Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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2-day party at Murphy's Place honors Art Tatum

Jazz is a genre that depends on teamwork, and when this year's Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival struck out because of an economic curveball, a team of local and national musicians stepped in to pinch hit.

The jazz will go on in Toledo tomorrow and Saturday when Murphy's Place in downtown Toledo hosts a two-day jazz party featuring such talented artists as Dominick Farinacci, the Paul Keller Trio, Johnny O'Neal, Jon Hendricks, Ramona Collins, Ernie Krivda, and Gunnar Mossblad and the University of Toledo Summer Jazz Institute.

The Tatum Heritage festival, which had been scheduled for this weekend, was canceled when the event's big donors could not contribute, especially the struggling auto maker Chrysler.

"It was really a shame and it produced a huge hole in the jazz cultural events for Toledo," Mossblad said. "I'm glad the Murphys have stepped up to continue the tradition."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tatum, known worldwide as one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Born in Toledo on Oct. 13, 1909, he was known for his lightning-quick touch and creative phrasings. Although he only lived to be 47, he influenced countless musicians with his formidable and imaginative style.

O'Neal, a Detroit native and former member of The Murphys Trio, portrayed Tatum in a brief scene in the hit movie Ray, which starred Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles.

Mossblad said that as director of jazz studies at UT, "one of the focal points for me is to preserve Toledo's heritage, that legacy. We are working very hard to do that."

He cited jazz legend Jon Hendricks as being a key player in that effort. Hendricks, 87, is a five-time Grammy Award-winning singer and lyricist who grew up Toledo, studying informally with his older neighbor, Tatum.

He left for New York City and made his mark as the inventor of vocalese. He returned to Toledo to teach at UT and continues to perform around the globe. He is a guest on the latest CD by vocal group Take 6.

"We have a sense of pride that Jon Hendricks is from Toledo - and he is still here," said Mossblad.

Farinacci, 26, is a Cleveland native who has been living in New York. In the last few years he has become one of the most popular jazz trumpeters in Japan, where he frequently performs.

Keller, a versatile bassist from Ann Arbor, runs his own record label and performs with a variety of jazz combos. He will be leading a gospel jazz trio tomorrow at Murphy's.

Mossblad, a saxophonist and composer, is originally from Omaha and earned a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of North Texas. Although he teaches at UT, he lives in suburban Philadelphia.

"We're planning to record the UT Summer Jazz Institute performance on Friday night and put out a live CD," he said.

The centenary of Tatum's birth will be celebrated throughout the year. UT will award an Art Tatum music scholarship and a concert in Tatum's honor, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library is planning a Tatum party on Oct. 10, and a sculpture honoring Tatum will be dedicated outside the new downtown arena.

The music will start at 5 p.m. and end at 10 tomorrow, and will be from 2 to 10 p.m. on Saturday on stages in the club and the parking lot at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. in downtown Toledo. Tickets are $15 per day or $25 for both days and can be purchased at the club. Information: 419-241-7732

Contact David Yonke at or


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