Here you see the house band from the Embers, a swanky night club which brought fairly big-name talent to Indianapolis audiences in the 1960s. On the right is Don Baldini, in the middle is an unidentified Touroid, and on the left is the sensational drummer John Von Ohlen. John is one of the all-time great big-band drummers (although he moved our little trio along real well, too), playing with big names like Stan Kenton, Woody Herman--you get the picture--before settling in Cincinnati with his Blue Wisp big band, which I took some of our band members to hear some years ago, right after we hit Skyline Chili, of course. Here's a report from the September 19, 1996 issue of the PBI:
CULTURAL EXPEDITION BAGS BIG BAND BOOTY
The Arch Angel Jazztronauts set foot into the wilds of downtown Cincinnati last night, in search of the only native American art form—and they found it. Rhythmist R. Tutt, Fundamentalist R. Press and a PBI reporter made their way to the Blue Wisp promptly at 9:30 for the scheduled performance by the John Von Ohlen 16-piece big band—but the band wasn’t ready for them. Drummer Von Ohlen (an old pal and musical co-conspirator of a nameless, blameless Muzoid) told the PBI that his bass trombonist was late, “and he’s got all the music stands.”
Music stands? What are those? thought our Muzoids, whose playing instructions are secreted in various parts of their bodies rather than scrawled on paper where ANYBODY can see them. We learned that this band has been playing Wednesday nights at the Blue Wisp for 17 years now, and the music stands had yet to fail to arrive.
Sure enough, a few minutes later the boneist and his stands appeared and after a speedy setup the big band set about its work in an impressive way. While the band sounded hot enough to us Von Ohlen apologized for some sloppiness, explaining that some of his best players were working the touring production of “Sunset Boulevard.”
“Just another reason to feel contempt for A. Lloyd Webber,” we answered, once again taking the opportunity to point out that the composer’s mother refers to her other son Julian as “the musician in the family.” This was no consolation to Von Ohlen, who said he wished we’d been there the week before, when things were REALLY cooking.
They're having a birthday celebration for John on Monday, April 30th from 7:30 to 10 at a Cincinnati club called the Greenwich, and if I was in those parts, I'd be there, after having some Skyline Chili, of course. It will feature Von Ohlen's Flying Circus Big Band and fellow drummer Jeff Hamilton will be there to sit in for the festivities.
The evening will be a benefit for John, who's had some serious health problems, the kind which inevitably lead to financial problems; so some of his friends/fellow Muzoids have set up a GoFundMe page to helo him out. If you're a fan of John's, or a fan of incredible big-band drumming, and you're in the area, you should be attending the party. Otherwise, you can always visit the benefit page for him. I did.