'James Blackmon Presents!'
Former club owner re-emerges with intimate musical showcase at Wall Street
Posted June 2, 2010
When James Club 88 abruptly closed in September 2009, its owner, James Blackmon, chalked it up to a simple case of bad business luck, expecting only to take away a host of fun memories. But he wasn't the only one who missed the club's intimate jazz café atmosphere.
"People kept telling me how much they missed the live jazz music environment," Blackmon said. "Then I got a call from Scot Hafler, a manager at Wall Street, who wanted me to recreate some of the flavor that was at James Club."
Thus "James Blackmon Presents!" was born.
Wall Street Night Club is host to the show, transforming the usually hoppin' dance club into an intimate jazz lounge, complete with low lighting, candle-lit tables and a small stage where Blackmon and a host of former James Club regulars who belt out a few tunes for the masses.
"It's great to have another place where people can perform, especially now when there aren't may places for singers to work," Blackmon said.
Blackmon—originally a gospel singer from Alabama who independently released two albums ("Born to Late" and "Christmas Time is Here")—opened James Club 88 with his life partner Duane Adams in 2007. They moved to Columbus in 2002 after living and performing in New Orleans for seven years.
James Club offered an atmosphere that was pretty uncommon. The intimate space, which was located downtown on Long Street, featured popular open mic nights, game-show events where patrons could win prizes, a weekly jazz showcase starring Blackmon and a roundtable of local singers, and it was host to many cast parties for traveling Broadway shows ("Annie," "The Color Purple") that came through town. The club established a pretty steady set of regulars who were looking to escape from the typically crowded scenes in the Arena District and Short North.
So why did the club close?
"After the gas prices hit $4 in 2008, people really just weren't going out anymore, which hit us pretty hard," he said. "Then in 2009 it became a case of, when do you say when? It unfortunately was a long time coming."
Soon after Blackmon closed his doors, he booked a piano and singing gig with Holland America cruise line that traveled for five weeks through the Panama Canal. When he returned on a Wednesday, arrangements were made to take the stage at Wall Street that Sunday.
"The closing of James Club definitely left a void," said Blackmon, who's now a regular performer with Holland, running Wall Street's jazz night when he's back in town. "Hopefully this new gig will help fill some of it."
The "James Blackmon Presents!" showcase always features local singing sensations, including regular headliners Mary McClendon and Cheridy Keller, with special guests singer/songwriter Seth Gibson and Double Chocolate (a singing duo starring Blackmon and Andronicus Hobson). Blackmon said he hopes to bring his show to Wall Street two Sundays a month, but a rigid biweekly setup has yet to be finalized.
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