Skip to content

Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO May 23 – 29

Nehemiah Stix Baker
Nehemiah “Stix” Baker

Friendly experiencers,

If this week’s scorching temperatures didn’t already announce the fact, summer is here. Memorial Day weekend is your signal to break out the camp chairs, throw out last year’s swimwear and enjoy the increasingly less short, but always sweet summer vibe. This weekend, it’s more affordable than ever with the must-see three events spotlighted below all available to you for $20 or less. Those of us who grew up enduring Great Lakes winters have a hard time finding an excuse to be indoors once the temperatures rise. This column is here to supply you with three of the best the weekend has to offer. See you out there.

Mark Russo Group, Thursday, May 23, 7:30 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, tickets $20, available here

On May 24, Marshall Allen, the indefatigable leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra, will celebrate his 100th birthday. Allen is best known as an alto saxophonist, but these days, he’s also heard on the Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), a breath-activated synthesizer. Was Mark Russo thinking of Marshall’s milestone when he put together a group with a front line of himself, AJ Kluth on tenor saxophone and Chris Vollstadt on EWI? The trumpeter will also use electronics, adding some spice to the sound of an intriguing lineup, made more so by an accomplished rhythm section of Tumaini Sango on piano, guitarist Tim Mirth, Kevin Martinez on bass and drummer Jeremy McCabe. Can’t make it to Hingetown tonight? No problem. The concert will be livestreamed.

Brain and the Glasses, Friday, May 24, 7:30 p.m., The Rialto Theatre, 1000 Kenmore Blvd., Akron, tickets $12 available here

As the official start of summer, Memorial Day weekend is also the beginning of blender drink szn. So why not fill your frozen Hurricane cup with the musical cocktail served up by Brain and the Glasses. It’s one part clavé rhythm, one part club groove with a healthy amount of jazz improvisation, all presented with a finish of mid-mod chill. As played by drummer Brian Randall, bassist Chris Mezzolesta, Jennifer Jameson on keyboards, guitarist Chandler Carpenter and Andrew Wegierski on trombone, this next-gen outfit is refreshing and refreshingly different. RIYL: Natalie Cressman and Ian Faquini, Os Mutantes and dancing barefoot.

Stix Quintet, Wednesday, May 29, 7 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, tickets $10, available here

It’s hard to believe that we are now as distant from jazz’s Young Lions phenomenon as that period was from the beginnings of bebop. True, the elevation of a cohort of young hotshots was more about marketing than about music, but contrived or not, the mid-‘80s unquestionably ushered a new generation of accomplished musicians to centerstage. Forty years later, something similar seems to be happening in northeast Ohio. Witness the heartening appearance of a cohort of youthful players on the local scene. For proof, I submit the Stix Quintet: Everett Clark on bass, guitarist Ayden Cohen, Liam Speaks on piano and saxophonist Alexander Thiam. Drummer Nehemiah Baker is the nominal leader of this musical youth movement—and no, you can’t legally buy some of these guys a drink. In their company, special guest Tommy Lehman is a respected elder. With youthful energy the guiding principle, expect the holiday weekend fireworks to continue through midweek and detonate indoors.

I couldn’t live without Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events. If you haven’t visited it lately, what are you waiting for?

NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.

Red beans and ricely yours,


JJA bug