Some Friday Night Music

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I started the evening at Motor City Wine where trio Nomadian was playing. They are usually a good show. When I got there, there were so many people in the place that there was no place to sit. Since I arrived at the end of a set, I hoped that some of the crowd would clear out so I could both hear the music and sit down. While waiting, I chatted with a few people I know and some oven brought me my drink.

20140105-152332.jpgLeft to Right: Demetrius Nabors (keys), Kris Johnson(tpt), Damon Warmack(elec. bass) and Nate Winn (drums).

The first sone of the second set was “Mind the Gap” composed by Damon Warmack. It is one of the songs I like and I was happy. But then, some women joined the birthday party going in full swing going on in the center of the room. While half the table was talking loudly so they could be heard, others were checking their phones to make sure they were not missing anything. My view of the music area was blocked by two guys standing in front of me. They did step aside long enough so I could take a picture. As you may have guessed, the place was not conducive to listening to music so I left after one song.

It was cold and the parking lot was cleared. There were still areas where the snow was not clear so getting to the back of the lot without getting snowy feet was a challenge. I took I the drive to Bert’s where James Carter was having his 45th birthday party. The parking lot showed it was a large party. Once again, I walked in as the last notes of the first set were sounded.

It was the John Douglas Quartet amplified. James Carter is a well known national and international saxophone player. He lives in New York but spends a great deal of time in Detroit which is where he grew up. I have seen him frequently late at night when he Ian’s walks in to jam at Bert’s. Last Friday at Bert’s, their were so many musicians in the place that night all wanting to play. And play they did. I stayed from midnight to 3:15a.m. and left in the middle of the last song. There was even a birthday cake.

20140105-155427.jpgLeft to Right: John Douglas(tpt), Mike Malis(keys) and T Pablo Lowman(percussion).

John Douglas did a great job of organizing and making sure things ran smoothly. They did “God Bless the Child”, “Giant Steps”, “Georgia on My Mind” and Moanin'”.

20140105-161242.jpgSax Player: James Carter

The birthday guest stepped in on almost all the numbers. Between sets he did an impromptu duet with Michele Ramos ( adapted guitar) which was really nice. James Carter is such an exceptional player that it is hard to listen to the other players so it took some time for me to relax and listen to the gestalt of the piece. It added depth and a complexity to the pieces.

When the second set started, the base group was John Douglas(tpt), Ibrihim Jones(bass), T Pablo Lowman(percussion), Gsylynn McKinney(drums), Mike Malis(keys), Reichlan Small(guitar) Joan Belgrave(vox)and James Carter(sax). As y end. you can see the everyone was doing their best to make this a party to remember.

I can say I got up to leave several times and the music drew me back until almost the end. There were many other musicians who got up to play and I have listed them in tags. They all added to the fantastic night of music that I am so glad I didn’t miss.

Friday Night Music at Bert’s Motown Room

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Left to right: Mike Malis on keys, John Douglas on trumpet, Alex White on drums and Ib Jones on bass

After my visit to Cliff Bells on Friday night, I went over to Bert’s Motown room. Sometimes I feel as if I am personally wearing a rut in the streets of Detroit going to see the John Douglas Quartet at Bert’s Motown Room. It has a small cover of $5 and it is one I pay knowing the music will be well worth it. I got there when they were on break. I saw someone I knew and we had a pleasant chat waiting for the music and made sure I got back to my table before the music started.

The quartet started with “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” And later played “So What” another favorite.It is one of my favorites and probably why I like this venue so much. For this venue, the mic is open with the approval of John Douglas. Both David Greene and Mark Croft, trumpet players joined in the set. There was also another trumpet player and I did not know his name. I was ready to throttle him since he was standing in front of me for a good part of the song talking to another trumpet player. He did move before I got up and did something. After the noise of their conversation and view blockage ended, I was able to listen the way I like. One of the trumpet players was sitting at the next table was playing along softly and another was plying softly behind me. Not only did I have live music,I had a quadrophonic experience. It was a relaxing and good experience.

