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
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
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 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 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 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

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 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
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
As always, Nighttown has a lot of great shows coming up, you can check out their musical calendar at