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.
Several times a day, MissyLu and various squirrels have a run in the yard. At this point, the squirrels know she is coming and MissyLu has her chase routine down pat.
MissyLu’s intended victim..squirrel eating seeds
Yesterday, I saw the squirrel and knew Missy was in the yard and wondered why the squirrel was still eating a quiet breakfast. Missy was watching and moving slowly across the deck. She was doing a hog version of stalking….moving slowly and quietly.
Quietly stalking dog
And then the squirrel heard and was up the tree with Missy chasing.
Squirrel, i see you ….
Squirrel, i still see you…
As the squirrel goes from tree to tree MissyLu follows until the squirrel leaves the yard leaping from tree to tree. Then, MissyLu secures the yard perimeter. A job well done….until
When I got MissyLu, I was told that she was a quiet dog who never barked. MissyLu has found her voice both inside and outside our home.
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.
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.
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.
Carmelized Meyer Lemon Spaghetti
This is one of the dinners I got from Blue Apron this week. In the past, I have not paid attention to vegetarian dishes. There have been so many past potlucks where I have eaten vegetarian dishes that have been tasteless. As I am learning, anyone can produce tasteless food but to me it was more obvious in what I have eaten of vegetarian food in the past.
First, this dish was easy to make. Secondly, the taste was fantastic. It was normal spaghetti but the layers of flavor added to the spaghetti made it something to remember and put it into the food I will make again file. Meyer lemons are in season in the winter and have a sweeter, more vivid taste than normal lemons. After deseeding the quartered lemon, it was marinated with some sugar and cut into eight pieces. I had zested the rind for two teaspoons of zest.
The base of the dish was cooking the marinated lemon, three cloves of garlic, a thinly sliced shallot and some crushed red pepper for just a bit of heat. The smell coming up from the pan made my mouth water. The recipe called for toasting some panko breadcrumbs with a garlic clove. I added the cooked pasta to the lemon mixture with some butter, the lemon zest and some pasta water and mixed it all up.
When I added it to the plated dish, I topped it with the toasted bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. It was like music in my mouth. The lemony pasta with a hint of sugar and garlic topped with the crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. The Parmesan added especially to the great smell and the parsley added a note of a fresh flavor. This one is definitely one I will do again.
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.