Detroit Jazz Fest 2014 – Opening Night

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The VIP Opening Night Party started with a strolling dinner and some music. The evening had beautiful weather. The drummer in the picture is Djallo Djakate. When they stopped playing, I was going to ask him who the other players and vocalist were. The other musicians decided I was harassing him, I was blocked from asking. So, I have no idea who the others in the picture are. It was a cocktail party atmosphere so it was for the most part background music.

Each year I buy the VIP tickets. I get some perks like good seats. The Detroit Jazz Fest is the largest “free” festival in the world. However, it costs money to do it. It has lost money for the last two years and part of my money goes to the festival to keep it “free”. And, I get a great weekend of beautiful music.

After the dinner was a concert. The first group was The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.

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Left to Right: Ethan Iverson, Joshua Redman, Reid Anderson and David King.

Their music was a great learning experience for me. I usually do not like slow songs or ballads. The musicianship of this group was over the top and gave me an entirely new understanding of just how incredible a ballad could be. It was like having a deep massage to the brain.

I usually like a band to play some standards. They played their own compositions. They were so, so good that if it is a great composition, it will reach you when you have not heard it before. I was filled with music after they played. The songs were engaging and each musician added to the whole which is just the way a great groupplay.

Jazz in Paradise, July 26, 2014

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This was the setting for a jazz concert. It was a part of the Mayflower Jazz Series hosted by Maxine Michaels. It was in a magnificent backyard which included several decks on the house, a fire pit. walkways through the woods filled with local flora and fauna including deer, a meandering stream, places to sit and just enjoy the surroundings.

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The concert itself took place in front of a massive tent which was erected over a basketball court. There were other tents for beverages light refreshments and vendors. All the food and beverages were complimentary. The weather was perfect. It was easy to just sit and enjoy.

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Left to right as seen in this picture: Vincent Bowen(sax), Marion Hayden(bass), Rqmona Collins(vox) and Michael Jellick (keys). Also present and not see in this picture were Dwight Adams(tpt) and Gayelynn McKinney(drums).

The musicians were all well known in the Detroit area. The music was very good and in that environment was so relaxing. The musicians played for a set and during the intermission, a guest singer, Sydney Ellis sang several songs including “Summertime”. The song tends to be so over done that he here have been times when I have just left a venue during a poor rendition. This offering was so good the song was a fresh again I my mind.

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Sydney Ellis and Mike Jellick. Marion Heyden, bass, was also playing.

After the music stopped for the break, I wandered around the grounds. I got up to the house decks and enjoyed the view( the second picture). The decks had quit a bit of seating and had enclosures with mosquito netting. The only distraction during the evening were the various bugs that chose the audience for dinner. I followed the meandering stream back down the hill.

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By then, the sun had set and the paths were lit so walking in the uneven grounds were not a problem. I got back to my table just in time for the second set.

The second set went well and I was feeling so good as I left or the evening after the set.

Acoustic Ambince

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The first place I went was Northern Lights Lounge in Detroit to see the Mike Jellick Trio. I usually have something to eat. It is usually an appetizer since they are half off on Wednesday evening. I ordered the beef nachos and waited. I did get my club soda and lime so at least I had something to drink.

This blog is specifically about the acoustic experience. On Wednesday evening, Northern Lights Lounge is a good experience. Each instrument is set up so the microphones pick up the sound. An extra microphone is on stage for any additions. There is an actual professional sound guy who runs a sound check and makes adjustments. This is an unusually good acoustic experience. The room is also set up for music. The musicians are on a stage and wood is the predominant material. The speakers are set up so the sound spreads evenly throughout the room.

Venues can have all sorts of things that make it difficult to get a good sound. The Detroit Institute of Arts has a music program on Friday nights. It is well attended and is free. However,the room is huge and over two stories high.

A lot of the time, the musicians just set it up for themselves. Most of them are used to it and do a good job. However, there is occasionally the rogue musician who manages to crank his amp up to the point that he is stepping on all the other instruments.

I went to another bar after Northern Lights and the whole experience was so different. The band shoes play on a stage up front. But, there is a brick wall and a glass wall. The speakers are hung on the ceiling and are between. the musicians and the audience. All the seating is either under the speakers or behind the speakers. The bar and table seating go back for fifty feet. In order for the back to hear, the music is turned up. In the front, it is not bad if you can get to one of the tables under the speakers. With the music turned up and in the back it is so hard to hear any of the words of vocalists. Sometimes the music is distorted. If I’m in the middle, I usually leave once my headache starts or go outside for a breather.

So what I’m trying to say is that no matter how great the music may be if it is not played well to the room it is lost.

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”.

Sunday Evening at the Cadieux Cafe

20140513-203615.jpgLeft to right: Dwight Adams, Damon Warmack, Gordon, Sasha Kashperko

Last Sunday was one of the first evenings this years that didn’t require a jacket. The trip to the East side of Detroit is about 45 minutes and with my new car, I didn’t have to worry about the for a change. I arrived a little after the quartet was supposed to start playing. And they were not playing.

The group was put together by Damon Warmack and I knew he would have a good group of musicians. But, this was Mothers Day and many spend time with family for the day. Or, musicians play as background music in various restaurants where people take their mothers for brunch or dinner. I spotted Damon immediately. He was waiting for Dwight Adams( trumpet) who is one of my favorite musicians.

