Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Succeeding at the Pro Level

(I still write for the Orange and Brown Review, a fan magazine owned by FoxSports. Below is a recent column I wrote about what the Browns have to do before next season.)
As I am writing this article the Browns are nearing the end of their season, I just watched a tough overtime loss to the Phoenix Cardinals. As the case has been most of the season, the offense struggled as the defense played solid. Fans are once again disappointed in another losing season.
Last month I talked about football and the high school and college level, and this month I want to talk about what it takes to succeed on the pro level and what the Browns need to do to be competitive in 2012. The highest level of football is, of course, the NFL. Teams, for the most part, are owned by extremely rich men, and coached by very smart coaches. The NFL gives us a game, which is incredible, with very fast and athletic players taking the field every Sunday.
But many of these men who own the teams have found it easier to become a billionaire than to be a consistently winning NFL owner. There is not a business school model to be a winner in the NFL. Yes, even the losing teams each year make incredible amounts of money. But to win that championship can be an elusive thing.
And don’t forget it is still a game, that same game it still shares with the college level all the way down to CYO and Pop Warner leagues. A game that has so many intangibles, and is played with a ball that sometimes takes funny bounces.
The NFL is a player driven league, where the players are the best of the best. They are big, quick, fast, and can jump. They are instinctive, aggressive, and many of them hate to lose. Since the Browns have been back the team has pretty much been a disaster, and much of that can be attributed to not having enough good players, and fingers can be pointed in many directions. The current Mike Holmgren regime is the best that has ever been in place since the team has come back, and if left alone they will bring success to the team.
When Holmgren and Company came on board two winters ago they found a team missing most of its parts. There was Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, Phil Dawson, and a few maybes. They knew the team had to be built with young talent through sound drafting, and their first two drafts have been outstanding. Joe Hardesty, T.J. Ward, Alex Mack, Phillip Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, and Jason Pinkston, are amongst the players that have brought on board. At one time this year they started nine players drafted in the last two years.
They drafted mostly for defense first because that would make the team competitive sooner. What has made this past season so frustrating is they have been in so many games, and that has been because of the defense. One thing that wasn’t done was throw money for over priced free agents to be stop gap players. The Browns have drafted young kids and have let them play, to prove their worth to the team.
General Manager Tom Heckert is on record as saying that after two drafts centered on building the defense, this year the draft will be about the offense. He has also stated, now that a fair amount of pieces are in place, it might be time to add a few free agents.
I’m as unsure of the quarterback position as much as the next guy. I’ve rooted for Colt McCoy all season and seen him at different times look very good and very bad. But I do know, at least I’d like to think so, that Mike Holmgren has made his decision. Let us hope that whomever it is behind center next season, whether it’s McCoy or not, will lead the Browns to big things.
I have been on record in this column that the Browns will be competitive next year, and I still stick by that. I have much faith in the Browns front office, and their drafting track record has been outstanding.
For as inconsistent the offense has been this season, several important pieces are in place. The offensive line is both very young and very good. Joe Thomas and Alex Mack play like first round draft picks, Jason Pinkston has proved he is a player. Shawn Lauvao has shown improvement. Hopefully Eric Steinbach will return next year. I will be very surprised if the Browns don’t sign at least one solid free agent lineman to add to this group.
This group has shown it can do the two things an NFL line needs to do to be successful, run the zone play and protect the quarterback.
As the season is winding down Peyton Hillis is finally playing like the Peyton Hillis of last year. Let us hope he has things together on and off the field for next season. His absence from the team allowed Chris Ogbonnaya to show some good things. Montario Hardesty is still a question mark, but having three guys this good for one spot is a plus. The team could use a blocking back a la Lawrence Vickers, and maybe that might be addressed in the off-season also. They drafted Owen Marecic this year to fill that role but I have yet to see enough of him to see what he can do.
The tight end spot is solid; let us hope Ben Watson comes back next year from his concussions. We are in the era of the tight end in the NFL, and as I wrote several months ago the Browns have a good group of them. Let us hope the young guys, Evan Moore, Alex Smith, and Jordan Cameron, keep improving.
The wide outs have been much maligned this season, and with leading the league in drops must of the criticism is deserved. However, if you threw in a legitimate home run receiver or two in with this group of guys you would have a solid group. I have visions of Justin Blackman from Oklahoma State in brown and orange. I have a feeling the Browns first draft pick will be a receiver that can stretch the field.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Add another lineman, maybe a fullback, go out and get a top speed threat, and resolve things at quarterback. If only it was that simple, but based on the last two years you have to have faith in Holmgren and Heckert.
The other top priority for next year is to get the special teams back to where they were. This season was a mess of bad snaps and bad kick coverage. There should be no excuse for this. You still have Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs, build around them once again. This is very doable.
The Browns can also add some depth to the defense, especially some speed and athleticism at outside linebacker. Even the most pessimistic fan has to be impressed with how well a switch to a four-man line went, with the Pro Bowl caliber play of Ahtyba Rubin and the drafting of Taylor and Sheard.
The teams that have dominated the NFL the last fifteen years have had solid defenses, depth on both sides of the ball, special teams that don’t make big mistakes, and offenses that have playmakers. Even with a disappointing record, the Browns showed this year they can play with those teams for three quarters. Hopefully with another good draft and some wise free agent signings the Browns can finally play a whole game each and every week no matter who the opponent is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Billy Joe Shaver @ the Beachland Ballroom, 2 December 2011

