Finally, Marcus Elliot Quartet at Cliff Bells

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Left to right: Michael Malis, Marcus Elliot! and Ben Rolston (Stephen Boegehold, not pictured)

Last Tuesday night, I finally got down to cliff Bells to see the Marcus Elliot quartet with Marcus Elliot actually playing. The last time I went there, Marcus Elliot was not there. I got a good parking spot after a little search. I felt comfortable since I was walking by the place where cops have dinner breaks and I has seen a cop car parked nearby. The smokers were hanging outside the door shivering.

The quartet was Marcus Elliot ( sax) , Michael Malis (piano), Ben Rolston ( bass) and Stephen Boegehold (drums). The service was good and I got my club soda and lime quickly. I sat right up in the front where there would be no distractions since I was not planning on staying for more than one set. As usual, none of the songs were introduced so I just was able to take in the music and not have any expectations about what I was hearing. This Is usually good since I know that asking some musicians to play a request can be problematic. If they want to play the song, all is good. But, if it isn’t their thing that night, it sometimes goes poorly. So, I like to hear what they want to play even if it does not particularly fit my mood. If I can get into the music, it doesn’t matter.

So what I can say is that the group plays cohesively. I have heard Marcus Elliot for several years now and he is constantly improving. What is especially like about the way he plays the sax is the tone. It is more like voice than an instrument. He plays with a certain character that is definitely his voice. It is so great when I can hear the voice of the musician in the music. The group is a tight group and I hear them acting as a group and not a competing set of egos. The group blends the music so when there is a solo it is part of a natural progression. The solos in this group seem to be meaningful and not so long that you forget there is a group present. All in all it was an enjoyable set.

Trio Nomadian and John Douglas Quartet

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Friday September 6, 2013 was a work day for me. I work. The work I do keeps my mind active and since I am meeting the public, I am always “on”. I had a long debate with myself when I got home about whether to go out for some music on Friday night. I had spent so many hours listening to so many great musicians the weekend before that I wasn’t sure my brain could hold any more. Work does tend to put my mind in a busy place and music tends to help me quiet my busy mind. So I was in my busy mind place and decided to go out and quiet my mind.

I hadn’t seen the Trio Nomadian for well over a year and thought Motor City Wine would be a good place to go. They call themselves serious jazz fusion which has many stylistic origins and has long improvisations. The group(pictured above) is from left to right Demetrius Nabors, Damon Warmack and Nate Winn. Seeing a group after a hiatus is one of the best ways to hear internal changes to the music. I had been away so long that I really couldn’t remember how they were before last Friday. They did their own compositions this evening. Demetrius’ composition was ” Full of Peace” and Damon’s was “By the By”.

This was the first time I had heard Demetrius’ composition. At first, I didn’t hear why he had named it like he did. Eventually, it did have peaceful elements. After the break, they played Damon’s composition. Two other musicians, Timothy Gay(sax) and Chris Johnson(tpt), joined in.

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Since the additional musicians were not familiar with the song, Damon said it followed basically a C Minor blues structure. The way they played it,it had it all. It was both melodic and dissonant. It was both soft and loud. There were tempo changes from slow to fast. I could feel my body vibrating to the music. I left after the song. I was on a short leash since I was also working on Saturday.

I went over Bert’s Motown Room to hear the John Douglas Quartet, my comfy jazz. I ordered my club soda and lime and got possibly one of the nastiest surprises I had had I a long time. The soda was absolutely flat and it had been flat the prior Sunday. It was disgusting. I’m tempted to bring my own.

On the other hand, they were playing “Softly, As the Morning Sunrise” when I walked into the place. The quartet on stage was John Douglas(tpt), Sébastien Levanneur(bass, from Paris, France), Alex White(dms) and Michael Malis(keys). Once I got over the drink, I sank right into the music.

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The music sounds much better in this room. Perhaps, another bonus is that it became a jazz room. People stopping by to be social and have dinner were in the other room. So the room was quiet while they were playing. It got even better when Dwight Adams, trumpet, joined.

