The Mike Jellick Trio Conflated with a little Funhouse

MJT set ip at NNL

<The Mike Jellick Trio is conflated since it is covering two weeks. Every Wednesday night, unless there are substitutions, the Mike Jellick Trio plays for the evening, They play alone for the first set and have other musicians substitute or join in on other sets. I feely admit that I like the first set and much more often than not give the other sets a miss. I admire that the members of the trio do a lot towards mentoring many young musicians. The music is usually so good for me that I go home after the first set even though I may start the evening with other intentions. It may be also that I have something to eat at Northern Lights Lounge so I am also somewhat relaxed after the first set with a little food and a glass of club soda garnished with a slice of lime on the table.

The weeks I am talking about were November 20, 2013 and December 4, 2013. The trio had the same musicians with Mike Jellick on keys, Jesse Kramer on drums and Miles Brown on Bass. The two evenings had a completely different feel or maybe I did. Something I will never know. The factual difference is that on the first evening, Mike Jellick announced all the songs and on the second, one was announced. I did arrive after the set started on both evenings so all I can say absolutely is the only song I heard Mike announce on the second evening was “Swinging at the Haven”. The first week had Autumn Leaves, “Swinging at the Haven”, “Caravan” and “Benny’s Tune” and more.The difference may have been the crowd. The first week, the crowd was loud, attentive and appreciative. The second night was much quieter.DSCN0085/p> Left to right: Mike Jellick on keys, Miles Brown on bass and Jesse Kramer on drums.

I found that I really like hearing “Autumn Leaves”, “Caravan”, and “Swinging at the Haven”. Although some songs get tired and some are done too much, when I hear a group that can make these songs sound so fresh and new it is exciting and that is precisely what the Mike Jellick Trio does to the music. Of the three, my favorite is “Caravan” (not played the second week) and I have heard the song so many times it has its own groove in my brain. When the trio plays the song my groove has to rearrange itself to accommodate the fresh perspective offered. And it is exciting and makes me excited by music all over again. So, the key to why I like the group as I have said before in different words, the innovation I hear at this venue is beyond compare.


After the Mike Jellick Trio on December 4, 2013, I headed to Motor City wine for The Funhouse since I had the energy and had not been there in a while. The server at the bar remembered that I like the San Pelligrino blood Orange soda and got me a glass as soon as she was free. I walked in on the last song of the set. I refer to this as my impeccable timing.

Left to right: Kris Kurzawa on guitar, Skeeto Valdez on Drums, James Simonson on bass and Philip Whitfield on keys.

I was sitting by myself when the servers from Northern Lights Lounge came in and we sat together. Skeeto had wished me a happy birthday and the refrain was repeated several times to my embarrassment. Of well, once a year is not all that tough. The Funhouse is another unique style of funky, happy jazz that is a real pick me up for me. This is a place where I can settle into a groove and go with it. It is another place where the musicians have played enough with each other that it is a group rather that a battle of egos. The music is tight and cohesive and is always solid entertainment. I left toward the end if the set since I had an early morning appointment. It is always hard to leave when you want more.

The Marcus (Not) Elliot Quartet at Cliff Bells

I went to Cliff Bells in Detroit tonight, May 28, 2013 to hear some jazz and have dinner. It was billed as the Marcus Elliot Quartet, but I knew that Marcus was on tour.

Tonight the quartet was Michael Malis (keys), Stephen Boeghold (drums), and Jeff Pedraz(bass). They were joined by Vincent Chandler on trombone. The scheduled bass player was Ben Ralston. He had a car accident on the way to the gig and totaled his car and was not hurt. they called Jeff and he filled in for the first set. Because of the delay, everything was an hour late.

I walked in towards the end of the first set and not the beginning of the second set. I have to admit here that trombone is not my favorite jazz instrument. I will also say that Vincent Chandler is one of the best. The best song they did while I was there was “Caravan.” They did a good job but I am still not sold on trombone in jazz as the only horn in a group. And this is only my uninformed opinion. i will say overall given the scare the musicians had, this was a good evening. My attitude is probably is best expressed in an old joke:

What’s the difference between a frog crossing the street and a jazz trombone player crossing the street?
The frog may be on his way to a gig.