I went to the Browns game last Sunday and they were advertising on the score board for a Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw concert for next summer at the football stadium. I’m sure tickets won’t be cheap, and most people will sit somewhere where they will need binoculars to see the show, or just watch it on a large video screen. Parking around the stadium will be fifteen to twenty bucks, and beers will be in the eight dollar range. All that for what too many people think is real country music.
It’s too bad, because for a quarter of the price admission and beer at neighborhood prices they could have gone to the Beachland on December 2 and saw real country music from one of the last of the original Texas outlaws, Billy Joe Shaver. The three hundred or so that were in attendance got to see a great singer/songwriter who at the age of 72 can still get it done. He spent the night given the audience what they wanted to hear, playing one great song after another, most of them originally hits not for himself but for guys with names like Waylon, Elvis, Willie, and Johnny. He opened with “Fast Train to Georgia,” followed it with “Honky Tonk Heroes,” and never looked back. The highlight for me was “I’m Going to Live Forever,” which was originally done by the Highwaymen on their second album. Almost every song came with a story, some happy and funny and some sad but true, and Shaver told each one like he was telling it for the first time.
If you like the genre of music now called Outlaw Country, which by the way is real country music not that corporate country that passes itself off as the real thing today, you should check out locals California Speedbag who opened the show. Good original songs, a couple of quality covers, by a five piece outfit of veteran musicians.
As always, there are a lot of great things coming up at the Beachland Ballroom, check them out at www.BeachlandBallroom.com.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vandy/Tennessee Game 19 November 2011

Through my writing connections I was able to get a field pass to the Vanderbilt/Tennessee football game in Knoxville on November 19. A great time in a great city!
Special thanks to the UT Sports Communications Department.
The Vandy cheerleader in the pictures is my niece Alyson Martin.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dan Miraldi “Rock and Roll Band” 2011

One of the best CDs to cross the Cool Cleveland music desk the last several years was Dan Miraldi’s 2010 release “Thirsty.” The local born and bred singer/songwriter follows it up with an EP titled “Rock and Roll Band,” and my only complaint is that it is too short. The five songs clock in at fifteen minutes on the nose, but what a fifteen minutes it is. The five tracks are all catchy tunes, with sing along choruses and snappy lyrics. Miraldi’s vocals are good, and the quality of the band is very respectable.
This time around Miraldi is backed by his current performing band the Albino Winos with Joe LaGuardia on bass, Sarah Lufred on drums, and Alex Bowers on lead guitar. After listening to this disk several times I can guarantee you the band spent a lot of time while growing up listening to their parent’s records. This short CD is filled with great pop songs that very easily would have fit in during the Sixties, Seventies, or early Eighties. I hear the Kinks, the Raspberries, early Bryan Adams, even the Beach Boys as influences.
Dan Miraldi and his band the Albino Winos are having a CD release party for “Rock and Roll Band” this Wednesday, September 28, in the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues. Why don’t you check them out, who knows, one day you might be able to say I saw them back in the day. For more information visit www.danmiraldi.com.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September and October Club Concert Preview

