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.

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.

Purse Snatching

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A few months ago I was at a musical event and there was a purse snatching. This was something I has heard about and somehow thought I would never see some thing like this.

I have often been advised by friends who see my purse hanging open as I walk down the street that I am inviting a purse snatching. I have a grip on the purse and think it will not happens to me and so far it hasn’t. This incident had made me aware and careful.

The evening started normally. The house band do the first set and musicians came in to join in on the second set. This evening it was talking with a friend who plays saxophone. He got his horns out and set them on a booth in the front which is usually vacant since the musicians are not visible from that booth. I had seen most of the people in the bar although some not enough to have a conversation.

The sax player ad I were talking when he looked over to the booth with his horns and noticed a young man looking at his horns. Musicians are always very protective of their instruments so he yelled at he guy to move. He did. This was someone we hadn’t seen before. My friend asked the bartender and she hadn’t seen him either. When he went up to play he asked me to watch his horns.

The evening went on and the new guy moved from place to place around the bar. This particular bar is long and thin. It has a 50 foot oak bar on the left as you walk in and tables and booths to the right. He sat at several seats at the bars, a booth and just stood in the back. He began to slip into the background as I listened to the music.

One of the women in the bar slipped Into the back of the front booths and had her belongs including her purse towards the wall so it was “safe”. The guy reached over the booth as snatched the purse. I didn’t see it. What I did see was the woman running out of the bar.

When she came back in, she was sobbing. The music stopped. Within a minute, the band knew what had happened. The band and several other men ran from the bar immediately. Everyone had noticed the new guy.

After about twenty minutes, the guys began to come back. They found the guy and held him down while someone else got the police. The bar is right next to the police main station and with a Tiger baseball game that evening, there were quite a few in the area. By the time they got him, the purse was gone and the guy insisted the musicians were wrong. The police asked him to empty his pockets in front of the woman who lost the purse and he had her keys and phone in his pocket. He was arrested.

The guy who came back was the one who held him down and had cut his finger in the process and told us what had happened. The other guys were helping the woman look for her purse and other things that had been scattered. Her purse and most of the things in the purse were recovered.

I was so surprised and pleased how fast the band and others came to her defense. The women in the bar comforted the woman. Since that time, I have been so much more careful with my purse.

Northern Lights Lounge on May 14, 2014

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Last Wednesday night I went to Northern Lights Lounge to see the Mike Jellick Trio. And Mike was in New York replaced by Zion Israel. I was a bit disappointed. So, I decided to make it a little adventure and ordered the “Lava Wings”. I had been disappointed at another restaurant with the hot wing recently and remembered seeing this one on the menu. The best part is that appetizers are half off the price on Wednesday night.

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The wings were hot and tasty. The blue cheese dressing cuts the heat just enough. And the wings were good. They were done without being dried out. My mouth had a flood of heat cooled by the rich taste of chunky blue cheese dip.

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Left to right: Zion Israel, Miles Brown and Jesse Kramer.

About half way through the set, I got over my snit and was able to listen to the music. It was so different than what I had been expecting. I was so good in its own way though. I was fully won over by the last tune of “Caravan”.

Sunday Evening at the Cadieux Cafe

20140513-203615.jpgLeft to right: Dwight Adams, Damon Warmack, Gordon, Sasha Kashperko

Last Sunday was one of the first evenings this years that didn’t require a jacket. The trip to the East side of Detroit is about 45 minutes and with my new car, I didn’t have to worry about the for a change. I arrived a little after the quartet was supposed to start playing. And they were not playing.

The group was put together by Damon Warmack and I knew he would have a good group of musicians. But, this was Mothers Day and many spend time with family for the day. Or, musicians play as background music in various restaurants where people take their mothers for brunch or dinner. I spotted Damon immediately. He was waiting for Dwight Adams( trumpet) who is one of my favorite musicians.

I talked to Damon for a few minutes and went to a table to sit down and order the “hot wings”. I was looking forward to the meal. Just thinking about it made my mouth water. I ordered and anticipated. The waitress was new and when she deliver the wings, she delivered them with only one napkin. The wings are completely covered with a spicy, hot barbecue sauce. Eating them with a knife and fork does not work. Each wing is picked up and dipped in the blue cheese dipping sauce. The dipping sauce cuts the spicy sauce just a bit. I like to wipe my hands after each wing. And after finish with a hand wipe before washing my hands in the bathroom. They are really messy.