And the dinner…..

I wasn’t very hungry and ordered the House Charcuterie Board. I haven’t eaten there for long time and was not impressed. I heard they were better. The plates had been stacked in the refrigerator. I am sure they were covered. But, the olives had a crease in them. The grapes were squashed and definitely not juicy. The various meats were congealed and plastered to the plate. I got less hungry. I asked for the top plate. It was marginally better although since the meats were cold, they were still plastered to the plate.

Sometimes it is a partial miss.

Walter White Quartet at Cliff Bells

I went out to hear some jazz on Saturday night, May 25, 2013. My original plan was to go to Bakers Keyboard Lounge in Detroit to see Phil Denny. Bakers is the oldest jazz club in the world and has had it’s ups and downs in the last few years. They do have great sound and have so many wonderful jazz players coming through the place.

A Facebook page said they were sold out so I called and they said they were accepting walk ins for the 10 pm show. I know a couple of musicians who were backing Phil Denny so I decided to go. When I got there, there was a line waiting to get in the door. I joined the line. I was standing behind a woman wearing so much perfume, I tried to stand downwind. I know they were going to flip the room between shows so I had thought there would be seats. On the inside, it is crowded. The sight of a long line was not reassuring. I also know the room has a lot of seats that are not good. While I was in line, I saw a musician I knew and I told him that it was this show or Walter White Quartet at Cliff Bells, another jazz club in the entertainment district of Detroit. Given the situation, he suggested Cliff Bells and the Walter White Quartet. I was all too ready to agree knowing I would not get a decent seat at Bakers.

So, I got in the car and drove down to Cliff Bells. I had good parking karma and found a spot within 50 feet of the front door. I arrived towards the end of the first set but could see it was a good decision as soon as I walked in the door and heard the music.

I got a great table right in front of the stage. During the set break, they were correcting sound issues they had during the first set. The sound guy is not humble and I was amazed to see him actually try to get the sound balanced. I got my usual club soda and lime and watched the sound show while waiting for the second set.

Tonight the Walter White Quartet consisted of Walter White (tpt), Gary Shunk (keys), Sean Dobbins (drums) and Miles Brown (bass). They started out with a song names “Kayak” which I had not heard before. I have only been going out for 6 or 7 years and am still learning so much, it was a good start.


The next number was “Midnight” from the 1930’s as an homage to a young lady in the audience having her 30th birthday. It was not the usual. The next number was “Moanin” and if this was the only song they did, it would be enough. They did it so well it was a highlight for me. The other songs in the set were “Always and Foreever”, Walt’s Waltz and Nica’s Dream.

One of the best things about the quartet is how well they created a good energy. Walter White is so much more than good technique. He has found his voice in the trumpet, you can hear him in the music. There were some things he was doing that I haven’t heard before and I enjoyed it all. All the musicians had there own unique voice and yet they brought it together to create something very special. It is so much fun to see musicians who are having fun, enjoying what they do and giving everyone an evening to remember.

Bert’s Jazz and the John Douglas Quartet

Last night, I went to Bert’s Jazz Room in Detroit, MI located in the Eastern Market or the largest farmer market in the area for a bit of jazz, The group was the John Douglas Quartet who of one of my favorites. The group plays from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m.. Last night the quartet was John Douglas (tpt), Michael Malis (keys), Ib Jones (bass)and Alex White(drums). Rafael Statin(sax) was also there and played. All better than average musicians.

There are 3 hour long sets. It is usual for each set to have a unique characteristic. My favorite is the second set. The first set is a warm up and the crowd is there for dinner and usually loud making it hard to hear the music. The second set is usually the best set of the evening or me. The musicians have meshed and are playing easily together. The songs are usually standards and done well. The third set from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. And brings in other musicians getting off their gigs and winding. Sometimes the 3rd set has musicians who have had just a little too much and the set can be great or really bad. The musicians who have had too much all seem to think the playing is great.

