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.

Mike Jellick Quintet and The Funhouse


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.


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.

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


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.

Motor City Wine 2.0 – The Funhouse


Last night, Wednesday, August 7, 2013 was my first visit to the new home of Motor City Wine located at 1949 Michigan Ave in Detroit. It was a move from downtown to the Corktown neighborhood. The new place is larger and better arranged. When I walked in,I walked into a bar area with chairs along the bar. The design arrangements around the bar in the wall are wine corks arranged in designs. The place is not carpeted like the other place. They have a nice outside patio. They were planning on having music events on the patio but some people live nearby and the noise disturbs them. They may pipe music outside later.

I didn’t have to climb up a flight of stairs at the new place. And there is a parking lot. No more looking for a place to park.

I ordered my blood orange soda and a plate that included herbed salami, asiago cheese with basil and a bowl of olives served with crackers. Within a few minutes, Charles Greene and his girlfriend came and sat with me. I’m glad I had someone to share since it was too much for me alone. The flavors I picked were bold and luckily, the crackers were bland so it was a good combination.

There is another room next to the bar and this was where the band played. The set up is better for music. It was the usual Funhouse crew of Kris Kurzawa ( gtr), Skeeto Valdez ( drums ), Takashi Iio (bass) and Phil Whitfield ( keys). For any Canadians, Phil is from South Detroit or Windsor, Ontario.


The music is not so loud I can feel my body vibrate as it was in the first place. They have a certain distinctive style of playing and have usual favorites. Most of the favorites are compositions of the band. They did play one I hadn’t heard before called “Funky Strut” written by Phil Whitfield and I do like funky music. The funkiest number of the evening was “Do It Again” a Steely Dan cover. That one was played by Charles Greene on keys and Freeman Spells on bass. That one was really good.

I usually stay for one set but tonight I stayed for the evening. Somehow, the idea of driving in the opposite way from home and into downtown was not appealing. I considered what was available and went home after two sets.

It was an enjoyable evening. I heard good music and got to sit with people I like.

The Funhouse at Motor City Wine


Last night, July 24, 2013, was the last night for the Funhouse at Motor City Wine at the place on Woodward. Motor city Wine will be moving to another place in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit this coming weekend. It will be a different area for me but it is another Detroit revival neighborhood and there are several music venues in the area as well as an iconic barbecue place called Slows Bar BQ. I’m looking forward to exploring a new neighborhood.

I arrived for the second set and heard there was a good size crowd. I saw several people I knew and said my hellos and talked to a few people in the room. The owner/ bartender poured me my blood orange soda. I asked him about the new place. He talked about the new patio at the new place and some of the plans he had for new bands at the new place. The band began to return and I found a place to sit down.

Music Triple Play


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).

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).



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.


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.

The Kurzadian Trio at Motor City Wine


On Friday June 7, 2013, I went out to Motor City Wine again and saw the quickly named Kurzadian Trio.

When I go out to hear music, it is not really about what I hear. It is about what I feel. So, what I am writing is not a review. It is more about the emotional impact it has on me. Some musicians always have the impact. Sometimes it is a musician in combination with a certain song. I have heard so many technically competent musicians that do not reach me. Went I started going out a few years ago, I went out to a a lot of events where I knew the music was “good” and it didn’t do a thing for me. I have slowly stopped going where ii know it has no impact. I even check about once a year to see if anything has changed. So, I am not pretending to write reviews although I won’t rule it out.

I walked in and the owner pulled the Sanpellegrino Sparkling Blood Orange Soda out of the refrigerator. I walked in between sets and had to wait for a bit for the music to start. So I talked to one of the musicians and another person I had seen around.

The first sone I took note of was “Our Longing” ….it is titled in Portuguese so the real title is “Nosso Anseio” ….. I think. This was composed by Damon Warmack. I liked this one because it has an interesting melody and harmony…both a little unexpected and haunting. It was a nice counterpoint to the ordinary.

Then, they called up an audience member who I had to seen before and was introduced as Ruben Santiago-Hudson. He is both a playwright and actor. He was the police captain on the TV Series Castle. He is in Detroit filming a new series which will be replacing Breaking Bad on AMC and is called Low Winter Sun. After checking online, Detroit is probably the perfect setting in the United States for this UK series. Ruben played a blues harmonica and was really good….he’d be welcome at most open macs in the city. They did “Carrot Cake” and it was great to hear the bluesy done that well and yes, I did feel it. It was heavy funk with harp.

The next number was “Sandman” followed by “A Lil Somethin’ Somethin'” written by Kris Kurzawa. All in all, it was a nice satisfying set and ended the evening.

I headed over to Bert’s but my timing was off. The had just finished. I decided to go home rather than wait.

Kris Kurzawa

Damon Warmack

Nat Winn

Ruben Santiago-Hudson

The Funhouse at Motor City Wine

Each Wednesday, Motor City Wine hosts the Funhouse in downtown Detroit. I sometime want to hear their particular modern, funky jazz. They recently won the Detroit MUsic Award for the best Modern Jazz Group in 2013.

Motor City Wine is a small wine boutique in downtown Detroit. It is one of those places with parking at a premium since it is is on Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s Main Street. I have found a place to park that has been working for about a year so parking is not an issue for me. I parked my car and walked around the corner and to the door about fifty feet away. In winter, since smoking is not allowed in bars, I usually have to walk through a group of smokers huddled by the ashtray. But, it is spring and the tables have been set out for the season so getting to the door is easier. After opening the door, I climbed the steep stairs lead to a room painted in a dark red glossy paint. The wall color is broken by the many displays of wine against the walls. The proprietor is already opening my blood orange soda and pouring it in a glass. And the band is already playing. It feels good.


The Funhouse was put together by Skeeto Valdez and plays modern, funky jazz. The group won the best Modern Jazz Award for 2013 from the Detroit Music awards. The group changes from time to time. I hate to see someone go but, when someone new arrives the music undergoes a subtle change. Each time the change is unpredictable. This time, the funk got amped. The group for the last few months has been Skeeto Valdez (dms), Kris Kurzawa ( gtr), Phil Whitfield (keys) and Takahashi Io(bass).
Skeeto is she driving force of the group.


Kris Kurzawa, guitar, is one of t he best jazz guitars in Detroit. The group performs many Kris’ compositions.


Both Philip Whitfield and Takahashi Io are relatively new and both have a heavy dose of funk.



Last night was one of those nights I just went with the flow. The music moved me and I sank into it with abandon and felt at ease with the world. It was just what I needed.