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The notes from Dwight’s trumpet are so clear, either high or low notes. I remember once a couple of years ago walking up behind a stage at the jazz festival and hearing a trumpet. I mentioned to my granddaughter that I hoped she would hear Dwight Adams before she left town since I thought he played as well as the trumpet we were hearing. We got to the stage and it was Dwight Adams. A couple of other musicians joined the group. They were Steve Hunter on trombone and Brad Stern on alto sax. I left at the break so I would get enough sleep for work the next morning.

Mike Jellick Quintet and The Funhouse

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Last night, Wednesday, August 28, 2013 was a trip into the unexpected. I was in one of my usual ruts and wearing the rut deeper. I went to Northern Lights Lounge to see The Mike Jellick Trio. And last night it was a quintet. There were two additions during the first set. Jesse Palter, a vocalist, was in from Los Angeles. And Marcus Elliot, a saxophonist, was the other addition. I first saw Mike Jellick as the piano player for Jesse Palter at Cliff Bells in Detroit. They were much different than they are now. Both have much more depth and character to their performances now. I also saw Marcus Ellliot for the first time several years ago at Bakers Keyboard Lounge. And he is also much improved. I’ve learned that the very good performance that does not touch me emotionally from a young performer may be just a matter of a little time before they give a brilliant emotionally charged performance.

20130829-172129.jpg I came to see this. (Mike Jellick, Miles Brown and Jesse Kramer)

20130829-172249.jpgAnd got this. In this picture, Jesse Palter is the addition. I got so into the music that I forgot to get a picture of Marcus Elliot who was a big part of the reason the music made me forget about anything else.

Although I sat in the back since it was crowded when I arrived, the sound was good and is something I really like about the place. On the first number, Jesse Palter used her voice as if it were an instrument and was most like a clarinet. Marcus was on the soprano sax during that number. They all worked together as one shifting from one instrument to another seamlessly. During the set as Jesse was singing vocals, it was so refreshing to hear a vocalist enunciate making every word understandable. During the set I got my dinner of beef nachos. They went cold while I listened.

The last song of the set was “Bye, bye Blackbird” and is one I enjoy. She did not make it overly sad or snappy. And I finally got to my cold nachos. It was enough for at least three meals. They are good. The only things that could be improved is if it had fresh salsa and the jalapeño peppers were fresh. All the other veggies are fresh and flavorful.

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The quintet became a quartet losing Marcus Elliot during the second set. The quartet played “Blue Skies”. The pacing and tempo reminded me of a Frank Sinatra version I have heard with a completely different voice. All in all it is a pleasure to hear the musical growth of Mike Jellick, Marcus Elliot and Jesse Palter.

I then headed to Motor City Wine to see Skeeto’s Funhouse.

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And I expected to see Kris Kurzawa, Skeeto Valdez, Takashi Iio and Phil Whitfield. This is what I saw.

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Phil Whitfield, a Canadian, was stopped at the border crossing for an invalid visa which he will take care of by next week. So, Skeeto called in the reserves or four saxes, one trumpet a guitar and different keyboard player. It was a shock. I can’t remember what they were playing as I walked in. Takashi took me aside and explained the situation. They did sound good though. The last number they played was “Isn’t She Lovely”.

All in all it was an evening I didn’t expect. And I’m glad to have that kind of surprise in my life.

Harbor House on Monday with the Milton Show

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Left to Right: Oliver Nevels, Greg Cook, Milton Hale, Chris Branch and Phil Hale.

On August 26, 2013, I went down to the Harbor House to see the Milton Show. It was supposed to start at 10:30 p.m. and go until 2:00 a.m.. I got there at 11:35 p.m. and the music had not started. The owner of the Harbor House was searching for the musicians and quite upset. There was a much larger crowd than usual since the crowd was a combination of the after the Tiger Baseball game crowd and the music crowd. The staff was larger than usual and the service was good despite the numbers. I hadn’t been there for a while so there were lots of hugs.