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The Milton Show on Monday Night

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On Monday night I went out to The Milton Show at the Harbor House. I went late so it was easy parking and headed into the place and heard the music had already started. It was the house band with Milton Hale on drums, Phillip Hale on keys, Chris Branch on sax and Greg Cook on bass.

20130924-222657.jpgLeft to Right: Greg Cook, Chris Branch, Milton Hale( behind Chris) and Phil Hale. As I walked in, I saw the tables in the front were taken and then saw Mecca (sax) sitting at a booth and she waves so I went over to sit with her. She had her sax out and was ready to join the music when the spirit moved her. Just then, John Douglas walked in and Mecca got more serious about playing. John began to warm up his trumpet.

20130924-225253.jpgAt the time, the band was playing “Little Sunflower” which is a Freddie Hubbard tune. It was a good number since both trumpet players, John Douglas and James O’Donnell, played solos on this one. The sax players, Mecca and Chris Branch also played some solos. I got to lean back in my booth and enjoy the music. Usually the sound where I sit is too loud. sitting back a little softened the sound. The first set is usually all instrumental with a lots of musicians taking long solos. Songs can last over a half an hour.

During the break I wandered around land talked to people. I talked to Scott Reiter(sax) and he introduced me to a vocalist named Nicky Pierce(I think). This was a more social evening than usual probably since I was talking with Mecca in a booth.

After the break, they played “So What”. Since I had heard this one just last week, I was doing a mental comparison in my mind. Last Friday was really extraordinary so this version was just a little more laid back. One of the reasons I like jazz is hearing how many different ways one song can be played. For me, it stays fresh that way. Everyone played and there were quite a few solos. I also like to hear how each musician interprets what a “good” solo is for a song. For me a “good” solo is one where I am not waiting for it to end. During the second set there were several vocalists. I’m not even sure what song Tosha Owens sang but she really had a good stage presence and managed to not get pushed into the background like some of the other vocalists. I enjoyed hearing her. The other vocalist is like was Nicky. she sang “Caravan”, a song I really like. I am partial to an instrumental version. She did it well and for once I didn’t mind the song with lyrics.

It was a nice evening and I left feeling happy and relaxed.

Friday at Bert’s Motown Room

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Left to Right: Phil Hale(keys), John Douglas (tpt), Greg Cook(bass), James Carter( flute), Mark Lipson( drums) and Dwight Adams(tpt)

Last night was a magical, musical night that almost didn’t happen for me. I left the house in a torrential rain that just didn’t ease up. The rain was coming down fast and hard. I tried to stay in the center lane since both sides had areas of huge puddles that plumed high in the air when cars did go through them. It was dark and some sections of the freeway did not have working lights. At times on the way to Bert’s in the Eastern Market of Detroit, I thought about turning back. I didn’t turn back and arrived in time for the second set.

The house band for the evening was John Douglas, Phil Hale, Butter Hawkins(drums) and Greg Cook. However, the second set started with Mark Lipson on drums. They started with “Lazy Bird”. It started slowly and this one was not the kicked the energy surge in the room. At the beginning of the second song, the musicians in the room began to open their musical cases. There were saxes and trumpets being put together. I began to hear the quiet sounds of different musicians all around me checking their instruments. and getting them ready to play. The first to play that evening was James Carter. I’m not really sure when he began to play since for this evening I had put away my analytical tendencies and was feeling the music. He started with a piccolo.

20130921-183817.jpg This picture was taken before the picture at the top. James Carter also had a baritone sax with him that evening. It was so wonderful to hear his range from the highest audible notes to the lowest in his unique captivating style.

The music morphed into “So What” without a pause and the synergistic energy of musicians playing so well and pushing each other to play better started to flow through the room. When one musician was on the stage doing a solo, I could hear other musicians playing around me playing softly building the music into an unusual depth. It was no longer a quartet, it was a large ensemble of musicians playing as one. One of the particular things I liked about the evenings was how the solos of Dwight Adams went straight to my brain and just made me wonder how sound could cause such an emotional reaction. And then, another musician would solo and it just kept on for me through John Douglas, Phil Hale, James Carter, Mike Jellick and Larry Smith.

