Bits 'n' Pieces: Smokin' jazz, smoky barbecue

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Trombonist "Jazzy" John Moak could have hit it really big. By age 18, he was playing with Ella Fitzgerald; his musical résumé also includes gigs with such musical luminaries as Dave Brubeck, Wynton Marsalis, Rosemary Clooney and Aretha Franklin. But Moak said he is a family guy at heart and never cared for life on the road.

When the Oklahoma City native and his wife looked to resettle someplace with a vibrant jazz scene, Moak said Portland seemed perfect. The couple eventually moved to Hazel Dell while Moak pursued gigs.

He also pursued his other great love: barbecue. From all the fellow musicians he's fed, "You should start a restaurant" is what he'd been hearing for years.

So, in 2010, Moak opened Jazzy John's BBQ, where meat slow-smoked over hickory is king. Moak spent the last couple of years focused on the restaurant side of the business, he said, while live music has taken a back seat. Jazzy John's, at Hazel Dell's JM Plaza, 512 N.E. 81st St., Suite J, isn't in the most glamorous location, Moak admitted. The place is known largely as a takeout joint.

Moak means to change that next month. At 8 p.m. April 20, look for the launch of Jazzy John's 2.0. That's when the place will transform into a sweet, swanky jazz club, Moak said. Expect tablecloths and fine china, wine and table service, and three different meal options at European-style "prix fixe" -- that is, a fixed price of $25 for a multicourse meal.

"It's still chicken and brisket but we'll dress it up real nice," Moak said.

The talent that night will be a duo borrowed from Portland band The Bylines: Reece Marshburn and Marianna Thielen, a husband-and-wife team who'll deliver jazz standards from the American songbook and even a bit of "sophistopop," Moak said.

Future Jazzy John's entertainment will tap Moak's connections in the Portland music world, where he's playing his trombone with Patrick Lamb and the Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra.

"We've got this place pretty well established," Moak said. "Now let's get it to swing."

Visit the restaurant's website to learn more.

— Scott Hewitt

'Balloon Wizard' breathes new life into disability logo

photoRoger Ullenberg, "The Balloon Wizard," holds versions of disabled parking signs he created.

(/The Columbian)

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Roger Ullenberg wants to "kick up the logo experience for disabilities."

The Vancouver resident and former entertainer known as "Cosmo the Balloon Wizard" was disabled by a heart attack in 2011.

"It made my life go on stop," said Ullenberg, 65. "I thought, 'What can I do? I don't have mojo or strength. Is there anything I can do with my 20 years of experience with balloon art and disabled ability?' So I created a new handicapped logo."

His version of the logo includes the iconic stylized wheelchair, but the stick person sitting in it now holds balloons.

"I just want to take that basic handicapped sign and just upgrade it, and make people start looking at it more, smiling and talking about it," Ullenberg said. "I want to make it more alive. Now people look at it but don't think about it."

He'd love to see his logo officially adopted, but short of that, he'd like to sell copies of it and convince businesses to post his version of the disability sign.

"Everybody I show the logo to says, 'Wow,'" Ullenberg said. "It would be great to go viral with it."

— Erin Middlewood

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.