Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 18, 2014

Kitchen jazzes up downtown lunch hour

ASHLAND — Some came to enjoy the relaxing sounds of cool jazz and traditional tunes at lunch, while others attended in hopes of picking up a few tricks from a master musician as guitarist Chris Kitchen kicked off the Melodies & Masterpieces concert series in downtown Ashland Friday afternoon.

“I wanted to see how you do it solo and keep everybody entertained,” said Gary Wells, one of several accomplished musicians in the crowd who turned out purely for the opportunity to hear Kitchen work his magic with an acoustic and an archtop guitar.

Seated with Wells, Kim Neal enjoyed the cool breeze as the tunes echoed across Judd Plaza and along Winchester Avenue. Neal said her mother advised her of the afternoon’s one-man show by Kitchen, prompting her to make downtown plans to catch his performance.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said of the annual concert series sponsored by Arts Council of Northeastern Kentucky supporters. “I love it, and he’s the best.”

Causing little girls to get up and dance while prompting the crowd’s musicians to shake their heads in amazement, Kitchen played a collection of familiar melodies and improvised jazz lines, often songs made familiar by artists ranging from the Beatles to Bela Fleck and Joni Mitchell. Upon hearing Kitchen’s often-unfamiliar arrangements of otherwise familiar melodies, many in the crowd compared opinions about song titles, or theorized about whose rendition the guitar player’s versions resembled.

While no stings were reported, several in the crowd could be seen spontaneously swatting or flailing at a persistent collection of bumblebees that also seemed to be enjoying the afternoon’s music, possibly drawn by the tulips and other blooming flowers at the base of trees in Judd Plaza. As Kitchen transitioned between “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “If I Only Had a Brain,” restaurant owner Jim Crum checked in to make sure none in the audience were going without lunch or refreshments.

“It looks good. I’d like to see more of it — more sunshine, too,” Crum said after sending a bottle of water to the small stage, adding “I’ll never let them go hungry or without water.”

Near the back of the crowd, Tim Hodges of Ashland watched his childhood friend play guitar and remembered a time when he found Kitchen sitting on his amplifier, playing guitar in his garage while others his age joined for basketball. Hodges said he tried to get Kitchen to play ball and Kitchen attempted to get him to play guitar.

“I wish I would have listened to him,” Hodges said with a chuckle, adding he was downtown to take care of some business and decided to take time out to hear his old friend play.

Neil Patton, one of Kitchen’s guitar students, stood silently throught the show and admired the guitarist’s selections while on a lunch break from The Fyffe/Jones Group on nearby Carter Avenue, while jazz fans Steven Kinner and Kathleen Curry of Ashland split a picnic table and enjoyed a chicken pesto lunch from Andy’s Sweet & Savory in the Pendleton Arts Center. Each agreed the afternoon concert was an excellent addition to their day.

Kitchen closed his afternoon performance with a pair of jazzy originals, concluding with a distinctive blues lick as host Eddie Riffe thanked the crowd and gave away a pair of tickets for Nashville artist Jerry McComb’s Saturday night show at Callihan’s American Pub & Grill. Riffe also announced next Friday’s Melodies & Masterpieces performance will feature Canadian Grammy Award winner Crystal Shawanda with guitarist Dewayne Strobel.

The free concert series continues on Judd Plaza from noon to 1 p.m. each Friday through May 23, featuring bluegrass band Poacious; She & I, with guitarist “Texas” Dave Jaquez and vocalist Charlene Smith; father-and-son Tom and Brendon Wintz performing acoustic rock and country; and blues-infused rock and beyond by Downtown King. For more information about Melodies & Masterpieces or other Arts Council of Northeastern Kentucky events and activities, write to the Arts Council of Northeastern Kentucky, 1536 Winchester Ave., Suite 15, Ashland KY 41102 or call (606) 571-0297.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.

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