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.

Some Friday Night Music

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I started the evening at Motor City Wine where trio Nomadian was playing. They are usually a good show. When I got there, there were so many people in the place that there was no place to sit. Since I arrived at the end of a set, I hoped that some of the crowd would clear out so I could both hear the music and sit down. While waiting, I chatted with a few people I know and some oven brought me my drink.

20140105-152332.jpgLeft to Right: Demetrius Nabors (keys), Kris Johnson(tpt), Damon Warmack(elec. bass) and Nate Winn (drums).

The first sone of the second set was “Mind the Gap” composed by Damon Warmack. It is one of the songs I like and I was happy. But then, some women joined the birthday party going in full swing going on in the center of the room. While half the table was talking loudly so they could be heard, others were checking their phones to make sure they were not missing anything. My view of the music area was blocked by two guys standing in front of me. They did step aside long enough so I could take a picture. As you may have guessed, the place was not conducive to listening to music so I left after one song.

It was cold and the parking lot was cleared. There were still areas where the snow was not clear so getting to the back of the lot without getting snowy feet was a challenge. I took I the drive to Bert’s where James Carter was having his 45th birthday party. The parking lot showed it was a large party. Once again, I walked in as the last notes of the first set were sounded.

It was the John Douglas Quartet amplified. James Carter is a well known national and international saxophone player. He lives in New York but spends a great deal of time in Detroit which is where he grew up. I have seen him frequently late at night when he Ian’s walks in to jam at Bert’s. Last Friday at Bert’s, their were so many musicians in the place that night all wanting to play. And play they did. I stayed from midnight to 3:15a.m. and left in the middle of the last song. There was even a birthday cake.

20140105-155427.jpgLeft to Right: John Douglas(tpt), Mike Malis(keys) and T Pablo Lowman(percussion).

John Douglas did a great job of organizing and making sure things ran smoothly. They did “God Bless the Child”, “Giant Steps”, “Georgia on My Mind” and Moanin'”.

20140105-161242.jpgSax Player: James Carter

The birthday guest stepped in on almost all the numbers. Between sets he did an impromptu duet with Michele Ramos ( adapted guitar) which was really nice. James Carter is such an exceptional player that it is hard to listen to the other players so it took some time for me to relax and listen to the gestalt of the piece. It added depth and a complexity to the pieces.

When the second set started, the base group was John Douglas(tpt), Ibrihim Jones(bass), T Pablo Lowman(percussion), Gsylynn McKinney(drums), Mike Malis(keys), Reichlan Small(guitar) Joan Belgrave(vox)and James Carter(sax). As y end. you can see the everyone was doing their best to make this a party to remember.

I can say I got up to leave several times and the music drew me back until almost the end. There were many other musicians who got up to play and I have listed them in tags. They all added to the fantastic night of music that I am so glad I didn’t miss.

Detroit Concert of Colors…

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Yesterday was the last day for the Concert of Colors this year. The festival has three stages and there were things I wanted to see all day long. I delayed going to midtown Detroit just a bit due to rain since my plans included starting at the outdoor stage.

The first group on my plan was Wissal belles as an Arab fusion group combining Arab, klezmer, classical Indian and American influences. They were on the last few numbers and there were a few drops of rain.

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They has a mandolin, guitar, and clarinet. The percussion was a a skin stretched over a rim in several sizes. There was a stringed instrument I hadn’t seen before. The music was melodic and the real difference I heard was in the percussion which was more pronounced and a part of the music than most of the music I hear.

A stand up comedian named Horace Sanders did an attempt at comedy while one group was tearing down and the next group was setting up and doing the sound check. It was not the best.

The next group was Ben Sharkey named after the vocalist. It is a Detroit group and I have not seen them. I had seen all the musicians(Kris Kurzawa, Takashi Io, and Nate Winn) except the vocalist Ben Sharkey. The music was loud enough to vibrate my body at this point. He is very good and I enjoyed most of the set. As a vocalist, he uses his voice as an instrument. On his own compositions, his words were supposed to tell the story with the music as background. At first, the mic was muffled and improved so that the last few songs were really good.

