Detroit Jazz Fest 2014 – Opening Night

The VIP Opening Night Party started with a strolling dinner and some music. The evening had beautiful weather. The drummer in the picture is Djallo Djakate. When they stopped playing, I was going to ask him who the other players and vocalist were. The other musicians decided I was harassing him, I was blocked from asking. So, I have no idea who the others in the picture are. It was a cocktail party atmosphere so it was for the most part background music.

Each year I buy the VIP tickets. I get some perks like good seats. The Detroit Jazz Fest is the largest “free” festival in the world. However, it costs money to do it. It has lost money for the last two years and part of my money goes to the festival to keep it “free”. And, I get a great weekend of beautiful music.

After the dinner was a concert. The first group was The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.

Left to Right: Ethan Iverson, Joshua Redman, Reid Anderson and David King.

Their music was a great learning experience for me. I usually do not like slow songs or ballads. The musicianship of this group was over the top and gave me an entirely new understanding of just how incredible a ballad could be. It was like having a deep massage to the brain.

I usually like a band to play some standards. They played their own compositions. They were so, so good that if it is a great composition, it will reach you when you have not heard it before. I was filled with music after they played. The songs were engaging and each musician added to the whole which is just the way a great groupplay.

Paradise Valley Jazz Lunchtime …8/19/2014

IMG_0685.JPGMobile Sculpture by U of Michigan art students, Beatrice Buck Park, Detroit, MI

Yesterday was a warm, partly cloudy day and a beautiful summer day to go to the Paradise Valley Jazz Series at Beatrice Buck Park in downtown Detroit.

IMG_0686.JPGLeft to Right: Rayse Biggs (tpt), Sean Dobbins(drums), Ralphe Armstrong(bass) and Scott Gwinell(keys).

These are some of the musicians in Detroit that are well known jazz all-stars. They played some of the well known jazz standards including “Song for my Father”, “Cherokee”, “Cold Duck Time”, and “Isn’t She Lovely”. Since the composer of “Song for my Father”, Horace Silver died this year, this has been an often played number. He is the theme of the upcoming Detroit Jazz Fest as well. And, I was hearing it from a different mix of musicians. It was really good. Rayse Biggs gave it a different treatment that I has heard before and it added to my enjoyment to hear a fresh approach. On “Cherokee”, Sean Dobbins did a nice drum solo.

For “Isn’t She Lovely” which was the last number, Marcus Elliot on the far left joined the group. It was a great way to start the afternoon. Each time I see Marcus Elliot, I am more and more impressed.


Purse Snatching


A few months ago I was at a musical event and there was a purse snatching. This was something I has heard about and somehow thought I would never see some thing like this.

I have often been advised by friends who see my purse hanging open as I walk down the street that I am inviting a purse snatching. I have a grip on the purse and think it will not happens to me and so far it hasn’t. This incident had made me aware and careful.

The evening started normally. The house band do the first set and musicians came in to join in on the second set. This evening it was talking with a friend who plays saxophone. He got his horns out and set them on a booth in the front which is usually vacant since the musicians are not visible from that booth. I had seen most of the people in the bar although some not enough to have a conversation.

The sax player ad I were talking when he looked over to the booth with his horns and noticed a young man looking at his horns. Musicians are always very protective of their instruments so he yelled at he guy to move. He did. This was someone we hadn’t seen before. My friend asked the bartender and she hadn’t seen him either. When he went up to play he asked me to watch his horns.

The evening went on and the new guy moved from place to place around the bar. This particular bar is long and thin. It has a 50 foot oak bar on the left as you walk in and tables and booths to the right. He sat at several seats at the bars, a booth and just stood in the back. He began to slip into the background as I listened to the music.

One of the women in the bar slipped Into the back of the front booths and had her belongs including her purse towards the wall so it was “safe”. The guy reached over the booth as snatched the purse. I didn’t see it. What I did see was the woman running out of the bar.

When she came back in, she was sobbing. The music stopped. Within a minute, the band knew what had happened. The band and several other men ran from the bar immediately. Everyone had noticed the new guy.

After about twenty minutes, the guys began to come back. They found the guy and held him down while someone else got the police. The bar is right next to the police main station and with a Tiger baseball game that evening, there were quite a few in the area. By the time they got him, the purse was gone and the guy insisted the musicians were wrong. The police asked him to empty his pockets in front of the woman who lost the purse and he had her keys and phone in his pocket. He was arrested.

The guy who came back was the one who held him down and had cut his finger in the process and told us what had happened. The other guys were helping the woman look for her purse and other things that had been scattered. Her purse and most of the things in the purse were recovered.

I was so surprised and pleased how fast the band and others came to her defense. The women in the bar comforted the woman. Since that time, I have been so much more careful with my purse.

Palmer Woods Music in Homes, Detroit, MI,


On Saturday, June 21, 2014, I went to the finale of the Music in Homes series in Palmer park in Detroit. The event came I with a tour of the first two floors of the home, a catered dinner and on this evening a jazz program.

It was a beautiful evening in a older Detroit neighborhood with winding roads. Rounding each curve offers a new view of an elegant home. Most of the homes are derived from Medieval English architecture. The home for this concert was a Dutch Revival home built in 1928 by architect Robert O. Derrick. It is almost 7,000 square feet.