There were so many very good musicians that the house band did not play alone for the first set. The original house band for the evening was Milton Hale(drums), Phil Hale(keys), Greg Cook(bass), Chris Branch(sax) and Oliver Nevels(guitar). The set was all instrumental even though there were a few vocalists in the house. Some of the vocalists showed up around 1:30 a.m.. I left at about 1:45 a.m. which was before the second set started so I have no idea how many vocalists sang.

With the large number of excellent musicians, the actual numbers have to be ones that all the musicians know or can at least fake fairly well like “Moanin'”. The group of musicians there all play well with others so the solos were short and sweet. What I like best about this kind of night is how the musicians comp each other. I was sitting towards the back but I could still hear when Dwight Adams started playing his trumpet. His sound reaches straight into my brain and lets the music flow through me.

20130827-104126.jpg In the picture above you can see John Douglas and Sabrina comp the other musicians. This makes such a full and rich sound totally unlike the normal trio or quartet. It is a different experience. Sometime you see musicians experiment with something a little different as well.

20130827-104817.jpg in the picture above Reichlan Small who usually play guitar is trying out jazz violin.

On this one I can’t go into much detail about the individual playing. I can say that this is the kind of music I feel and it opens my heart and brings joy to my world.

I left feeling emotionally satisfied knowing that staying longer would not improve my well being event though the crowd was large and there was a promise of more music to come.

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The Music, the Sound or the Ambience?

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Since I go out to hear music so often, I have learned there is no perfect place for music. Some are close to perfect and some are a train wreck. It seems as if I have mentally arranged places as good or bad for my listening enjoyment and it is a combination of the music, the sound quality and the ambience of the place. I am leaving out the large number of outdoor venues so available in the summer. I will be going to the Detroit Jazz Festival the first weekend in September since the music is so wonderful that it is a weekend of pure joy.

First, I look for music I like. There is a lot of great music that does not appeal to me but I want an evening that brings me some pleasure. However great music can be ruined both by a poor sound system or an ugly atmosphere. The poor sound can be a number of things. It can be too loud even to the point of distortion, uneven or just wrong for the style of the particular musicians. In one place that I go, the barkeep pulls men aside to point out women she thinks are easy…sort of a home grown pimp. I think she does it to increase business or possibly she wants to make herself look good by making others look bad. In some case she is just wrong and she makes the bar have an uncomfortable ambience. It is also so obvious that it is embarrassing and slightly disgusting. I do not go there as often as they have good music.

The sound is so important. There is one place that had a great sound person and the sound is right on. I go there frequently. Sometimes for music that is not that great since I know the sound will be the best for the band. They also have relatively good bar food. So, they have the combo of ambience and good sound. One place I go has great music and ambiance. It is the Diego Rivera Hall or the Kresge Court at the DIA. I can look around and see a place of great beauty. The food is really good. But, both room are bad for sound. In the Diego Rivera room, I have found that by moving around, I can find a seat with a sound ” sweet spot”. There is one club in town that also has bad sound and the sound guy must be deaf. I know I can hear good sound in one part of the place and that is where I sit in order to listen.

And the ambience can be a deal breaker. One place I go seems to draw large tables of very loud people who shout to be heard over the music. This is not a great place to go. The underlying reason is that so many do not realize that listening to music can be rewarding even in a bar.

When people listen at jazz concerts or at the DIA, the event is so much better and it seems that I’m heading in that direction.

Jazz on Monday Night at the Harbor House

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Monday, July 29, 2013, jazz at the Harbor House started with the usual house band which is Milton Hale(drums), Phil Hale (keys), Greg Cook(bass) and Chris Branch(tenor sax). I got there later than usual and the band was already playing. The nice part of getting there when the band is playing is that I can get settled and comfortable a before chatting with anyone. I’m an introvert is a social setting which means social interaction can be difficult. I have been around enough so that people do talk to me. The idea of introducing myself to someone new is torture and so I just don’t.

