Sunday, December 20, 2009

Michael Stanley and the Resonators, The House of Blues Cleveland, 18 December 2009

By the time the spring of 1980 had rolled around, I had lived a dozen lives with Michael Stanley and the various forms of his band. It had been almost seven years since I first heard the studio version of “Let’s Get the show on the Road” from his solo album “Friends and Legends.” It was the great David Sanborn sax solo that first caught my ear. The first MSB album had “Old Dancin’ Fool,” on it, a lost gem that still reminds me of some long ago friends from that time in my life. The next album had the Jonah Koslen make out on the couch classic “Waste A Little Time on Me.” But it was the next album that blew me away, it was the next album that should have made MSB big time. I’m talking about “Stagepass,” and to this day it is still a favorite of mine.
But "Stagepass" didn’t make them international stars, just in fraternities and dormitories from Bowling Green to Athens to Oxford. The next two albums were missing something, there was too much over dubbing of the vocals, too many bells and whistles. The best songs on both “Cabin Fever” and “Greatest Hints” sounded great live, but didn’t have the guitar and honest vocal sounds the earlier albums did. A lot of fans blamed the change on Jonah Koslen, and later Daniel Pecchio, leaving the band. But the new guys seemed to show their talents live, it just didn’t come across on the records.
Then in the spring of 1980 the band came to central Ohio on one of the mini-tours they always did around the Midwest when a new album was due. And it was at the Dixie Electric Company in Columbus (yes, there was one there too), with a bunch of my frat buddies from Ohio Wesleyan, that I heard most of "Heartland" for the first time. I left there that night totally convinced the album was going to be a million copy seller, the one that would put MSB and Cleveland on the musical map for sure. “All I Ever Wanted,” ‘Lover,” and “He Can’t Love You” were all going to be top ten hits. Kevin Raleigh had finally shown he was a worthy replacement for Jonah Koslen, Rick Bell, “The Cleveland Horn,” was with the band full time and wailed on the sax parts that Clearance Cleamons played on the album, and the over all band was as tight as it ever was.
There were great things on the horizon…and I also thought at the time Brian Sipe was going to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl, and Joe Charboneau was the next Mickey Mantle, and we all know how everything turned out. But instead of a million, Heartland did sell a couple hundred thousand copies, and its success kept MSB in business for a few more years.
Thirty years later, "Heartland" is still a solid album. It’s guitar lead basic rock and roll, with some pretty good song writing and musicianship. This version of MSB would be the most popular, never quite reaching national acclaim but doing pretty good in the homeland and a few other markets. Listening to the album from beginning to end and most of the songs stand up to time. It only seemed natural that Michael and his current band The Resonators would do a Heartland tribute.
Last Friday the first of two Michael Stanley and the Resonators holiday shows featured songs from "Heartland," as well as a few new tunes and a whole bunch of old ones. It was a very good night of rock and roll, and it was enjoyed by the players as much as the audience. Among the "Heartland" songs performed included "All I Ever Wanted," " I Never Needed Anyone," "Don't Stop the Music," "Voodoo," and of course, "Lover" and "He Can't Love You."
Amongst the Stanley standards were "Rosewood Bitters," "Midwest Midnight," "In Between the Lines," and "My Town." The best of the new tunes was the night's opener, "It's All About Tonight," from an untitled album coming out soon. Amongst the surprises were a Bob Pelander piano number called "Smokem, if you Gottem," that did a great job of leading into "Let's Get the Show on the Road," and a return to the 1980's version of "Strike Up the Band" as the nights last encore, with Pelander on vocals for most of it, and the crowd singing along to all of it.
This version of the Resonators has been with Michael Stanley longer than any version of MSB, and it is a talented and tight group of musicians. Here's to hoping we get to spend a lot more Christmases together.
Opening act Colin Dussault gave the crowd forty minutes of rock and blues standards, with his great barrelhouse vocals and harmonica playing. When you got a chance, check him out playing around town almost any weekend, go to colindussault.com for a list of shows.
Michael Stanley and the Resonators will do one more holiday show at the House of Blues, this Saturday, December 26. It's a request night, with fans picking their favorites at MichaelStanley.com. Showtime is at 8:00.
As always, the House of Blues has some great shows coming up, including Rusted Root on December 30, Buddy Guy on New Year's Eve, and Yes coming in January. Check out their calendar at www.hob.com/Cleveland.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Christmas Story at the Cleveland Play House 3 December 2009









