P.M.-Dawn: Live filming of Jim Morris' new music series

Erica Thompson

I keep running into singer Jonathan Elliott. Well, the first time was planned; I met Elliott and Nick D'Andrea at their rehearsal space last November to interview them about their new band, Doc Robinson. But then Elliott's band, the Floorwalkers, happened to be playing a “Climate Action House Party” I attended. And Elliott, backed by the band Birdshack, was the featured singer in the live filming of a new music series, which I covered on a recent Saturday.

The project was created by Mug & Brush barbershop owner Jim Morris, whose "Mug & Brush Sessions" — a music video series filmed in the shop and archived on YouTube — is nearing its fourth year and 100th episode. But while the “Sessions” highlight original music from local bands, the new series features music by legends like Nat King Cole, the focus of the first episode.

“I've been calling it a classic artist tribute [and] documentary series,” Morris said from the set — his gorgeous Gahanna home, decorated with Nat King Cole records and a cool, vintage radio for the occasion. “It was kind of inspired by the old Dean Martin specials or … ‘The Andy Williams Christmas Special' … where it was a casual, living-room atmosphere.”

The documentary portion of each episode will include interviews with the musicians. Morris is hoping to pitch the series to streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, as well as PBS, though the latter may not be a reliable option given President Trump's proposal to cut government funding for public broadcasting programs. Either way, Morris also wants to premiere the series at a local theater.

I had fun mingling with the other guests at the mixer before the live taping began. I met Nikki Wonder of Bloodthirsty Virgins and Dick's Den Co-owner Tim Ackerman. I also talked to the emcee, Dan, who has a fascinating backstory of transitioning from a construction career to ballroom dancing.

The actual performance was excellent; the musicians played songs like “Send for Me,” “The Ruby and the Pearl” and “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” which Elliott dedicated to his girlfriend. There were a couple re-starts so Elliott could better tackle Cole's jazzy vocal arrangements — “We're doing a tribute to Dylan next,” Elliott joked — but he sounded great and brought down the house with his falsetto on “When I Fall in Love.”

While filming the series, Morris plans to continue the “Mug & Brush Sessions.” And he won't be upset if the new project doesn't get picked up.

“We're having fun and creating some cool art that hopefully lasts for years to come,” he said. “My main motivation is the journey rather than the destination.”