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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2008

Jazz musicians and fans will honor Rusty Monroe Sunday

Rusty Monroe opened her fi rst
Toledo jazz club in 1963.
Rusty Monroe opened her fi rst Toledo jazz club in 1963.

Toledo s jazz community is throwing a party for its legendary First Lady of Jazz, Margaret Rusty Monroe.

Twelve bands or solo artists are scheduled to perform at the Fourth Annual Rusty s Jazz Picnic, a free event starting at 1 p.m. Sunday at Toledo Botanical Garden.

Jazz musicians and fans are welcome to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets as they listen to music by Rusty s Big Band, Mike Whitty, Kelly Broadway, Eric Brazier, Tommy Gearhart, Sixth Edition, Bob Rex, Andre Wright, Gene Parker and Damen Cook, Ramona Collins, and the Murphys Trio.

The only drawback is that the guest of honor will not be able to attend the party. The entire concert, however, will be professionally videotaped and friends will have an opportunity to offer Monroe personal greetings on camera.

The whole event is all about Rusty and everything Rusty is and will be to our community, said Suzanne Carroll, host of The Jazz Brunch radio program and a longtime friend of Monroe.

It would just be too tiring, Monroe said of making the trip to Toledo from Punta Gorda, Fla., where she has lived since 2001.

Now that I m older, I m settled down a bit, she said. I m 89. I will be 90 in November.

But it s not just age that is slowing Monroe down; she s been ill lately.

I ve had a great run. But I m in good hands here, she said.

Don Cordt, her husband of two years, is helping take care of her, she said. The couple met in the spring of 2005 and were married the next year the third marriage for both.

He s 25 years younger but we have a very good life. We have our books and our music and mutual friends, Monroe said.

Does he like jazz?

He does now, she said with a laugh.

Monroe said the jazz community in Toledo is like family to her. They ve been part of her life since 1963, when she first opened a club here, and even after she sold Rusty s Jazz Cafe in 2001. Except for a short break between owning clubs, Rusty presented live jazz seven nights a week, 52 weeks a year, for nearly 40 years in Toledo

Numerous area musicians have gone on to national fame after getting their start at Rusty s, including Tim Ries, Dan Faehnle, Tim Hagans, Larry Fuller, Jeff Halsey, Ron Oswanski, Tom Warrington, Ray Parker, and Jim Riggs.

Among the major stars who played at the cafe were Wynton Marsalis, Maynard Ferguson, Red Rodney, Johnny Griffin, and Pinetop Perkins.

Monroe was inducted into the Lake Erie West Hall of Fame for the Performing Arts and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization in 1997. Tedrow Road, the South Toledo street where she had her club for decades, was designated Jazz Avenue in her honor in 1997.

The Fourth Annual Rusty s Jazz Picnic runs from 1 until 7 p.m. Sunday at Toledo Botanical Garden, 5403 Elmer Dr. Admission is free.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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