Remembering Joan Russell
BY MICHAEL G. NASTOS
A beloved figure on the Toledo jazz scene, Joan Russell passed away on January 2 after suffering a stroke. She was 77.
A native of Massachusetts, Russell traveled extensively and studied at various Midwestern universities before settling in Toledo. As an educator, radio broadcaster, festival and record label producer, chef extraordinaire, publicist and proprietor of Murphy's Place, Joan Russell epitomized the owner/operator of a jazz club with a work ethic second to none. Alongside her partner of nearly 40 years, the veteran jazz bassist Clifford Murphy, they hosted numerous local, regional and national jazz performers over the twenty years of the night spot's existence.
A memorial gathering at the venue on Water Street January 16 brought fans and friends, surviving family members, and musicians, including Murphy, various singers, their longtime vocalists Glenda McFarlin and Ramona Collins, Ray Heitger's Cakewalkin' Jass Band, pianists Claude Black and Eric Dickey, Detroit drummer Renell Gonsalves, Ann Arbor drummer Sean Dobbins, SEMJA Founder/President Emeritus/bassist Ron Brooks, and many others.
The club will continue under the direction of Clifford Murphy, and Joan Russell's son William.