During the recent recession, the bank foreclosed on the house and it was left standing empty for three years before the new owner bought the house. They are in the midst of restoring the house to some of the original features where possible. We got to see the first and second floors. The house has four beautiful fire places including one with the original Delft tiles surrounding the fire place.

This is one of the many interesting furnishings around the house.

20140714-133154-48714525.jpgThis was a view across the street from the second floor. The house was still in an unfinished state but it was easy to see the care and attention of the new owners and how dazzling it will be when it is finished. Perhaps Music in Homes will be invited back when the renovation is complete.

The jazz was performed under a large tent and after touring the house and socializing a bit, I went to the tent to get a good seat. The musicians were Kamau Kenyatta(keys), Spencer Barefield(gtr), Marion Hayden(bass) Djallo Djakate(drums) and Shahida Nurullah as the vocalist. We got a printed program with ten different numbers listed. Perfect for two sets. They played the first set and then took a break.

We went back into the house for the catered dinner by Potts Style Catering. We had Jerk Chicken, Jamaican Rice and Beans, Summer Citrus Salad with Peach Cobbler for dessert. The chicken was quite spicy, of course. It was not too spicy for my taste. The rice and beans had a way of bringing the spiciness down a bit. The salad was not as much citrus as the name suggested. And the peach cobbler was really very sweet. This was catered and they did a great job considering how long they had to hold the meal. Since I was at the end of the line, maybe the citrus was just gone by the time I got there.

There was quite a line for the dinner.

After eating and getting settled, the second set began. Over the two set, the song I liked best were “In Walked Bud” by Thelonious Monk, “Mr. Kenyatta” by Lee Morgan. Shahida sang with such depth and passion that it reminds that there are vocalists whose voice is truly an instrument.

It was a really nice evening and I will go back when they resume in the fall.


Left to Right:Kamau Kenyatta on keys, Marion Hayden on bass, Shahida Nurullah on vocals and Djallo Djakate on drums Spencer Barefield on guitar(hidden).

Searching for the perfect Rueben Sandwich


Ever since I had my first Rueben Sandwich, I have had a love affair with the sandwich. When I see the sandwich on a menu, my stomach seems to say please order the Rueben. The traditional Reuben is corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian or Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut on a grilled rye. Each restaurant seems to put their own twist on the Rueben. Some work and some don’t.

I went to the Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, MI where I had had good food in the past. I saw a Russian Rueben on the menu and ordered. This one was Pastrami, coleslaw, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese on a grilled pumpernickel.

Although this one was not the traditional, it was a very good Reuben. I tasted the coleslaw before biting into the sandwich and discovered that it was a bit bland so I added a spicy mustard to the sandwich. The pumpernickel bread added a robust flavor not usually encountered. The grilling adds a crust to the outside of the sandwich and aids in the eating process. The substitution of coleslaw for sauerkraut added a crunchy texture to the mix. So, the sandwich was a new and very good experience. I’m sure I will continue to seek the perfect Rueben. The Detroit Metro area is a big place and I don’t know where the journey will lead me.

Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe

Last night on June 5, 2014 I went out to see the Spencer Barefield Quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. This is a place where the food is also something to remember.

I got there in plenty of time and was seated at a table where it was easy to see and hear the musicians. There is a little note on each table reminding patrons not to talk during music. It did not deter the ladies next to me. However, they were talking quietly and were not really a disturbance. They had the special of three courses for $ 30 and I found that it was too much for me to eat the last time I went so I order a starter and an entree of things I had not ordered before. Taking pictures of the food is so difficult since the lighting during the music is red and it colors the food. So I will describe it as well as I can.

The starter I ordered was fried onions. They came after they served me some different kinds of bread with an herbed butter. The bowl of fried onions was large enough to serve as a starter for two or three. They were very thinly sliced sweet onions which had been dipped in a batter and fried to a crisp. They were served with a curry garlic aioli and with a spicy ketchup. They were great dipped in either sauce. I ate about half and the waitress asked if I wanted them to start the entree. I did.
I had ordered what they call the Fork and Knife Burger. It was once ground beef on a garlic toast with cooked spinach, mushrooms, a fried egg, a thin slice of foie gras topped with béarnaise sauce. It was large and more it was served with French fries. I was stunned by the size of the meal. It was wonderful. All the flavors went so well together. It was cooked medium rare just as I wanted.. Next time I ll order this alone. It is enough. I took home portions of the fried potatoes, fried onions and half of the burger.

Left to Right: Djallo Djakte (percussion), Dave Young (bassist), Spencer Barefield (guitar) and Dwight Adams(trumpet).

Although I was eating and a split attention can make it harder to listen, they did a great job of having a balanced set that went with the atmosphere. I had not heard either Spencer Barefield or Dave young before. I can only say I enjoyed the set a lot. What I liked was that each of the musicians had a place to shine during the set and all of them did. None of musicians dominated and it was one of those times when you here people playing together and making each other sound better.

The two numbers I liked the most were “Nigerian Marketplace” and “A Night in Tunisia”. On “Nigerian Marketplace”, Dave Young took the lead since he had played this with Oscar Peterson. I liked it and came home to see other versions on YouTube. I am relatively new to jazz and sometimes when a song is in my head, I like to hear more of it. And this was one of those nights. The good thing about “A Night in Tunisia” for me is that it is familiar. When they play a familiar song, I like to see what they can do with it. And I enjoyed their version.

It is so good to hear a set of mature musicians who know what they are doing and do it so well.