‘Jazz on the Maumee’ hosts Clifford Murphy’s 81st birthday partyWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Clifford Murphy is inviting all of Toledo to his 81st birthday party.
The jazz musician and former owner of local club Murphy’s Place said he couldn’t think of a better way to spend his birthday than playing music with friends.
The event, taking place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6, is part of the “Jazz on the Maumee” weekly show at the Grand Plaza Hotel, 444 N. Summit St.
Murphy chose the house band that will play with him on his birthday, including Glenda Biddlestone, Scott Kretzer and Josh Silver. He said he is excited about playing with friends and fans, but not really about getting older.
“He’s Mr. Talent,” said Kay Elliott, executive director of the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Society. “We believe you have to honor the heritage of jazz and everybody that has made Toledo’s DNA jazz, and he certainly has.”
The birthday celebration will also stand as a tribute to Claude Black, the Toledo pianist who died Jan. 17. Murphy and the band will play a collection of Black’s songs during the event.
“Playing a lot of his music will bring back memories,” Murphy said.
Biddlestone, who used to play on the road with Murphy and Black, will sing at the event. Because of her teaching schedule and choir meets on Wednesdays, this will be the first time she makes it to “Jazz on the Maumee.”
She said she wouldn’t miss Murphy’s birthday.
“He’s like my brother,” Biddlestone said. “He’s one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever met. He’s just one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever met in my life.”
Throughout the years, Biddlestone said her daughter, Sarah Williams, and Murphy often celebrated their birthdays together because they were only a day apart. Williams will be in attendance to celebrate with Murphy for another year.
Biddlestone also said it is important for the community to celebrate the vibrant music scene in Toledo.
“When musicians of [Murphy’s] caliber have played all over the United States and have been asked to perform with some of the greatest musicians, and they come home … it says a lot about the musical community [of Toledo],” Biddlestone said. “It’s good for Toledo to have someone like Cliff here. He really has been on the scene for so long and can teach people a lot.”
Murphy was last in the news in 2011 when he decided to close Murphy’s Place after the death of his partner, Joan Russell. Murphy said it is more enjoyable to play music without the hassle of running a business.
“She had done everything,” Murphy said. “After she passed, it was just too tough for me to handle [business] and play. I’m playing now as much as I want to. It makes a big difference.”
Murphy still plays locally “two or three times a week.” He said age is not slowing him down and he never wants to stop.
“The music thing is such a learning game; the more you play, the more you learn and it gets more interesting,” Murphy said. “That’s the most enjoyable thing about it.”
Murphy said he is still learning plenty at 81.
“You never stop learning,” Murphy said.
Biddlestone said anyone can come to the event and enjoy themselves, even those who don’t listen to much jazz.
“I think that people recognize a great musician,” Biddlestone said. “Just like when you see great art. Even though you don’t look at a lot of art, when you go to the museum and you see great art, you know it’s great. I think that’s the way Cliff is. He’s such a good person and has given his whole life to music. And now he’s 81 and is still playing. How many people can say that?”
There will be a cash bar featured at the event, valet parking and a buffet. The cover charge is $15, $10 for Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Society members and $5 for students with an I.D.