Although summer is winding down, things will be hopping at the area’s favorite music clubs during September and October…
Things are really happening at the Winchester in Lakewood starting this Friday, September 9, with the John Ford Coley Band (remember “I’d Really Like to See You Tonight”?). Mississippi Delta blues pianist Eden Brent stops in on September 14. The month finishes up at the club with the awesome Candye Kane and her band on the 30th. October at the Winchester features Rick Emmett from Triumph doing another solo show at the club on 10th; the Kelly Richey Band on the 15th; and Debbie Davies on the 28th. The big one at the club this fall will be on October 22 when Kasim Sulton from Utopia brings his solo band in for a show. For more info about these shows and all the other great things at the Winchester visit www.thewinchester.net.
Down south in Kent September means the Kent State Folk Festival and the Kent Stage is the home for some great shows. The festival gets a little rootsy this year with a show on September 21 with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the next night with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The Stage hosts festival headliner Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame on September 25. Two promising post festival shows are sax man David Sanborn on September 30 (who remembers “Choice and Sanborn” from the ”Ladies Choice” album?); and everyone’s favorite singer songwriter Richard Thompson on October 6. Visit www.kentstage.org for info on these shows and a lot more.
Downtown at the House Blues more than few Cleveland favorites will be visiting this fall. September 17 has the BoDeans taking the stage; on the 21st singer songwriter John Hiatt takes over; on the 23 Robert Randolph and the Family band make another appearance; and September closes with a tribute night to the music of the late Ronnie James Dio on the 28th. Two October highlights are Ziggy Marley on the 18th and G. Love and Special Sauce on the 22nd. For more info about these shows and everything else going on at the House of Blues, including some great local acts playing the Cambridge Room (check out Dan Miraldi and the Albino Winos on September 28) , go the www.hob.com/Cleveland.
The Beachland Ballroom will be busy this fall starting this Friday, September 9, with “Paperboy” Reed and the True Loves. On September 13th it’s the Zombies with original members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent. Wayne “The Train” Hancock returns to the Tavern on September 14, and there is a sold out They Must Be Giants show in the Ballroom on the 16th. Wednesday, September 21 Marshall Crenshaw returns to the Beachland. The last weekend of October finds the Beachland with what should be three great (and probably sold out/get your tickets early) shows, starting with the living legend Ian Hunter on Friday the 28th; soul diva Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on Saturday the 29th; and one of my favorite Beachland acts on Sunday the 29th, singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne. For info on these shows and more, including a couple of great fall charity events at the club, visit www.beachlandballroom.com.
And finally, as always, there are good things going at everyone’s favorite jazz venue Nighttown in Cleveland Heights. Sunday, September 11, Fourplay guitarist Chuck Loeb brings his trio to town for a show. Pop and blues diva Maria Muldaer comes in for two shows on the 21st, try to check it out she is a lot more than “Midnight at the Oasis” and always puts on a good show. Wednesday, October 12, local blues stalwarts Blue Lunch will be hosting the “Saxophone Shootout” with a bunch of guests sitting in. And on October 21 Cleveland favorites the Hot Club of Detroit returns for a show. For more info about all the great things happening at Nighttown go to www.nighttowncleveland.com.
(photos courtesy of the artists)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rick Stone at Nighttown 7 August 2011

Jazz guitarist Rick Stone is yet another player on the New York and international jazz scenes with Cleveland roots. Born and raised in Parma (Valley Forge Class of ’74), Stone played in a bunch of rock bands in high school before discovering jazz at shows at the old Smiling Dog Saloon on West 25th Street.
Stone lives in Brooklyn, New York; teaches jazz guitar at several NYC colleges; tours extensively, he just completed a month in Europe; and returns to Cleveland each summer to do a show at Nighttown for family, friends, and fans.
His two set show at Nighttown last Sunday was very enjoyable. It was a nice mix of jazz standards and original material. Backed by drums and bass, Stone did a great job on Irving Berlin’s “the Best Thing for You is Me,” Jimmy Van Huesen’s “Dance that Dream,” and Ornette Coleman’s “When Will the Blues Leave.”
His original material as just as varied with titles like “Key Lime Pie,” “Stella by Starlight,” and “Nachos Mama’s Blues.” He played several pieces from his current album “Factels,” including the title song, which had a little bit of B.B. King to it. Besides the king of the blues, other obvious influences for Stone include George Benson and Chet Atkins. It was a very enjoyable night of music and story telling, as Stone gave a little background on each of the songs played.
For more about Rick Stone and his music visit www.rickstone.com. For more about Nighttown and all the great things they have going on there go to www.clevelandnighttown.com.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer of 2011 Road Trip to Oregon

Special thanks to Coach Jim Pallazolo, Regis and Carol Scafe, and John and Katie Shaffer.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Steve Popovich

