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.

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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BLT Heaven

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Each year I work a seasonal job and right now is the season. Yesterday I helped one of my coworkers and he bought me lunch. We have a restaurant in the strip mall where I work called Crispelli’s. He asked me what I wanted and I said the BLT.

The sandwiches from this place last for two meals. The BLT is my favorite BLT of all time. It has at least 5 slices of thick sliced applewood smoked bacon. Even at this time of year, the tomatoes taste like summer tomatoes. They have the rich tomato taste without any mealiness. The lettuce is crisp Romaine lettuce which adds a whisper of a bitter bite. They make their own bread and the taste and texture is a major addition to the sandwich as a whole. They also make their own chips. The chips are warm when they are added to the bag. Each element of the lunch complements the rest.

The picture is what was left after lunch. Guess what I had for dinner last night?

Dinner at Cliff Bells 12/19/13

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Leaded glass window at top of women’s stall at Cliff Bells

I went for some music and planned to have dinner at Cliff Bells. When I had dinner there a few months ago, it wasn’t the meal I was expecting. So, I gave it another try. I sat in my favorite place which is by a large column in the middle front of the room. The sound is good in that spot.

I sat down and a waitress took care of the couple that came in after me at a nearby table. She then checked on another table. She did not speak to me or notice me. When she came back to the first table, I tried to catch her attention and she didn’t hear me. A couple of moments later another server stopped by another table and I was able to get his attention. He seemed shocked when I ordered dinner. (About five minutes later another server stopped by the table and asked if anyone had helped me.) So, the beginning of the service was rocky.

I ordered the grilled bistro fillet with buttermilk whipped potatoes, roasted asparagus and a juniper and wine sauce for $26. I also had my club soda and lime. The drink came within minutes. Since the meal was cooked to order (or the meat was), I knew it would take a little time. The young couple at the table slightly behind me were talking. The young woman had not stopped talking since I had been sitting at the table even when the musicians were playing a few feet from us. She got louder when the music got louder. I figured I could eat my dinner during the break so I could listen to the music when the musicians started playing.

My dinner was delivered.

20131220-185028.jpgand I apologized for the dreadful picture. It had the bistro fillet done medium rare in three pieces leaning against the whipped potatoes. There were two spears of asparagus. I will say all the pieces worked well together and the flavor was great. I felt shorted with only two spears of asparagus though. The steak was juicy with a well seasoned marinade. It is not as tender as most steaks but the flavor was great. The whipped potatoes had the tang of the buttermilk but were not warm. As far as the juniper wine juice, I couldn’t taste the juniper. If I order this again, I may ask for another asparagus spear and warm mashed potatoes.

They took my plate away just as the set started. The woman at the next table was still talking and talked for the rest of the evening. I adjusted my chair to block the loud sound of her voice competing with the music.

The Damon Warmack Quartet at Motor City Wine and a little Bert’s

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Left to right: Marcus Elliot, Damon Warmack and Alex White

On December 13, 2013 also Friday the Thirteenth, I went to Motor City Wine for some music. The drive to Motor City Wine in the Corktown section of Detroit is usually an easy ride. This time though, some of street lights were out on the freeway which made part of the drive a bit spooky. The freeway was not crowded so it wasn’t bad enough to cause me to white knuckle the trip.

The place was full, warm and inviting when I arrived. I stopped by the bar and got my San Pelligrino Blood Orange drink. I joined a table and sat done to listen. The keys were played by three different keyboard players: John Dixon, Ian Finkelstein and Charles Greene. Each one brought a different flavor to the mix.

20131216-120655.jpgIan Finkelstein on keys

The first song I really listened to was “Bedtime Story” and they did a nice job on that one. Although I had seen all these musicians before, this was the first time I had seen them play together. I always find new configurations interesting. A lot of times it boosts the performance of all. I first saw Ian Finkelstein when he was still in high school and he has just graduated from college. Each time I hear him I can hear his development. Damon generally performs standards, his own compositions and pop all with his own jazz imprint. This was an enjoyable, fresh look at “Bedtime Story”.

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Charles Greene and the group played “Oh, Christmas Tree”. Since this is the time of year we all heard a lot of Christmas songs, I just sort of grin and bear it. This’s is one of my favorites. I found myself singing along to the music and my mood lifting. I am one of those people that can find the season somewhat depressing. This year it has been better and I’m at ease with the season for the first time in years. Going out has been more fun this year. Anyway, this song lifted my mood and I felt good. It was a good reminder of the season.

