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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Friends say 'happy birthday' to Toledo jazz great this weekend

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Celebrations of Claude Black's 75th birthday start at 8 tonight and tomorrow night at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Cover is $15; musicians admitted free both nights. Free snacks. Donations are being accepted to send Black on a dream vacation. Information and reservations: 419-241-7732.
Celebrations of Claude Black's 75th birthday start at 8 tonight and tomorrow night at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Cover is $15; musicians admitted free both nights. Free snacks. Donations are being accepted to send Black on a dream vacation. Information and reservations: 419-241-7732.
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First, it was Clifford. Now, it's Claude.

Pianist Claude Black yesterday became the second member of the Murphy's Trio to join the 75-and-over set. He follows bassist Clifford Murphy, who turned 75 on Feb. 5. Sean Dobbins, the trio's drummer, isn't even halfway there. He's 31.

Murphy's Place, the downtown jazz club operated by Murphy and his longtime partner, Joan Russell, is celebrating Black's longevity tonight and tomorrow night with a special two-day jam, as it did for Murphy. It is expected to draw top-shelf jazz musicians from the Toledo-Detroit-Ann Arbor region.

This kind of thing gives Black "the bug," as he put it in an interview earlier this week. Whenever he wonders if he's had enough, he gets inspired by other musicians. "I get re-energized," he said.

All the energy in the world doesn't mean much, though, if the chemistry isn't there. And it's been there for Murphy and Black, who have been almost nonstop musical partners since first taking a stage together in the late 1940s.

"I wish it could be another 60 years," Murphy quipped.

Black, described on the Murphy's Place Web site as having a "Zen-like demeanor," calls their relationship "a musical bond."

A Detroit native, Black was the pianist in Aretha Franklin's band for several years and has played alongside some of the jazz world's biggest figures.

Murphy, who performs six nights himself, said he was impressed by Black's nearly 24-hours-a-day dedication to music when he first met him.

"Everyone loves him. His style of playing - he plays like the Big Band himself. He covers everything," Murphy said.

The trio recently issued a live CD which will be reviewed Sunday in the Sounds column in the Arts section of The Blade.

Celebrations of Claude Black's 75th birthday start at 8 tonight and tomorrow night at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Cover is $15; musicians admitted free both nights. Free snacks. Donations are being accepted to send Black on a dream vacation. Information and reservations: 419-241-7732.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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