Sunday, September 13, 2015

Upcoming Hingetown Hoedown Festival

While we're patiently waiting for more reviews to appear, here is a notice about the upcoming Hingetown Hoedown Festival.  Sounds pretty cool!


For more information, contact: Adam Reifsnyder
2820 Detroit Avenue #404
Cleveland, OH 44113 (513) 207-4371
Grab your boots, friends and family and get ready to stomp at the first annual Hingetown Hoedown!
Cleveland’s first ever folk and bluegrass music festival will be held October 3rd in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood at the intersection of West 29th Street and Detroit Ave.. This event fills a void in Cleveland’s music scene, making it more diverse than ever, and will be complemented by food trucks, vendors, beer and family-friendly activities. Admission is free and open to the public.
Hingetown’s main stage will feature a slew of Ohio’s finest musicians. Among the many scheduled to perform are:
 The folk rock trio Shivering Timbers visiting from their hometown of Akron, where they were voted ‘Best Musician/Band’ by the Akron Empire in 2014.
 Local newgrass band Honeybucket , fresh off their second album release (Stompin’ Grounds) will share with the crowd their modern twist on traditional bluegrass music.
 Hailing from Zanesville, Ohio, The Wayfarers are known for their upbeat performances and are sure to play a high-energy set of traditional American roots music.
 The Gage Brothers straight from Akron, will form a well-rounded mix with their blues inspired folk sound.
In addition to the Hoedown music, there will also be an array of local vendors, food trucks, and craft beer from Great Lakes Brewery. The Hingetown Hoedown also strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible, using sustainable products and practices.
The Hoedown is a family friendly event and welcomes all ages. With this in mind there will be children’s activities such as face painting, sidewalk chalk, and henna tattoos. Also, The Music Settlement’s Bob Stop is generously providing instruments for children to try out, hoping to spark an interest in music and the community.
The day long festival runs from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Saturday, October 3. Hingetown, a division of Ohio City, and one of Cleveland’s coolest up-and-coming neighborhoods is located at the intersection of West 29th Street between Detroit and Clinton Avenues.
To help make this first-year festival a success, and to ensure that it continues future years, donations can be made through Hingetown Hoedown’s Kickstarter campaign.
For more information please visit, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Billy Hart Quartet. One is the Other.

Billy Hart Quartet.  One is the Other.
ECM, 2014.  Billy Hart:

I don’t know if his students at Oberlin College call him Billy or Professor Hart, but casual or not, they’d better give him some serious respect. A master of post-bop, but comfortable with nearly any style of jazz, Hart has worked with Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, and Stan Getz to name a few, and been putting out releases of his own since the late 1970s. He has led this particular group since around 2005, the group changing its name to make him the honorary leader, and it’s clear that they are extremely comfortable together. Complex harmonies, intricate rhythms, and remarkable playing are the order of the day. Recorded in 2013, it is the second release of the group on ECM, and fits nicely within the overall vibe of the label--contemporary, deep, cerebral, singular in vision, and sometimes out on the edge of jazz.

First of all, this is a highly cooperative venture. Hart may be the leader, but three of the four members contributed compositions, and Hart never hogs the spotlight. If anything, he gives a great deal of time to Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson, who, at first listen seem to dominate the recording. However, upon closer inspection, it’s clear that Hart has his finger on everything from the first track.  He and bassist Ben Street are like the bedrock on the tree-covered mountain. You might spend a great deal of time looking at the pretty trees, but there’s a reason the landscape is shaped the way it is. Of course, Turner’s tenor sax and Iverson’s piano are out front with a combination of sweet and tart that provides both a yearning quality and a warm, inviting sound. The first two songs on the album show the strengths of all of the musicians. “Lennie Groove” showcases Iverson’s piano, then Turner’s gorgeous sax, but Street holds the rhythm down while Hart adds to the melody and makes the tune an amazing workout.  Hart’s contributions become more evident as time goes on, with “Theule’s Redemption,” where he solos extensively and maintains a high presence throughout with an insistent rhythm aided by Street and Iverson. “Amethyst” and “Yard” continue to expose more of this work, along with the wonderful interplay among the musicians.

