LOOKING UP AT SILVER FALLS
It was a beautiful day to go out into the big part of the lake. I placed my wife and three young children into the small power boat that we would use to go to see Silver Falls. The boat needed some help to get going. Hitting the starter with a hammer did the trick, and off we went into a perfect day. With with the help of a map and still water we traversed the large lake and finally entered Cache Bay in Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. The bay narrowed into a river. This was where we thought we would get a good view of the falls. Nothing, the majestic falls were not tumbling down into the river. I turned the boat’s motor off and sure enough we could hear the sound of a waterfall, getting louder and louder as we drifted towards the noise. We were at the top of the falls. I turned the key and nothing happened.
In our arrogance we assumed that all water ran into our lake, not out of it. It does make a difference if you are at the top or at the bottom.
I did have a hammer to hit the starter and as we approached the edge the boat motor kicked on and we turned around safely.
Closer to home I have often watched jazz artists hit the starter with their hammer and get things going again. They call it improvising, I call it scary.
It does matter whether you are at the top or at the bottom.
While nature has strict rules, we get to make up our own rules on the fly. For a while now good meaning folks have played with the idea of a trickle down economy. It seemed like a good idea. The assumption is that the economy would follow the good rules of nature. That those at the top had a finite capacity that when reached would overflow.
Unfortunately sometimes for those at the bottom stuff hasn’t always trickled down. When that happens, the lake of stuff at the top just gets bigger and bigger.
This causes the rivers to dry up.
The people who set up our parks’ hiking trails think it is important for us to see the waterfalls. It is always uphill and a long climb. We do it because we will get a chance to watch the water tumble down the mountain. Waterfalls and cascades always travel from upstream to downstream. They go from the snow or lake at the top of the hill to the lake or stream at the bottom.
Water has a high level of obedience to the laws of gravity. It finds its way around and through all barriers, sometimes with tragic results like into our basements or over the banks of our rivers.. Generally you can count on water to do the right thing. In nature the rules are always followed. Mother is always right.
Jazz music has a power all its own, in a good way. It challenges the ordinary flow of things. It also wants to see what is upstream and downstream.
That is why when I see a sign for a jazz club I go straight in. It will be a place where things may go up, down, sideways but the music always moves straight ahead. Goodness and respect trickle up and trickle down. Large lakes feed small lakes who turn around and give back to the big lakes when they need it. Stature doesn’t seem to matter as much as it does outside the club’s walls.
I have witnessed the results of the generous spirit of the artists over and over. It is fitting that the Dirty dog Jazz Cafe is a place that operates in the same spirit. I have watched as the kindness of the proprietor and the management has trickled down to the staff and respect has trickled back up in return.
Music makes such good sense sometimes. Two years ago about this time in April Marcus Belgrave played for the last time at the Dirty dog Jazz Café. Shortly after that magical evening we lost Marcus. He was one of Detroit’s greatest ambassadors of jazz who passed on to others much of the good fortunes his life had given him. Many generations have benefited from his wisdom What a gift. What a legacy.
Marcus came to the club that night just a couple of hours after he had been discharged from the hospital, He came into the club on the arm of his his long time friend, the great Detroit trumpet player Rayse Biggs. The band paused as he was seated at a table. This could have been an awkward moment .. but it wasn’t. The fact that his life had touched all those on the bandstand was evident in their music and on their faces. The capacity crowd knew what was going on and that it was a special moment. Rayse handed him his horn and he started to play. Grins replaced looks of concern. Joy filled the room along with Marcus’ great tones. They finished with a raucous version of Summertime… and the living is easy. A fitting ending to one of our first warm spring days. Smiles and hugs followed.
That night we witnessed the healing power of music. We also saw many random acts of kindness trickling down and then trickle back up, defying gravity.
Rayse Biggs will bring his gravity defying act to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for four nights of authentic Detroit jazz. Rayse has always attracted talented musicians to play alongside him. Come and hear why.
HIS MUSIC LIVES.
Herbie Hancock’s 1983 “Future Shock” album.
