Detroit Jazz Festival 2016 Saturday, September 3

It was the first full day of the jazz fest and I got so filled with music that the result was rather overwhelming. There is a point in me where I can’t listen to music anymore and appreciate it. 

As I was walking to the stage on Hart Plaza, I saw Cassius  Richmond playing the saxophone and doing a wonderful job as usual.


I was on my way to see the John Douglas Quartet at the Carhartt Amphitheater  stage. They are one of the groups I see in Detroit at Bert’s warehouse on Friday night. So in this case, I knew what I was about to see. Somehow add a festival, the music just seems to be a little bit better. They did play one of my favorite songs which is “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”. John Douglas is on the trumpet and the Alexis Lombre is on the keyboards. Ibrahim Jones is on the bass. I didn’t catch the name of the drummer. EditEditEditEdit

Next I went to another stage to see the Ken Cox reunion band. The musicians got up and told how much Ken Cox had meant to them because how much he mentored them all. All of that  before I was out listening to jazz. A lot of well known local musicians played including Rayse Biggs(tpt), Djallo Djakte(drums), George Bohannan(tone), Shahidah Nurullah(vox) and Kamau Kenyatta(keys).  There were others who also played . I really enjoyed the music and wish I had been around to hear Ken Cox when he was playing.


Then I went off to lunch before heading to a stage after lunch that was across the plaza. Although there are four major stages in a relatively small area the walking can be daunting especially through the crowds. I went to see the Stanley Cowell quintet featuring Billy Harper and Charles Tolliver. I had heard great things about this group and had never been to see them before. Actually the music was great and I really enjoyed it

Stanley Cowell quintet featuring Billy Harper and Charles Tolliver

Saturday lunch

I meant to stay for just a taste of the next act which was The Ron Carter Quartet. I didn’t especially like the performance they did on Friday night with before cellos it didn’t feel like jazz to me.  I ended up staying for the entire act it was so good. In fact, I would say is this is my highlight of the day. In a quartet setting, the music was just entrancing. It was a place where I could move with music and really let it into me


The last act that I saw for the day was Roy Hargrove quintet with the Detroit Jazz Festival string orchestra. It looks like the artistic director wants to add strings to the jazz performances as something a little different.  I have seen Roy Hargrove at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café just a few months ago. It was the kind of jazz I like. I stayed for two songs with the large string a compliment and decided I didn’t really like this approach for Roy Hargrove. Who knows it may be the way he’ll go in the future. It was just not my cup of tea. I have been at the jazz fest for about eight hours at that point and just had enough music. 

Detroit Jazz Festival 2016 -Opening Night

Opening night of the jazz festival starts with a reception and a concert featuring the star headliners. This year was no different.

The weather for the weekend looks to be spectacular. The first evening was extremely windy though and most people were not quite dressed for the unexpected wind.In this picture, you can see the flags completely horizontal as the wind blows through the event. We were served appetizers and small bites. I had small bites of macaroni and cheese as well as chicken fried steak. There were also small desserts that were sort of bite-size and quite good including brownies and small cupcakes.Edit


I arrived late so when I went over to see the opening headliner of the Ron Carter Nonet, there were no VIP seats available.  Yes, I buy the VIP tickets so I can get the close seats and catered meals. There was available fence space within the VIP seating and I could see rather well. I was not able to get a program so I only knew Ron Carter by name.  There were also another bass, four cellos, keyboard percussionists. Chris Collins, the director of the jazz fest, did not introduce the musicians as is the usual practice. The mix of songs tended towards slow songs. Much of the music was bowed rather than plopped on the base which is in itself unusual. The music was different than I had expected but I did enjoy it.

The next band in the line up was the Soul Rebels, a group from New Orleans. And again, none of the members were introduced by name.


And the last act was George Benson who was introduced by name. Although, I enjoyed some of the music, I really think he falls more on the pop side of music rather than jazz. A lot of times, though, the jazz fest has performers to introduce a people to jazz and this may have been an example. 


I didn’t go out to the after fest parties. I had about 3 solid hours fo music and more would have been overwhelming.  I have learned my limits. 

Today. Maybe I can find a program and have a great music day.

Curtis Taylor Quartet at Cliff Bells – 12/27/2015

 

Curtis Taylor Quartet l to r: Nate Winn(drums), Curtis Taylor(tpt), Marion Heyden (bass) and Kamau Kenyatta (piano) photo by Mark Brown

I went to Cliff Bells that night with certain expectations. I had never heard Curtis Taylor. The other three musicians are well known in Detroit although Kamau Kenyatta does not live in Detroit.

My favorite of the evening was Freddie Freeloader, an old standard. Curtis Taylor played a wonderfully melodic version of this and all songs during the evening. Nate Winn is an articulate was, as usual, able to raise the performance level.  I had expected to get “smooth” jazz from Kamau Kenyatta and instead got a fierce and passionate performance.

It was a good musical evening.

Noah Jackson Quartet at Cliff Bells – 12/26/2015

Cliff Bells 12/26/2015

The place was decked out for the holidays and for the first set it was standing room only.