I did not know Steve Popovich for a very long time, but like many others he had crossed paths with, I had a great love and respect for the man.
His fingerprints are all over the music of my youth, that Sound of Cleveland that put the city on the rock and roll map. He played an active roll, either as a promotion man, producer, or label owner, in the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Ronnie Spector, the Michael Stanley Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Ronnie Spector, Ian Hunter, and, of course, Meat Loaf. It sounds like a set list of a Kid Leo show back in the glory days of Cleveland radio.
Although he has lived recently in Nashville to be near his son and his family, he often returned to Cleveland. And when he did return, he often stopped in at the University Inn in Tremont for lunch, a drink, or just to say hi. (The picture of him on the front page of the Plain Dealer announcing his death was taken in one of the dining rooms at the Inn). He liked the place for the same reason hundreds of others do too, he was friends with the Sokolowski family who run the place, and the smell of the ethnic food there reminded him of the kitchens of his youth growing up on Cleveland’s east side. He liked hanging out at the Inn because he felt comfortable with the people there, including many music lovers like himself he grew up with one foot in the polka music his parents grew up with and the other in the rock and roll he and his friends grew up with.
What has been left out of the many tributes to Steve written about him the last few days is that he was a great storyteller. On several of the occasions when he dropped in unannounced at University Inn I was lucky enough to be one of the guys who sat around and listened to his stories, whether it was about Emmylou Harris singing “Amazing Grace” at June Carter Cash’s funeral; Tony Bennett getting upset with him because Andy Williams’ version of the “Theme from Love Story” became a hit and his version didn’t; or just talking about what a great guy the late guitarist Mick Ronson was.
Mike Sokolowski, one of the siblings who runs University Inn, was an especially close friend of Steve. Besides seeing Steve when he did stop into the Inn, they talked several times a month on the phone and emailed each other often. Last fall when Mike and several of the Inn regulars attended a roots music festival in Nashville, Steve delayed a trip he had planned to show the boys around town. “I’m really going to miss him,” said Mike. “He was a wonderful man. I can’t believe he is gone.”
It has been stated in several of the tributes written about him that you can give Steve Popovich the highest compliment you could ever say about someone from Cleveland that when on to great success nationally in any walk of life, whether it is entertainment, sports, or business. He never ever forgot where he came from.
Good bye, Steve Popovich, thanks for the music and the stories.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Concert Highlights for Local Clubs and Smaller Venues for the First Half of Summer

Now that summer is finally here, hopefully, music fans will be out and about to the various venues around Northern Ohio. Just because it is summer, please don’t ignore our smaller music clubs and venues. Many a time as you fight the traffic to get in and out of Blossom on your way to hear today’s “in” generic country band sound just like they do on their video and pay eight bucks for a beer, you could’ve seen someone a lot more talented, in a lot smaller venue, for a lot less money. The first half of summer alone has a great line up of national acts coming are way at various clubs including…
Nighttown has three great reasons for those who don’t like jazz to come to Cleveland’s best jazz club. This Friday Raul Malo, former lead singer of the Mavericks, will do a solo show. What an opportunity to see the best singer in the business in an intimate setting. On Wednesday, June 8, tango music comes to Nighttown with Argentina native Hector Del Curto, and on June 28 & 29 is the return of California rock legend J. D. Souther doing solo acoustic shows. I saw him the last time at Nighttown and he was terrific. If you are into singer/songwriters check one of his shows out. And, as always, there are also a lot of great jazz acts coming through Nighttown this summer, check out www.nighttowncleveland.com for more info.
Beachland will be rocking this summer also, starting with guitar legend David Bromberg this Friday. The man has played with everyone in rock and blues and folk over the last thirty years. On May 24 John Oates of Hall and Oates brings his solo band in; on June 9 blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery, co founder of the Nighthawks, brings his current band to the Beachland; and on June 21 Jimmie Dale Gilmore makes an appearance. For information on these shows and all the great stuff going on at the Beachland visit www.beachlandballroom.com.
The Winchester in Lakewood has a CD release party for the Rick Bay Band’s “Can’t Lie Hard Enough” on June 3; Blues guitarist Kelly Richey and her band make an appearance on June 10; and British rock icon Ian McLagen comes in on June 17. McLagen played in both the Faces and the Small Faces, and played keyboards on many of Rod Stewart’s early hits including “Maggie May.” For information on these shows and more visit www.thewinchester.net.
Down in Kent they will be getting into blue grass, country and the blues this summer with Sam Bush on June 3; the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on June 4; and Cleveland favorites Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes headlining the Kent Blues Festival on July 23. For more info go to www.kentstage.com.
And let us not forget our friends downtown at the House of Blues with the legendary Robin Trower on June 2; jam rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on June 4; and blues guitarist Jonny Lang on June 23. For more info on these shows and a whole lot more go to www.hob.com/cleveland.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pete Hamill at the Ohio Theater 26 April 2011

Last Tuesday journalist and novelist Pete Hamill was the last speaker for this year’s William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage series at Play House Square, and he did a great job of doing what you see him often do on various T.V. shows, entertaining the audience with stories from not only his life as a writer but his life growing up as one of seven children of Irish immigrants in his beloved New York City.
Whether it was coincidence or not, Hamill spent much of the evening talking about libraries, both the important place of libraries in the world today, and the affects of the libraries of his youth growing up poor and unable to afford his own books (the series is coordinated by the Cuyahoga County Library Foundation). He gave some interesting observations on the future of the print word in the digital age, he’s optimistic about journalism but not for newspapers; told the back story of his relationship with Bob Dylan that led to a Grammy Award for writing the liner notes for “Blood on the Tracks”; and, like a lot of journalists who have seen too many of them up close, sprinkled in some very serious anti-war comments.
Hamill is a natural speaker, and had, for the most part, the audience listening all the way. The best story was how his father met his mother. His dad had a wooden leg because of an accident, and his soon to be mother saw him sitting by himself at a dance. She walked up to him and asked him to dance, he turned and showed her his artificial leg and replied, “I can’t.” She smiled and replied, “Either can I,” and, as Hamill put it, grabbed his hand and danced into his life.
The 2011/2012 writers series was announced at the end of the show and will include Michael Pollan and Annie Lamott. For more information go to www.writerscenterstage.com.
Photo by Google