One of the best aspects of this album is the ability to hear everything--every note, every beat, crystal clear. I attributed this to both the fine ECM recording sound but also to the spacious playing. There’s no mud here. My favorite tune may be “Sonnet for Stevie,” written by Turner, a lovely piece where you can hear everyone contribute out front, and it brings some blues along with it. “Big Tree” reminds me of the old Gillespie tune, “Salt Peanuts,” with its jumpy melody and rhythm changes. Hart is strong throughout, and the others get to go a little wild. My only disappointment is “Some Enchanted Evening,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein song, which I have frankly never cared for in any manifestation. Others may find it a charming piece.

The rest of the album displays a masterful, quiet intensity that is delightful in so many ways, and an easy place to get lost in. I look forward to hearing more from these fine gentlemen, as well as checking into more of their back catalog.

Personnel:  Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Ethan Iverson (piano), Ben Street (double bass), Billy Hart (drums).
Tracks:  Lennie Groove, Maraschino, Teule’s Redemption, Amethyst, Yard, Sonnet for Stevie, Some Enchanted Evening, Big Trees.

Jeff Wanser

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Total Babes. Heydays.

Total Babes.  Heydays.
Wichita Recording, 2015.  Total Babes:

Dance to this.  Shake your rear. Bop your head. At least keep time with your foot or hand, or other appendage if you can’t otherwise move. Do something for this extra fine band and their new EP. Well, maybe it’s an EP.  Eight tracks isn’t a full album unless they’re all like, seven minutes long, and nothing clocks over five minutes here. It doesn’t matter because the music is really great, except that there should be more of it.

Total Babes was started by Christopher Brown and Jayson Gerycz in Medina back in 2010, apparently as a side project that has a life of its own. And after all, somebody has to start bands in Medina. Brown was (is?) in Swindella, Gerycz is the drummer for Cloud Nothings (which Baldi fronts), Nathan Ward is from Smooth Brain, and John Elliott was in Emeralds. Wow, talk about cross-pollination. The music is power pop/punk with synthesizers and jangly guitars and distortion, or something like that, with hints (are we wine-tasting?) of Emeralds, Cloud Nothings, R.E.M., and probably other stuff if you listen hard enough. Nearly everything is high energy and fun, with speeds ranging from pretty fast to breakneck. Harmonies hit just the right spots (who’s singing harmony?) for garage rock (check “Circling” and “Repeat Gold”). The guitar is cool, the drums dominate (no surprise), and it all comes together. I like the fact that almost nothing here is a love song. Thank you! “Sunny Side” is a piano track, sort of like Jefferson Airplane doing “Embryonic Journey,” but sounding nothing like it. “Repeat Gold” is as close to a ballad as it gets, and it’s a catchy tune with a nice vibe.

Since I have the advantage of seeing other people’s reviews of the album (Metacritic shows eight), I can critique those too. Sorry, Consequence of Sound, but this rates higher than a C+, and isn’t just Cloud Nothings lite. DIY and the 405 are closer to my opinion, and therefore entirely reasonable. We just missed their concert at the Happy Dog, but they’ll probably pop up somewhere. In the meantime, groove to this.

Personnel:  Christopher Brown (guitar, vocals, bass, piano), Jayson Gerycz (drums), Nathan Ward (bass (sometimes), John Elliott (synthesizers), Dylan Baldi (saxophone on track 4, and maybe some vocals).
Tracks:  Blurred Time, Heydays, Bone Dry Eyes, Circling, We’ll Come Around, Sunny Side, Repeat Gold, Can I Turn You On.

Ron Yoyek

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Vinyl Note

While we await somebody or other to come up with a new review, here's a link to a really great article on the FreshWater Cleveland site about the popularity of vinyl in Cleveland and the unique density of record stores. Go vinyl!

We'll be posting soon, I hope!


Friday, July 31, 2015

Ray Anthony. Young Ideas/Moments Together.

Ray Anthony and His Orchestra.  Young Ideas/Moments Together.
Phono, 2014  (Originally released 1957).  Ray Anthony:

You have probably heard Ray Anthony’s music without realizing it.  He made top-selling recordings of “The Bunny Hop” and the “Hokey Pokey” in the early 1950s that are still played at weddings. He had other big hits with TV show themes from the period, including Dragnet and Peter Gunn. His influence is wide-ranging in both television and movies. Anthony, born Raymond Antonini in Bentleyville, PA in 1922, moved with his family to Cleveland and there he took up the trumpet, starting his own band as a teenager. He joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra by the age of 18, then did a later stint with Jimmy Dorsey, as well as having a Navy band during World War II. After the war he signed with Capitol Records, and eased into a long career of touring and recording, intermixed with television and film work. If you’ve read this far, you may want to know that Anthony is still alive and working, at the age of 93.  He and his orchestra have released 126 albums.  Beat that.

