Tumbao Bravo at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe…11/7/13

DDJC Tumbao Bravo

This was a long time coming. I decided to use a “real” camera and getting the pic from there to here the first time was a “learning experience”. And there were also some other major distractions.

The first time I saw Tumbao Bravo was at the Michigan Jazz Fest in about 2005. That is a great place to sample things and they got jumbled with the many other groups I heard that day. I do remember that when I hear the words Latin jazz, they were not what I expected. The Dirty Dog jazz experience is set up so that what you get is one set with something to eat. For me, it is hard to combine the two.

For this evening, the group was Alberto Nacif on congas, Paul Vornhagen on sax, flute and piccolo, Javier Barrios as a multi percussionist, Brian Debasio in piano, John Barron on the upright bass and Paul Finkbeiner on trumpet. Bob Mojica also stepped in on a couple of trumpet numbers.

Left to right: Javier Barrios, Alberto Nacif, John Barron, Paul Finkbeiner and Paul Vorhagen

Overall the music had a definite Afro- Cuban beat. As I said, it is hard to eat and thoroughly listen to the music. So, a lot of this is impression rather than intent listening. I am missing the intense listening and have some planned for this evening. The impression I had was, for the most part, a happy , energetic music that just made me feel good. I felt good to the point where although an additional venue beckoned, I decided not to go. My favorite numbers of the evening were “El Chico” and”Los Moros”. They made me sit up and really listen. I liked the complex rhythms and melodious songs where the melody twists like a vine through the beats of the rhythm leading my mind to a quieter place.

The Milton Show at Harbor House


On July 15, 2013, I went to Harbor House to catch The Milton Show. The Harbor House is a restaurant and bar. The restaurant is basically a seafood restaurant and I am allergic to shellfish so I seldom get anything to eat.

They feature live music almost every night. The musicians are in the front as you enter the bar which is a fifty foot long oak bar. In the front, the music is loud. This night the bartender was one of the worst bartenders in town. She is a slight woman with stringy dishwater blond hair. She is more interested in listening to gossip and spreading it to anyone who will listen than to actually serving drinks. She believes everything she hears. The owner is so cheap that the fans were not turned on until the musicians were drenched in sweat on this very hot evening.

I arrived before the music started and sat at a table with some people I knew. We waited for service and none came. We went to the bar and I got my club soda and lime after waiting for the bartender to finish her long conversation. The first set was, for the most part, Milton Hale (dms), Phillip Hale(keys), Chris Branch(sax) and Greg Cook(bass). David Green(tpt) also played during part of the first set. He is what people call a high note specialist.


The crowd included some musicians and quite a few vocalists. Chelly K, an R&B vocalist, sang “Angel Eyes” and “Love for Sale” and really delivered. Most of the first set was instrumental only and was the kind of music I like. It is edgy straight ahead soul jazz. It was way too warm in the place and they took a break. The fans were turned on.

The crowd grew….more vocalists and musicians. In an open mic and jam environment, many musicians choose to show up about a half and hour before the jam starts. I have wondered why they don’t come early to listen (and maybe learn) from other musicians. A few of the “jam” musicians do not play well with others. At this point, I was sitting alone and was able to listen to the music.

I looked around the room before the second set and saw so many musicians and vocalists with only an hour to play and wondered how the second set would go. It started well with Audrey Northington singing “Bye, bye Blackbird”. She is really great a scat and showed us how it’s done.

Chelly K singing with the group

Audrey Northington singing

Next up was Sheila Hale, Phillip Hale’s wife, who sang “Wine and Roses”. Scott Reiter, on sax, joined her and I always enjoy hearing him play. At this point, Alan Denard who is a young trumpet player with a lot of talent played a solo. Also, Frank McCullers, another trumpet player added a bit.

Milton Hale, who was running the show was doing a good job and giving everyone a chance to play on at least one number. Frank McCullers thought he should be able to play on all the numbers. He was high and not playing well. Milton was alternating instrumental and vocalist numbers and doing a good job of making sure everyone got some of the music they like. Ken Ferry, another excellent trumpet player added to the mix.

Misty Love sang “Masquerade” with Jerome Clark on guitar. I hadn’t heard Jerome for recently and like the way he is playing now. At this point, Frank McCullers was hopping up on the stage to play on every number even when Milton waved him away. Frank hopped on the stage. The music stopped while Frank did his solo without anyone comping. Finally off the stage, Milton went to talk to him. Frank was running around the bar telling everyone, including other musicians how he deserved to play more than anyone. Milton followed in Frank’s wake apologizing. He wanted to speak to Frank outside. Frank aired his grievances everywhere and would not go outside to speak to Milton. Finally, after several people spoke to Frank, he was shut down.

I moved to the back of the bar. The band reformed and Angela sang a song. It was about 2:30 a.m.and I left the bar.

Back to the music…

I hadn’t been out for live music for since last Wednesday. My reentry into work has been challenging. I was mentally exhausted the end of last week. My summer work is usually fixing errors and calming agitated clients. Last week, there was a lot of agitation. Unfortunately, I tend to pick up the emotions of my clients. My last week has not been a week where I have been able to be calm. I went to the writers group I go to where no one is allowed to give negative feedback. It is not helpful. I may not go back.

Last night I went to Harbor House in Detroit to hear the Milt Show. The house band is Milt Hale(dms), Phil Hale(keys) and Greg Cook(bass). Last night Mike Fagueros (gtr) and Chris Branch( sax).

Left to right: Mike Fagueros, Greg Cook, Milt Hale, Chris Branch, Phil Hale

I walked into Harbor House a little after 11:00 p.m.. The start time was supposed to be 10:00 p.m.. The band members sometimes refer to themselves as the ‘Better Late than Never Band’. I expect them to be late. I walked in after the kitchen was closed so I had my usual club soda and lime. The bar was empty except for the band members. Greg came over and we chatted for a few minutes. Chris Branch walked in and the house band for the first set was complete.

They had not been at Harbor House for two weeks due to a Detroit Tigers game and the yearly fireworks display done the week before the Fourth of July.

They started to play and it was just what I wanted. They play the Detroit funky soul jazz that makes me feel so good. I do not know why such hard core jazz relaxes me so much. For the first time in a couple of weeks, I could feel my mind smoothing out and my cares and worries receding. The feeling is still with me today. The music seems to clear out mind static.

During the other sets, other musicians filled in and it all worked. The only exception for me was the spoken word piece. The speaker reads her stuff off her Smartphone. She has told me she doesn’t listen to others and doesn’t use any guidelines. She delivers it in a loud unmodulated voice and waves her free arm. it was called “Passion” so the delivery was louder than usual. I didn’t feel anything when it was read.

For me, live music seems to have the same benefits I get from meditation.