Northern Lights Lounge on May 14, 2014

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Last Wednesday night I went to Northern Lights Lounge to see the Mike Jellick Trio. And Mike was in New York replaced by Zion Israel. I was a bit disappointed. So, I decided to make it a little adventure and ordered the “Lava Wings”. I had been disappointed at another restaurant with the hot wing recently and remembered seeing this one on the menu. The best part is that appetizers are half off the price on Wednesday night.

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The wings were hot and tasty. The blue cheese dressing cuts the heat just enough. And the wings were good. They were done without being dried out. My mouth had a flood of heat cooled by the rich taste of chunky blue cheese dip.

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Left to right: Zion Israel, Miles Brown and Jesse Kramer.

About half way through the set, I got over my snit and was able to listen to the music. It was so different than what I had been expecting. I was so good in its own way though. I was fully won over by the last tune of “Caravan”.

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.

MJT

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.

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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.

Wednesday Night at Northern Lights Lounge

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Last night, I finally got out for some music. I went to see the Michael Jellick Trio at Northern Lights Lounge. I hadn’t been for a couple of weeks and even though I was really tired from work and a sleepless night the prior night, I decided I needed some music to relax and get away from some problems I carry home from work with me.

As I walked in, I could hear Miles Brown on the bass and Jesse Kramer on the drums. As I walked to a table and sat down,I could hear the complex rhythms of the two instruments combined and I had a different perspective for the moment. These are the moments I live for when listening to music.

I ordered some beef nachos for dinner and leaned back to listen. This time I recorded most of the evening. I have realized that I am such an intense listener and get so lost in the music that I have a hard time recalling just what was played. Or, if I really pay attention to what is played, I don’t feel the music. Tonight, I wanted to feel the music.

The first complete song I heard was “Yes or No” (Wayne Shorter on Juju album). First, I was hearing Michael Jellick play the melody on the keys clearly and beautifully. Then, once the melody in firmly in mind going into the improvisations that I like so much. Going further and further out and still within the song’s framework. By recording, I was much more able to appreciate Miles Brown’s solo on the bass. Then, a melody phrase to hook back into the music and more improv leading to Jesse Kramer’s great solo on drums. And , back into the melody and more improv to the end. Part of what I like about the experience is how cohesive and well these musicians play together.

I felt like the next number was not new to me and could not place it. This one had some funk to it and the rhythms were so different than the previous number. Something about this one for me made me feel good. Since the break came after this one, I left while I was feeling so good.

Mike Jellick Trio and Dinner

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I usually work on Wednesday and my work was not the best on Wednesday. I had an appointment at 6:00 p.m. She called about 6:15 and said what she had would only take a few minutes and she could be there in five minutes. It took 15 minutes. She arrived with a disordered pile of papers. As she talked about what she wanted, I knew it would 2 hours if she could find the paperwork. I did one minor task and set an appointment for Friday. She took my personal pen because she “sneezed” on it.

So, when I decided to go out for some music and dinner, I was peeved. I got to Northern Lights Lounge well after the first set started. The music was good and this time I looked at the menu. I remember hearing someone say that the chicken strips were really good. So I ordered chicken strips and onion rings.

I closed my eyes, relaxed in my chair and listened. It was pretty much what I liked and expected. The trio was Mike Jellick(keys), Jesse Kramer(dms) and Miles Brown(bass). Mike mentioned that they were trying some new stuff. And there was some experimentation using sounds other than keys on the keyboard. I thought I heard something that sounded like a little funk which was also new.

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My dinner came just as the set ended with “Benny’s Tune”. When my meal was placed in front of me, I noticed the paper was not able to absorb the grease.

20130912-150926.jpg I took my extra napkins and tried to remove as much grease as I could from the chicken strips. I soaked three napkins. The server assured me the onion rings were real onions but had been frozen. The result is that it can reduce an onion ring to a combination of onion mush and a hint of the original ring. Who had recommended the chicken strips? I finally remembered that the person who said they were so good was a guy in the place that had been drinking quite a bit. His eyes were either on the chicken strips or his date’s cleavage. That evening he complimented his date on her dress and the server on the chicken strips.

I stayed for the first number of the second set as my stomach was slowly twisting in protest. The first song was written by Miles Brown and called “Blues for AJ”. I really liked the number and just was not able to enjoy as much as I usually would.

Going home was my best option. Today I feel much better and am back to eating veggies, fruit and the food that makes me feel good.

Mike Jellick Quintet and The Funhouse

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Sunday Night at the Cadieux Cafe

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a photo of a table top at the Cadieux Cafe.
The Cadieux Cafe is on the Eastside of Detroit and the home of Feather bowling. It is a Belgian cafe and specializes in mussels. A lot of people come to the Cadieux for an afternoon of feather bowling followed by a mussels dinner. To score in feather bowling, one rolls a faux cheese wheel down an alley and get as close to the feather as possible.

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The Cadieux Cafe also has a regular Soul Jazz Sunday music program. Not all of the music is actually “Soul Jazz”. I haven’t been there for a long time and decided to give it a try last night. A big part of the draw was the hot wings. The hot wings are a special treat for me. The heat of the wings is enough to clear any allergic reaction to pollen. And they include a rich, creamy bleu cheese dressing as a dip which cuts the heat go the wings. In biting into a wing, there is the smooth cheese followed by the heat of the wing. They are served with hand wipes due to the inevitable mess.

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I arrived after the band was supposed to start and they hadn’t started since they were waiting for one of the band members. Last night is was the Mark Lipson Quartet. The quartet was Mark Lipson(drums), Scott Gwinell(keys), Steve Wood(tenor sax) and Miles Brown(bass). Individually, they are all good musicians and I wanted to see what they would do.

20130826-092830.jpgLeft to right: Miles Brown, Mark Lipson, Scott Gwinell and Steve Wood.

They started with “It Could Happen to You” which is an old standard. As I expected, all the musicians played well. The second number was a composition by Mark Lipson. After the second number, Mark pulled out a tip jar. This is a no cover event and the pay is not much. He said that if we were in New York, we wild be paying a $20 cover. He was accurate. In New York, everyone has a $20 cover and it is not the case in Detroit. The last number of the set was “Raunchy Rita”.

I found something out about myself. I like music that stimulates me when I go out. The music they played was pleasant. All the music was played at the same tempo. “Raunchy Rita” had a little oomph though. I got so relaxed thatI was afraid I would need a designated driver to get me home. So , I left after the first set.

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.

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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.