Monday, April 18, 2011

Legacy of Light at the Drury Theater at the Cleveland Play House, running now through May 1

This is suppose to be a review of Legacy of Light, this year’s featured production in Fusion Fest, the Cleveland Play House’s annual spring festival of new and collaborated works. In short, I really enjoyed Legacy of Light and I think you would to. I highly recommend seeing it.
Now what I really want to write about. Legacy of Light is the last production I will see at the Play House’s theaters located near the Cleveland Clinic between Euclid and Carnegie. I have been luckier than most middle class jocks from the other side of town, and have probably seen over the years more than a sixty productions there. I was first dragged there as a boy by some parents who wanted to make sure their kids grew up with a touch of culture in their otherwise typical middle class suburban lives. I attended a couple of field trips as a student at a high school who had English teachers who thought students needed to see live theater. But I really hit stride when I became one of those teachers, and spent some of the happiest days of a thirty year teaching career taking students to the matinees that both the Play House and the Great Lakes Theater Festival have offered. And as icing on the cake, I have been reviewing plays for the last five or six years, and when it didn’t conflict with my coaching calendar, attending media nights for almost every Play House production over the that time. And I have loved all of it, especially being a teacher taking so many students who otherwise would have never seen a professional play to a real live theater.
I have such mixed emotions about the Play House’s move downtown. I know it is the right thing, and for me it is the right thing for two reasons. The first is the cost and upkeep of their current facility is becoming too expensive. The second is the opportunities that will present themselves downtown, especially in their collaboration with Cleveland State. Good things are happening at CSU, and their plans with the Play House, if they pan out, could be wonderful for the school, the theater, and all of Northern Ohio.
With all positive changes come many good things and a few not so good. I worry about the bartenders, and parking lot attendants, and other support personnel who will probably not go downtown with the theater. I worry about the older patrons who have enjoyed being dropped off at the door and parking near by. I hope their will be some sort of special valet service for them at the Allen Theater. I’ve really enjoyed going to Stages before the show for a drink or two and some appetizers. What’s going to happen to everyone who works there? How many will lose their jobs?
I hope the Play House keeps offering great programs to the schools and students of the area. I hope they find a way to keep up their Christmas tree decoration tradition. I hope they soon revive The Christmas Story, I’ve seen it each year they produced and have never grown tired of what has become Cleveland’s Christmas story. I know there are a lot of great places to go before and after a show in the Play House Square area, but I hope they find a way to have their own place inside the theater similar to Stages.
And I wonder, with the move downtown, will this be the catalyst for the Play House and the Great Lakes Theater Festival to finely become one? I know they have explored it in the past and decided against it, but in these current economic times that don’t look to be getting much better, and now being in the same neighborhood across the street from each other, will it finally happen? This might be the time to be collaborating rather than competitive. With their new proximity, why pay for two administrative staffs? Why try to hustle money from the same people and foundations? Why pay for two advertising budgets? There are a lot of egos involved in our theater world, would those egos let something like that to happen?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Charity Event on April 30

What: A Benefit to Raise Funds to Publish a Book of Poetry Written by the Men of the 2100 Lakeside Men’s Homeless Center
When: Saturday Night, April 30, 8:00 p.m.
Where: The Harp, 4409 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 at the door, includes live music by Cats on Holiday, an appetizer buffet furnished by the Harp, a chance at some pretty cool door prizes

