Saturday, April 28, 2012

David Sanborn Trio and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue Cleveland Tri C Jazz Fest 27 April 2012, State Theater at Playhouse Square

Friday night’s Jazz Fest Concert at the State Theater featured two distinctively different performers. What they have in common is an abundance of talent, solid players behind them, and loyal fans.

Opening the show was the David Sanborn Trio, led by the long time sax player who has been a force not only in jazz but rock for the last forty years. Many Clevelanders, whether they knew it or not, first heard Sanborn when he played the terrific sax solo on the studio version of the Michael Stanley classic “Let’s Get the Show on the Road,” from Stanley’s 1973 Friends and Legends album. His hour long opening set found him backed by his long time organist (and a jazz legend in his own right) Joey DeFrancesco, and Jeremy Thomas. Thomas was making his debut as Sanborn’s drummer but you would not have known it if Sanborn had not mentioned it. His play was solid and consistent. DeFrancesco almost stole the show, with a steady stream of solos as well as his well-received lead vocals on Louis Jordan’s “Let the Good Times Roll.”

And Sanborn was Sanborn, playing one sax solo after another in the six song set. He also added some great story telling, as he appeared to be very comfortable in front of the audience. His story of his first meeting with Tommy LiPuma was outstanding.

I was a little surprised that Sanborn and his trio opened the show, but that’s because I had never seen Trombone Shorty and his band live before. After I did the lineup made sense. While Sanborn had the crowd glued in their seats listening to every note, Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue had the audience up and dancing in the aisles for most of their set.

I have been told by several people whose music opinions I highly regard that Trombone Shorty might be “the next big thing.” After finally seeing him perform live, I agree. His set was outstanding. Backed by a six piece band of guitar, bongos, bass, drums, and two saxophones, Shorty really ripped it up. Whether it was on trumpet, trombone, vocals, or leading the band, all of it was outstanding. I started jotting down the influences I heard in Shorty’s music. The list included Johnny Guitar Watson, the Nevilles, al Hirt, Little Feat, the Tower of Power, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, the Allman Brothers, Willie Nelson, Santana, Louis Armstrong, George Benson, EWF, the Blues Brothers, and Charles Wright and the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band. And I’m sure there are dozen more.

Shorty had the audience in the palm of his hand, whether it was during a wonderful version of “Sunny Side of the Street”; imitating Louis Armstrong or leading the band through the audience during “When the Saints Go Marching In”; channeling John Beluschi during a rowdy version of “Everbody Needs Somebody”; or leading the audience in some Cab Calloway yodeling. It was all great stuff.

I know Aretha was good during opening night, and Diana Krall is always entertaining, and there has been nothing but praise for all of the Jazz Fest activities this year, but the highlight for the 2012 Tri C Jazz Fest for many had to be Friday night’s Sanborn/Trombone Shorty doubleheader. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

