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Jazz Notes With Judy Adams
March 30, 2020



“There is no better place in the world for Jazz than Labor Day weekend in Detroit,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation Board of Directors. “We’re truly excited for another great Jazz festival and welcome our guests from around the world to our beautiful city.”



Detroit Jazz Festival /Carhartt Stage

September 4-7, 2020



Chris Collins, Detroit Jazz Festival and Artistic Director



Chris Collins, Detroit Jazz Festival President and Artistic Director presented the performance schedule for this year’s festival at the annual press conference last week. He included a list of some of the headlining groups and the annual Artist-in-residence which is the Grammy and Tony award winning Jazz vocalist, Dee Dee Bridgewater.



Chris has out done himself this year with an outstanding artist roster that is sure to attract Jazz fans with diverse tastes in Jazz. Headliners include everyone from Herbie Hancock to Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper and Kurt Elling.



JazzPianistRobert Glasper:photo by NPR

Pianist, Robert Glasper / Photo by NPR


Chris knows his music, as he is also a well-known saxophonist and band leader as well as chairman of the Jazz Studies department at Wayne State University.



Detroit Jazz Festival 2020 media sponsors Detroit Public TV and WRCJ 90.9 FM join Detroit Jazz Fest “On the Road” to the upcoming 50th Festival”!



The music this year shines the spotlight on Detroit’s world-renowned Jazz history and arts community that brought us such artists as drummer Elvin Jones, Alice Coltrane,  Dave McMurray, Anita Baker, Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Ron Carter,   Rodney Whitaker, Kenny Garrett, Curtis Fuller, Paul Chambers, Faruq Z. Bey and countless others.



“True to our mission, the Detroit Jazz Festival provides a platform for emerging and legacy artists to
present true jazz presentations to enthusiasts and fans across the world…this year is no exception.” – Chris Collins


Media sponsors share a common mission with the festival. “At Detroit Public TV and WRCJ 90.9 FM, we aim to strengthen our creative, diverse local community through innovative programming and strong advocacy for the arts.


This commitment to helping Greater Detroit residents access the best cultural experiences our great city has to offer has led to us partner with the famed Detroit Jazz Festival for our third consecutive year.


As the Detroit Jazz Festival approaches its 50-year anniversary, Detroit Public TV and WRCJ are proud to partner with this iconic annual event that helps ensure jazz remains an important part of life in the town played such a large role in the creation of this great art form.”


In keeping with a tradition of presenting true jazz artists and presentations that define its renowned jazz reputation and legacy across the globe, the Detroit Jazz Festival today announced its 2020 lineup for Labor Day weekend.


Previously announced, Grammy and Tony-award winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater will serve as the Festival’s Artist-in-Residence. The Detroit Jazz Festival is the world’s largest (and best) free jazz festival in the world.



“True to our mission, the Detroit Jazz Festival provides a platform for emerging and legacy artists to present true jazz presentations to enthusiasts and fans across the world…this year is no exception,” said Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation President and Artistic Director Chris Collins.



“This year’s festival will showcase a very dynamic group of artists from various disciplines and generations, representing our embedded mission to present multiple facets of jazz in one festival setting,” said Collins.



The 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater will headline multiple performances during the Festival including an opening set with protégé group, the Woodshed Network Ladies, and a closing night performance with her all-female big band. Besides Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling and Gregory Porter, other highlights include performances from Pharoah Sanders, Abdullah Ibrahim, Omar Sosa and Marialy Pacheco.



This year’s theme, “The Road to the Festival”, also kicks off a journey to the Festival’s 50-year celebration.




The great Jazz pianist, Herbie Hancock, will be at the Detroit Jazz Festival again this year!



Here’s a partial listing of this year’s Festival lineup:

Friday, Sept. 4


• 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Woodshed Network Ladies

• Herbie Hancock


Saturday, Sept. 5

• Matthew Whitaker Quartet
• Kenny Barron Trio
• Alicia Olatuja – “Intuition: Songs From The Minds of Women”
• Etienne Charles – Creole Soul
• David Binney Angeleno Quartet
• Keyon Harrold presents Jazz and the Birth of Hip Hop with special guests “Elzi”, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Chris “Daddy” Dave
• Pharoah Sanders: Icon
• The Summit: The Manhattan Transfer Meets Take 6
• Kurt Elling’s Big Blind; featuring Kurt Elling, 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee
• Bridgewater, Broadway Legend Ben Vereen and others