It has been awhile since we have thrown together a charity event. The last few we have been done have been quite successful and also a lot of fun, whether raising money for a friend going through a scary cancer treatment; starting an education fund for a young boy whose father unexpectedly died; or to furnish a rec room at a non profit adult center.
All of the above we I was aided by a whole bunch of friends and family, including my friend Nikki Krejci and Denis Devito, and Dennis’s band Cats on Holiday. We did a few events at the old 2527 Club, and the last one we did at the Harp on Detroit on the near West Side. When Nikki approached us about the latest cause she needed some funding for, we know we had to get involved.
Nikki works for Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, which does a lot of non denominational charity work around Greater Cleveland. Amongst their projects is the 2100 Lakeside Emergency Men’s Shelter, which has over 260 beds that are all filled every night with men with nowhere else to go. Over the past year some of the men have started to take poetry writing classes, and some of the finished products out of the classes are pretty good. Good enough to do something with…
So that leads us to the event on April 30 at the Harp described on the flyer attached to this email. We are going to throw another gala event at the Harp with all the proceeds going to publish a book of poetry by the men of the 2100 Emergency Shelter. To do it right, we will probably need to raise some where between $3,000-$4,000, and we hope you will be a part of it.
Saturday, April 30, is going to be a beautiful early spring evening; it will be nice enough to even have some cocktails on the patio at the Harp. Cats on Holiday will once again do a stellar job, the Harp will again put out a great buffet of appetizers and finger food, and the joint will be filled with the some of the usual colorful friends and family members, as well a knucklehead or two, and hopefully some new friends.
We have gotten pretty high tech in our endeavors, and that includes being able to sign up for this event before hand on the internet. Go to www.lutheranmetro.org/Shelter-Housing/ to sign you and your friends up for this gala event. Another cool thing about this event is everyone who attends, or pledges at least $20 towards the project, will get his or her name listed in the book as a patron. How cool is that, your name in print. For those of you who live out of town or can’t make it that night, you will still get your name in print by donating online.
Plans for the future include having two book store signings this summer after the book is finished, one at Mac’s on Coventry and the other at Visible Voices Books in Tremont. More info on those events will be sent to you in June.
Please pass this flyer on!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” The Great Lakes Theater Festival at the Hanna Theater

Like thousands of other theater lovers I read the review in Ohio’s largest paper of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” now being performed by the Great Lakes Theater Festival at the Hanna Theater, and wondered if the reviewer saw the same show as I did. We were both at the Hanna last Saturday for Opening Night, so I assume we did.
The play is a good night of theater, and was enjoyed by most, but obviously not all, members of the audience. The play revolves around three characters as they rip through all of Shakespeare’s work, especially “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet.” Paul Hurley, M.A. Taylor, and Jason O’Donnell do a good job keeping the play moving. Hurley and O’Donnell are Great Lakes rookies, while Taylor has nine years at Great Lakes on his resume. Director Charles Lee is also in his ninth season with the Festival.
The reviewer calls the production “occasionally funny, often vulgar, rarely edifying.” He also refers to two elderly patrons sitting by him who did not return for the second act. I don’t know what section he was sitting in, but in my section everyone found much humor in the play, yes, some of it bawdy (just like a lot of Shakespeare’s works), and everyone returned for the second act and enjoyed it as much as the first. And the audience participation parts in the second half were a hit, with most in the crowd playing right along.
Why is it that whoever reviews a play at the Play House or at Great Lakes for Ohio’s largest newspaper too often comes across like he was watching a completely different production? Even though the reviewer was different, the attitude of the reviewer for this production was the same for the recent Ginger Rogers musical at the Cleveland Play House. The audience loved that one on Opening Night also, but you would have never gotten the message if you read their review.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” is playing at the Hanna Theater until this Saturday, March 27. Go see it, it’s a great night of theater, no matter what you read else where. For more information visit www.greatlakestheater.org.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring 2011 Concert Preview

There are so many great shows scheduled for this spring at area venues, a music lover could find something to do almost any night of the week. Nighttown has a full schedule mixed with local born artists returning home and national touring jazz acts including on St. Patrick’s Day two shows from The New Barleycorn; Saxophonist and Smooth Jazz Star Walter Beasley and his band play March 18 & 19; Cleveland raised, Reno based vocalist CeCe Gable on March 20 for a matinee show; On March 25 versatile singer/actress from NYC and the soap opera All My Children Joan Crowe performs; April 5 finds the 22 Piece Senior Big Band TOPS Swingband under the direction of Arranger, Composer, and Trombonist Dick Wooley doing a show; from Austin, Texas, The Hot Club of Austin performs on April 11; the legendary vocal group The Four Freshmen return to Nighttown on April 15 &16; on Friday, April 22, is the return of the Sammy DeLeon/Jackie Warren Latin Jazz Sextet; and on April 21 is the return of Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry and a fine talent in her own right. For information on these shows and all the other great things going on at Nighttown visit www.nighttowncleveland.com.
The Winchester will be hosting s diverse line up of shows over the next few months including indie rockers the Trashcan Sinatras on March 18; Michael Jackson’s former lead guitarist Jennifer Batten on March 25; Columbus, Ohio, country rock legends McGuffey Lane on April 2; Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin on April 7; and original member of England’s the Faces Ian McLagan on June 7. Check out www.thewinchester.net for more information on this great Lakewood venue and their shows.
The Kent Stage hosts the quietly legendary David Linley on March 27; local guitar virtuoso Neil Zaza performing his new CD “212” on April 15; and the lovely and ageless folk diva Judy Collins on May 6. For more info go to www.kentstage.org.
Downtown at the House of Blues there is a full slate of shows including the Saw Doctors on March 18; a pretty good version of Yes on March 22; the ageless Willie Nelson and Family on March 25; and Scottish hipsters the Average White Band on April 13. Go to www.hob.com/Cleveland for more information.
The Beachland Ballroom gets its twelfth year off to a good start with the Blasters appearing on March 18; local legends Pere Ubu come in on March 19; Paperboy Reed plays on March 24; there is a Big Band Brunch on March 27 featuring Ernie Krivda and the Fat Tuesday Band; on April 6 Kent’s Jessica Lea Mayfield makes an appearance; blues women extraordinaire Candye Kane will play on April 20; Terri Clarke appears on April 27; Youngstown’s favorite trio Glass Harp does a show on May 7; Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks return on May 13; and on Sunday, May 15, is the lovely and terrific blues pianist and vocalist Marcia Ball and her band. Go to www.beachlandballroom.com for information on these shows and a whole lot more.