Jazz artists have been reflecting political issues in their music from the beginning. These have included everything from human rights to the environment. With Earth Day being celebrated this week on April 22, I thought it would be fitting to do an updated “Earth Day” playlist featuring Jazz pieces with an environmental theme. I’ve had no trouble finding pieces to play for Earth Day on my radio shows over the years and some of those compositions are listed below.
This year marks the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, which started back in 1970 when ecological awareness was just beginning to take hold. Many events worldwide will be held, focusing of the environment. The Earth Day Network works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries.
Below is a diverse list of Jazz recordings I assembled that echo what Earth Day is all about. This music inspires us to think about the of natural world and the future of the planet.
List is in alphabetical order: Artist / Title / Album
Mose Allison / The Earth Wants You/ The Earth Wants You
Mulatu Astatke / Green Africa / Mulatu Steps Ahead
Kris Bowers / The Protester / Heroes and Misfits
Cinematic Orchestra / Ode to the Big Sea / Motion
John Coltrane / After the Rain / Impressions
Miles Davis / Gondwana / Pangaea
Pangaea is a double album recorded by Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and released in 1976 in Japan. It was recorded live in Osaka, Japan in 1975. Personnel includes Miles Davis, trumpet and organ, Sonny Fortune, saxophones and flute, Pete Cosey, guitar, Michael Henderson, bass, Reggie Lucas, guitar, Al Foster, drums and Mtume on percussion.
Kenny Garrett / Welcome Earth Song / Seeds from the Underground
Cameron Graves / Satania Our Solar System / Plantetary Prince
Cameron Graves is the pianist for award-winning saxophonist Kamasi Washington and will be performing at the 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival. Planetary Prince is the name of his new album on Detroit’s own Mack Avenue Records.
Herbie Hancock / Earthbeat / Future Shock
Released in 1983, Future Shock is pianist Herbie Hancock’s thirty-fifth album which was a million-selling Platinum disc that contained his hit “Rock It”. It was the first release from his electro-funk era and an early example of instrumental hip hop.
Jamiroqai / Emergency on Planet Earth / Emergency on Planet Earth
Keith Jarrett / Solara March / Arbour Zena
Arbour Zena is an album composed by American pianist Keith Jarrett featuring saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Charlie Haden and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mladen Gutesha which was released on the ECM label in 1975.
Les McCann / Burnin’ Coal / Much Les
Larry McCray / Delta Hurricane / Delta Hurricane
Jackie McLean / Rhythm of the Earth / Rhythm of the Earth
Pat Metheny / Rain River / Secret Story
Jim Pepper / Witchi Tai To / Comin’ and Goin’
Flora Purim / The Goddess of Thunder / Speed of Light
Pharoah Sanders / The Creator Has a Master Plan / Karma
Tribe featuring Phil Ranelin / Livin’ in a New Day/ Rebirth
McCoy Tyner / Atlantis / Atlantis
Nana Vasconcelos / Rain Dance / Rain Dance
Sarah Vaughn / On a Clear Day / Live in Japan
Elio Villafranca / Flowers by the Dry River / Caribbean Tinge
Eberhard Weber / Yellow Fields / Yellow Fields
Paul Winter Consort / Whole Earth Chant / Icarus
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.
I drove down Detroit’s Cass Avenue the other day, and in 10 city blocks I glimpsed the changing face of my hometown. For most of my life Cass Corridor was where the city placed all those things that didn’t fit into its plans, like students, Chinese restaurants, artists, musicians, derelicts, beat up vets, and those who cared for them. It was available, affordable and for some a free place to crash. The Cass Corridor was always just temporary. There have always been plans to fix it. It has always been vital to too many people to change it too fast.
One of my first memories was of spending time in an old Victorian house in the corridor where a piano player named Dewey broke all the ladies’ hearts with songs of unrequited love. I remember Dewey’s name because our friends named their dog after this singer. Their new puppy shared Dewey’s gift to control other people’s emotions. Dewey’s sparse piano playing didn’t get in the way of his charming smile and smooth delivery. He took all requests and immediately owned them. Few of the guests could resist raising a glass and ordering another. This was in a house near Temple which is no longer there. .. like so many other things.
Stretching from the the campus of Wayne State University to almost downtown was a neighborhood populated by some fifty to seventy-five working graphic artists, student musicians, their mentors and the kind of people who like to be around artists. Many of these artists were from Wayne State University’s art and music departments. Social life centered on local gathering places and bars such as Cobb’s Corner, whose owner Robert Cobb supported the local art scene and sometimes traded drinks for art. Cass Corridor artists developed a pride and affection for their area of the city, fostered by a shared sense of community and a passion for art.
The Cass Corridor created and showcased raw, gritty, and sometimes startlingly unrefined art. Cass Corridor provided Detroit a distinctly urban aesthetic that has continued until today.
Detroit artists carry an obligation to the history and character of the city with them throughout their careers. On a spring night one of these artists, Scott Gwinnell, stopped by my house to discuss a cover design for his new CD, The Cass Corridor Suite, which would soon be coming out on the Detroit Music Factory label. Scott played each track with an explanation of how the Cass Corridor inspired him to write, arrange and produce each piece. It was a powerfully moving evening. It left me with an understanding of how much a place can influence the creative process.
“Detroit’s Cass Corridor, the pseudonym for a section of Cass Ave., is the street running parallel west of Woodward Ave. through mid and downtown. In its modern years, the two mile long street developed a reputation for its embrace of poverty and crime.
I had, mostly, the pleasure of living in “the corridor” for two years in my young adulthood while I attended college. I lived in a location that demanded that I either walk, ride a bike, or drive almost the entire corridor to reach school. During my time there I saw what reality was, both good and bad. Being a child of a sheltered suburban community, the Corridor was my growing up, my awakening into adulthood.
I’ve always been an avid student of history, and wanting to learn about my surroundings, I discovered the rich past of Cass Ave; I started understanding its own identity from its more famous brother, Woodward. Besides being book-ended by Detroit landmarks such as the Masonic Temple and Fisher Building, the area boasted small music clubs, galleries, and an array of artists, shining through a spectrum of vocations.
The most wonderful thing I discovered about the Corridor was that its artistic influence was not designated to the pages of Detroit history books, it was alive in the many young artists and musicians, like myself who were living their passions.
If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are seeking poverty in the Cass Corridor, you will find it; you may even pass negative judgment, and never give it a second thought. This is to your own detriment; I hope your listening to this recording, showing my impressions of this area will make you see it in a different light. The Cass Corridor is spark; it is legacy; it is pain, guile, patience, optimism, and most of all in my experience, duality.
I am a different person for having lived there, and I’d like to think a better one. The Cass Corridor Suite speaks in my clearest, most articulate voice, my jazz composing. I hope you enjoy it.” Scott Gwinnell.
Detroit is becoming a handsome city filled with galleries, restaurants and shopping destinations. It is becoming a great place to be, not a place to do.
Maybe it is a good time to step back and make sure that we aren’t going to lose something truly valuable, our creative juices. We have an opportunity to grow our city and still retain some room for artists on the rise, creatives who fine themselves living on the edge and who often lead our renaissance.
Let’s make every month Jazz Appreciation Month! One of the greatest things this country exports around the world is our music and culture. This includes the American art forms of Jazz and Blues.
As we’ve stated many times in our Jazz Notes blogs – Jazz and Blues have been some of the most important musical genres in the history of music. Their influence on music around the world has made its mark influencing everything from R&B, Rock, Classical, World, Country, to Gospel, Electronic, Hip Hop and everything in between.
Jazz awareness has been steadily growing in the past couple of decades due to efforts by musicians, historians, journalists, educators and other cultural advocates. Jazz studies programs are growing on the high school and university level enabling young people to become acquainted with, and inspired by, the music early on.
Jazz Awareness Month (April) and International Jazz Day (April 30) are two relatively recent examples of America publicly recognizing their enormous contributions to world culture through it’s indigenous art forms of Blues and Jazz – both of which are rooted in African American musical traditions.
These commemorative months/days give us a chance to recognize and celebrate what this country has contributed to world culture. Our nation is still quite young compared to most others and yet we’ve created the most important contemporary musical art forms from the past century…that are celebrated all over the world.
The following text includes excerpts from the Smithsonian’s website which gives us some interesting background on the creation of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) which is a music festival held every April in the United States, in honor of Jazz as an early American art form.
JAM was created in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, PhD, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Initial funding was provided by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. Miss Fitzgerald’s archives are housed at the Smithsonian.
Schools, organizations, and even governments celebrate JAM with events ranging from free concerts to educational programs. JAM is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and more.
Jazz Appreciation Month 2017: Women in Jazz
2017 Featured musician: Ella Fitzgerald
This year, being the centennial of Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald, JAM 2017 will celebrate women in Jazz. Beyond the traditional female vocalist, there are also many great composers, arrangers, orchestrators, and instrumentalists who have and continue to leave an indelible print on the history and future of jazz.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was one of the greatest American singers in any genre of music. She had a warm and lovely voice, superb rhythmic sense, considerable versatility, a great range (three and a half octaves), meticulous intonation, and improvisatory gifts as a fine natural melodist.
With an unparalleled ability for mimicry and “scat” singing, Fitzgerald also produced melodic lines that put her in the category of great instrumental improvisers. Known as a singer’s singer, she recorded some two thousand songs in her lifetime.
The Ella Fitzgerald Collection, including the Ella Fitzgerald Papers, was donated in 1996 to the National Museum of American History, which has led to a rich amount of resources available for Jazz scholars, teachers, students and fans.
Celebrating 100 years of the First Lady of Song
In the 1930s, amateur contests were among the most popular attractions at theaters in Ella Fitzgerald’s neighborhood of Harlem, NY. At age 16, Ella Fitzgerald and two of her girlfriends wanted to get onstage. They made a bet and drew straws to see which one of them would go on the amateur hour at the Apollo Theater — Ella drew the short straw! Ella had studied dance and was planning to perform a dance number. Why did she end up singing instead? Because she was so thrown off guard by the success of the two teenaged dancing sisters that performed before she was supposed to go onstage.
Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.
After tumultuous teenage years, Fitzgerald found stability in musical success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, performing across the country, but most often associated with the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Fitzgerald’s rendition of the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” helped boost both her and Webb to national fame. Taking over the band after Webb died, Fitzgerald left it behind in 1942 to start a solo career that would last effectively the rest of her life.
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.
Motown records was such a Detroit piece of work. All cities develop their own distinct character. Detroit could be fairly described as a scrappy town. This could explain why world class tunes began to come out of a low rent house on Grand Boulevard. Back in the 60s few people knew the importance of what was going on, like musicians practicing in the back yard while another group was either in the living room or the garage creating magic on a super fast schedule. Who were these people with so much talent? What kind of musicians were willing to put up with this low budget seat of the pants operation? A lot of the artists were the usual suspects, jazz artists, These legendary musicians were genetically equipped to put up with stuff, shift gears, improvise and create memorable tunes.
At the time when Motown was just taking off I worked for New Center Studios, a commercial art studio in Detroit. New Center was one of many commercial art studios that served the Motor City’s vibrant advertising community. The business took up two floors of the Penobscot Building which were packed with overworked and underpaid artists. Jobs would often come in around 5PM, and sometimes the same jobs were due the next morning. To get this done a bunch of talented creative types had to work in unison under pressure, a lot like what I found at Motown Records.
I had to go through the back door and up two flights of stairs to the attic to deliver artwork to Motown’s Art Director who was working on the album artwork. Bob Folster was in his first job in the art biz.. Bob was as green as the bottom of our fish bowl when we came back from vacation. Both Bob and Motown would become good at what they did. From my perspective and based on what I saw at that moment, I didn’t give this enterprise much of a chance of going anywhere.
The house was open 22 hours a day. Artists were given golden opportunities and limiting contracts. They saw opportunity and came to work.
“To Motown’s stars, the four wooden steps leading down to Hitsville’s basement were a bridge to their land of dreams. But to the studio musicians who shaped the Motown sound, the stairs were a gateway to a workplace, a cramped, smoke stained, dimly lit room they affectionately dubbed “The Snake pit.” due to all the cable running out of the ceiling,”
Berry Gordy eventually moved the label to Los Angeles and established the Hitsville West studio there, as a part of his focus on television and film production as well as music production.
Funk Brothers Joe Messina, Johnny Griffith, Joe Hunter, Bob Babbitt and Richard “Pistol” Allen perform at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.
THIS BAND OF MUSICIANS WERE PROBABLY JUST AS RESPONSIBLE FOR MOTOWN’S SUCCESS AS BERRY GORDY.. THEY WROTE THE SONGS THAT HAVE LASTED ALL THESE YEARS
The “Funk Brothers” were utterly unknown until this remarkable documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown made them famous around the world. Most of what I know about this period of Detroit’s music has come from watching this film over and over., The film is packed with joyous camaraderie and stories of survival.
Dennis Coffey is one of the Detroit artists featured in the 2002 film “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown,” His guitar licks contributed to the development of some of the most cherished and important popular music of the 20th Century.
Like so many Detroit jazz musicians Dennis Coffey seems to show up when some interesting music is brewing. As a member of the legendary Funk Brothers he backed his share of hits for Motown, For good or for bad he introduced the wah-wah guitar pedal to Motown in the Temptations’ classics Cloud Nine, Ball Of Confusion, and Just My Imagination. and the resulting influence on all kinds of popular music reverberate to this day.
He played on numerous of Motown’s hit records including number one singles like The Supremes, Someday We’ll Be Together.
In 1971, Dennis Coffey recorded the million selling single”Scorpio” The instrumental track featured the legendary Motown funk brother Bob Babbitt on bass. Coffey played his hit song Scorpio on the television showSoul Train, and became the first white artist to perform on the show.
Dennis tells this and more in his memoir, Guitars, Bars and Motown Superstars.
It is strange that we always look back and think about the “good old” days. Those days when we worked really hard, created our best stuff and complained freely out loud. We look back at times when as a community we accomplished great things. We look back at a time before we escaped into our comfortable private success.
Rather than looking back, I think we should look forward to the good times ahead. This coming Wednesday through Saturday Dennis Coffey will bring his newest group to the Dirty Dog.
The 38th annual Detroit Jazz Festival has recently announced that its artist-in-residence for 2017 is saxophonist/composer and Jazz Master, Wayne Shorter.
The residency program started in 2007 with Detroit based violinist Regina Carter, and has featured such extraordinary musicians as Joshua Redman, Danilo Perez, Terence Blanchard, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Christian McBride, Pat Metheny and Ron Carter among others. The New York Times has described Shorter as “probably jazz’s greatest living small-group composer and a contender for greatest living improviser.”
Wayne Shorter has won 10 Grammys awards and Sweden’s 2017 Polar Music Prize. In 2016, Shorter was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of music composition, the only Jazz artist to receive the honor that year.
Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis. Shorter was a member of Miles Davis Second Great Quintet (1964-68) with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams
He is one of the most prolific composers in contemporary Jazz and has written so many pieces that are now standards within the repertoire. These include “Footprints”, “Nefertiti”, “Infant Eyes” and others.
The residency program spotlights the chosen artist playing multiple sets spanning the four-day Jazz festival. Mr. Shorter, 83 will headline on the opening night with his internationally acclaimed quartet with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. He will also perform in a quintet with Geri Allen, Leo Genovese, Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington. Festival Artistic Director Chris Collins calls this grouping a “unique coming together of different artists of different generations”.
Shorter said in a recent press release that “performing at the Detroit Jazz Festival is something I’ve received the opportunity to do on several occasions, and each time it’s combined a phenomenal atmosphere with immeasurable talent, which is why I keep coming back. I am extremely honored to expand my Festival participation this year by becoming the Detroit Jazz Festival’s Artist-in-Residence.”
In the months leading up to the festival, the prestigious position also includes conducting master classes and educational activities with new and emerging Jazz talent from our community and an intimate duet performance with pianist Danilo Perez at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe on April 20th. For tickets and information call 313-469-6564 ext. 202.
We will be devoting a future blog to discussing Mr. Shorter’s music and his significant contributions to the Jazz idiom including his work with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Joni Mitchell as well as his current projects. Stay tuned!
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.
My father needed a quiet space to concentrate on his work. He was a commercial illustrator and was under pressure to meet deadlines. This need for silence was in conflict with his son who really liked making noise, My heroes were big band drummers, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.
In an act of kindness I was given a pair of sticks and a rubber covered drum pad. It made as much noise as hitting cars tires. The sticks didn’t bounce like they do when you pound on a drum head. The sticks made a lot more noise when I used the furniture as a drum surface. That was the end of my career as a drummer.
When I had a basement of my own I bought a used drum set. I played the drums but never learned how. My left hand never knew what my right hand was thinking. My son Bill did, and he continues to get better and better. I still retreat to the basement from time to time for some drum therapy and whenever I can, I try to catch my son’s gigs.
HUSBAND/ FATHER, TEACHER, BANDLEADER AND DRUMMER
Sean Dobbin’s public face is behind his drum kit. Sean is unquestionably a first call drummer when he isn’t leading his own band. He is definitely a powerful figure who visually seems always to just barely restrain himself from beating his drum set into submission. That is not who it turns out he is. Sean exemplifies what a jazz player and a great drummer should be. Jazz artists like Sean in the past were portrayed as talented souls hanging out in smoky jazz joints until the sun comes up. Well, times have changed.
When the sun comes up for Sean you will often find him involved with getting his three kids organized for school. He and his wife share the responsibility of bringing up three bright kids. His oldest daughter is in Sean’s words, “a brainiac”. Although still in high school she is taking courses at Eastern Michigan University. She needs rides, as does his youngest daughter who has soccer and piano lessons. His son begins the day with a lesson from his dad on his drum set. Remember his son’s name, Matthew Dobbins. He is already a great drummer and is a good basketball player.
I have watched Sean Dobbins teach a class. He knows how to keep young minds focused and his lessons interesting. He spreads a passion for jazz throughout the community .
He is currently a jazz percussion instructor in the U of Michigan music program, in Oakland University’s program and also in Wayne State’s great program.
Sean Dobbins is working with young students in two youth programs. He is Executive Director of the South East Music Academy and Director of Michigan State’s youth jazz program in Detroit.
Sean sees need and responds. This is Detroit, and this is what many musicians do.
Sean’s concern about the musicians coming out of our schools has led him to initiate a series of events that he calls THE RISING STARS SERIES. This program will allow the young talent that is coming out of Detroit to be able to perform at multiple venues around the city.
Sean has for some time led two of Detroit’s most authentic jazz groups. Both bands have been formed out his deep regard for jazz’s history. Sean seems to follow his calling to keep jazz alive by honoring Detroit’s rich heritage.
The Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet is an homage to an instrument that came out of the churches when the Hammond Corp. made organs portable. It became jazz’s most used keyboard instrument after the piano.
This week he will lead the Modern Jazz Messengers into a four day stay at the Dirty Dog. Jazz doesn’t stand still, and Art Blakey who led the original Messengers would be proud to see where Sean has taken the music.
One of the most influential musicians in Jazz, Pontiac born drummer, Elvin Jones (9/9/27-5/18/04) is best known for his work with the John Coltrane Quartet 1960-1966.
Rhythm is inherent in all music containing two or more notes. And, generally speaking, rhythm itself is a defining, essential ingredient in Jazz. Many times it’s the characteristic rhythmic patterns of the genre that tells we’re listening to Jazz. Quite often these patterns reflect various dance styles.
The patterns follow Jazz’s evolution through its use of drums and percussion in corresponding rhythmic styles in everything from Ragtime and Dixieland of the early 20th century up through the Swing, Bebop, Latin Jazz, Free and experimental Jazz, Fusion and all of the other styles Jazz has developed in the last 100+ years. Each style has its own rhythmic, and therefore, drumming and percussion style.
Of course there are other factors that define these styles such as instrumentation and compositional structure, but rhythms seems to top the list with their prominence and immediate and physical affect on the listener- especially in Jazz.
Some believe say it’s the visceral effect of rhythm we feel first, especially when it’s prominent and played on percussive instruments. Rhythms in other genres, such as some Classical and American folk music, support the melodic or harmonic elements but are less prominent and not heard “up front” as they can be in Jazz.
In the beginning Jazz drumming reflected the early places the music got it start such as New Orleans and other American cities, as well as influences from the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere.
Drums and percussion have been essential in Jazz instrumentation since the very beginning and continue to be part of most combos or three or more musicians to this day.
Detroit has had its share of legendary drummers, with a long list that covers many decades and includes such luminaries and style makers such as Elvin Jones, Roy Brooks, Louis Hayes, J.C. Heard, Don Moye, Ali Jackson, Pheeroan akLaff, Frank Isola, Art Mardigan,and others.
Detroit born drummer Roy Brooks (3/9/38-11/15/05) performing a tribute to Miles Davisat the 1991 Detroit Jazz Festival. This powerful drummer played with everyone from Yusef Lateef and Barry Harris to Horace Silver and Max Roach.
Some current Detroit drummers who’ve made their mark include Nate Winn, Karriem Riggins, Gayelynn McKinney, Leonard King, Alex White, Djallo Djakate, Mahindi Masai, Renell Gonzalves, Jessie Kramer, Gerald Cleaver, Skeeto Valdez, and Sean Dobbins who performs with his band at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe from Wednesday April 5th through Saturday, April 8th.
Prolific, drummer, educator, and Kresge Arts Fellow, Gayelynn McKinney, is part of the legendary Detroit musical McKinney family and is the daughter of the late pianist and composer, Harold McKinney. The above photo was taken at Bert’s Marketplace with pianist Bill Meyer and Ralph Armstrong on bass.
Drummer Alex White with James Carter
Drummer and educator, Sean Dobbins, at the Dirty Dog with Diego Rivera, saxophone, Michael Dease, trombone,Corey Kendrick, piano, Marion Hayden, bass.
Detroit Music Factory recording artist, Sean Dobbins, is one of the most sought after drummers of choice performing today. He’s performed with such Jazz notables as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Johnny O’Neal, Cyrus Chestnut, James “Blood” Ulmer, and many others.
He’s also one of the top Jazz educators in this region and is on the faculties at the University of Michigan, Oakland University and Wayne State University. He also serves as the Artistic Director of Jazz Ensembles for the Detroit Symphony and is the Executive Artistic Director of the South Eastern Music Academy.
Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist
ARTIST: KADIR NELSON
There has always been room in my life for some triumphant music, especially when I have been on a losing streak. It was at a time like that that I took a trip to the Delta to find the source of the Blues. I found a lot more than the Blues. I found people doing their best.
I had been tipped off that I might find a refreshing look at life by spending some time in the Mississippi Delta. Two Detroit friends, Robert and Caroline grew up in the Delta. Robert was a blues man when Caroline allowed it. All the stories that they told me of their early years growing up in the Delta were spoken with smiles on their faces. After reading some books on the Delta, the blues and the Northern migration I headed on a road trip to the Delta.
Often the books on the Great Southern Migration had a forward written by William Ferris who was the director of the Southern Studies Center at “Old Miss”, Under his 20-year tenure the University of Mississippi became internationally recognized as a leader in the understanding of life in the South. He was kind enough to send me to Jonestown, MS, a small town in West Central Mississippi just north of the Blues Crossroads.
THE LEGENDARY CROSSROADS IN CLARKSDALE, MS
For many years after that first trip I continued to take a reverse migration route from Detroit to New Orleans. I always tried to include a stop in Jonestown. It is a unique village with a not so unique history in the American South. Jonestown was hardly a biracial town. There were few white owners except for the Delta Oil Mill. With the decline of cotton the culture of interdependence defined the town. They took care of each other as best they could. In the center of the town live a remarkable couple, Donal and Lavern Burnett. The Burnetts have a Texaco gas pump in front of their establishment and some goods to sell inside. You can get some gas, fill your fishing tackle box and fill up on barbecue. They anchored the town with their presence. They provided a place to gather, a place to leave a child if necessary and a source for good advice. Through the years I have watched the Burnetts work with others to make the most of their lives knowing that no one is going to help them. They are all they have. They became my friends, pointed me in the right direction to hear really good music and showed me some truths. Jonestown today is in desperate shape with little hope.
This was for me a life changing experience in many ways. One of the changes was to better know the spirit of those who have influenced the music around me. The county where Jonestown is located in is one of the poorest in the country. In the churches I heard triumphal music despite seemingly hopeless futures for poor rural towns in the South. I had to go to juke joints in Clarksdale to hear Blues played, but I heard the roots of the Blues in the choir lofts of Jonestown.
ARTIST: ROMARE BEARDON
ARTIST: JACOB LAWRENCE
It is becoming harder and harder to live in Jonestown, MS. Crime and drugs move in when jobs leave. A lot of music-filled townspeople have left in desperation, looking for a better place.
ARTIST; JACOB LAWRENCE
Why did black Americans leave the South and migrate north?
The introduction of the cotton gin in the South eliminated manual labor and created a void in work opportunities. Cotton had provided difficult hard labor for many but offered security in company towns that small farmers didn’t have.
As black southerners struggled to survive as farmers on small plots of land they rented from white landowners, a series of agricultural disasters hit them hard in the 1910s: the boll weevil wasted cotton crops across the South, and powerful floods hit farm areas in Alabama and Mississippi. There was racial violence in black neighborhoods in southern cities and rural areas. Economic hardship and violence convinced many black Americans that they had no future in the segregated South.
Jazz musicians came north for the same reasons that other people did, failing crops and discrimination in the South. Fortunately, they brought their culture north as well, including a spirit of hopefulness and sharing that is embedded in jazz.
MARCH 29 – APRIL !
An explosion of spirit will be heard this week at the Dirty Dog. Aquanko, an assembly of some of Detroit’s very best musicians, will celebrate Latin jazz in this intimate club. You are invited to come by, lean back and enjoy some powerful music.
Latin Jazz comes to the Dirty Dog with the return of Alberto Nacif’s Aguanko septet March 29 thru April 1. The band which draws on Afro-Cuban musical traditions is one of the premiere Latin groups in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area and has been internationally recognized as well.
Latin Jazz is always a favorite for most Jazz and world music fans, and music fans in general. The centuries old rhythms are so infectious especially in a live setting when it’s interesting to watch the percussion-based music being created right before your eyes and ears. Latin music is also primarily a dance-based idiom.
It’s so interesting to read about the history and role Latin music played during Jazz’s formative years with the influence of the Cuban based habanera or tango rhythm into Jazz’s basic syncopated rhythmic structure. As with most musical art forms, Latin Jazz was/is a hybrid of various styles that were fused to create a new sound.
Latin music brought together musical elements from African, Moorish, and European traditions and music from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This art form started when Europeans began migrating to the Americas in the 16th century.
The forms contained rhythmic figures with roots in the middle east that were brought to Spain and North Africa by the Moors centuries earlier. This also included folk-loric singing styles and instrumentation that is still synonymous with Latin music today. These cultural elements were then brought into the formation of Latin Jazz.
What makes Aguanko great is the authenticity of the music under the direction of Alberto Nacif who was born in Quaxaca on the west coast of Mexico where the local music was filled with Cuban influences.
Band leader/composer Alberto Nacif and Aguanko performing at the Detroit Jazz Festival
Starting to play conga and bongos early on he moved to Detroit while in his mid-teens and immediately got involved in our city’s fervent music scene that included everything from Disco to Latin Jazz.
Soon after, he started taking lessons from and/or performing with major Latin Jazz artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval, Santana’s Armando Peraza, Danilo Perez, Manuel “Anga Diaz” from Irakere, Tomas “Panga” Ramos of Cubanismo and Jose “Pepe” Espinosa of the Afro-Cuban All-stars among others.
Here in Detroit, he led the Latin Jazz groups “Cubop”, Tumbao Bravo, and now Aguanko. This band features many of Alberto Nacif’s original compositions played by an impressive array of Detroit based talent which includes Jose “Pepe” Espinosa on percussion, Javier Barrios on timbales, pianists Wesley Reynoso and/or Rick Roe, and percussionist Nacif who round out the Latin core of the band that also features Pat Prouty on bass, Russ Miller, sax and flute, Anthony Stanco trumpet, Chris Smith trombone and others. They definitely create a percussive Latin big band sound.
This multi-award winning band will have a new album out this Spring featuring lots of Alberto Nacif’s original music performed by the core group and many guest artists from Ann Arbor and Detroit. I wouldn’t be surprised if they played some of this new music for us during their 4-night stint at the Dirty Dog. Join us and find out!