Jams or Gigs?


There are three types of musician events that I see when I go out to see music. As the title suggests, they are gigs, jams and a mix. These are the one I see in the Detroit jazz music scene. The jams in the dulcimer community are quite different but gigs are the same.

The gig is and event where a band is playing s for the evening. A jam is usually a house band for one set than other musicians who are at the bar are on a list to play and whoever is running the jam sets up musicians to play with each other and they play.

The best part of a gig is that I get to see a group of professional musicians play some numbers competently. This is the kind of music it is so easy for me to just lose myself and go with the music. For me, this is the best way to check out people I have not heard before and get a sense of who they are as musicians. Sometimes at gigs, a musician in the audience may be asked to play but usually in an extemporaneous way.

Then, there is the jam which is more unpredictable. It usually starts with a house band for one set and then other musicians rotate through the band on stage for the rest of the evening. Some jams have lists and some have a person who set up who will play when. Some allow many musicians to play on one song. The jam can be great when extraordinary musicians show up to play and they can be dreadful when musicians and vocalists who are not very good show up and try to dominate. Also, the jam is where young student musicians get on stage and learn how to play in public. I like the part where I can hear the young, raw talent and see them improve over time. The jam also relies on curtains standards because they are in everyone’s repertoire.

Now that I know the format of each, I can pick and choose whichever fits my mood. This is a realization I have come to over quite a bit of time. When I go out now, I have a much better time of it than at the beginning.

More Music in Midtown Detroit


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.

RJ Spangler Trio at the Cadieux Cafe


When I decide for an evening of music at the Cadieux cafe, I choose carefully. It is a 45 minute drive to get to the Eastside of Detroit for me. It is a casual music venue and has no cover charge. The format for the evening is for the first set to be the band set and open mic after the first set and is a common set for Detroit.

I left home in time to arrive for the first set. Every thing went well until I got halfway through the Lodge Freeway part of the trip. The road was being closed to do midnight roadwork. The cars were being funneled off the freeway. This sort of situation always causes the idiot driver to emerge and act like they are the most important car in the world. I got to the right lane and prepared to move slowly. When the line started, I did not know exact why there was a line. In fact, it was not clear until I could see cars making the exit. I could only see the flashing lights and flares at first. At the first entrance to the freeway, some cars were turning and driving up the on ramp. There was the usual passing on each side and cutting in. I just moved slowly letting an occasional car in.

We got off the freeway in a part of town I did not know. Then a street sign and I got my bearings and figured out how to get there. I was about twenty minutes late and arrived in a slightly frazzled state of mind.

The music had not started yet. Bill Heid who was the keyboard player had not arrived. The RJ Spangler trio was contrived for this event and was RJ Spangler(dms), Bill Heid, ( keys) and Ralph Tope(gtr). Bill Heid is well known in Detroit and plays hard bop, soul jazz and blues. Over the last few years, I have seen him several times. I ordered the hot wings and waited.

It usually comes off as a visit with old friends rather than a gig. I only started going out about eight years ago so the history is not there for me. The trio lead with “Psyops” and “Cease the Bombing”. His comments were mostly recalling a Detroit of a bygone era with all its faults and glories. When he sang “Night and Day”, he felt obligated to comment on Cole Porter’s sexual orientation. His singing voice is rough He has an old timey blues style. As the set went on, he asked Russ Miller(sax) to join. On one song, he mentioned that RJ used brushes and commented about how unusual it was. I see both brushes and mallets used frequently so I guess it may be uncommon amongst his usual venues.

The music was very good and I got to hear some tunes I don’t usually hear. The ride home was uneventful.