10 Reasons to Hop on the Cleveland State Basketball Bandwagon

1. A genuine alternative at the fraction of the cost to several certain underachieving professional sports franchises: Real collegiate cheerleaders and dance team; a great spirit band; genuine audience interaction; no “narcisstic” pro athletes in sight.
2. Norris Cole: The senior guard is one of twenty finalists for the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in the country.
3. The women’s team: Fighting for another league championship in a rebuilding year after going to the NCAA’s two out of the last three years. Coach Kate Peterson Abiad’s team is in the running to make it three out of four. Guard Shawnita Garland is always the smallest person on the court, yet leads the team in minutes played.
4. Big Stuff: An opportunity to check out the campus and the new student center, the new rec center, the new law library, and the new education building; and, yes, dormitories with real college students living in them.
5. Gary Waters and staff: The best coach and best staff in any sport on any level in Ohio.
6. Anton Grady from Cleveland Central Catholic: The best high school player in the city, who will be a part of a great recruiting class coming to CSU next fall.
7. Junior Big Men: Aaron Pugh and Joe Lantas, tough defense minded inside players.
8. Jeremy Montgomery and Trevon Harmon: CSU’s defensive stalwarts/3 point shooting junior guards.
9. Tim Kamczyc: A local product from Strongsville, an over achieving walk on who now starts and is on scholarship. The 6’6’’ forward leads the Vikings defense.
10. Saturdays at the Wolstein Center: Cheap hot dogs, games for the kids, it can’t be beat.
Cleveland State has two big games this week that will play a big part in both winning the Horizon League crown and making it to the NCAA tournament. Check out the Vikings this Thursday, February 3 vs. Valparaiso at 7:00 p.m., and this Saturday at noon vs. Butler. For more info visit www.csuhoops.com.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Music Highlights

After a very busy holiday season, Northern Ohio’s favorite live music venues have some good shows lined up to get fans through the winter.
One of the highlights of the winter each year is the Tri-C Rock Off at the House of Blues, taking place most weekends until the finals on February 12. Local favorite Paul Fayeweather is doing a show at the HOB on February 4, and blues guitarist Robert Cray and his band appear February 15. Check out more info at www.hob.com/cleveland.
February is filled with great shows at the Kent Stage including Max Weinberg’s Big Band on February 2; Leon Redbone on February 4; Columbus country rock legends McGuffey Lane on the February 26; and singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell on March 5. For more information go to www.kentstage.org.
The Winchester will be holding the fort down on the west side with shows including the Dan Reed of the Dan Reed Project on January 28; Commander Cody and his Band on February 11; a CD release party and comedy show featuring Mike Polk and Last Call Cleveland on February 12; and an encore performance of Jonah Koslen and Stage Pass Now on March 4. Go to .www.thewinchester.net for their complete schedule.
The Beachland Ballroom will be busy all winter, with shows leading up to their 11th Anniversary in March. Friday, January 28 is a day for local favorites with Cats on Holiday in the Tavern and the Schwartz Brothers in the Ballroom; Thursday, February 3 is Shelby Lynne; Saturday, February 5 is Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; Friday, February 18 is Martin Sexton. The club’s anniversary weekend of March 4-6 includes a Friday double header with Paul Thorn and his Band in the Ballroom and Wayne “The Train” Hancock in the Tavern, and another double dip on Saturday with the Spampinato Brothers (from NRBG) in the Tavern and Jonathon Richmond in the Ballroom. Go to www.beachlandballroom.com for more information.
Jazz fans at Nighttown won’t be left out in the cold either, amongst their many shows this winter are Sunday, January 23, with rising trumpet star Dominick Farinacci and his Quartet; Friday, January 28, with alto saxophonist Richie Cole & Northstar; Sunday, February 13, Concord Recording Artist and Grammy Winning vocalist Kurt Elling doing two shows at 6 & 8 PM; Thursday, February 17, The Good Lovelies Juno winning trio from Toronto playing Folk-Roots and Western Swing; Friday, February 18, Violinist from the Cleveland Orchestra Lev Polyakin and his jazz group Russian Blue; and Saturday, February 19, rising alto saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio and his Quartet. Check out www.nighttowncleveland.com for the complete schedule and starting times.

