Drummer Philip Paul, ambassador for the King legacy, dead at 96

Philip Paul Trio at Cricket Lounge. Photo by Paula Norton

More than 50 years after playing his last session at King Records, drummer Philip Paul was still performing in jazz clubs and restaurants around Cincinnati.

Mr. Paul – who in person was quiet and always sharply attired – performed over a span of eight decades. Over that time, he became known for his meticulous playing and versatility of style, whether it was blues, country or rock ‘n’ roll. A street was named for him in Cincinnati. He shared his talent and encouraged young musicians. He was world-renowned. The last time Paul McCartney was in town, the Beatles legend wanted to meet Philip Paul.

The former studio drummer for King Records played on the original recordings of “The Twist” and “Fever,” and continued playing with his latest trio until just a few months ago. Mr. Paul, who lived in Evanston not far from King Records, died on January 30 at age 96.

“No one represented the amazing story of King Records better than Philip Paul. King was the most eclectic independent label and Phil’s drums can be heard on the entire rainbow of genres the label produced – driving R&B, jazz ballads, bebop, doo-wop, Country & Western, even bluegrass,” musician and music journalist Larry Nager wrote to me from Hawaii, where he now lives. “As a drummer he had more flexibility than, say, a tenor sax player or guitarist in not being locked into a single style. He even developed his own way of playing country rhythms, using a stick and a brush on his snare to create that “boom-chang” sound. But it was Phil’s calm and coolness and his skill at listening – perhaps the most important skill for a musician – that made him such a great sideman. He was the perfect ambassador for the King legacy, which had been neglected for far too long in a city known for celebrating almost everything about itself, from baseball to chili.”

A few years ago, I enjoyed listening to jazz at the Cricket Lounge in the Cincinnatian Hotel. It was the Billie Walker Trio, featuring that wonderful pianist, now gone. Setting the tone for the trio, unobtrusively and smoothly, was a superb drummer named Philip Paul, with the trio’s longtime bassist Ed Conley.

Mr. Paul’s playing was sophisticated, effortless. It was unforgettable for nearly anyone who ever heard him — or even better, played with him.Read More »

CCM’s Moveable Feast is virtual this year

Students of CCM’s Musical Theatre Class of 2022 and alumni guest artists Noah J. Ricketts, John Riddle, Nikki René Daniels, Leslie Kritzer and Stephanie Jae Park. (Screen grab provided by CCM)

If you’ve ever attended a Moveable Feast, the imaginative fundraising event at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, you’ve probably never forgotten it. The idea is to stroll from theater to theater, classroom to classroom, and sample the amazing talent of students in every discipline — from ballet to jazz to scenic design and media arts. You do this while also sampling “dinner by the bite” in wonderful food stations throughout the building.

This year, with Covid, Moveable Feast is re-imagined as a virtual event on Jan. 22. Although there won’t be the thrill of rushing down hallways with dozens of other people to make it in time to a see some Broadway hits before you dash away to catch ballet students in a scene from “Swan Lake” — the event will be able to involve viewers around the country.

It’s presented by CCM Power, a volunteer group of friends, advocates and alumni. The event provides essential support for student scholarships, projects and travel opportunities.  This year, COVID-19 cancelled paid work that students rely on and drastically changed students’ family financial circumstances. Scholarship and emergency funds are needed now more than ever.

CCM has produced major stars of stage and screen — from Broadway and Carnegie Hall to Hollywood. Alumni guest artists for the show will include stars of Hamilton, Frozen, Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Netflix’s Dead to Me and much more.

Edward Nelson Highlight Screen – This image features CCM alumnus Edward Nelson performing “Someone to Watch Over Me” for CCM’s virtual Moveable Feast. He is Accompanied by San Francisco Opera guest artist Ronny Michael Greenberg, piano. (Screen grab provided by CCM)

Opera alumnus Edward Nelson (BM, ’11; MM, ‘13) wanted to participate because, he says, “At every step further into my career, I have found myself drawing on my experiences and education from CCM. When the opportunity arose this year to give back to the institution that has given me so much, I jumped on board without hesitation.”Read More »

Cincinnati arts in top 20 of U.S. communities

CCO musicians performing at Pyramid Hill sculpture park, Hamilton
May Festival Chorus

A new report from the National Center for Arts Research names Cincinnati in the top 20 of large communities for arts vibrancy. The report takes “a data-driven approach to assessing characteristics that make up a community’s vibrancy rather than base the ranking on our own opinion about locations or on a popular vote.” Four measures were analyzed: supply, demand, and public support for arts and culture on a per capita basis.