This time though they were different. I think they made the change the last time I was here. I didn’t like it then and the wings were disappointing. The barbecue and dipping sauce were the same. They changed the wings. The wings were fatty. They had globules of fat in each wing so the texture was off. Eating unmelted chicken fat is not a taste I want I my mouth. I did get the extra napkins and hand wipe. I do not think I will order them again.

On the other hand, the music selections were really pleasing. The group did all Miles Davis tunes. With Dwight Adams playing trumpet, the interpretation of Miles could not have been better. They started with “So What”. Coincidentally, I have been playing Miles in my car and it was fun hearing another version. Damon carried his weight as usual and added some great runs on the bass guitar with that number. Sasha is relatively new on the scene and is a very good player. However, I think the volume of his guitar is too loud as compared to the other instruments. Sometimes you can’t hear the other players. He’ll learn. The drummer, Gordon, is also new on the scene. He has a lot more maturity than many young drummer which means he is not all about how loud he can play. I really was enjoying the music.

As the set went on though I began to have indigestion. Wing attack. I left after the first set so I could go home and take care of myself.

Getting Out Again….Motor City Wine

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My last day for working this season was April 15. It took me some time to recover. The last few days are always hectic and mind numbing.

By Thursday, April 19, I was in the mood for some music and headed out to Motor City wine for the Mike Jellick Trio. I new they would be adding a tap dancer for part of the evening. The past experiences I have had mixing a jazz and impromptu tap has not been good. The info I had said she was a professional tap dancer which put her above my previous encounters.

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Right to left: Mike Jellick on keys, Eric Nachtrab on bass and Jesse Kramer on drums.

At first, it was only the trio playing. I had walked in after the set had started. I stopped at the bar and ordered a Blood Orange San Pelligrino. The place had almost every table filled. When I was here last, there were very few people. I really like seeing a group begin to get an audience. They did some familiar numbers and Mike did some great improvisation. Then, they called up Claudia Rahardjanoto, the tap dancer. She was really good.

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In jazz, there are sometimes a change in tempo or a change in time signature. The thing I appreciated most about the tapper was that she did not force her dance through the changes. She was much more able than the usual dancer to navigate the jazz changes. It was such a pleasant surprise.

They closed the set with Rhythm-A-Ning by Thelonious Monk, one of my favorites. And I loved it. I could feel the music. I was sitting right in front of the drum speaker so for much of the set, I heard more of the drum than anything hing else. Somehow though, it all worked out in this number. I played it on the way home.

Back to the Cadieux Cafe

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This afternoon after work, I watched my dog Bonnie in the backyard checking the perimeter of the yard making sure that no intruders had arrived during the long winter. She barked periodically letting all the dogs in hue he neighborhood know she was out and about again. We both had an early dinner. Her dinner was different than mine.

Then, I decided to go to the Cadieux Cafe for the Hughes/Smith Quintet. It is quite a long drive. I have a new car and now I can be confident that I will reach my destination. The car has a great sound system (a necessity for someone who likes music as much as I do). With my old car, my hiatus also meant I did not go out for music much.

The show was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m. So I arrived at about 8:45 p.m. And there was no band set up. They did get it all set up in record time so the actual start time was 8:55 p.m. The waiter came by and asked I of I wanted the usual which is hot wings and club soda with lime for this place. And it was just what I wanted. He was back within a minute telling me there were no more wings. I looked at the menu and while I was still pondering, he came back and said they had found some wings that were not the usual wings but they were wings.

For the next few minutes, I listened to the music. The group was James Hughes(saxes), Jimmy Smith(tpt), Phil Kelly(keys), Takashi Io(bass) and Pete Siers(drums). They are all good players and this was the first time I had heard some of them.

The first set consisted entirely of compositions by either Smith or Hughes. This puts me in an unusual place mentally. It means I do no know what to expect on any of the numbers. There is no comparison available. I really do like a mix of originals and standards.

My wings came. The hot sauce on the wings had the great sweet heat I was expecting. The chunky blue cheese dipping sauce was a savory and flavorful. The wings were not good. They seemed to have a glob of fat on each one. It got so I was a trying to find it and remove it before biting into the wing to avoid the ball of fat. I began to wonder if they were chicken wings and my imagination took off. Perhaps they were pidgeon wings or maybe partridge or what could they be? I didn’t finish them.

I can say I liked the music probably since it was a traditional format. I moved to get a little closer. Also, the people next to me were talking and the guy likes to pontificate in lengthy detail everything he knows about jazz. The numbers were different depending on the composer either Smith or Hughes. Smith tended to have more pronounced rhythms and Hughes was more melodic. I did especially like Hughes composition called Waltz for Anna.

I left after the set and listened to Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” on the way home on the incredible audio system in my car,