Sunday, Sept. 6

• Michael Mayo Quartet
• Roberto Fonseca – YESUN
• Alfredo Rodriguez & Richard Bona Sextet
• 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bill Charlap
• Abdullah Ibrahim and the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra
• Anat Cohen Tentet/Musical Director, Oded Lev-Ari
• Sean Jones: “Dizzy Spellz”
• The Dave Brubeck 100th Anniversary Tribute; featuring the Brubeck Brothers, Jerry
• Bergonzi, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra and Choir, and others
• Fly Higher: Charlie Parker@100 Co Music directors: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Terri Lyne
• Carrington
• Gregory Porter


Monday, Sept. 7
• Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya
• Joey Alexander Trio
• Jimmy Greene Quintet
• Eddie Daniels and Bob James; Exploring New Worlds
• Omar Sosa & Marialy Pacheco Piano Duo
• Robert Glasper
• 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater and her all-female big band


The full Festival schedule will be available as the event nears.



“There is no better place in the world for Jazz than Labor Day weekend in Detroit,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation Board of Directors. “We’re truly excited for another great Jazz festival and welcome our guests from around the world to our beautiful city.”

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March 19, 2020



When it comes to vocal vs. instrumental music, it seems as though most listeners prefer one over the other.  A lot is determined by what genres they are driven to. For example, rock, “pop” or blues etc. use more vocals than other styles such as Classical or Jazz.



Other vocal based styles include  Folk music, Country, Bluegrass,  R&B, Opera, and many others. On the other hand, there are genres that are primarily instrumental such as Jazz, Classical, and dance oriented forms of World Music.



In most cases most people prefer vocal music over instrumental. A lot depends on what type of music they were exposed to as a child.



Lyrics in a song usually deliver a specific message or story, while instrumental music encourages the listener to use their imagination and emotional memory. The sounds in music often mimic sounds we hear in everyday life, conveying  a certain mood or emotion.  Instrumental music can do this without words.



I have been intrigued with the vocal v.s. instrumental music syndrome since the early 70’s when I began producing a daily radio program with an  eclectic music mix.  The show featured everything from Blues and Jazz to World music, Classical, Funk, and everything in between.  Listeners would give me feed back on what they liked and didn’t  like – quite often commenting on the vocal vs. instrumental issue.



I had to make sure to choose the right pieces of music so as not to get genre shock ,(or too much contrast between pieces) striving for the right blend of different styles to achieve a pleasant sound with continuity while presenting a wide variety of music from many cultures and time periods.




Drawing on many styles, I had to look for pieces that were compatible and had things in common to play off of, regardless of when or where they were written.



It’s interesting to listen to comments listeners make about the music, responding to the melody, lyrics or tempo or the emotional feel of the music itself.



Some folks were a bit uncomfortable listening to instrumental music -saying  “it was as if they were driving with their eyes closed”.  Some never thought about it, or noticed the music as having words or not.


Examine  your own tastes and see what you prefer!

March 2020






















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March 10, 2020




Jazz Pianist McCoy Tyner


I saw in Saturday’s New York Times that revered Jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner, had died the day before at the age of 81.  Ben Ratliff wrote that Mr. Tyner was a “cornerstone of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960’s quartet” and one of the most influential pianists in Jazz history with his rich, percussive playing, he gained notice with John Coltrane’s quartet, then went on to influence virtually every pianist in Jazz.”


He spent five years playing in John Coltrane’s group alongside other big names such as bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, playing on  several albums that have become Jazz “landmarks” of the idiom including “My Favorite Things,  “Impressions”” and “A Love Supreme”.”


I studied music and the piano for most of my life and became a huge fan of McCoy Tyner after being introduced to his music from WDET’s  Program Director, Bud Spangler, when I first started working at the station in 1973.


McCoy Tyner soon became one of my favorite pianists as well as one of the greatest pianists in Jazz.  His powerful playing style was “one of a kind” with a strong left-hand, due partially to the fact he was left handed.  I liked this because I’m left-handed as well.


I got to see him play live many times over the years, which was definitely a powerful experience.  The last time I saw him was at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall about 6 years ago. You could tell that his health was slowing him down but the music was still moving strong. People were saying that it might be his last tour.


I had the opportunity to do a live interview with him a WDET in the the late 70’s while I was  doing my “Morphogensis” program..and he was on a promo-tour for his “Fly with the Wind” album.