For those of us who are of the boomer generation, easy listening music (as it has been characterized since the 1950s) is anathema. The movie Good Morning Vietnam’s verbal exchanges between the disc jockeys over what music to play were real, about massive shifts in aesthetic taste between those who lived through World War II and those who came after. Growing up, most of my friends despised all music that came before rock, but I had a few differences with them. Secret differences. I was exposed to easy listening through my parents, through the radio stations they listened to, the albums my mother owned (or borrowed from my Aunt Emily). I found the style interesting, sometimes enjoyable, and just one more genre that was worth pursuing in some measure, depending on my mood and inclination. The category itself is a construction (like all others) that includes non-jazz/non-classical orchestral music, some pop vocalists, and a range of other artists who were popular sellers in album format in the 1950s-1970s but didn’t fit other categories. Ray Anthony has come to fall into that category by default, being a bit too sweet to be considered big band jazz (although he has his moments).

This recent import combines two albums, both released in 1957, that show two sides to Anthony and his orchestra.  Young Ideas is all instrumental, a collection of standards by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and others, all played in a style that Glenn Miller would have found perfectly suitable. The album title is odd, considering that it’s all middle of the road big band material, at the sweet but classy end. No novelty tunes, no long solos, and no jive. Anthony displays his strong trumpet playing and the arrangements are tasteful, never gaudy. Four cellos are included for a more mellow sound than a big band is commonly known for. I could listen to this for hours.  

The second album, Moments Together, removes the cellos and replaces them with the Ray Anthony Chorus, a cloying group of vocalists who sing partial lyrics, echo refrains, punctuate stanzas, run overtop of the melody, and make themselves a general nuisance. I wish he had kept the cellos. This style of vocalizing was popular for a period in the 1950s, but went out of style fairly quickly. Percy Faith and a few other easy listening stalwarts used it as late as the 1960s. Here it sounds dated, limiting to the music. The band performs a dozen more standards, Rodgers, Gershwin, and others, none of whom need the “woo--woo” and “ah--ah” of the Chorus for improvement. Now, in a different context of the same period, doo-wop, background vocals were vital to the style, often the most important part in simplistic music with few chords, insipid lyrics, and little instrumentation. Here it seems like syrup poured over ice cream. Too sweet by far.

Thus, Phono Records, a European label, has given us a mixed bag, and one that will not fully appeal to all. You can tell which half of the album I prefer, and you can decide for yourself if you like the vocal stylings of the Ray Anthony Chorus. As for Anthony himself, he should keep doing what he’s doing, since it seems to be working for him.

Personnel:  Ray Anthony (trumpet, bandleader), with orchestra, the Ray Anthony Chorus, and unnamed cellists.
Tracks:  Young Ideas: Moonglow, Why Do I Love You?, I Love You, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Lonely Night in Paris, Button Up Your Overcoat, You Turned the Tables on Me, Just One of Those Things, That Old Feeling, Coquette, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, Young Ideas.  Moments Together:  Love is Here to Stay, Careless, Everything I Have is Yours, Many Faces, Goodnight Waltz, No Other Love, Please Mr. Sun, The Things I Love, With You in Mind, Oh! What It Seemed to Be, In Time, If I Ever Love Again, Cello-Phane*, The Lonely Trumpet*.

Jeff Wanser

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ohio Light Opera. Oh, Kay!, by George & Ira Gershwin

Ohio Light Opera.  Oh, Kay!, by George & Ira Gershwin
Performance of Saturday, July 18, 2015, Freedlander Theatre, Wooster, Ohio

This past weekend was quite hot and humid, and so my wife and I felt ourselves fortunate to have booked tickets for the Ohio Light Opera and its air conditioned theater months in advance for Saturday and Sunday. We have been attending at least a couple of productions each summer since 1999, enjoying both the operettas and the local delights of Wooster (We highly recommend both the Broken Rocks Cafe and Matsos Family Restaurant). The 37th season of the OLO continues to provide its audiences with top notch operetta and early musical theater. Beginning with a core of Gilbert & Sullivan, the organization has expanded its offerings to include a variety of European and American operettas, and early 20th century and Golden Age musicals.

