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.



Disaster, Despair, Redemption and Reveling: Chicken Tortilla Soup


Spicy Chicken Soup

This was supposed to be chicken tortilla soup. Things started well and then just went awry. This was a Blue Apron offering and I ended up changing it quite a bit.

As you can see, there are no tortillas slices. I burnt them.  They would have added a layer that would have cut down on the spicy flavor of the broth.  When I tasted the broth, it was just too spicy for me. I didn’t like the flavor. The broth was not thickening probably because I rinsed the cannellini beans too much. The chicken was good.  The rainbow chard and beans were good.

I ended up adding a tablespoon of tomato paste which made it less spicy. It did really change the soup.  I also added a spoonful of crème fraîche to ease the spiciness as well.

So, I have no idea how this was supposed to taste but I liked the flavors after I made my unexpected alterations.

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.

Near Miss Dinner – Spiced Pork Chops


Spiced Pork Chops with Charred Poblano Salsa and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This Blue Apron dinner was a near miss with me. All the components were good but just didn’t work well together. This one also tasted better on the second day as leftovers.

The salsa was the ingredient that was something I normally would not have added to the dinner and I can see using it again with some minor alterations. I tend to follow the recipe the first time and alter things the s cond time around. The reason it taste better to me on the second day was that the heat from the roasted poblano pepper came through. The salsa was a roasted poblano pepper and two roasted scallion bottoms. It also had a fresh Granny Smith apple, the green tops of the scallions, chopped cilantro and the juice of a lime. In this case, I think I will hav less apple in the future so the heat of the poblano can be more prominent.

It was a refreshing addition to he pork chops which had been rubbed with chili powders, cumin and coriander and seared. The other component as mashed sweet potatoes. They were really good. They were quite sweet and did not meld with the pork chops and salsa.

I have to say that before getting food from Blue Apron, any potato I tried to mash  was a disaster both white and sweet. I am so grateful that I can finally add mashed to my cooking  repertoire.

The Ralphe Armstrong Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe


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.


Ralphe Armstrong

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.


Carlos McKinney

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.


Alex Colista

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.


Gayelynn McKinney

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.

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.