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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 05:09 pm

Give a hand to Donn Stephens

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The Blues Monday Jam welcomes Studebaker John Dec. 15 at the Alamo.

Here we go again with a hodge-podge of happenings. This time of year it’s “all good” as the kids say and apparently there is so much good going on, one subject does not get it all done. So bear with me as I wander through an assortment of goodies going on this week.

Donn Stephens is practically synonymous with music in central Illinois. The talented and ubiquitous musician, known to me for his brilliant piano playing at our church and his work with The Music Man this summer at the Muni, has touched many musical souls through years of selfless work combined with an unrelenting desire to make good music. Stephens recently fell ill and friends and supporters rallied to organize a holiday benefit on Dec. 13, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Springfield High School commons area. Many former students, fellow musicians and others affected by the long arm of his music reach offered to perform. With a silent auction and donations at the door, folks are able to give back to a valuable community artist in his time of need.

With the quality and amount of hosted shows lately, it’s hard not to mention the Illinois Central Blues Club in every column. Last week it was the Blues Christmas Party and coming up this Monday, Dec. 15, at the Alamo, during the weekly Blues Monday Jam is another great show. Studebaker John, a world-traveling bluesman from Chicago, brings his modern-sounding, old-fashioned blues to the local bar. Born and raised as John Grimaldi in the shadow of Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street, the blues singer-songwriter began on the harmonica, picked up a guitar, and then developed as a stickler for the Chicago electric blues sound, but he manages to do so while performing mostly original music. Bruce Iglauer, owner and operator of Alligator Records, one of the main blues labels in the world and based in Chicago, says Studebaker John has, “created his own sound and style” and he did it while staying faithful to a classic sound. So I don’t know, it sounds like this guy is pretty good. Why don’t you go find out, then let me know what you think?

Last week we mentioned the “Unsilent Night” event as something a bit different than your average holiday entertainment fare. Now here’s another fun, yet peculiar goings-on worth a look and listen. Todd Cranson, official band director of the UIS Music Department and a firm believer and true supporter of all things tuba-related, hosts two Merry TubaChristmas concerts on Sat., Dec. 13, one at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum at 1 p.m. (you must pay the museum admission) and a second on the steps of the Old State Capitol at 2 p.m. (free to all who can stand outside). Akin to “Unsilent Night” the Merry TubaChristmas debuted in New York City, but predates the performance piece by several years with a 1974 unveiling. More than just a show of specially arranged traditional Christmas carols, the concert pays homage to the heritage of the tuba and euphonium/baritone by inviting all big horn players to participate. Call Cranson (217-206-7549) or Jerry Dunn (217-854-7442) for more information on joining this tribute in bass clef.

Here’s a quick shout out about a new band of seasoned players debuting Friday, Dec. 12, at the Forty-Niner Bye-Bye. Ockham’s Razor, featuring Brad Davis, Ron Ninmer, Jeff Helton, and Steve Emmons, are in Helton’s dynamic description, a “juke-joint meets roadhouse meets biker bar” party band. With a varied list of songs from classic artists like Steely Dan, the Beatles, Van Morrison, Al Green and Delbert McClinton I think he got it just right.

Well there’s the assorted list of happenings. What are you going to do about it?

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