20131216-124505.jpgJohn Dixon on keys

The group did “I Can’t Help It” with John Dixon on keys. Stevie Wonder just keeps on giving and this is one. It was a good rendition and I can say that this group of musicians is all about the music. This was an easy evening of music. It was a good evening since I got to hear some music I hadn’t heard for a while and it was good.

But, I wasn’t finished and decided to go over to Bert’s for the John Douglas Quartet. As I walked in the door, I remembered I had a dental appointment Saturday morning. There is nothing like remembering a dental appointment to creep into the mind and render it preoccupied. It was supposed too snow all night and so I knew the roads would be tough traveling the next morning.

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So although I went, I listened a bit and left so I could get up early for the dentist. Maybe next week

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.

ROOMS at Cliff Bells

Cliff Bells ROOMS

Last night, I had planned to go to Motor City Wine to see the Mike Jellick Trio. in fact, that is where I started. When I got there, it was not the Mike Jellick Trio playing. The place was very crowded with a birthday party. It was one of those scenes where getting from point a to point b only ten feet away takes five minutes and bumping at least five people. the noise level was so high, the music could not be heard. I took about two minutes to decide that I had to find another place.

I set off for Cliff Bells which was only about seven minutes away by car. The group from Chicago was called “R O O M S Trio”. They are Dan Pierson on keyboards, Charlie Kirchen on bass and Matt Carroll on drums.ROOMS

They played mostly their own compositions as far as I could tell. They did mention a CD they have. None of the songs were introduced which means that I have no reference point if I want to listen to some of the music on the website. The music was highly entertaining intellectually and I did enjoy the set. They played as a very cohesive group and the solos were played well. At first , I didn’t feel anything emotionally and thought that it was only going to be a mind rush. But, as I relaxed into the music, the barrier to an emotional connection began to fall. It never relaxed completely but I could see the possibility for the future.

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.

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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 Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, 11/7/13….The Meal

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When I first noticed the three course for thirty dollars, I had wanted to try it. When I checked out the prices, it was a good deal. So last Thursday night when we went in to see Tumbao Bravo ( another post), I finally ordered the meal. All the choices were also on the regular menu.

I started with the spinach salad. I had eaten it before and it was not spectacular. It was different from the usual house salad. The spinach was baby spinach. In addition, there was a half a hard-boiled egg, some red onion, some roasted red peppers and mushrooms. The dressing was light and the salad was not heavily dressed. As it comes to the table, the spinach is in the middle and the other ingredients are in each corner. And it is a mixing project at the table.

For the entrée, I ordered the baked salmon. I cook salmon often at home and I have developed a couple of sauces and ways to cook it that I really like. There was a little alarm voice going off in my head saying don’t do it. I asked the server if it was wild caught or farmed. She said farmed. The little alarm got louder. It said baked with seasonal vegetables. And a louder alarm sounded. I was so hungry for salmon, I ordered it anyway. It was over cooked and bland for my taste. I can say the glaze which was a good addition. I think it was ginger, soy sauce and honey or some other sweetener. The seasonal vegetables were Brussels sprouts and chick peas in some sort of other seasoning. As I ate the veggies, I got a definite crunch in my mouth. It was bacon. In fact, there were several noticeable pieces of bacon in the seasonable veggies. The pic below is really much worse than the food. I turned off the flash and the camera compensated by adding a red filter. The restaurant asks that patrons do not use the flash while the musicians are performing.I did as much as I could with my limited editing capabilities.

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The dessert saved the meal. They called it an apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream, in a phyllo pastry cup on a bed of caramel. The apple in the phyllo cup was diced and cooked in apple pie seasonings and warm. It was topped with the cinnamon ice cream. I managed to scrape a little caramel off the plate with each sweet, tangy bite. It was a wonderful ending especially with the great coffee they serve.

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Tumbao bravo was performing that evening and they are different from what I usually see. That is for another post.

Mike Jellick Trio at Motor City Wine after Big Fun

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After Big Fun at Cliff Bells, I went over to Motor City Wine to see the Mike Jellick Trio since I had not even lasted for one set at Cliff Bells. I had a little argument with myself over it since I have been so very, very tired and not sleeping well. I thought I could stay for one set and just maybe I would satisfy my wish for some live music and get home early enough to get some good sleep.

When I walked in, the band was on break. I got my blood orange soda and settled in at a table to wait for the music. When the band return and started to play, my body finally relaxed to hear the music I like so much.

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