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The next set was jazz billed as Sean Dobbins and is my home. I had seen all the musicians(Sean Dobbins, Marcus Elliot, Ralph Tope and Chris Codish). I stayed for a number for two. They were as usual good. I wanted to catch a bite to eat before the next set and left for the food court.

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The food court was full and the selections were different than the previous day. There was no short cake so I bought the chicken and waffles. The server put maple syrup on the waffles and some of it migrated to the chicken. It was so good(it may not have been that good but I was so hungry) except for the chicken with the maple syrup drips.

The next set was Calypso Rose with Universal Xpression. I like the reggae beat and was looking forward to the set. The mic was muffled again and it was hard to understand anything. The spokesman who I think was call Mellowman said things that were just no clear due to the mic. After a few thoroughly enjoyable numbers, they introduced Calypso Rose.

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There was another two tier key set up to the left and a trumpet with two saxes. The mic has cleared slightly for Calypso Rose so she was a little clearer. This is the kind of music that lightens my mood and it did.

I left Calypso Rose to get to a set where I had no idea of what I would hear. The group was called Samba Mapangala which is basically an East African dance band.

20130708-123111.jpgSo, for the next hour and a half people danced. The seats vibrated with the music and as the dancing took off, the beat of the feet of the dancers on the floor began to add to the movement of the seats. I can remember sitting at the top of the venue a couple of years ago. At the top the vibration is magnified. The music was electrifying. People of all ages, sizes and colors were dancing with each other in a concert of colors. Walking back to the car, I passed the Chris Canas Blues Band and was too tired to stop and listen for more than a few minutes.

There was only one splash of fireworks in the sky on the way home and I arrived to find a calm and hungry dog. And there is the Paradise Valley Festival at Hart Plaza weekend after next.

More Music in Midtown Detroit

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Today, Saturday, July 6, 2013, I went to Concert of Colors again. Yesterday I has so many errands and chores that I was not able to get out.

Today, I decided to take a different approach. I decided to see check out music I usually do not see in the normal course of events. Since music is such an emotional experience for me, I might be able to get the same experience from music I usually do not hear. I have a history of being able to appreciate classical, blues, rock, and R&B but for the last few years, I have had a hard preference for jazz. And not all jazz, the soul jazz era. I am trying to expand my horizons.

I parked right next to the pocket park on Parsons where the outdoor stage was set up. So I stopped for a few minutes and listened to Kate Monaghan singeing the blues.

20130706-212150.jpgThe Kate Monaghan Band

20130706-212216.jpgA sculpture in the park

I walked about a half a block to the Max (Max M. Fisher Music Center)to hear Matuto which was billed as Brazilian bluegrass.

20130706-214900.jpg I am not sure why it is called Brazilian bluegrass. It may be because of the fiddle(violin) and accordion. I cannot recall ever seeing a drum kit in a bluegrass band. It might be that they are playing ‘country’ music. The music was fun and there was a lot of dancing. I danced a lot at the PD9 Township Jazz Project and my dancing legs are still a bit wobbly.

I went to the other inside stage to see Fatoumata Diawara billed as Malian wassalou. She is living in exile in Southern France. The musicians with her were from Cameroon and Togo. She has a beautiful voice and plays guitar while singing some of her songs.

20130706-221312.jpgThe songs were not in English. The official language of Mali is French and she was not singing in French. It may have been Bambara which is the main vernacular language. She did talk a little about what each song was about. The delivery was good enough that the language really did not matter. And I did manage to dance again in front of the stage.

20130706-222142.jpg wThe pic is not clear but was the best I could do in the circumstances. After dancing and towards the end of the music, I decide to see what I could find in festival food.

20130706-222603.jpgI got a fruit shortbread. It was on a lemon poppyseed shortbread with blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries topped with whip cream. It was just what I needed.

I went home happy.