Jazz on my mind

Posted By on September 13, 2009

I saw Barbara Dennerlein Friday in a church and Saturday in a jazz club. She plays pipe organ in churches and the Hammond B-3 in jazz clubs. She swings, singularly and unforgettably, in both.
Barbara Dennerlein

At Fairmount Presbyterian, the petite, 45-year-old German phenomenon played for about an hour and a half, traversing a desultory blues, a few Latin numbers, and a finale that shook the rafters, blending Dennerlein’s volcanic flourishes with Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue.” At the Bop Stop, she delivered two sets, serving up deep groove with an homage to Jimmy Smith, a fabulous samba in honor of her half-dachshund, half-terrier dog, and a gang of other originals.

The reason I comment on Dennerlein’s performances is that the guy who sponsored her local appearances challenged me to review her. This is my substitute. There’s no regular outlet anymore for reviews that focus on the unusual artist, the artist who doesn’t draw megacrowds. Part of that is the withering of print. Part is the subsequent conservatism, meaning newspapers aren’t trying to cover everything anymore; they just want to hold on to what they’ve got.

The church show drew about 300, the Bop Stop show close to its capacity of 110 seats. The Bop Stop show swung more and was more conventionally jazzy, showcasing the room’s singularly accommodating design and outstanding acoustics. The place is for sale and opens only for special occasions, like the Dennerlein show. How sad that the best music room in Cleveland can’t do regular business.

By the way, I’m beginning to review CDs and preview shows for Scene again. Seems timely given the number of fine, new CDs by Cleveland-based or –originated musicians like trumpeter Josh Rzepka and saxophonists Mike Lee and Bobby Selvaggio. I’m willing to bet that a promoter willing to mix it up—spotlighting jazz one night, blues another and, God forbid, rock from time to time—could make a go of the Bop Stop. As it, the place is magnificent and shuttered. What a waste.


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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff