Paradise Valley Jazz Lunchtime …8/19/2014

IMG_0685.JPGMobile Sculpture by U of Michigan art students, Beatrice Buck Park, Detroit, MI

Yesterday was a warm, partly cloudy day and a beautiful summer day to go to the Paradise Valley Jazz Series at Beatrice Buck Park in downtown Detroit.

IMG_0686.JPGLeft to Right: Rayse Biggs (tpt), Sean Dobbins(drums), Ralphe Armstrong(bass) and Scott Gwinell(keys).

These are some of the musicians in Detroit that are well known jazz all-stars. They played some of the well known jazz standards including “Song for my Father”, “Cherokee”, “Cold Duck Time”, and “Isn’t She Lovely”. Since the composer of “Song for my Father”, Horace Silver died this year, this has been an often played number. He is the theme of the upcoming Detroit Jazz Fest as well. And, I was hearing it from a different mix of musicians. It was really good. Rayse Biggs gave it a different treatment that I has heard before and it added to my enjoyment to hear a fresh approach. On “Cherokee”, Sean Dobbins did a nice drum solo.

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For “Isn’t She Lovely” which was the last number, Marcus Elliot on the far left joined the group. It was a great way to start the afternoon. Each time I see Marcus Elliot, I am more and more impressed.

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Sunday Afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Festival 2013

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Carhartt Amphitheater, Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI

I wandered over to the Absopure Pyramid stage to expand my jazz listening. One of the things I can do at this festival is sample all sorts of music other than what I normally hear.

After lunch I went to the Absopure Pyramid stage to see Dave Liebman( sax, flute) and Richie Beirach(piano). I got a seat with no problem. The music was dissonant, abrasive and edgy. If I had never heard jazz before I would say that I don’t like jazz. As I listened, I began to hear different things. I relaxed and began to enjoy the music. I could hear how closely the musicians played against each other weaving in and out moving the emphasis from one instrument to the other. By the time they played “Pendulum” which they recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City in the late 1970s, my original opinion had changed. Both of the musicians had incredible expertise. The music engaged and stimulated my mind. I was hearing the meshed, cohesive music as they worked together to create sound to remember. In fact,I got so engrossed that I forgot to take a picture.

The next act at the stage was a group I had seen and enjoyed before so I decided to stay for part of the performance. This was a tribute to Don Byas who was a legendary bebop jazz saxophone player. This tribute similar to the Teddy Harris, Jr. Tribute on Saturday which also focused on bebop. The tribute was performed by James Carter(sax), Gerard Gibbs(piano), Dr. Leonard Moon(drums), Theo Croker(tpt) and Ralphe Armstrong( bass). James Carter was playing a restored Don Byas saxophone probably played from 1950 to 1962 by Don Byas. James Carter called Don Byas the harmonic link between swing and bebop.

20130903-180207.jpgJames Carter

I stayed to listen to “1944 Stomp”, “Free and Easy” and “Stardust”. As I listened, I could hear both the elements of swing and bebop which was true of all the songs I heard. When they started the “1944 Stomp”, chills went down my back. That is how well this particular set of musicians has an emotional connection with me. My favorite of the group is James Carter who has an emotionally charged saxophone. It can be mournful, energetic, engaging, intellectual or adventurous. So for the time I was there, I was on a wonderful emotional roller coaster.

20130903-182345.jpgGerard Gibbs, Ralphe Armstrong, James Carter, Leonard Moon and Theo Croker

I headed over to the Carhartt Amphitheater with a dual purpose. The act just coming up was good and the next acte after that one was Ahmad Jamal. Although there are reserved seats for VIP (those who pay), there are never enough seats if all of them show up at the main stage. I got a seat near the middle of the third row. I was overjoyed.

The next act was called the Alan Broadbent Trio featuring Sheila Jordan. The trio was Alan Broadbent(piano), Cameron Brown(bass) and Sean Dobbins(drums). There was also a string orchestra behind the trio. The music was for the most part both soothing and enjoyable without n edge. I had seen Sheila Jordan before and really did want to see her again. All the edge in th performance came from her lyrics. She will be 85 in November.

Sheila was not hitting the notes at the beginning of the performance but as the performance went on, she was sounding very good. When her voice warmed up and she began to scat, it was all there and magnificent. Before she did ” Seek Your Hearts Desire”, she mentioned that she did not sing professionally until she was 58. She is an inspiration.

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Alan Broadbent, Sheila Jordan, Cameron Brown and Sean Dobbins

And finally, Amad Jamal alone his quartet. The quartet was Amad Jamal(piano), Reginald Veal(bass), Manolo Badrena(percussion) and Herman Riley (drums). The last time I heard Ahmad Jamal, I was watch from behind the stage way up on the hill. All I heard was his playing. This time, sitting in front, it was a very different listening experience. All the music depended on the wonderful driving beat behind the keys. It was amazing as were all the musicians. There were times when the bass was the forefront of the beat. Other times when it was the drums or percussion. For the most part, the bass was main driver and the bass playing was wondrous.

On both “Voodoo”and “Saturday Morning”, there was the familiar Jamal soft piano touch with the driving beat behind it. They did “Poinciana” and a few other numbers. As the encore they did “This is the Life”. It was, for me, one of those transcendent musical experiences leaving me with a quiet happy mind.

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I decided to go to an after the festival jam. I did not go to the DJF sponsored jam at the Marriott since last year it was overcrowded, couldn’t hear the music and got no service. A friend was at the Harbor House and I went. When I arrived, it was crowded and noisy. The music was not to my liking. I told my friend that I had to go. And go I did to Bert’s where the music was good. And finally home and happy.

Detroit Concert of Colors…

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Yesterday was the last day for the Concert of Colors this year. The festival has three stages and there were things I wanted to see all day long. I delayed going to midtown Detroit just a bit due to rain since my plans included starting at the outdoor stage.

The first group on my plan was Wissal belles as an Arab fusion group combining Arab, klezmer, classical Indian and American influences. They were on the last few numbers and there were a few drops of rain.

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They has a mandolin, guitar, and clarinet. The percussion was a a skin stretched over a rim in several sizes. There was a stringed instrument I hadn’t seen before. The music was melodic and the real difference I heard was in the percussion which was more pronounced and a part of the music than most of the music I hear.

A stand up comedian named Horace Sanders did an attempt at comedy while one group was tearing down and the next group was setting up and doing the sound check. It was not the best.

The next group was Ben Sharkey named after the vocalist. It is a Detroit group and I have not seen them. I had seen all the musicians(Kris Kurzawa, Takashi Io, and Nate Winn) except the vocalist Ben Sharkey. The music was loud enough to vibrate my body at this point. He is very good and I enjoyed most of the set. As a vocalist, he uses his voice as an instrument. On his own compositions, his words were supposed to tell the story with the music as background. At first, the mic was muffled and improved so that the last few songs were really good.

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The next set was jazz billed as Sean Dobbins and is my home. I had seen all the musicians(Sean Dobbins, Marcus Elliot, Ralph Tope and Chris Codish). I stayed for a number for two. They were as usual good. I wanted to catch a bite to eat before the next set and left for the food court.

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The food court was full and the selections were different than the previous day. There was no short cake so I bought the chicken and waffles. The server put maple syrup on the waffles and some of it migrated to the chicken. It was so good(it may not have been that good but I was so hungry) except for the chicken with the maple syrup drips.

The next set was Calypso Rose with Universal Xpression. I like the reggae beat and was looking forward to the set. The mic was muffled again and it was hard to understand anything. The spokesman who I think was call Mellowman said things that were just no clear due to the mic. After a few thoroughly enjoyable numbers, they introduced Calypso Rose.

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There was another two tier key set up to the left and a trumpet with two saxes. The mic has cleared slightly for Calypso Rose so she was a little clearer. This is the kind of music that lightens my mood and it did.

I left Calypso Rose to get to a set where I had no idea of what I would hear. The group was called Samba Mapangala which is basically an East African dance band.

20130708-123111.jpgSo, for the next hour and a half people danced. The seats vibrated with the music and as the dancing took off, the beat of the feet of the dancers on the floor began to add to the movement of the seats. I can remember sitting at the top of the venue a couple of years ago. At the top the vibration is magnified. The music was electrifying. People of all ages, sizes and colors were dancing with each other in a concert of colors. Walking back to the car, I passed the Chris Canas Blues Band and was too tired to stop and listen for more than a few minutes.

There was only one splash of fireworks in the sky on the way home and I arrived to find a calm and hungry dog. And there is the Paradise Valley Festival at Hart Plaza weekend after next.

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.