Makin' the Scene

December 14, the Jazz Unit's regular Monday night gig at the Bop Stop, doubled as a CD release party. The 22-year-old outfit founded by Jack Schantz recorded a disc of all-original music. Choices is believed to be the first big band recording in Cleveland since the early '70s. "You hear sounds in our music you have never heard in any big band," says vibraphonist and Bop Stop owner Ron Busch.

What makes the Jazz Unit's sound unique is its composition. The band has fourteen members (as opposed to the usual sixteen), including a vibraphonist, French horn player (unusual for big band), and six-piece rhythm section (instead of four). Busch says the rhythm-heavy approach allows each soloist to sound as though he's fronting his own band. "You have all different types of ensembles within one piece."

Dave Morgan, who also plays bass in the Unit, wrote the music. He moved back to Cleveland in 1994 after receiving his doctorate in composition from the University of Texas. Busch says the band jumped at his offer to write music. "It really stood us on our head. His forms are completely foreign to what we grew up with."

Choices is available at the Bop Stop and area Borders locations. Another CD's worth of material has been recorded. Busch guesses it will be released around Easter.

They could have called it the Night of Fiercely Perspiring Roadies. Saturday, December 19, at the Cleveland Public Theatre is the annual 12 Bands of Christmas Show. Logistically, it's a pain in the ass, but the Six Bands of Christmas Show just doesn't sound right.

Feel holly jolly with Them Wranch, Cripple Kid, Daddy-O, Biblical Proof of UFOs, DuValby Bros., Hoobajoob, Downside Special, Speaker/Cranker, the Chargers, Slak, Dana 60 and the Pistol Grips, and Curmudgeon.

Proceeds benefit the restoration of the Gordon Square Theatre, which closed in 1932, according to organizer Jeón Francis. Gordon Square will seat 700 when work is completed by spring 1997.

The Playhouse Square's Palace Theatre had the Peacock to thank for last Sunday's sold-out Temptations and the Four Tops Holiday Show. The Temps are regular visitors to Cleveland, and while their shows have done well, they don't normally sell out. Credit NBC's well-regarded Temptations miniseries, which aired in early November, for renewed interest in the group. "We were down to single seats and they all went," said Playhouse Square's Jeannie Emser.

Swank Motel has added a sixth member, trumpeter Mark Russo.
"We joke that we're not a big band," singer Jessica Skerry says. "With six members, we're more a medium band." Skerry also reports Doug Turner is back on drums.

The band plays the Spy Bar on Thursday, December 17, and Edison's Pub on the 19th. Swank Motel will then take some time to revamp its set list. "Our trumpet player wants to play some folk music, but we do more jazz standards," Skerry said.

Norm, the Veil's bass player, heard a strange chirping sound when he listened to a rough copy of his band's new, seven-song CD, Hey Guys Look at the Ferris Wheel Boats. A band member's digital watch emitted a beep during the recording, and the noise went undetected.

"We couldn't take it out," Norm says. "It's already burned and mastered. I don't know why the sound engineer didn't hear it."

The Veil unveils the new disc Friday, December 18, at Peabody's DownUnder. Ascension and La La Land open.

Local indie Fishhead Records has inked 3D, a supergroup of Michael Purkhiser, Marky Ray, John Koury, and Kip Amore. Fishhead says the band's new disc, Stere-o-view, mixes surf, blues, and pop.

3D plays the Phantasy Nite Club Friday, December 18, with Strip. Tom Pace of Hellvis will fill in for Koury on drums.

Shaming us all, 17-year-old Zach Freidhof has put out his first CD, titled Delusions. Freidhof was backed on the record by Frank Romano and John Denny. Contemplate your misspent youth when the singer/songwriter plays the Southwest Cafe Saturday, December 19.

Strapped for cash this festive season? Enjoy a free happy-hour show by Fort Wayne, Indiana's Blue Moon Boys at Wilbert's Tuesday, December 22. From 5 to 7 p.m., the band will highlight holiday standards gone rockabilly from its Rock and Roll Christmas Show CD. Be sure to request "God Rest Ye Merry Surfpunks."

The boys will play a regular show at 9 p.m. Get in free with an Atomic Fireballs ticket stub from the Odeon.

In other Wilbert's news, owner Mike Miller is taking the club's blues and roots spirit to the airwaves. Wilbert's Radio Hour will debut Friday, December 18, at 6 p.m. on WERE-AM/1300. The hour-long show will showcase incoming Wilbert's artists and Cleveland musicians. On tap for the first broadcast: appearances by Bill "Sauce Boss" Wharton and Alex Bevan and the music of the Back Up Band and Norman Nardini.

Rick O'Bannion will moderate the show.

As we near the baby Jesus's birthday, it's natural for thoughts to turn to the Lizard King. Doors tribute band Moonlight Drive will play two Christmas shows: Thursday, December 17, at Peabody's DownUnder and Friday, December 18, at Cebars.

Lead singer Bill Pettijohn announced he has a role in Rock Robbers, an independent film about a rock band that turns to larceny. Rock Robbers, which will be shot on the North Coast, also features local rockers Rich Spina and Billy Sullivan.

Sean Shea headlines the December 19 poetry slam at Mardi Gras. A native of East Jordan, Michigan, Shea started slamming around New England in 1993. He claims to have "library fines bigger than your paycheck and drum machines older than your mother."

Before his set there will be an open mike and a one-round slam afterwards.

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