I sat where the sound is good. Each venue is go to has a different sound pattern which varies depending on who is playing. For the most part, the Harbor House is too loud. Part of the sound issue is that I don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol deadens the senses including hearing so I may be the only one who is bothered by the loudness. With the Harbor House, the solution is not found by going to the back since the sound is distorted there. Sitting in the middle means you cannot see the band. This time I sat a little back which for me is the best compromise place.

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This picture above from left to right shows Chris Branch, Glen Oliver on bass, Milton Hale on drums and Phil Hale on keys. Glen Oliver filled in on both keys and bass that night. Quite a few musicians showed up to play and it made for different configurations. Mark Croft(tpt), Alan Denard (tpt), Allan Barnes(sax), Sabrina(sax), Misty Love(vox), Sky Covington(vox), and Denise Dotson(vox) all were a part of the jam.

I talked to Chris Branch a bit about my dulcimer during the break. He thought I played the mountain dulcimer so I showed him a pic of the hammered dulcimer which is really a harp on a board. The strings are played with hammers.

The best song of the evening for me was Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum(Wayne Shorter). All the musicians played a bit on this one. This is the first time I can recall the song being done here and I really enjoyed it. The musicians really worked well together on this one.

Then, Milton called up Misty Love to sing “What a Difference a Day Makes” and she did a great job as usual.

Sky Covington (left) with Allan Barnes on sax did “Love for Sale”. Scott Reiter (sax) also accompanied Sky. The mike was a bit muffled but otherwise it was a good version of the song.

Lastly, Denise Dotson sang which is the last song of the evening.

The band closed as usual and I went home.

Music Triple Play

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Last Wednesday, July 17, 2013, I went out for music and the music and the energy led me to three different places and basically three different musical vibes.

The first place I went was Northern Lights Lounge which is in the the thriving, energetic midtown area. I go there quite a few Wednesday evenings to see the Mike Jellick Trio. When I first started going, it was a quiet bar. Now, more often than not, it is crowded. The trio has built quite a following. This night it was not the usual trio. It was Mike Jellick (keys), Ben Rolston (bass) and Stephen Boegehold (drums).

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On the food, this time I decided to go with my old favorite of Beef Nachos. I got enough food for two days. It is spicy, cheesy and best of all they use fresh tomatoes, onions and green peppers. It is served with a salsa and sour cream. It was good.

They did play “Caravan” and as usual it was different than anyone done before that I can remember. This is a song that does not tire me especially when Mike Jellick can have a different take on it every time he plays it. I arrived late and was towards the back. The tables between me and the music were filled with some very loud people. If they think this music is back ground music, I disagree. There are a lot of very nice elevators in town if they want background music. This a good straight jazz vibe.

I moved on to Motor City Wine. They will be moving in a couple of weeks and I wanted to go there before they moved and I do like The Funhouse with Skeeto Valdez(drums), Kris Kurzawa (gtr), Takashi Io(bass) and Phil Whitfield (keys).

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I got my blood orange soda which is so intensely good and settled in for a set of music. They started with “Carrot Cake” Which is one of my favorites. This music has a fun, funky vibe. Jazzthat is little more modern. And with the wall of sound, I can feel the vibrations.

A guy sat down to join me. He has joined me before and wants to hang out. This is maybe the fourth time. He can’t remember my name. He is interested and I’m not. I mentioned that MCW was moving. This was his first time in the place. He asked why I hadn’t told him about the place and he does not know my name. Why does he think I somehow should have known that he would be interested? A puzzle.

I went over to Harbor House to see Sky Covington. I hadn’t seen hear for a while.

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My phone was out of juice so no more pics. Again, another vibe. I got there during the jam portion so I got to talk to Sky and didn’t hear her. There is always this week because she be doing the gig for a month. This one was surprisingly more social with a little listening. I was open to the music and was able to relax and enjoy most of what I heard.

It was a good evening.