I talked to Damon for a few minutes and went to a table to sit down and order the “hot wings”. I was looking forward to the meal. Just thinking about it made my mouth water. I ordered and anticipated. The waitress was new and when she deliver the wings, she delivered them with only one napkin. The wings are completely covered with a spicy, hot barbecue sauce. Eating them with a knife and fork does not work. Each wing is picked up and dipped in the blue cheese dipping sauce. The dipping sauce cuts the spicy sauce just a bit. I like to wipe my hands after each wing. And after finish with a hand wipe before washing my hands in the bathroom. They are really messy.

This time though they were different. I think they made the change the last time I was here. I didn’t like it then and the wings were disappointing. The barbecue and dipping sauce were the same. They changed the wings. The wings were fatty. They had globules of fat in each wing so the texture was off. Eating unmelted chicken fat is not a taste I want I my mouth. I did get the extra napkins and hand wipe. I do not think I will order them again.

On the other hand, the music selections were really pleasing. The group did all Miles Davis tunes. With Dwight Adams playing trumpet, the interpretation of Miles could not have been better. They started with “So What”. Coincidentally, I have been playing Miles in my car and it was fun hearing another version. Damon carried his weight as usual and added some great runs on the bass guitar with that number. Sasha is relatively new on the scene and is a very good player. However, I think the volume of his guitar is too loud as compared to the other instruments. Sometimes you can’t hear the other players. He’ll learn. The drummer, Gordon, is also new on the scene. He has a lot more maturity than many young drummer which means he is not all about how loud he can play. I really was enjoying the music.

As the set went on though I began to have indigestion. Wing attack. I left after the first set so I could go home and take care of myself.

Van Cephus Tribute

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Last night I went to a tribute for Van Cephus (Ce’ phus… Accent on the first syllable ) at Bert’s Jazz Room in Detroit. I met a friend about 7:00p.m. and we got good seats and had dinner before the tribute started. Van died on March 18, 2014.

His life had been going in a downward spiral. He was a well known jazz musician in the area who played in local clubs and churches. Recently with a change in pastor, one of his church jobs was over. For others reasons, he lost his other church job. So, his economic reality was getting worse. He was notified by the county that his house was going to be taken for back taxes. On Friday, March 14, the county bailiffs placed a dumpster on his lawn. He was able to remove some of his things and got friends to help move things to other places for storage. The following Monday, the bailiffs came back and began to move his life belongings to the dumpster. He stood on the lawn watching. The following day he took his own life in a hotel room.

Of course, this is the short version. So many people got up last night and spoke so well about Van. Most had talked to him within the last month. Many said looking backwards they could see the signs. Some thought they could have done more. They all said they did not know how bad it was for Van. And he did not tell anyone of his plans although people are reading his posts on Facebook now and seeing the signs.

His Homegoing is today. Maybe people will take care of each other in the future better.

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Back to the Cadieux Cafe

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This afternoon after work, I watched my dog Bonnie in the backyard checking the perimeter of the yard making sure that no intruders had arrived during the long winter. She barked periodically letting all the dogs in hue he neighborhood know she was out and about again. We both had an early dinner. Her dinner was different than mine.

Then, I decided to go to the Cadieux Cafe for the Hughes/Smith Quintet. It is quite a long drive. I have a new car and now I can be confident that I will reach my destination. The car has a great sound system (a necessity for someone who likes music as much as I do). With my old car, my hiatus also meant I did not go out for music much.

The show was supposed to start at 8:30 p.m. So I arrived at about 8:45 p.m. And there was no band set up. They did get it all set up in record time so the actual start time was 8:55 p.m. The waiter came by and asked I of I wanted the usual which is hot wings and club soda with lime for this place. And it was just what I wanted. He was back within a minute telling me there were no more wings. I looked at the menu and while I was still pondering, he came back and said they had found some wings that were not the usual wings but they were wings.

For the next few minutes, I listened to the music. The group was James Hughes(saxes), Jimmy Smith(tpt), Phil Kelly(keys), Takashi Io(bass) and Pete Siers(drums). They are all good players and this was the first time I had heard some of them.

The first set consisted entirely of compositions by either Smith or Hughes. This puts me in an unusual place mentally. It means I do no know what to expect on any of the numbers. There is no comparison available. I really do like a mix of originals and standards.

My wings came. The hot sauce on the wings had the great sweet heat I was expecting. The chunky blue cheese dipping sauce was a savory and flavorful. The wings were not good. They seemed to have a glob of fat on each one. It got so I was a trying to find it and remove it before biting into the wing to avoid the ball of fat. I began to wonder if they were chicken wings and my imagination took off. Perhaps they were pidgeon wings or maybe partridge or what could they be? I didn’t finish them.

I can say I liked the music probably since it was a traditional format. I moved to get a little closer. Also, the people next to me were talking and the guy likes to pontificate in lengthy detail everything he knows about jazz. The numbers were different depending on the composer either Smith or Hughes. Smith tended to have more pronounced rhythms and Hughes was more melodic. I did especially like Hughes composition called Waltz for Anna.

I left after the set and listened to Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” on the way home on the incredible audio system in my car,