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True Blue from Ellis Kell

Argus/Dispatch blues columnist

JUNE 2004

We got music, right here in River City…

On June 12th, 2004, the River Music Experience will open its doors to the world, on the corner of 2nd and Main Streets in the historic Redstone building, downtown Davenport. Bold vision, hours of planning and generous community support has given birth to THE nation’s newest center for American roots music – right here in these River Cities. This celebration of our shared Mississippi River musical heritage is long overdue, so let the celebration begin!

The River Music Experience (RME) is dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and celebration of the musical heritage that was spawned up and down the Mississippi River. Blues, jazz, country, rock and roll, soul, zydeco, bluegrass, folk, and gospel are all integral and derivative forms of American Roots music. Through high-tech interactive exhibits, live performance, changing exhibits, classes and workshops, visitors to the RME will learn more about the musical traditions that have influenced contemporary music worldwide.

On a regional level, the RME will work with the established music festivals, such as the Bix and Blues fests, and will offer a variety of programs for young and old alike. The RME will welcome and accommodate schools, colleges and other tour groups. Live music will be featured throughout the facility, and will include local, regional and nationally-known musicians. Separate ‘open mic nights’ will be featured monthly for both novice and more established players. Trad sessions, old-timey music, group guitar classes and percussion workshops are just a few of the special programs to come. A special gospel brunch will be featured the second Sunday of every month, beginning on June 13th, featuring the region’s best gospel groups.

The second floor will house 1.5 million dollars of the RME’s interactive exhibits, including the River Wall that takes you on a river music heritage journey up through six major ports on the Mississippi. Multiple ‘ear-ports’ will be featured throughout the main gallery for those who want to go deeper in their search of specific American roots music genres and performers. Archival items, a Quad Cities Legends display, a special childrens’ area and the changing exhibits gallery round out the second floor. Do yourself a favor… forget everything you think you know about museums, because the RME is a multi-sensory experience, utilizing state of the art technology to present the history of American roots music like you’ve never seen and/or heard it. Eventually, the RME will also feature a music hall with broadcast, audio and video capabilities – located in the basement of the facility. Conversations are already underway with public television, public radio and other broadcast mediums for potential programs to be produced at and aired from the RME facility.

On first floor west of the Redstone, Mojo’s at River Music Experience will house a coffee house, gift shop, and will also serve as the ticketing center for the facility. Mojo’s will host two open mic nights, the second and fourth Tuesdays for younger, novice players, and the first and third Wednedays of each month for older, more seasoned players. The gift shop will feature historical recordings, contemporary CD’s, books on music, apparel and other souvenir items. On Thursday and Friday evenings, Mojo’s will set the stage for live local and regional entertainment from 7 to 9 p.m.

Centro restaurant brings their fine European dining, one of two coal-fired ovens west of the Mississippi, and trademark New York style pizza to the mix on first floor east at the Redstone. A full Italian menu will also be offered at Centro. The coal ovens will be used solely for pizza. Centro will also feature pastas, steaks, seafood and appetizers for lunch and dinner. So, just what does Centro (pronounced chen’ tro) mean? The word with the logo connotes city center in Italy, and that’s exactly what Centro operators believe the Redstone Building can do for the Quad Cities — create a new city center.

The folks at Centro tell me the construction of their special oven, led by Steve Peters, the premier coal-fired oven craftsman in the country, requires 22 tons of special soft, red bricks that can tolerate temperatures of 850 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Seedorf Masonry of Strawberry Point, Iowa, will install the ovens with the guidance of Steve Peters. Each oven will feature more than 800 bricks. George Formaro, Centro’s creative chef and co-founder, initiated the idea for coal-fired ovens rather than giving into the ease of a conventional or wood-burning oven. The intense heat brings out the mouth-watering aromas and flavor of each ingredient, while blazing New York blisters on the smoky crispy thin crust. Formaro also insists on using only the freshest ingredients, such as imported San Marzano tomatoes, handmade mozzarella and specialty flour. The ovens are visible and, in fact, are a focal point of the dining experience. For more on Centro, visit www.centrodesmoines.com on the web.

I invite you to join us on June 12th and 13th, as we celebrate the opening of the River Music Experience. Come share, with pride, in our American roots music traditions. You can also help us navigate the diverse currents of our musical heritage, up and down the Mississippi, from the Delta to Davenport. Become a member of the River Music Experience, and help support our mission with your contributions, or by volunteering to help. For more information, please visit the RME web site at: www.rivermusicexperience.com, email us at: info@rivermusicexperience.com, or phone 563-326-1333.

New blues from the ‘Gator for you…

“Release the Hound,” Hound Dog Taylor (Alligator Records) The Alligator label debuted back in 1971 with the release of “Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers,” and blues fans are in store for a real treat with these previously unreleased tracks from the legendary Chicago bluesman. Hound Dog Taylor succumbed to cancer back in 1975, but his power blues trio lives on in these most essential tracks. From Mississippi to Maxwell Street, on concert stages across the country and on tours in Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival, Hound Dog Taylor always played his own real and raw, no-nonsense brand of blues.

“Watch Your Back,” Guitar Shorty (Alligator Records) Nobody lays it down heavier than Guitar Shorty, and this new collection catches fire from the first track. A stellar blues guitarist and powerhouse vocalist, these tracks burn with a blue flame from start to finish. Super-soulful delivery, funky rhythms and molten guitar licks are the trademarks of this fine bluesman, and “Watch Your Back” is definitely his most passionate attack yet. Get yo’self some of this right now, while the boss is out to lunch! For many more fine Alligator releases, see www.alligator.com on the web.

There’s no rest for the weary, and no relief in sight. I’ve got to hightail it back to the Redstone, to make sure we’re ready for ‘ya on June 12th at the River Music Experience. You know I’ll be lookin’ for each and every one of ‘ya. Peace, love & blessings to all and, until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

Local musician Ellis Kell writes about blues music both local and national in ‘True Blue’, running the first Sunday of each month in Entertainment. He is also on the staff of River Music Experience, a not-for-profit museum and center dedicated to preservation, education and celebration of American Roots music.



trueblue@qconline.com

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