By Michael Swanger email@example.com
Blues on Grand closes; CJC Hall of Fame opens
Two milestones will be reached this weekend when Blues on Grand (BOG) closes its doors and the Greater Des Moines Community Jazz Center (CJC) opens for the 10th annual Hall of Fame and Special Recognition Awards.
One sad, one happy. Both deserve your attention.
On Saturday, Oct. 23, BOG will host “The Last Bash: One Week of Blues on Grand in One Day” which includes performances by Bob Pace Band (5:30 p.m.), Matt Woods and The Thunderbolts (6:30 p.m.), Open Jam Band (7:30 p.m.) and Sumpin’ Doo (8:30 p.m.), followed by Duke Tumatoe (9:30 p.m.). Admission is $10. A portion of 15th Street will be closed to traffic to accommodate an anticipated overflow crowd, where the band’s performances will be broadcast on a big screen TV. Beer and food will be sold.
Saturday’s last waltz will be emotional for those who have frequented and worked the club during its 11-year-run. Record crowds have packed BOG of late, but despite the recent outpouring of support, it’s too little too late for BOG, winner of the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” in 2002 for best blues club.
Manager Jeff Wagner says the financial consequences of several events contributed to BOG’s closing, including the state’s lowering of the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration from .10 to .08, the elimination of TouchPlay machines, the smoking ban and expensive music licensing fees paid to BMI and ASCAP.
“When you put all those things together in a short timeframe, that’s a lot of obstacles to overcome,” he said.
Owner Ron Boone said the decision to close BOG was difficult.
“This wasn’t something that happened overnight,” he said. “We’ve struggled with this decision the last few years. Every time we got ahead, it seemed like there was another setback.”
Overall, Wagner and Boone said BOG met their business goal of providing quality live blues music five nights a week. When they turn out the lights, they say they will miss the music and their friends.
“There will be some sadness because it’s been a part of our family,” Boone said. “I liked watching people have fun here.”
As for the rumors that BOG might be saved at the last minute, or that Wagner might open another blues club, he isn’t ruling anything out.
“You never know; miracles can happen,” Wagner said. “God bless Ron for putting up with this place as long as he has.”
One day later, the CJC Hall of Fame inducts the late pianist-saxophonist Ellsworth Brown and longtime Ames vibraphonist Ken Jolls during its annual awards ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. at Adventureland Inn.
The evening also includes performances by the CJC Youth Combo (5 p.m.), Hall of Famers Scott Smith and Julius Brooks (6 p.m.) and hors d’oeuvres. The CJC will present music critic (author of this column) Michael Swanger and pianist Jason Danielson with this year’s Special Recognition Awards, and Waukee student saxophonist Alec Parker with the Bobby Dawson Award for his participation in the CJC Jam Session. Tickets are $25. Call Phyllis Leaverton at 276-0777.
“CJC is a nonprofit group, and this is just one way to give back to the community,” said John Krantz, jazz musician and Hall of Fame director.
Brown, whose sons Dartanyan (2007 Hall of Fame) and Don are respected musicians, died in 2009 in New Jersey but was musically active in Des Moines from the 1940s to 1960s.
“Ellsworth influenced several jazz musicians. Just look at the success his children and grandchildren have enjoyed, and that shows you what he passed on,” Krantz said.
Jolls, an Iowa State University professor of chemical engineering, has a musical resume that reaches back to the 1950s when he toured Europe with a dance band. Later, he accompanied acts like Sonny & Cher and performed in every Jazz in July program from 1987 to 1999.
“People who played with him really respected him. He’s a sheer genius, and that translates into his music,” Krantz said. CV
Caption: The management at Blues on Grand gets the last word in this exclusive photo (bottom, photo by Michael Swanger), while the CJC Hall of Fame inducts Ellsworth Brown (top) and Ken Jolls (middle).