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Jim Tarbell Talks Music

Close to thirty people were in attendance at Motr Pub yesterday for the first of three talks Jim Tarbell is giving there, which is to say that every seat in the room was taken, and it felt very comfortable, like just the right number of people attended. (The next two talks are at two pm the next two Sundays.)

And it’s neat to think that they had come out simply to hear someone talk about Cincinnati’s musical legacy. You could tell, by the questions people asked and the cheers they gave when certain musicians were mentioned, that these were real music lovers.

And Cincinnati lovers, or so I would assume. When it came to music, Jim Tarbell’s talk was at times a little short on specifics, but as soon as he turned a corner to Cincinnati history he was as in-depth and detailed as a historian, which makes sense: he is one.

He talked about a period in time when Cincinnati had more nightspots per capita than any other city in the country and when we also drank more beer than any other town. A lot of this drinking and per capita-izing took place on Vine Street, a street that is just now springing back to life. While Tarbell welcomes the development, he was quick to point out something that is missing now but used to be there in spades.

“It’s interesting to point out,” he said, “that there ‘s no music there.”

At that point he treated us to his interpretation of what electronic percussion sounds like when it’s being piped in through the speakers, and that was one of the few times in my experience that the facsimile sounded better than the real thing.

Although the period of time he was talking about (fifties and early sixties) was a long time ago, this was all very timely for me, as I recently embarked on an article about a musician named David Matthews, who upon arriving in Cincinnati in 1960 visited the same clubs Jim Tarbell attended at the same time.

After Tarbell’s talk I quizzed him a little about the jazz scene back then, and like David Matthews he mentioned a club in tune that I had never heard before I spoke to these guys. I thought the name of the club was Dave Baker’s, but eventually I came to discover that it was called Babe Baker’s. This is the club where David Matthews, who collaborated with James Brown on many historic sessions, saw John Coltrane, and experience that left a lasting impression on Matthews.

While talking about the jazz scene back then Tarbell mentioned a local group called the Modern Jazz Disciples, who I had forgotten about even though they were a fabulous band on a fabulous label (New Jazz, a subsidiary of Prestige).  Like I said in an earlier blog, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of records, but I still have a few left, and when I got home I pulled out the two albums the Modern Jazz Disciples recorded. Looking at the songwriting credits, I noticed the name Babe Baker for the last song on the first side I was going to play, at which point two words popped into my head: holy moley!