It’s interesting that such a report would come out during a pandemic, when most arts organizations closed their doors in March, and have been struggling to survive ever since. The reason, the report says, it offers the report “as a celebration and reminder of the arts’ enduring importance, resiliency, and vibrancy.

“We should not forget the essential role that the arts play in fueling community development, emotional health, cultural literacy, social cohesion and integration, and creative expression. Ultimately, the communal nature of arts participation will be a strength to communities hungry to come together again and affirm existential meaning after prolonged isolation, trauma, and polarization.”

Indeed.Read More »

Local classical music focuses on music by African American composers

Anthony McGill performing at the Linton Music Series recently/ photo by Tina Gutierrez


Something good has come out of all the turmoil this summer. Arts organizations are programming music and even entire seasons devoted to the music of African American composers. It is music long neglected in our country. From the King of Ragtime Scott Joplin, whose “Maple Leaf Rag” appears on the Pops’ digital program on Oct. 3, to Florence Price, whose elegant symphonies, concertos and piano pieces are enjoying a revival, it is wonderful music that deserves study by scholars and performances by our major institutions. And now, that is happening at the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cincinnati Pops, the Cincinnati Song Initiative and others.

The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops are programming a free “digital season,” seven livestreamed concerts recorded in Music Hall, kicking off at 8 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 26.Read More »

Cancellations, digital programs, relief funds: How Cincinnati’s arts organizations are coping with COVID-19

A previous production of The Magic Flute/ provided by Cincinnati Opera

Cincinnati Opera’s news yesterday that it must cancel its 2020 Summer Festival — the company’s 100th anniversary — was just the latest in an ongoing wave of arts cancellations due to COVID-19. Because of extended stay-at-home orders and closures, it was literally impossible to begin set-building and rehearsing, let alone fly in the international stars who were coming from Italy and the Czech Republic.

I doubt that entire seasons have ever been canceled for such a plague, although world wars have interrupted some. Of the many arts organizations that I have interviewed this month, a few leaders have predicted to me, that, until people feel comfortable being with other people in a theater, museum or a concert hall (and you can add to that, restaurants and stadiums), they will not return. And that won’t happen until there is a vaccine.

As Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers tells me in Friday’s Business Courier, we all thought things would be closed for a weekend, and then it would be back to normal. Now we talk about the “new normal.”

The Blue Wisp Big Band at Caffe Vivace last month.

I began observing how the coronavirus was impacting our city’s freelance musicians about a month ago, when restaurants closed, and musicians began streaming their music live from empty bars, for tips. That article, “Virtual Reality,” on April 3, included some jazz musicians, as well. Trumpeter Matt Anklan, an adjunct at Miami University, said that 60 percent of his income is from freelance jobs — now completely gone.

A spot check of Cincinnati’s major arts organizations, “Critical Stage” on April 10, told stories of how groups are struggling to hang onto their staffs even as they tally their losses. Losses will be big. ArtsWave — which was just midway through its annual, $12.4 million campaign when the virus hit — predicts that losses in Cincinnati’s arts community could top $30 million if there is no arts activity all summer.

Van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures at Cincinnati Art Museum

Still, there was a note of optimism, despite the expected red ink. Cincinnati Art Museum’s Cameron Kitchin told me, “The arts are about connecting and inspiring. What greater time of need do we have for inspiration and connection than right now, in this time of social distancing and flickering hope? If we look at what the arts to able to provide for humanity, this is a moment where we are called to action.”

Friday’s article (April 17) is about how small and mid-sized arts groups in our region are coping. There will be more stories to come, including some with good news of how people are stepping up in a time of crisis.

As I wrote in a column at the very beginning of the trickle of online arts offerings — now a tsunami — the arts offer escape, joy and comfort. Don’t forget, these organizations can’t wait to welcome you back, live and in person, when we all reach the other side.

