing two hour-long sets each Wednesday, the first starting at 8:30 p.m. The cover charge will be less than it was at the Wisp — just $5. (Parking is available in the lot on the corner of Main and Central Parkway, as well as in the garage behind the club on Sycamore.) “We are excited about trying out this (Over-the-Rhine) spot and happy that the ownership and staff at Japp's is excited, too,” Schmidt says. “We are all thinking of ways to make it better for the customer and the band as we go along. The band wanted to start quickly, not to be dormant for too long.”Several of the principal members of the Blue Wisp Big Band did a walkthrough several days ago to get a feel for the new space and were happy with what they saw (and felt).“I got a very good feeling about the room,” Schmidt says, “both in terms of space — spacious yet intimate — and acoustics. I think the other guys felt the same way. (Founding BWBB anchor/drummer) John Von Ohlen rightly pointed out that there is a lot of wood — the floors and the large bar. As John said, in the fullest and most complimentary sense of the word, ‘It's a joint!’ It's what he had in mind when he formed the band and put it in the original Blue Wisp in O'Bryonville. He said he wanted a world-class big band in a beer tavern.”“In a word,” Schmidt adds, “(the new space) has soul.”
Thursday and Friday • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Talented Jazz vocalist Annie Sellick
returns to Cincinnati this week for three shows at the Blue Wisp with
her trio (drummer Chris Brown, bassist Jerry Navarro and pianist Chris
Plus, Shoot Out the Light issues new album, Jeremy Pinnell previews his solo debut and Ray's Music Exchange reunites
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Blues Funk trio The Kelly Richey Band celebrate its new live album at the place it was recorded, The Blue Wisp Jazz Club, plus Shoot Out the Lights releases sophomore full-length, Jeremy Pinnell previews new solo effort and Ray's Music Exchange reunites in Newport.
by Mike Breen
California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12. If there was any nepotism involved (the group was McCaslin’s father’s, a vibraphonist), the criticisms probably faded quickly as McCaslin started his own group in high school and managed to get them booked multiple years at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The saxophonist studied intently and performed in youth orchestras that traveled the globe, all before earning a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He moved to New York City in the early ’90s and found work quickly, replacing Michael Brecker (a huge influence on the young musician) in the group Steps Ahead and going on to play with the Gil Evans Orchestra and many others. By the mid-’90s, McCaslin — who had deeply explored the various aspects and possibilities of traditional Jazz — began to collaborate on more experimental Jazz projects, including the group Lan Xang and Ken Schaphorst’s big band (alongside John Medeski and other unique top players). McCaslin’s creative curiosity set the tone for his diverse solo albums, which have been widely acclaimed for the composer’s successful risk-taking. When McCaslin plays the Blue Wisp Jazz Club tonight (with shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), he’ll be supporting on of his most compelling releases yet, 2012’s Casting for Gravity. The album was inspired by McCaslin’s interest in Electronic music, an uncommon ingredient in most forms of Fusion. The album roams from textural, ambient explorations (particularly on a cover of Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega”) to quirky, funky meditations like the glitchy “Tension.” It’s a recipe that shouldn’t work, but Casting for Gravity is a fascinating listen that makes one wonder if visionaries like John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman might not have pursued this direction if they were born 60 years later. It’s primarily a progressive Jazz album, with tasteful electronic flourishes. Instead of aping Electronic music nakedly, McCaslin seamlessly incorporates the arrangement spirit of Electro masters like Aphex Twin or more contemporary EDM artists into his own compositions. Tickets for tonight's shows are $20 (students can get into the 9:30 p.m. show for $15). Here is a clip of the band performing the latest album's track, "Stadium Jazz."• The husband and wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, were slated for an appearance at MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati last fall, but an offer to open for Jack White convinced them to bow out of the fest.Given the hardscrabble road the pair has traveled over the past five years, it’s hard to argue with their choice. Denver native Trent and Nashville-raised Hearst had been in several bands before crossing paths in Charleston, S.C. (they’d met on tour over a decade ago), eventually playing in each other’s bar bands and becoming friends.In 2008, the pair formalized their friendship by writing and recording the album Shovels & Rope and releasing it under their own names.The duo ultimately decided to name its group after the title of that debut album and released O’ Be Joyful last summer to ecstatic press notice, with frequent references to Johnny Cash and June Carter and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (although they’re just as quick to namecheck The Cramps and the visceral pairing of Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello). (Preview by Brian Baker)Shovels & Rope's success continues to rise, as evidenced just last week by their network TV debut on David Letterman's show (see below). But even on a local level, their ascent was obvious — tonight's appearance at the Southgate House Revival was moved from one of the smaller rooms in the venue to the larger "Sanctuary" room after it was clear that they could fill it. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door (while they last).