20130921-185639.jpgLarry Smith on alto sax

20130921-185743.jpgDavid Greene on trumpet

20130921-185855.jpgRafael Statin on tenor sax

20130921-190337.jpgMike Jellick on keys, Sébastien Levanneur on bass, Dwight Adams on trumpet and Darryl Pierce on drums

Larry Smith started “Body and Soul” and the music went on. As the place closed a little after 3 a.m. the band played Red Top which is the favorite song of Bert. It was a slight detour into blues but with this group playing, it was a complex and exciting piece of music.

This kind of music eases my mind and puts me in a place where I am happy. I have not smiled so much in quite a while or been so engrossed in the music.

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.

Getting into the Detroit Jazz Festival 2013

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Transcending statue in honor of Labor, Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI

The 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival was in full swing Saturday, August 31, 2013. The festival is held on Labor Day weekend and this is the 34 th year of the festival. It was a partly cloudy day and it was supposed to get to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The excitement began as I drove downtown. During the festival, I have to take a different route since they close some streets for the festival. I remembered how to dodge all the closures and got to the parking garage easily.

I had been sent the wristbands to get to the ” reserved” seats in the mail. This is my vacation. Although the entire festival is free, I pay to get access to folding chair seats at three stages, a catered meal, free bottled water, and free parking. It is so much easier not having to fight crowds.

As I walked out of the garage, I decided to make my first stop the Tribute to Teddy Harris, Jr. Who was a noted sax player and bandleader from Detroit. As I sat waiting, I saw James Carter(sax), Ralphe Armstrong (bass), David Greene(tpt), John Douglas (tpt), Dwight Adams(tpt), Rayse Biggs(tpt), and Robert Lowe(gtr). At first, the piano did not have a working microphone and it was quickly fixed. All the musicians has a solo at one time or another. My favorite trumpet, Dwight Adams, had several and got me into the spirit of the festival. The moderator did not name any of the songs. This is a pet peeve of mine in the music scene in Detroit. Especially at the DJF since we have visitors from so many countries.

20130901-104645.jpgI walked down Woodward, the main street in Detroit, to get my parking validated and a schedule. I also got a bag of stuff that I will look at later. While waiting in line at VIP, I listened to Bill Charlap and Renee Rosales at the main stage. I had not planned on this particular act. This is an event where I can listen to musicians I have never herd before and possible expand my mind and musical interests. So, I stopped at the top of the arena.

20130901-113434.jpg The two Steinway concert grands faced each other for the duo. One of the songs they played was “Off Minor” by Thelonious Monk. The music was more heady than emotional. Or, my brain was fully engaged with interest and the emotional impact was not the primary interest. After a few numbers, I left to get the catered lunch. I could see the crowd had grown. Some people set up an area and stay here all day.

I went for the food rather early since there have been times when the selection is meager. They seem to have it set up this year so that some people will not treat is as an all you can eat event. The lunch was a buffet lunch with hot rolls, tossed salad, grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese in a basalmic vinegar dressing, a pasta dish, Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce, baked salmon in sauce, oven baked potato spears, a fruit plate and cookies. I did my picking and choosing and got a large plate of food. The baked salmon was so very good, moist and rich. While I was eating I could listen to the main stage.

After eating, I took one of the chairs to set up and look a the main stage from the back. The sound was great and I didn’t have to battle any crowds. I could just relax and enjoy. It was the Mack Avenue Super Band which was a band comprised of a group of musicians on the Mack Avenue jazz label. Although it is a local label, I had not heard some of the musicians. The band members were Carl Allen(dms), Aaron Diehl(piano), Kirk Whalum(sax), Warren Wolf(vibes), Sean Jones(tpt) and Evan Perri(gtr). There were more but, these were the ones I heard. As you may have guessed, there is so much to see that sometimes, I will leave after a while and sample another act. They played “Soul Sister” composed by Warren Wolf. They also played a “Speak to my Heart”. I have to say that hearing Warren Wolf play the vibes may have changed my opinion about vibes. He was outstanding. I have also always liked Aaron Diehl and he did not disappoint. He has such engaging chord progressions and plays with an emotional intensity that I get caught up in his music completely.

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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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