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
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.
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.
Warren Wolf on vibes.
I went to The Dirty Dog Jazz Café last Wednesday night. I have been working long hours and have been exhausted since January but I have seen Warren Wolf before and had to see him again. I saw him at the Detroit Jazz Fest in 2014. Before I saw him I didn’t like vibes. His performance that they turned me around. He played a great set and I’m glad I made it.
The evening was made better by the return of the Grand Marnier Chocolate soufflé with vanilla cream sauce. It had been off the menu for a bit and was my favorite dessert at the Dirty Dog.
It was a great evening with great music and unexpectedly wonderful food.
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.
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.
And on keys:
And last and one of the best:
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.
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.
Phil Hale usually plays either jazz or R’n’B. As with many Detroit musicians, he started playing at an early age in church.
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.
Finally, there is John Douglas who primarily plays jazz. Although I have heard him play swing and R n B.
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.
The bar at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe
I walked into the Dirty Dog between sets and sat at an open seat at the bar. Carl, the bartender greeted me cordially as he greets everyone and even though I hadn’t been there in a long time, I felt comfortable.
The Dirty Dog is owned by Gretchen Valade, heiress to the Carhartt clothing fortune and the major benefactor to jazz in Detroit. She is a major sponsor of The Detrot Jazz Festival and is tireless in introducing jazz to as many people as she can. The Dirty Dog has an intimate atmosphere and provides great jazz every week. She was sitting at the bar enjoying the music.
However, I found out just before the second set that my seat at the bar had been reserved for the second set. As I walked to the front to talk to the maitre d’ who chose not to notice my existence, I greeted a friend. She saw my predicament and knew someone who could help. One of the long time employees asked a single man (the father of one of the musicians) if I could sit with him. His wife had just left and so he said I could sit with him. I was really grateful and I got a better seat than the one at the bar.
The Ralphe Armstrong Quartet like so many jazz quartets was put together for the engagement this week at the Dirty Dog. Ralphe Armstrong in an internationally known bass player who is native to Detroit and still lives here.
The piano player was Carlos McKinney who is one of the Detroit famous McKinney jazz family. Carlos McKinney, another Detroit native, lives elsewhere and it is not often that he is available to hear locally. I enjoyed hearing his playing so much.
Alex Colista, alto sax player, is a young and very talented musician. I have seen him out and about for about eight years. He is in the Wayne State University jazz program. Watching him grow as a musician has bee a great pleasure.
The last and not least member of the quartet is Gayelynn McKinney who is also related to the McKinney jazz family. She is one of the outstanding sought after Detroit drummers and a mainstay in the Detroit music scene.
The set I saw was seamless moving from one number to the next. The music is so much fun when the musicians work to compliment each other rather than compete with one another. My favorite song of the evening (the one that moved me the most) was called “Gretchen’s Groove” after Gretchen Valade and is on Ralphe’s latest CD called Detroit Rising. It was upbeat and each of the musicians had solos. The playing was such that that were pushing each other to excellence. And the fallout for me was that I was so stimulated that I could get to sleep for over six hours after the performance ended.