Feb. 5 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 29, 2013
California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist
Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing
with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12.
by Mike Breen
Tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, it's an evening of ethereal Indie Pop atmospherics as Columbus quartet Fever Fever joins Oklahoma-bred sibling duo Clemency for a free, 9 p.m. show. Both groups have sounds that are big-sky spacious and slathered with chiming, The Edge-like guitar echoes and passionate vocals. And both groups give it up to God, though they are refreshingly light on any kind of didacticism in their music. (Read more about the groups from this week's CityBeat here.)Clemency was formed by Yukon, Ok., natives Jason and Paul Watkins, who would relocate to Nashville in 2005 to kick of their careers in earnest. After the 2008 full-length debut, Vapors, the duo released the 2012 EP, My Heart is on the Eastern Horizon, which featured a short film to accompany each track. Fever Fever released its first album in 2009, followed by a pair of EPs, which helped earn FF some music placement deals (recently, the NFL used the below single for one of its shows). The band is currently putting the finishing touches on a new acoustic EP that's due for release soon. Here is the Fever Fever single "Beautiful Dream" from the band's 2012 EP, Kingdom (download the track for free here).• At the Blue Wisp Jazz Club downtown tonight, Colorado's Funky Fresh Trio lays down its brand of melody- and groove-driven original modern Jazz Funk. The trio features bassist Patrick McDevitt and drummer Alejandro Castano, plus composer/saxophonist Josh Quinlan, one of the busiest people in the Colorado Jazz scene thanks to his work as a college Jazz professor and his roles at the Dazzle Recordings record label, the Gift of Jazz organization and the Telluride Jazz Celebration Educational Program. The Funky Fresh Trio members combine their love of early Jazz Fusion, James Brown, Hard Bop, Bob Marley, World music and new-school jazzers like The Bad Plus and Medeski Martin and Wood to come up with a fresh sound that's contemporary, accessible and dynamic, yet honors their musical forefathers and is performed with such grace and effortless flair, you know the members have chops to spare. The band plays the Blue Wisp at 7:30 p.m. tonight before participating in a music clinic for students of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music on Friday afternoon. Admission to the Wisp show is $7.Here's the trio performing in Denver late last year. For even more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight, click here.
Oct. 27 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Monday, October 22, 2012
Pianist Alejandro Ziegler was only 12 years old when a
cerebral hemorrhage ended the brilliant career of fellow Argentine Astor
Piazzolla, the originator of Neuve Tango and one of the world’s most
revered musical giants.
Renowned pianist makes rare Cincy appearance, plus FB's third b-day party and more
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Cincy native and world renowned Jazz pianist/composer Fred Hersch makes a rare local appearance. Plus, Bluegrass for Babies takes over Sawyer Point for a great cause, FB's turns 3 and throws a block party and the MidPoint Music Festival is just a week away.
by Mike Breen
Cincy's 11th annual MidPoint Music Festival starts in just 10 days
MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks. And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …BIG SHOTF.Stokes (New York City, NY)Hip HopWith a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style. You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen) F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple." SLEEPER PICKAmi Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)Indie PopClassically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant." LOCAL LOCK PICKCulture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)Indie PopKnown for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe. Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned). Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
by Mike Breen
Latest "Salsa on the Square" compilation CD to be given away free
Fountain Square's popular Thursday evening "Salsa on the Square" concerts/dances — featuring top Salsa/Latin Jazz groups from across the area (and sometimes beyond), numerous dancers and even free Salsa lessons (right at the scheduled 7 p.m. start time) — are coming to an end for the summer, with two more dates left. Like all concerts on the Square, the event is free and tonight and next Thursday you can also score a free Salsa compilation EP. "Volume 4" of the Salsa on the Square CD compilation series features five tracks by performers from this year's concerts on the Square, including locals Cla've Son, Azucar Tumbao, Son del Caribe and veteran local favorites Tropicoso, plus a cut from tonight's Salsa on the Square headliners, Bay Area ensemble Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. Only 500 Salsa on the Square comps are available; half will be given out tonight and the rest next Thursday, when Tropicoso closes out the series.Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel will be making the most of their Cincinnati visit (though based in San Francisco since 1999, drummer/group leader Andres grew up in Cincinnati, where he first found his drumming groove). The group also performs downtown at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Read more about Andres and Co. from this preview from when they were in town last year. Here's a clip of Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel performing "Estampa Cubana" in 2009.