There are many good reasons to stop by the Cleveland Play House this month and see “A Christmas Story,” but two stand above the rest: the fact that the Playhouse will not be doing the play next season, and the Play House’s soon move downtown to their new home.
I’m not sure of the reason why it isn’t in their plans for next year, because the Play House’s production of “A Christmas Story” has been really good since they started performing it five years ago. Just like the movie we all know and love, you never get tired of seeing it. Laughs are anticipated, lines are said out loud (“Fra-gil-lee!), and everyone leaves with a good feelings and smiles on their faces.
With the influx of some new, younger actors, this year’s production seems a bit fresher than the last few years. The last group of young actors who covered the last few years were very good, but at the end seemed to outgrow their parts a bit. This year newcomer Joey Stefanko is a very good Ralphie, and Matthew Taylor steals every scene he is in as his younger brother Randy. All of the adult parts are returning actors from previous years and that is fine. For the most part the roles have become theirs, and Charles Kartali as the Old Man lives up to the high standard Darren McGaven set in the movie version of the story.
I’m not sure what is going to happen to the Play House’s Annual festival of Trees when they move downtown, because the lobbies of its Euclid Avenue theaters has been a perfect setting for the annual fundraiser. With over 65 decorated trees this year, this year’s event is as good as it has ever been. Highlight of this year’s event is a 25 foot Rotunda Tree in memory of long time Play House supporter Jack Wiegman, who passed away this past April. The Festival of the Trees display is free and open to the public every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Check the Playhouse website for hours.
A Christmas Story will be in production at the Bolton Theater at the Cleveland Play House for the last time until December 20. Even if you’ve seen it there in the past, check it out again, along with the Festival of Trees, for old time’s sake.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lipstick and Guitar Licks









(Below is the article I wrote for CoolCleveland.com about the concert the English Department at Streetsboro High School sponsored on Friday, November 6. What a great day it was! Above the article are some photos from the event, as well as from earlier that day when Amy Kuney was a part of a Poetry Slam we had.)

For a long time Streetsboro High School has had one of the more progressive and active language arts programs in the area. It has the state’s best high school radio station in WSTB (88.9 FM), an award winning newspaper and literary journal, and a very active TV production program. The students at Streetsboro can take a wide variety of electives including radio and television programming, desktop publishing, advanced creative writing, and songwriting; and regularly participate in talent shows, poetry slams, music showcases, and dramatic productions. The language arts faculty at Streetsboro includes a former professional journalist, a former professional radio news director and broadcast journalist, a prominent member of the local music scene and independent record label owner, several published authors, and a freelance writer.
To help fund its creative language arts program, Streetsboro’s English Department, with the help of Hudson Community Recreation and Education, is sponsoring a concert of all female singer/songwriters called “Lipstick and Guitar Licks,” featuring national recording artist Amy Kuney, as well as a supporting cast of popular local acts.

Amy Kuney is a 24 year old singer/songwriter from Los Angeles who has recently toured with Kate Voegele, the Veronicas, and Damien Rice. She and her music have appeared on the television shows the Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill. You can check out her and her music on YouTube, MySpace, and FaceBook. She has been in front of crowds for over 20 of her 24 years, starting out as a church performer and now does over 100 live dates a year. Her personal life has been colored by sometimes tragic twists and turns. As a teenager living with her missionary parents in Honduras, she and a group of friends were kidnapped by rebels on a Guatemala sightseeing trip. However, these experiences have fueled Amy’s depth of character and songwriting.

She will be in the Greater Cleveland area the week of the show, making presentations at local middle and high schools on songwriting and her adventures in the music industry. Concert organizer and Streetsboro songwriting teacher Jim Boardwine states, “Amy is a suburb lyricist, singer, and performer. She is happy to share her art with others, and we are very excited about this generous visit she is making with us.”