May/June 2012 Cleveland Clubs Concert Preview

Great stuff all around…I love going to Nighttown, and over the years have seen every genre of jazz performed there. But I think the place is at its best when it’s a great vocalist surrounded by stellar players. You’ll have that chance to see two of the best in May as Helen Welch does two nights on May 11 and 12. She’ll be doing songs from her recent Beatles tribute album, and then the legendary Freddy Cole comes in on May 14 & 15. I’ve seen both of these great singers perform at Nighttown and it is always special.  For those of you who like a touch of rock with your jazz, former Journey drummer Steve Smith brings his band Vital Information to Nighttown on June 18 & 19. Cleveland’s best jazz club has all sorts of great things going on in the next few months, check out their music calendar at
As you head to Progressive Field this summer to see the Tribe don’t forget Wilbert’s, right outside centerfield on Huron Avenue. The club will feature almost every genre of popular music over the next few months. I have not seen her yet, but I have heard very good things about Australian folk singer Marta Pecek who plays the club on June 1.  Thursday, June 14, will be a special night at the club with a tribute to the recently deceased blues DJ “Fitz” Fitzpatrick, with a who’s who of the local blues scene playing including “Moon Child” Haddix and Wallace Coleman. Long time Cleveland favorite Norm Nardini from Pittsburgh will play for two nights June 15 & 16.  Check out all the stuff going on at Wilbert’s by visiting
Don’t forget to head out to the west side soon and check out all the good things happening at the Winchester in Lakewood. May 4 slide guitarist Chris Duarte from Austin, Texas; Glen Philips from Toad the Wet Sprocket plays May 19; and local favorite Bowie tribute band Diamond Dogs returns on June 16. Lots of other great shows, plus Phil Keaggy in July, check it out at
Down in Kent the Kent Stage is continuing its tenth anniversary celebration with some terrific shows, including Asleep at the Wheel and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on May 18; blues guitarist Robert Cray on June 2; and making a rare northern Ohio appearance on June 8 is Rickie Lee Jones. Their music calendar is at
The Beachland Ballroom as always will be going strong over the next few months with blues guitarist Sonny Landreth on May 17; the Punch Brothers on June 3rd; Jonathon Richmond on June 6th; and one of my favorites, Paul Thorn and his Band on June 20th. Don’t forget about the club’s rock and roll brunches on Sundays and its record/vintage clothing store in the basement. Check out for all the story.
            Downtown at the House of Blues things will be rocking with local products Rosavelt along with Don Dixon and Marti Jones on May 18; local favorites the BeDeans on June 24th; and Collective Soul on June 26th. Don’t forget about their Sunday Gospel Brunches and Brandi Carlisle and Rufus Wainwright are coming in August. For more info visit

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Swing Kids Part of the Tri-C Jazz Fest State Theater, Playhouse Square 25 April 2012

One of the neat freebies of this year’s Jazz Fest was a 45 minute presentation fronted by Trumpeter Dominick Farinacci for a mostly kids audience at the State Theater Thursday afternoon.
The set included a little blues, a little Freddie Hubbard, a little Clifford Brown, and a whole lot of interaction between the young audience and the band, which besides Farinacci featured Dominic Jones on piano, Dean Hewitt on Bass, and Jerome Jennings on drums. All players are Cleveland bred, Tri-C educated.
For one number Farinacci took eight volunteers from the audience ranging in age from six to sixteen and arranged them in and around the musicians then asked them for their reactions. He and the band also took questions from the audience at the end.
A good time was had by all, hats off to the Jazz Fest and their sponsors for covering the costs of such a good thing.

Holiday in a Box! Cats on Holiday COH 1201 Spring 2012

Cats on Holiday in one form or another have been putting out good music and putting on great live shows around Northern Ohio for a very long time.  Holiday in a Box is their fifth effort, and it is another good one filled with their unique Cleveland meets New Orleans sound. This is the first CD that really features lead singer Denis DeVito’s button box playing, which can be heard on each track.
The disk features five DeVito originals, two reworkings of Cajun classics, and a great Cats on Holiday bouncy version of the Kinks’ “Apeman.” Probably the best track on the disk is a lively version of Andrus Espree’s “Just One Kiss,” complete with a spoken word poetry intro by percussionist Jeffrey Bowen.
We get a lot of CDs here at CoolCleveland to review, many from local artists putting out their first serious work. Before you and your band think about putting out a disk, talk to the guys in Cats on Holiday about doing it right. Everything about this disk, from the sound and mixing to packaging and design, is first rate. Track down Rick Christyson or Denis DeVito and they will send you in the right direction, you won’t be sorry.
You can pick up a copy of Holiday in a Box! At any of the Cats’ shows this summer. They are playing everywhere between now and when autumn rolls in, including but not limited to the Flat Iron, the Sunset Grill, the Rush Inn, the Islands, Shaker Square, and numerous arts and street festivals. Amongst their May gigs are the Voice of Homeless Benefit at Brothers Lounge on May 11; the Kamms Corner Hooley on the 12th; and the Hessler Street Festival on the 20th. For their complete summer schedule, or to hear samples of their music, go to