Local musicians gather to honor Joan RussellWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of local musicians will perform at a tribute to Joan Russell, Toledo’s late jazz matriarch, to take place Feb. 12 at Murphy’s Place.
“Love, Life, Music: A Tribute to Joan Russell” will feature a lineup of jazz singers with all proceeds from the evening benefiting Murphy’s Place, said event coordinator Glenda Biddlestone.
The 77-year-old Russell died Jan. 2 from complications following a stroke.
“Nine singers that Joan hired through the last 15 year of having Murphy’s Place are wanting to express their love and respect for her,” Biddlestone said. “Ramona Collins and I had talked about it and I started calling different singers and they said we’d love to do it.”
Performers will include Biddlestone, Collins, Jean Holden, Joan Crawford, Lori Lefevre-Johnson, Kim Buehler, Nicole Heitger, Rachel Richardson and Ellie Martin. Claude Black, Renell Gonsalves and Russell’s longtime partner Clifford Murphy will serve as musicians. Eric Hillenbrand will be the master of ceremonies.
The first set of music will start at 9 p.m., followed by a 20-minute break and then another set of music, Biddlestone said. Cover charge is $10 and there will be $5 drink specials all night.
The evening will close with Murphy performing one of Russell’s favorite songs, “That Lucky Old Sun,” Biddlestone said.
“Joan adored that song,” she said.
Russell was an incredible woman, Lefevre-Johnson said.
“Joan was an amazing, energetic, passionate supporter of jazz who loved the music, loved the musicians and did everything she could to further support jazz music and jazz musicians,” Lefevre-Johnson said.
Many musicians got their starts at Murphy’s Place, learning from master musicians, Biddlestone said.
“She kept two of the finest musicians – Claude Black and Clifford Murphy — playing every night. These gentlemen could play anyplace in the world, with anyone. Their repertoire is so huge. They’re just phenomenal musicians. And she kept them working here and kept young people coming in to study with them,” Biddlestone said. “That’s why jazz is taught not only by paper and not only in schools, but taught doing it on stage with pros like Claude and Clifford. Joan made all that happen.”
Both Biddlestone and Lefevre-Johnson had known Russell for more than 25 years.
“She was my dearest friend. I adore her,” Biddlestone said. “I talk to her every day. I think she’s going to be our guardian angel.”
Murphy’s Place is “a jewel in Toledo,” Lefevre-Johnson said.
“We all need to make sure we keep not only jazz alive but keep this wonderful place going and support Clifford and his efforts to keep the club going and continue to support live jazz in Toledo,” Lefevre-Johnson said.
Also coming up at Murphy’s Place will be Murphy’s 79th birthday party on Feb. 5 with a $5 cover and $5 drink specials.
Located at 151 Water St. in Downtown Toledo, the club is open 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Music starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
For more information, visit www.murphysplace-jazz.com or call (419)-241-7732.