Greg Johnson / CBA President
Well, 2017 has started off with a little good news and some very sad. The good news for the time being is that we do not have to worry just yet about The Melody Ballroom and the status of our monthly meetings. This can always change at any time, but I spoke with the manager prior to the January meeting and was told that we would be given a 90-day notice one way or the other. Meaning if we need to relocate temporarily or permanently. Hopefully only temporary for the remodeling of the building. That would give us time to find another location if necessary. But rest assured they like us at The Melody and the staff is hoping that we are allowed to continue there as we have for more than the past twenty-five years.
Because we do not know the status, I have not filled a lot of dates for the performers at the monthly meetings just yet. Normally these spots fill up quickly for the entire year, but I do not want to have to cancel anybody in the event we need to move someplace else, so have not pursued doing this too strongly just yet. I did have a couple cancellations early in the year and I sent out a notice on Facebook for acts to cover these upcoming dates and had good response, so we have them filled. I did have to ask a few acts to hold off because I wanted to give opportunity to those who have not performed for us in the past year first. Thanks to those of you who offered, I will try to work something out for you in the near future.
The year did begin with a bit of heartbreak, however. We knew that Jimmy Mak’s would be closing after New Years Eve due to owner Jimmy Makarounis’ on-going fight with throat cancer. But we did not expect to lose him the day after. Jimmy had built one of the absolute best venues in the country, bringing jazz, blues, funk and soul to fill the room night after night. Some of the finest musicians in our area made their name at the venue and Jimmy would bring in top touring, too, along with fundraising events for musicians in need.
Jimmy had spoken with me a number of times, asking about touring blues artists. He had also met with myself and Vice President Wendy Schumer with a desire to do shows with the Cascade Blues Association. We had talked, but never got around to creating an event in the realm he had in mind to bring the CBA a piece of profit with shows up to multiple times a year. But he was quite open for co-sponsorships and he did bring in some of the best touring blues artists from time to time including the likes of Janiva Magness, Joe Louis Walker, Shemekia Copeland and Dana Fuchs among the many who appeared on his stage. Local artists like Curtis Salgado, Karen Lovely, Lisa Mann, Linda Hornbuckle, and Louis Pain were frequent guests and regulars. It had been billed as one of the top 100 venues to see jazz in the world and for good reason. It was a Portland icon for venues to look at for success and it will be missed. Jimmy even more. RIP in Jimmy, you fought a long hard battle with cancer, but your legacy will always be here.
As a side note this month, I want to recommend something that I usually do not do. Of course I consistently try to tell you about CDs in our review columns, but I want to bring to your attention one of the finest magazines on the market, the Oxford American. I have been picking up copies of this literary periodical for many years, but specifically when they run their annual music issue. Focusing on the South and its culture. Oxford American offers stories and biographies of the musicians in their region with this issue each year. Usually for the past few years the issue would designate a specific state. One year it would be Arkansas, another Louisiana and so on. But the reason I suggest picking up a copy this year is because the theme is on the blues. Great pieces on artists like Big Mama Thornton, Bonnie Raitt, Cedell Davis, as well as the spread of the blues around the world are featured, all written by some of the South’s most creative writers. The issue also comes with a CD compilation based on the music theme every year and this is one to note with twenty-three songs missing the various aspects and approaches to the music. From the classic musicians of the genre like Charlie Patton, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, and Bobby Rush to modern artists like Adia Victoria, and the Alabama Shakes. There’s also world visions by West Africans Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, the street smarts of the late Gil Scott-Heron and the guitar mastery of John Fahey. Oxford American is worthy of reading through with each issue they put out, but if you love the blues you don’t want to miss their latest release.