Sound Check: Leave shopping behind for music events

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz is bringing the 15th edition of his Christmas Tour to the Palace Theatre in Cleveland. (Bettie Grace Miner photo)

With only a few more shopping or shopping avoidance days (just say no to going to the mall!) left until Christmas, many folks must weigh their holiday financial obligations with their desire to go out and have a good time. This week, there is a plethora of live music choices from holiday themed concerts to local guitar pickers and poets.

• While the Smooth Jazz genre may be dying on terrestrial radio, it continues to thrive in the North Coast region and one of this area’s beloved smooth cats, saxophonist Dave Koz, will be returning to Cleveland tonight as part of his 15th annual Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour.

This year’s edition has a pretty interesting lineup featuring Koz’s longtime band and road buddy keyboardist David Benoit, along with the esteemed former Prince protege and still pretty hot drummer/percussionist Sheila E., who has an upcoming DVD called Sheila E. Summer Tour 2012 — RAW and REAL — LIVE in Lugano, Switzerland, due out next week.

Also in the lineup are two dynamic singer/songwriters, which should make for some interesting arrangements of holiday favorites and whatever pieces of the performers’ own catalogs that make it into the set list.

First up is singer/songwriter Javier Colon, formerly of the Derek Trucks Band and winner of the inaugural season of The Voice. Colon appeared on Koz’s Saxophonic album and has sold out a couple of solo concerts at the University of Akron.

The other singer/songwriter is Margo Rey, who released her sophomore album Habit in July. It was led by the Top 20 single Let the Rain, featuring John Oates. She sports a strong, slinky alto and makes music she calls Organica™, “a ferociously nuanced hybrid of Alternative Pop that is deeply rooted in lush vocals, ambient guitars, with thick, dynamic grooves all created by humans not machines,” and yes it is trademarked.

• On Saturday at the Kent Stage, the Celtic Club will present its 12th annual Woodchoppers Ball, a combination guitar picker’s heaven and benefit for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.

Organized by amazing acoustic fingerpicker extraordinaire Brian Henke, the ball will bring together nine guitarists from around the country. Performing will be Michael Kelsey, Mark Sganga, Tim and Myles Thompson, Patrick Woods, Andy Wahlberg, Pete Cavano, Helen Avakian and Jack Wilson. Guitarist Charley Brown will be the host of the event.

• “Twistin’ Tom” Ball, former host of a show on 91.3 (91.3-FM) the Summit, has taken his talents and his show Just Plain Folk to the Internet ( But he is still holding his monthly intimate Mountain Rose Concerts in and around Kent. December’s edition on Sunday evening will feature singer/songwriter/guitarist Rick Bruening, along with the singing/songwriting duo Jim Dime & Cinnamon Chivers, with special guest local poet Merle Mollenkopf. The show will be held at the Roy Smith Shelter House in Fred Fuller Park in Kent.

• The Third Annual Jingle Jam, also at the Kent Stage (wow, they must sure love the holidays), will be held tonight and Friday.

The two-night Jingle Jam will feature eight (mostly) jam bands beginning at 9 p.m. today with the Bees Trees, followed by the eclectic Dave Hammer’s Power Supply, Tropidelic and Jones For Revival.

Friday’s lineup consists of Yosemight, the Stagecoach Robbery, Boogie Matrix and Aliver Hall, whose bass player Jim Garibaldi put the lineup together.

I’ve never hidden my ambivalence toward jam bands, so I won’t pretend to be excited. But hey, if you’re a fan of the genre, this should be a good sampling of regional jammers for you to do your “chicken dances” as longtime Allman Brothers “Tour Mystic” Kirk West used to call the arm-waving, undulating, often arrhythmic writhing of the younger contingent of ABB fans.

• Headbangers will want to head down to Annabelle’s in Akron on Friday night to check out veteran alt-metal/stoner trio Karma to Burn.

The Morgantown, W.Va.-bred band which formed in 1996, released three well received albums of its mostly instrumental, churning, power chord-driven metal tunes before breaking up in 2002.

The band re-formed in 2009 and has released two records with its current lineup of guitarist William Mecum, bassist Rich Mullins and drummer Evan Devine. It’s fifth album, V, released last summer, is described by the band as “5 instrumentals, 2 songs, 1 Sabbath cover what more could you possibly want?”

Well, I might want them to pick a better Sabbath song to cover than Never Say Die, but that’s nitpicking. I don’t believe the band is touring with a vocalist, so the set should lean on the band’s heavy, heavy instrumentals.

Also on the bill are local bands Gingerdead Men (ha!) and the Hobs.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or by email at He’s also on Facebook as Malcolm X Abram. … Go figure.

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