So, I ordered my chicken wings and had a club soda and lime. Since I am the sober one in the place, I get to enjoy the music unfiltered. I have to say the reason I like the John Douglas Quartet is John Douglas. The sound of his trumpet just pierces the air and enters my brain as soon as he starts to blow. When I first started going, I waited for his solos. Now, I have learned how to enjoy the gestalt of the group. And for me last night was good.


The set started with “Softly as the morning sunrise”. It is one of my favorites and set the tone for the rest of the set. I settled in and lost myself in the music. Michael Malis really stepped up last night and did some great innovative licks on the keys. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Giving Myself Permission

I have been going out to listen to music in clubs for about 7 years now.   In my travels to the jazz clubs in Detroit, I fell in love with the music.  I actually started with R&B, tried some blues and then jazz.  Detroit usually means the straight ahead edgy jazz.  So I began to wander into the many music clubs in Detroit.  As a single woman, the first part of giving myself permission was to go alone and listen to the music. I asked some of the single women I know to go out with me and was astonished when the  response indicated they thought I was going out drinking.  Some people do it that way. Music goes straight inside of me and breaks into my emotions and sets them loose.

And I love the lift to my mood.  I found that many are not there to listen to the music.  It took me some time to even begin to understand this very foreign culture.

Luckily, I do not drink so my observations  were sober.  I learned that so many people make assumptions about any new person that shows up.  I learned that some people talk about everybody.  And I met a few that are upstanding ethical people.  I learned that profession of faith or religiosity had little to do with predicting ethics.  I learned that some married people just do not take it seriously.  So. the music was so uplifting and at times the surroundings were so toxic.

I was so pleased, at first, when musicians asked my name and wanted to get to know me.  I felt honored and a part of something.  I didn’t know the names of any of the musicians and now I know the name of quite a few.  I went out more and more.  I went to events just because someone asked.  As I went to so many events and to so many different kinds of music my own personal tastes began to form and change.  I now know what I like to hear the most and it is the tight, edgy, funky Detroit straight ahead jazz.  So, I gave myself permission not to go to some events where a musician invited me simply because I did not like the music they produce.

Last night I went out to hear some of the music I like and knew the keyboard player I like was not going to be there until later in the evening.  The  substitute keys were not good.  Listening was a struggle.  The musician was not incompetent but the synergy of the group was sadly lacking.  I gave myself permission to walk out.  And I enjoyed it.

Jazz at the Cadieux Cafe

On Sunday night, May 5, 2013 I went to the Cadieux Cafe for the regular Sunday night Soul Jazz event on the Eastside of Detroit. This one was one I had been looking forward to.

The Cadieux cafe is a restaurant that is so much more than a restaurant. It is also a neighborhood bar. It has music several nights a week. There is a feather bowling alley in an adjoining room…the only one, I think. The featured cuisine is Belgian and the specialty of the house is mussels. For me, this is my favorite place for wings. They don’t start as much, they are deep fried wing dings. What they do next is what makes them so good and special. The BBQ sauce is hot and spicy. It leaves the sensation of heat in your mouth. It is served with a creamy blue cheese dressing full of little chunks of blue cheese. So, I picked up one of the pieces of chicken covered with the
BBQ sauce and took a bite. The mild, tangy feeling of heat in my mouth. The next bite starts with a dip in the thick creamy blue cheese dressing. The cooling of the dressing followed by the heat of the BBQ sauce…..exquisite.


This week, the music looked especially good. The Jeff Pedraz Quintet comprised of Jeff Pedraz( bass), Dwight Adams( tpt), Mike Jellick(keys), Jake Shadik (alto sax) and Stephen
Boegehold. They were celebrating Lee Morgan’s music from “Live at the Lighthouse”. They did “The Beehive”, “Nommo”, “Speedball”, “Peyote”, “Neophilia” and more. The musicians involved are all excellent musicians. The notes out of Dwight Adams trumpet are so pure and clean that they cut through the air and into my brain with ease. Mike Jellick on keys is so brilliant and inspirational. His improvisational skills are so impressive that I can only say that each number is a pleasure. It was an awesome first set and it was one of those transcendent experiences that let me know how beautiful and life affirming music can be.