Chuck Miller, savior of Sorg Opera House, steps down

Chuck Miller in his element, backstage at the Sorg

It took a man with a vision to see the beauty behind the dilapidated and abandoned Sorg Opera House in Middletown. Now, as John Kiesewetter reports this morning, Chuck Miller has resigned as president of the Sorg Opera Revitalization Group (SORG) to become the new executive director of the historic “State Movie Palace of Kansas,” the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. Wife Denise Brodsky has also resigned her position on the board.

Current board members Roger Daniels and Chris Riva are stepping in to fill roles, although his successor has not been decided.

Here’s my story from about a year ago of how Chuck and his devoted board have been working — extremely hard — to restore the Hannaford-built theater to its former grandeur.

There are similarities between the Sorg Opera House (1891) and Music Hall (1878) as you can see in the balconies. Both were designed by Samuel Hannaford. The Sorg is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the lobby

You can visit your old Music Hall seats

I’m posting a few memories of visiting the Sorg while these dedicated preservationists were at work restoring and programming a series of concerts in the hall. By the way, the acoustics are wonderful. And, for people who remember Music Hall’s old seats, you can revisit them up in Middletown.

Good luck Chuck and Denise! You’ll be missed.

Randy Brecker to visit Caffe Vivace

It’s a chance to see a world-class trumpeter in a venue not much bigger than your living room, says Brent Gallaher, co-owner of Caffe Vivace in Walnut Hills.

Caffe Vivace, the hip new coffee house by day, jazz venue by night, is hosting Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker in its listening room next weekend. He’ll play four sets over two nights — Feb. 15 and 16 — with two different groups of outstanding local musicians.Read More »

Scot Woolley was a multi-talented performer and mentor to many

Scot Woolley at the keyboard with his brother, CSO violinist Stacey Woolley

Scot Woolley will be remembered as one of Cincinnati’s brightest stars and an indispensable member of the region’s arts community from Northern Kentucky to Dayton.

He was a gifted pianist, singer, conductor, arranger, dancer and composer who worked around the world. He was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a faculty member at Wright State University, where he was music director and voice instructor.

Mr. Woolley died on Jan. 26 after suffering a medical emergency while driving to his Westwood home. He was 60.

“A terrible void has been left and nobody can fill it,” said his brother, Stacey Woolley, a violinist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. “Scot really revered the Great American Songbook and the old Broadway. He loved Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. He revered the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and the high bar that was set by the MGM Studio. That’s what he tried to pass along to the generation that followed, that you must look back and understand that you’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.”Read More »

Jazz Hall of Fame to hold inductions Sunday

Marc Fields




Cincinnati’s Jazz Hall of Fame will be inducting 10 jazz luminaries in a jazz-filled celebration hosted by media legend Nick Clooney, 7 p.m. Sunday April 8 at Mount St. Joseph Auditorium. The honorees are: Bill Berry, Melvin Broach, Mandy Gaines, Wilbert t. Longmire, Artie Matthews, Michael Moore, Bill Rank, Steve Schmidt, Lee Tucker and Rick VanMatre.

In addition, special recognition will be given to the Cincinnati Pops, founding maestro Erich Kunzel and current Pops conductor John Morris Russell for 52 years of supporting jazz in Music Hall. The original Symphony Jazz Quintet will be honored, consisting of Paul Piller, Marie Speziale, David Frerichs, David Horine, Frank Proto and Robert Bradley.

Kay Casey, founder of the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame, and her board have made it their mission to shine a light on a Cincinnati treasure that, in previous years, received little recognition even though its history is rich. Clooney, always an entertaining host, is donating his time for the fourth year.

The event will include performances by current jazz talents: The Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band, Marc Fields Quartet and the Rob Allgeyer Trio featuring Nancy James, vocals. There will also be performances by jazz studies scholarship winner Tyler Marsh, piano, and his brother, Ethan Marsh on bass, and current scholarship winners Sam Breadon on guitar and Ziaire Sherman on baritone saxophone.

Hall of Fame members will be treated to the Philip Paul Trio in a reception for the inductees. Paul, of course, is the legendary session drummer for King Records.

Tickets help support the John DeFoor Jazz Master Classes at local high schools. $20 in advance; $25 at the door. 1-800-838-3006 or Support@brownpapertickets.com.