Oh, Kay! fits into the musical category, a madcap comedy that opened on Broadway in 1926.  It had excellent runs in both New York and London, and initially starred Gertrude Lawrence.  While some of the music is familiar (“Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Do-do-do”), the work is particularly remembered for one song, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which has entered the canon of standards. Set during Prohibition, the plot is the usual mix of silliness, involving two crimes, bootlegging and bigamy, and the efforts of the Duke of Durham, Lady Kay, Larry, and Shorty to save their stash of booze hidden in the basement of a house in Southampton. Jimmy, the owner, has suddenly appeared with a new bride (sort of).  As it turns out, his previous marriage was never annulled, much to the unhappiness of present wife, Constance, and her father, the Judge. Meanwhile, the bootleggers pretend to be previously unmet domestics awaiting the return of the squire, while plotting to move the liquor. Thrown into this mess is a revenue officer and a pair of ditzy sisters. Jimmy, of course, falls in love with Kay and tries to get out of his impending marriage to Constance. All is eventually resolved, but it’s a bit obscure as to just how, as the plot is intentionally a confusing mass of multiple roles (bootlegger as butler, etc.), mishaps, misunderstandings, and near misses. However, the plot is barely the point, as it merely serves as a coathanger for the music and lots of one-liners. And the music is gorgeous.

The cast for Oh, Kay! is outstanding. Nathan Brian is utterly engaging as Jimmy Winters, the unintended bigamist. He acts, he sings, he dances, and he does them all with the aplomb of a young Steve Martin. Equally delightful is Emily Hagens, who has a great deal of fun with her part as Kay, changing accents at a moment’s notice, and doing both the comedy and the love scenes with charm and ease. The bootleggers were in fine form, with special kudos to Samus Haddad as Shorty, whose jokes were so awful they were funny, and Spencer Reese, who  showed off his  dancing abilities in the number “Fidgety Feet.” The Ruxton sisters, played by Sarah Best and Alexandra Vecchio were simply a hoot. There were no dull moments here; every scene was captivating, every song worth hearing. Only one thing threw me. Emily Hagens had her big romantic moment with “Someone to Watch Over Me,” but I was a bit startled by her choice of a rather operatic voice.  I’m used to hearing it more as a sultry torch song.  However, with only a bit of digging, I discovered that Hagens was performing it the way Gertrude Lawrence did in the original run (you can hear it on YouTube). Leave it to OLO to be authentic in its presentation.

As usual, the orchestra performed the music seamlessly and with great enthusiasm (I’m still humming the tunes). The scenery was delightful, the costuming exactly right, the lighting a wonder. Ted Christopher and J. Lynn Thompson are to be congratulated on a job well done. If you haven’t yet experienced the Ohio Light Opera, please go.  It is a hidden gem that cannot be found anywhere else. The season only runs through August 8th. Get thee to Wooster.

Cast: Caitlin Ruddy (Molly Morse), Katherine Corie (Peggy), Kyle Yampiro (The Duke of Durham), Emily Hagens (Lady Kay), Spencer Reese (Larry Potter), Samus Haddad (Shorty McGee), Sarah Best (Phil Ruxton), Alexandra Vecchio (Dolly Ruxton), Nathan Brian (Jimmy Winters), Jessamyn Anderson (Constance Appleton), Boyd Mackus (Judge Appleton), Benjamin Krumreig (Revenue Officer Jansen), and others; with ensemble. Ted Christopher (Stage Director, J. Lynn Thompson (Conductor), The Ohio Light Opera Orchestra.
Musical Numbers: The Woman’s Touch, Don’t Ask, Dear Little Girl, Maybe, Clap Yo’ Hands, Do-Do-Do, Never too late to Mend-elssohn, Someone to Watch Over Me, Fidgety Feet, Heaven on Earth, Oh, Kay.

Jeff Wanser

Friday, July 3, 2015

Cloud Nothings. Here and Nowhere Else.