The photo here was taken the day of that interview. I was mesmerized by his presence (to say the least!). It must have been around 1977. The other person in the photo was Chris Hubbarth, his escort from the record company, who was also a fan.


What a great experience that was as the interview went on for more than an hour. We ended up talking about all sorts of things,  from his work with John Coltrane, his chordal style and spirituality. I will never forget meeting him and our warm conversation.


The great McCoy Tyner  and his music will not be forgotten as his music will go on forever through his many recordings and other copies of his work – not to mention our memories.   He once said that to him “living and music are all the same thing.”


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March 2, 2020


Gayelynn McKinney at DDJC


Award winning Detroit Jazz drummer and bandleader, Gayelynn

McKinney at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Photo by John Osler



Ms. McKinney has been quite busy the past year or two starting when she became a mentor and a member of Aretha Franklin’s band where she got to go on world-wide tours and play with a great group led by the legendary musical genius Aretha Franklin, not long before her untimely death.


ArethaFranklin and GayelynnMcKinney

Aretha Franklin and Gayelynn McKinney


These tours included entertaining our troupes in Germany and Italy and elsewhere.
Gayelynn said that traveling and performing with Miss Franklin was a deeply gratifying and inspirational experience she will never forget. These experiences eventually began influencing her music in many ways.



Gayelynn and Harold McKinney(HughGrannum)

Gayelynn with her late father, Harold McKinney , who was an award-winning  composer, pianist, and mentor and co-founder of the musician-run-collective “Tribe” which was a internationally respected Detroit Jazz band,  magazine, concert venue,  and record label all in one!



At home she not only received a coveted Kresge Arts Fellowship which allowed her to release her McKinfolk album, which is a tribute to her late father’s musical legacy which preserved and reflected the  Detroit Jazz sound and style,  but she was also honored with a Detroit Black Music Award as well.  The musical McKinney family is legendary in Detroit. In fact, a road in downtown Detroit’s Harmonie Park is named after her father, “Harold McKinney”.



Gayelynn McKinney at DDJC


For this return run to the Dirty Dog, Gayelynn, as always, has brought together some great musicians in her new multigenerational band – a perfect eclectic mix for a night of eclectic Jazz, including John Douglas on trumpet, Jeffrey Trent on saxophone, Jonathan Muir-Cotton on bass, Gerard Gibbs on keyboards (on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and pianist Ian Finkelstein on Friday.



Gayelynn will also be treating us to some new compositions from a soon to be released “McKinney-Zone” CD which should be out soon. They’re all played by some of the best musicians playing in Detroit at this time. It’s all happening at the Dirty Dog, Wednesday, March 11 through Saturday March 14.  Hope to see you there!



For reservations and information, all the Dirty Dog at 313-882-5299 or go to

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February 24, 2020

RobertJohnson Missiissippi Delta Blues

Robert Johnson considered to be one of the greatest blues performers of all time. He was born in Hazlehurst Mississippi 5/8/11, and died in Greenwood, Mississippi, 8/16/38.


His hits include, “Cross Road Blues” (also known as “Crossroads”) which is a blues song he wrote and recorded in 1936. Johnson performed it as a solo piece with his vocal and acoustic slide guitar in the Delta blues-style. It has since become a major  blues standard recorded and performed by various groups over the years, including the English band Cream featuring guitarist Eric Clapton.


Some of his other hits including  ” I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom ” and ” Sweet Home Chicago,” have become  major  blues standard as well.


The Influence of the Blues on Jazz is astounding but what’s more astounding is the influence that the Blues has had on the majority of music genres created in the 20th century. From Bluegrass and Country Music to Rock, R&B, Funk and Avant-Garde “Free Jazz” –  the Blues is the foundation.


Jazz and the Blues:

Wikipedia states that the Blues is a music genre and art form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African-Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals.



The Influence of the Blues on Jazz:

Blues and Jazz have much in common, from their origins to their spread, through the then-developing media of sound recordings and radio broadcasts, to national and international art forms. Both the Blues and Jazz have had a major influence on world culture that sometimes goes beyond music and speaks to the musical opinions and viewpoints that give these revered musical art forms relevance today.



Memphis Minnie


Influential blues “star”, the great Memphis Minnie


Jazz as we know it would not exist without the blues. The twelve-bar blues chorus, with its familiar harmonic structure, built on the centuries-old  5-note, pentatonic scale,  was the single most popular template (format) for early Jazz composition and improvisation.