 

Jazz Police in attendence…l to r Judy, Marsha, Mie and Pam

Noah Jackson is one of those many musicians who was raised in Detroit and now resides in New York. During the holiday season, many a of the Detroit born musicians return to Detroit for part of the holidays and play at he clubs in town while they were here.

The quartet was called Full Circle and three excellent local musicians filled it to make it a quartet.

 

Noah Jackson

And on keys:

 

Ian Finkelstein

On sax:

 

De’Sean Jones

And last and one of the best:

 

Nate Winn

The music was fierce and passionate. With the professionalism of the musicians, they pushed each other to excel rather than stepping all over each other.

During the second set, we got to sit down so it was much easier for me to just sit back and enjoy the music. For me, my favorite number of the evening was Nica’s Dream composed by Horace Silver. When a group plays a  standard, you get to hear how they treat the music. I found their version more dynamic than what I usually hear. It is so much fun to hear a song played a new way.

 

 

The Mighty Funhouse at MotorCity Wine

It was a rainy, windy evening and I decided I needed some music. The wind was so strong that the dog was huddled up to me as I looked over the possibilities available for the music I like on a Wednesday evening in Detroit. There were about four “regular” choices. I decided on The Mighty Funhouse who play every Wednesday evening in the Corktown area of Detroit. 

 

The Mighty Funhouse, Left to Right: John Douglas, Phil Hale, Skeeto Valdez and Paul Randolph

 
I was surprised when I got to the parking lot to see how crowded it was on a Wednesday and then remembered that a lot of people are off work or in town for the holidays. I walked in to the sound of the music and virtually no place to sit so I got a lemon soda and stood at the rail looking I to the room where the music was being played. After just a bit a girlfriend tapped me on the shoulder and showed me an open spot next to her and her friend at the bar. I usually don’t sit at the bar and so this was a fresh perspective. As I saw people I knew, there were hugs all around and I felt at home again listening to the music. 

The present composition of the Funhouse produces an unusual sound. Each of the musicians usually plays in a different genre. 

Skeeto Valdez has the most experience in rock and funk. He also plays drums in a jazz group frequently. He is a master at several genres and the organizer behind the Mighty Funhouse. 

 

Skeeto Valdez

 
Phil Hale usually plays either jazz or R’n’B.  As with many Detroit musicians, he started playing at an early age in church.

Phil Hale

Paul Randolph has most of his musical career out of work Detroit so what I see is that he does blues and vocals at this venue. 

 

Paul Randolph

 
Finally, there is John Douglas who primarily plays jazz. Although I have heard him play swing and R n B. 

 

John Douglas

 
Last night one of the other patrons and I were trying to figure out what genre we were hearing. We just could not find a good answer. This band is borrows from all the genres I have mentioned and you can hear all of them in the sound. A normally straight forward blues tune will have a little jazzy overtone provided by John Douglas. 

They usually do “Ain’t It Funky Now ” which is a great number to showcase all their talent. I was able to leave with a happy brain.

Kenny Cox Tribute at the Carr Center

On December 13, 2015, I went to the Carr Center in downtown Detroit to go to a tribute concert for Kenny Cox a noted jazz pianist. He was one of the noted musicians who was born in Detroit and spent a great part of his career in Detroit. His wife was interviewed by Rodney Whitaker(bass) during the intermission and read a couple of passages from his diary. I liked how much attention he paid to melody according to the notes from his diary. It was apparent in the passage she read and in his music.The playing of the musicians showed an unusual intensity. They were so good and did play “Cherokee” which is one of my favorites. “Alone Together”, another favorite, was also part of the program.

 Kenny Cox Tribute at the Carr Center on Dec. 13, 2015

The musicians from left to right are Cory Kendrick(piano), Vincent Bowens(sax and flute), Diego Rivera(sax), Rodney Whitaker(bass in the background), Rayse Biggs(tpt) and Sean Dobbins(drum). Shahidah Narullah and Rodney Whitaker’s daughter also were vocalist on the gig.

La Dolce Vita


A way of life and a restaurant in Detroit. On Saturday evening, a friend invited me to go to La Dolce Vita to celebrate my birthday. I had not been there for about 10 years and remembered with pleasure both the food and the ambiance.

From the front, there are three dim neon lights saying ldv. Going around the back to the main entrance is another story. There is valet parking and the lot was quite crowded. I walked through the entrance arch which were tastefully decorated with small white lights on to a patio emptied for the winter months. then through a door to a restaurant with several rooms. There was live music in the room with the bar. I was seated in the room next to the bar and only had to wait a couple of minutes for my friend. The Christmas decorations were right on the edge of being over the top.

The picture above is a view from the table. I remembered the bruschetta from 10 years ago as amazing and ordered it along with Chicken Marsala. My friend ordered Lobster ravioli and a salad.  Although the food was very good, I was slightly disappointed. The food was a reflection of the clientele.  It was solidly middle of the road and not very exciting. As I usually do, I ordered things I do not do or cannot do at home. A good choice since I can’t say I can do better. The meal was slightly bland. Even the dessert of Crème Brûlée was bland.

I fairly sure that with my interest in cooking for the last five or six years, I have changed. The food at La Dolce Vita has not.