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Wednesday, July 23, 2008 01:57 am

Keeping your cool in the heat

“Hot Jazz and Cold Ice Cream” caps weekend of great music

Chris Ruhe performs with Dizzy Gillespie in 1991 in Chile.

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House of Nasty (above) plays with the Johnny Everist Band this Saturday, July 26, at Fieldhouse.

If you're looking for something cool to do — and who isn't during July in central Illinois? — here are a few ideas to help you handle the heat.

The Uptown Friday Night music series, hosted by the Springfield Area Arts Council at Robbie's (4 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-528-1901) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday, is a central-Illinois entertainment classic offering great music and good times. One of my very favorite acts, Johnny Slu — that's cool cat John Sluzalis — and Too Few with vocalist Billy Rodgers, takes the window stage on July 25. These guys are just the best and one of the reasons people occasionally extol the virtues of Springfield's varied and abundantly rich-in-talent music scene. But hey, don't take my word for it — check it out yourself.

ESP Entertainment is staging a Rock for Cancer Awareness benefit on Saturday, July 26, at the Fieldhouse (3211 E. Sangamon Ave., 217-525-6666). Exciting events include an appearance by the classic motorcycle group the Vintage Iron Riders, a custom-bike show of more than 50 modified motorcycles, a poker run (signup at noon) through Riverton and Cantrall, a live WQLZ (92.7 FM) broadcast 5 to 7 p.m., and live music by House of Nasty and the Johnny Everist Band at 7 p.m. On top of all that, proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. How cool is that?

At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 27, the Springfield Baha'i Center (1131 S. Eighth St., 217-544-9595) hosts a jazz-blues trio from the great state of New York for a free outdoor concert called "Hot Jazz and Cold Ice Cream." The music is supplied by Chris Ruhe on guitar, piano, and vocals, with John Rafalak on drums and Joe Rafalak on tenor sax. Born and raised in Kansas City, Ruhe played with some of the guys who became Creedence Clearwater Revival in the early '60s, jammed with jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, and worked with Pete Seeger on several occasions as a musician and activist. His lifelong Baha'i faith imbues his music and songs with that religion's message of hope for humans and peace for the world. He's traveled, performed, and lived in Peru, Chile, and Honduras, as well as such wild and woolly places as Manhattan. The group mixes Baha'i-message songs with "regular" tunes, and you may learn some good stuff without even knowing it. Expect other local musicians, as they are prone to do, to sit in for some impromptu jamming.

I'm cool with that.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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