Opening the show will be several popular local artists including Desiree Boardwine, who though just turned 18 has already performed extensively on local television and nationally on CBS’ The Early Show; and Maddie Finn and Stefani Reeder, two of Streetsboro’s finest songwriting students. Proceeds from the show go to support the journalism, creative writing, drama, and songwriting programs at Streetsboro High school.
“Lipstick and Guitar Licks” featuring Amy Kuney, Sponsored by the Streetsboro High School English Department, with the support of Hudson Community Recreation and Education, Hudson Middle School, 77 North Oviatt Street, Hudson, Ohio. On Fri 11/6, Doors open at 6:30PM, music starts at 7PM. For more information about this show, directions to the venue, and to buy tickets online, go to http://www.ReverbNation.com/GatewayCityRecords, or contact Jim Boardwine at jboardwineATrockets.sparcc.org or 330.283.5158.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Attention Browns fans


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Below is an article I wrote several months ago for the OBR on the Wildcat offense.

The Wildcat Formation
As last season in the NFL was winding down, one thing you were hearing about more and more was the "Wildcat" formation, which the Miami Dolphins, amongst several teams, had success with. This year there was a buzz about it in training camps, and it will be interesting to see if it becomes more popular this season.
The Wildcat formation has been around forever, formerly known as the single wing. Over the years it has had many variations, and there is no one single wing formation or offense. It was the offense of the 30's, 40's, and into the 50's when the T-formation became the most popular offense. Paul Brown had as much to do with the demise of the single wing in the NFL as anyone else, as his Browns teams in the late 40's and early 50's ushered in the modern offense with its passing game, screen plays and draws, and power running game featuring a fast fullback.
The Wildcat includes, as did previous incarnations of the single wing, a shot gun snap to a tailback who could run or throw. It includes the use of other backs for quick handoffs, blocking, and reverses; and also features a short passing game. It is very similar to the spread offense run by many colleges and high schools today.
The Dolphins ran four basic plays out of the Wildcat formation last year: a tailback power sweep, a halfback dive, a play action pass off the power sweep, and a reverse also off the power sweep. The Browns did similar things with Josh Cribbs at quarterback last year, especially after Derrick Anderson and Brady Quinn went down. The Browns did not have the success with it that the Dolphins had.

In the NFL the Wildcat has become a change of pace offense. It is different enough from the traditional pro offense that if a team is not prepared for it they can be hurt by it. There are enough offensive players on the pro squads with spread offense backgrounds to make various single wing sets and plays possible.
However, the Wildcat will never become any NFL team’s base offense for three reasons. The first is that in the NFL you have to attack the whole field, including both the line of scrimmage and passing on multiple levels down field. The Dolphins did a good job sneaking up on teams by using the Wildcat last year, but this year teams will be ready for it. When defenses see it this year they will bring more defenders close to the line of scrimmage, and make sure the tailback gets hit every play.
The second reason is the cost of quarterbacks. The tailback in the single wing just gets beaten up by taking too many hits. And once every defensive coordinator comes up with his Wildcat package, the surprise feature will be gone. Quarterbacks are paid millions of dollars to throw touchdown passes, not to run the ball or to get beat up playing tail back in the single wing.
The third reason I feel the Wildcat will not become a mainstream offense in the NFL is the fans don't want it. The fundamental difference between the pro and college game over the last forty years is that the pro's feature a drop back passer and a downfield passing game. Things like the triple option, the veer, and the spread offense have always been important elements of the college game, but never the pro's. Fans want to see quarterbacks taking charge, throwing downfield to talented, fast receivers fighting just as talented and quick defensive backs for the ball.

It is the role of the quarterback that is the difference between college and professional football. If we want to see quarterbacks run modern versions of the single wing we can do it all day on Saturday. But the pro game is different. We want quarterbacks with big arms and sharp brains who can throw downfield and check off at the line of scrimmage. We don't want to see Peyton Manning read the defensive end on the wrap play; we don't want to see Tom Brady rushing the ball twenty times a game. In Tennessee they prefer to watch Kerry Collins than Vince Young, in Cleveland we prefer to watch Josh Cribbs run back kicks than line up at quarterback. We'll let him do that occasionally to play with the defense, but it is not our bread and butter.
Brian Sipe, Frank Ryan, Bill Nelson, Bernie Kosar, they were all pro quarterbacks. I don't think any of them even ran the option in college. Otto Graham was athletic enough to run any offense, but he became the first great quarterback of the modern professional game.
Long term success for the Wildcat, and again as a change of pace offense, might fall into the hands of players like Josh Cribbs or Pat White, multi dimensional players who were successful quarterbacks in college and have better than average arms. Without having a legitimate arm at the tailback spot will allow defenses sooner or later to come up and stack the box when teams line up in the Wildcat.
The Browns have dabbled with the Wildcat with Josh Cribbs. This season, however, with the time he is putting in at receiver, who knows. One thing the Browns did last year when Cribbs went to tailback in a Wildcat formation, they put the quarterback at wide receiver. They did that so they didn't tip their hand with the personnel group. Defensive coaches would have recognized immediately that a quarterback wasn't on the field.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Upcoming Special Event


