Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good jazz venues are becoming extinct

It seems the jazz places I love most are forever closing, never to reopen – unfortunately.
Now it looks as if Sammy’s in the Flats is condemned to eternal darkness – at least as far as my kind of music is concerned. Pity.
I guess it’s been a while since any notes of consequence have arisen from the place. For several years it has been a shell of its former self.
And I must confess that I never got there with the kind of regularity I would have preferred.
But oh, how I did love to go whenever I could manage to hear Frank Daniels play the piano, Hank Geer perform on alto saxophone and Marilyn Halderfield, the poor man’s Anita O’Day, sing the ballads we held so dear.
Actually, she wasn’t a poor man’s anything. She was an accomplished singer in her own right. It’s just that she sounded so much like Anita that the comparison was inevitable for anyone who ever listened to Anita sing with Kenton or Krupa.
I think Tom Haley, who once occupied a spot on Channel 3 every morning with Del Donahoo, must have had a huge crush on Marilyn. He talked about her a lot.
I can understand the attraction.
I would go to Sammy’s whenever I could talk someone into going. Actually, I was never a downtown Cleveland person, unless it was going to a Browns or an Indians game at Municipal Stadium.
I guess I’m dating myself.
One downtown place I never hesitated to go to, however, was the former Modern Jazz Room, which gave way to the headache ball so that Jacobs Field and Gund Arena could be constructed.
One of the greatest jazz adventures I ever experienced, other than a few trips to Birdland in New York City – which the last time I saw it was a parking lot – was a week I spent at the Jazz Room because of a fortuitous event that took place on a Monday night many years ago.
I say it was a week because Monday was such a great experience that I went there every night for the rest of the week.
Appearing was the Trombone Sound, headed by Kai Winding and featuring, Carl Fontana (the greatest solo trombonist who ever lived), Wayne Andre and Dick Leib, plus a three-man rhythm section.
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the group had made a “live” recording there one night (what other kind is there?) and I made it my business to acquire a copy.
Needless to say, I still have it.
As a true jazz venue, there is still Nightown, where I once witnessed the finest father-son piano duel of all time. It featured John and Michael Petrone. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
They are both good friends and are still playing. I think Mike is a regular at Johnny’s Downtown, but as far as I know John, who is retired from North High, plays only private parties.
Oh how I wish they had recorded that session! I have a lot of CDs by Michael, but nothing they ever recorded together.
As for the aforementioned Frank Daniels, I saw him play with the Continental Trio a thousand times – every place they ever went.
That includes Intorcio’s, the Town House, the White House, Seaway Lanes and Dream Haven. If you are not familiar with them, they were all local hot spots.
And yes, I do miss all of them.
But let me tell you something about Sammy’s in the Flats that you probably do not know. In fact, if you are aware of this you are probably deserving of some kind of a prize.
Sammy’s was once the Glasier Warehouse, a place that stored caskets for the Glasier Casket Co., operated by Joe Glasier and his father, Hank.
Later on they took on David Glasier, son of Joe. I knew Joe in high school. David worked in the casket business for many years.
If you have guessed that David is the same person who has emerged as a writer of renown and acclaim for The News-Herald, who just recently wrote a brilliantly researched three-part series on Jeffrey Lundgren, the Kirtland mass killer, you would be correct.
See the things you find out when you start reading an innocuous, all-purpose, one-size-fits-all column about jazz?
That knowledge, of course, will not restore Sammy’s to the world of jazz as we know it.


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