Cloud Nothings.  Here and Nowhere Else.
Carpark Records, 2014.  Cloud Nothings:

Yay! I get to review an album that came out over a year ago! Thanks, Mr. Editor (Editor’s Note: You were my third choice). They just released a new album, sharing it with Wavves, but I get this one. Anyway, all the accolades have been written, it got a great review from Pitchfork, another from Consequence of Sound, and things seem to be going pretty well for the band.  They performed at Coachella this year, and it looks like they’re touring out west right now, so maybe they won’t read this. The band seems to be lucking out with producers. Their last album, Attack on Memory, was produced by Steve Albini, and this one by John Congleton. I guess it goes to show what moving out of town can get you.

The band sounds even better this time out than on some of their earlier albums. Moving from a quartet to a trio has changed the sound a bit. Punk and grunge predominate, but I think there’s some other stuff there too. There’s a lot of melody and some nice hooks, but some screaming. They’ve knocked out some of the low-fi/power pop sound they started with, and Here and Nowhere Else seems to continue that trend. Now they’re all pretty much all high energy, which suits me just fine. Fewer highs and lows than the last album. It’s focused and consistent (unlike me), and I don’t hear any loser tracks. Every song is good, but I especially like “Pattern Walks,” partly because it rocks out for seven minutes. Nice guitar work from Dylan Baldi, and some seriously cool drumming from Jayson Gerycz. “I’m Not Part of Me,” is great too.  I guess I like the longer tracks. The lyrics are cool, with a lot of angst mixed with a few glimmers of humor and hope. Try, which has some commentary from Dylan Baldi about the songs. He says that he likes to write stuff that’s hard to play, which makes him practice and get better. Good strategy, and it seems to be working.

What else is there to say? Great band, great music. If you don’t know them, check them out.

Personnel:  Dylan Baldi (guitar, vocals), Jayson Gerycz (drums), T. J. Duke (bass).
Tracks:  Now Hear In, Quieter Today, Psychic Trauma, Just See Fear, Giving into Seeing, No Thoughts, Pattern Walks, I’m Not Part of Me.

Ron Yoyek

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ottawa. Random Lights.

Ottawa.  Random Lights.
Self-produced, 2014.  Ottawa:

I am writing this on a morning when Imagine Dragons appeared in concert on the Today Show.  Ottawa is far, far better than them--stronger musically, lyrically, and stylistically. They’re a new band, having formed on Cleveland’s west side in 2014, although the musicians themselves aren’t brand new. Random Lights is their first release, and it’s a fine one, reflecting influences as various as Fleetwood Mac and Oasis, as well as the inevitable Black Keys. The result is a sound that is pop-oriented rock with an edge, part blues and part punk, taking them to a level above many other groups.

They have a several things going for them. First is some excellent material to work with. The songs are really good, all original, with excellent lyrics, sophisticated structures, and nice hooks.  A great example is the title track that starts off the album, with its upbeat, insistent rhythm, slightly punkish attitude, and tempo changes and bridges that are consistently interesting. Other songs follow suit, without seeming imitative. Second is Dale DeLong’s vocals, which are not exactly pretty, but highly appealing, and help to sell the songs. He strains at the lyrics, wails a bit, and has a ragged edge (a higher-sounding Billy Idol?). He certainly holds the listener’s attention. The harmonies are good too, especially noticeable in “Tarantino” and “Tempo,” two songs that I find highly appealing. Enormous energy is the third quality, as exemplified by the second track, “The Good Kind,” and its overpowering sound. Finally, the musicians are very capable, with Tim Czajka’s guitar the most noticeable ingredient here. His guitar breaks and punctuation are memorable, stabbing and slashing, and adding to the high energy delivery. The band itself is tight, and the rhythm section is strong. They know what they want to do and do it in a way that is both efficient and organic. They sound like they’ve been playing together for years.

A couple of tracks fall flat for me. “Blondie” is the closest thing to a ballad, and doesn’t move me the way most of the other songs do. “Separator” sounds like Black Keys lite, and the lyrics seem less interesting than the rest of the songs here. Those quibbles aside, the band has done a remarkable job for a debut album. This is music that can stick in your head, which is the key to rock music that lasts. Ottawa will be playing at the House of Blues in August. Catch them when you can.

Personnel:  Dale DeLong (vocals), William Hooper (guitar, piano), Tim Czajka (guitar), Chris Williams (bass), Steve Crobar (drums), with additional instrumentation by Suzy Scullin and Jim Stewart.
Tracks:  Random Lights, The Good Kind, Lie to Me, Separator, Tarantino, Tempo, Dodge City, Blondie.

Jeff Wanser