The Creative Language Arts Program at Streetsboro High School
Along with Gateway City Records and HCER
Present Singer Songwriter
Amy Kuney
in Concert
Friday, November 6 at Hudson Middle School
77 North Oviatt Street, Hudson, Ohio
Tickets are $8.00 in advance, $10.00 day of show
Tickets available at Streetsboro High School

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Hot Club of Cowtown 29 September 2009 at Nighttown


It is great to see the survival and revival of Django Reinhardt style swing jazz in today’s roots music movement. At Nighttown alone over the last few months we have had both the Hot Club of Detroit and the Hot Club of San Francisco perform. Add to the list of “Hot Clubs” (named after Reinhardt’s “Quintette du Hot Club de France” or “Hot Club of Paris”) Texas’s the Hot Club of Cowtown, who doe a pretty good job of channeling Reinhardt’s musical via Bob Wills and other southwestern influences.
Last Tuesday night the Hot Club of Cowtown made their Cleveland debut at Nighttown before a close to capacity enthusiastic crowd. I caught their first set that evening, and it was enough music for a complete show, with sixteen selections that showed off all three members’ musical skills and vocals.
Although Django Reinhardt deserves his due as a guitarist, much of his music that has stood the test of time owes as much to violinist St├ęphane Grappelli as it does to Reinhardt’s guitar work. The Hot Club of Cowtown revolves around their fiddler player Elana James, who also does her share of vocals and is the trio’s center of attention with her great smile and very good stage presence. Guitarist Whit Smith does a competent job, as does bassist Jake Erwin. But it is James who gives the trio its magic; she is a terrific musician and has more than her share of stage magnetism.
The song list included jazz and American standards, a few Reinhardt classics, some very good originals, and even a rousing version of “Ida Red,” which is almost mandatory for any swing band from Texas to play. Amongst the highlights was a beautiful version of “Georgia on My Mind” with James opening it up with a haunting fiddle solo and featuring Smith on some soulful vocals. Another standard that shined was “Cheek to Cheek.” The band did not do it in the style of either Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra, two popular arrangements of the song, but went back to the Fred Astaire arrangement of the 1930’s. A little slower, a lot more romantic. My favorite original was “Eva’s Waltz,” which gave James some room to really show off her musicianship.
This was the trio’s first show at Nighttown, and hopefully not the last. For more about the Hot Club of Cowtown and their music visit hotclubofcowtown.musiccitynetworks.com/. As always, there are a lot of great shows coming up at Nighttown, for a full schedule go to www.nighttowncleveland.com. Shows coming up include local product Bobby Selvaggioand his All-Star Quartet
featuring Kenny Werner on piano on Sunday, Oct. 11; The Four Freshmen on
Tuesday, October 13; and Garrison Elliott and his Swing Band, a six piece group with two female vocalists, on Friday and Saturday, October 16 & 17.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Geezeroo 4 at the House of Blues

I wrote a preview of this year's Geezeroo concert at the House of Blues Cleveland on Sunday, September 27, for CoolCleveland.com.
Check out the article at:
www.coolcleveland.com/index.php/Main/Geezer09

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Southside Johnny @ House of Blues 08.28.09


When Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes play in Cleveland the shows are always the same. He opens with three or four songs from his usual set. A couple of new tunes, maybe an old blues standard, and then a Jukes classic or two. But in Cleveland that usually lasts only three or four songs, then the set list is thrown away, and it becomes 1980 again when the Jukes were as big as anybody here in Northern Ohio.

Last Friday at the House of Blues they didn't even wait until the fourth song. He opened with "This Time is Real" and did not stop until the final encore "Hearts of Stone."

The sold out crowd of forty and fifty something's loved every minute of it, as Southside backed by a nine piece band played one classic Jukes song after another, including "Love on the Wrong Side of Town" (which they did twice), "Walk Away Renee," Talk to Me," and "I Don't Want to go Home." Amongst the highlights were "Anxious" and "On the Beach" from his Mercury albums of the mid 80's, and a great cover of J.Giels Band's "Looking for Love,."