Event Preview Annual Wine Tasting at Sokolowski’s University Inn Wednesday, January 26, 6:00

Most people in Northern Ohio know Sokolowski’s University Inn in Tremont as a great place to eat lunch, or to go for perogies and stuffed cabbage on a Friday or Saturday night. The old style cafeteria restaurant and tavern is one of the real gems of our city.
A lot of us don’t know that every so often they dress the Inn up and have a special event, with the next one being their Annual Wine Tasting on Wednesday, January 26.
The night is being co hosted by Wente Vineyards of California, and will feature as master of ceremonies the vineyard’s Midwest Sales Manager Paula Witkowski, who will give the background and history of each wine of the evening. For $60 a person patrons will get a five-course meal each featuring a glass a wine. I went to last year’s event and it was well worth it. The evening gets started at 6:00 with a champagne greeting.
Besides the wine the menu will include a blue cheese and bacon topped lettuce salad and homemade beef barley soup; will feature both tilapia topped with a shrimp and scallop cream sauce and short ribs with roasted root vegetables; and end with some of Sokolowski’s delicious home made desserts.
For more information or to make reservations call 216.771.9236. You can also check out University Inn’s website at www.sokolowskis.com.

Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical 12 January 2011 The Cleveland Play House

The last few winters the Play House has presented a musical biography, including works on the life of George Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mahalia Jackson. Each has been very well done, and a highlight of the season. This year’s presentation Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical based on the life of dancer Ginger Rogers is no exception.
The show features the multi talented Ann Aimee White as Rogers, and the cast of Heather Lee, Christianne Tisdale, Matthew LaBanca, Benjie Randall, and James Patterson playing a variety of roles, including Rogers’ mother Lela; Rogers’ five husbands; and a variety of celebrities including Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, and Ethel Merman.
The show is about the music of Ginger Rogers life as well as dancing, and amongst the sixteen songs are terrific versions of “I Got My Guy,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “We’re in the Money,” “Fine Romance,” and “I’m Putting All my Eggs in One basket.” Gershwin, Kern, Berlin, and Dorothy Fields are all featured.
Backwards in High Heels: The Ginger Musical is a very good night of theater, and last Wednesday the audience enjoyed it tremendously. It is filled with dance, music, a little movie and theater history, as well as the personal life of Ginger Rogers. It was a great entertainment on a cold winter night.
The musical is now running at the Cleveland Play House until January 30, for tickets or more information call 216.795.7000 or visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com. Coming up at the Play House is an adaptation of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful starting February 4.
Remember, this is the Play House’s last season at their Euclid Avenue complex near the Cleveland Clinic before moving downtown to the Allen theater complex.

“Home for the Holidays” at Nighttown December 27 with Vanessa Rubin December 28 with Joe Lovano

“Home for the Holidays” has become quite a tradition at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, as national jazz artists with Cleveland roots come home and play a show or two in late December. This year’s event had a full calendar of shows, and I was lucky enough to catch two of them.
On Monday, December 27, vocalist Vanessa Rubin took over Nighttown and owned the place for the evening. In front of an enthusiastic crowd made up of her family and many old friends and fans, she held court not only singing but also telling some great stories. Backed by a three piece band that featured Greg Bandy on drums, Drene Ivy on piano, and Glenn Holmes on bass, she covered old and new material, which included a touch of Brazil, a jazz standards, some Ella like scatting, and even a great version of “A Few of my Favorite Things.” There was something for everyone and the audience just loved it. For more about Vanessa Rubin and her music check out www.vanessarubin.com.
On Tuesday, December 28, jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano took over the Nighttown stage, in front of another sold out audience. Lovano is Cleveland’s biggest contribution to the current jazz world, and at Nighttown he gave three sets spanning a variety of different styles. His first set featured him as a soloist, his second set featured his wife Judi Silvano on vocals on several jazz standards, and the third set features Lovano sharing the stage with a who’s who of the Cleveland jazz world, including several sax duals with Ernie Krivda. It was a full night of music and the audience again appreciated it greatly. To be up to date on Lovano and his music visit www.loelovano.com.
As always, Nighttown has a lot of great shows coming up, you can check out their musical calendar at www.nighttowncleveland.com.