The band also turned their long time encore "We're Havin' a Party," into a medley of 60's rockers, including "Can I Get a Witness," "Hanky Panky", and "Be My Baby."

Southside and the Jukes will resurface in Cleveland soon, they always do. You can check out their schedule on www.southsidejohnny.com.

As always there are a lot of great shows coming up at the House of Blues including Alice in Chains on September 16 and the great B.B. King on October 9. Go to www.hob.com for the complete schedule from now until the holidays.

A special event of note at the House of Blues is Geezeroo 4 on Sunday September 27 featuring three original members of Return to Forever, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White. The evening is a fundraiser for the Human Fund, which supports the arts in Cleveland Public Schools. For more information go to http://www.the-human-fund.org.

The above picture is courtesy of www.southsidejohnny.com.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The New Tricks Quartet, Nighttown, 16 July 2009

Mike Lee and Ted Chubb, two mainstays of the New York jazz scene who have roots in Northern Ohio, played Nighttown last Thursday with their four-piece band The New Tricks Quartet. They performed two solid sets of jazz in the late 50's and early 60's styles of artists like Paul Desmond and Chet Baker.

Lee, a Cleveland Heights native who has been in New York since the early 90's, is a gifted reed player. Chubb, originally from Ashtabula, plays horn and has background similar to Lee, gravitating to New York after college at Ohio State. They are joined in the New Tricks Quartet by Kellen Harrison on bass, and Shawn Baltzasar on drums.

Both sets were filled with original songs that allowed all four musicians to show off their talents. Each selection was introduced by either Lee or Chubb, who composed almost all of them. "In his Steps" is a tribute to John Coltrane; "J'.'s Other Bag" sounds a lot like a Paul Desmond composition; and "Absence" a romantic ballad Chubb wrote for his wife and the time they send apart when he is on the road as a musician. All of the songs featured solos from each of the band members, with Lee alternating from saxophone to clarinet. It was quite evident that while these guys were growing up and their classmates were busy listening to Motley Crew and Judas Priest, they were getting into their parents' record collections and enjoying the likes of Dave Bruebeck and John Coltrane.

It was a very good evening of jazz, by four musicians who really know how to play it. The compositions were smart and original, and the musicianship was solid. They have a new CD that was just released, also called "New Tricks." You can check out more about them at www.mikeleejazz.com.

Another gifted Clevelander Alvin Frazier brings his seven piece band to Nighttown on Saturday, July 25; jazz singer Barbara Rosene plays the club on Sunday, July 26; and singer/songwriter/musician Maia Sharp rolls in on August 12. Check out the complete lineup at www.clevelandnighttown.com.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Check These Out!

I recently wrote two feature articles for CoolCleveland.com, one about my fellow Streetsboro High School teacher (and he is also a great singer/songwriter) Jim Boardwine; and one about long time Cleveland Guitar player extradonaire Jeff Nagel.

You can find the article about Jim Boardwine here:
http://www.coolcleveland.com/index.php?n=Main.MeetJimBoardwine

And you can find the article about Jeff Nagel here:
http://www.coolcleveland.com/index.php?n=Main.UnderTheCoversJeffNagle

Both guys are very talented, and also great people!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Most Southern Place on Earth





















From June 15-20 I attended a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop at Delta State University titled "The Most Southern Place on Earth," studying the birth of the blues; the culture of the Mississippi Delta; and civil rights. It was an outstanding week, meeting teachers from all over the country and diving head first into all things dealing with the Delta. It was a week of food, music, history, laughs, somber moments, living history, and new insights and experiences.
Thanks again to Dr. Luther Brown and Lee Aylward and their staff for putting on such a great workshop! For more information about the work of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, visit www.blueshighway.org.

New Orleans June 12-15 2009










Before I went to my NEH workshop in Mississippi, I spent a couple of days with friends in New Orleans. The city has bounced back, and we had a great time. What a place!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ken Becka throws out the first pitch at the Indians game 9 June 2009








It was a galla event as Ken Becka got to throw out the first pitch before the Indians/Royals game on June 9. The event drew a large crowd of family, friends, and assorted knuckleheads as Kenny actually got the ball over the plate!