Early jazz giants including Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong used blues scales  and structure as the foundation for many of their most important creations, while Duke Ellington, despite a half-century of composing that led him to write extended suites and, compositions continued to employ the blues as the primary foundation for the more than 5,000 pieces he composed during his amazing musical career.



As Jazz evolved and musicians applied more sophisticated ideas of rhythm and harmony, the Blues remained a constant, the basis for such influential compositions as Count Basie’s popular “One O’Clock Jump” in the ’30s, Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” in the ’40s, Miles Davis’ “Walkin'” in the ’50s and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” in the ’60s.



Thelonious Monk


Pianist/composer, Thelonious Monk, photo:



From the very beginning, the Blues can be heard in most Jazz music… frequently deviating from its familiar form but still recognizable, with the artists showing a willingness to bend the rules to their own satisfaction.



These are significant examples of artists and improvisers steeped in an aura of the blues. Yet, the same could be said regarding such modern stylists as the late Ornette Coleman, who retained the raw authenticity of the blues form in his music both live and recorded. This was the case for other Jazz innovators such as John Coltrane, who built his masterpiece “A Love Supreme” on a basic blues riff not that far removed from Blues power house’ Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son.”





Saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, photo by BlogSpot



We can still hear the blues shining through today’s Jazz which clearly uses modern musical influences as its foundation built on everything from world music, funk, fusion, rock, hip hop and more that happen to be contemporary forms that are also steeped in the Blues.





Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM. She made her mark at WDET 101.9FM where she was program director and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.

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February 13, 2020

The Elements of Jazz


Jazz Elements of Composition


In this week’s Jazz Notes we focus on the basics of compositional elements in Jazz. This gives us a rough “road map” as to what to listen for in the music. Although there are no two Jazz pieces that are completely alike, Jazz, like most genres does have some common elements that help characterize it and define it’s sound.



Generally, we can define these key elements as use of the blues and pentatonic ( scales, syncopation, swing (or “a swaying beat” also heard in funk and other rhythmic styles) and the use of improvisation.

Esperanza Spalding


Music itself is an art form that combines or alternates sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch which is basic to melody and harmony, rhythm which defines tempo, meter, articulation, and dynamics, which affect sonic qualities such as, volume, timbre and texture. The word music, comes from the Greek word mousike, meaning “art of the Muses”.



Jazz ranges from strictly organized compositions, through free form/improvisational music to written forms such as scores and charts.



Compositional techniques are the methods used to create most styles of music. These range from using written musical notation, to the use of improvisation, musical montage, and arrangements for various ensemble configurations.



Improvisation is a key element of Jazz. It is the act of composing extemporaneously during the performance and assembling the musical elements.



One method to compose Jazz is starting with a base series of chords. Once the series of chords is selected, additional lines are added to embellish these, and usually include a lead melody line.



Another method involves free playing. For example, a pianist might simply sit and start playing chords, melodies, or random notes that come to mind in order to find some inspiration, then build on the discovered lines to add depth.



Creating structure to a piece means composers may decide to divide their music into sections. One common form in Jazz involves an exposition, development, and recapitulation. The end speaks to the beginning, concluding things, while the development allows for personal interpretation and improvisation.



Instrumentation is the task of adapting a composition for musical instruments and ensembles. This is known as arranging or orchestrating. A composition may have multiple arrangements based on such factors as its intended audience, musical genre or various stylistic treatments.



This breakdown of compositional elements is a useful tool to use while listening to many different genres of music, not just Jazz. Happy listening!




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.




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February 7, 2020

Jazz Notes with Judy Adams




The Art of Listening to Jazz

Jazz has been around since before the beginning of the 20th century. But unlike other genres, it keeps on growing, picking up new fans along the way. Many of them love the music but say they wish they knew more about it…. Below is a new installment in our on-going series of “The Art of Listening to Jazz”.




Jazz is a true musical art form and listening to Jazz is also an art.


It involves listener participation. And, the more we “hear”, the more we can appreciate, from its complex melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, to its use of improvisation where the musicians use this centuries-old performance art to create music “in the moment” making each performance a unique experience.


Most of the time there is a rhythmic or melodic theme that one is improvising off of. It is an organized sequence of notes that creates a central idea or phrase that is often repeated throughout the piece.



Photo by InStock


Concentrating on these themes is what guides the listener through to the improvisation.


Although it is spontaneous, it still involves special techniques musicians utilize. Sometimes the theme is played with different modes or scales. Some artists will alter the phrasing by keeping the general frame work the same but changing other aspects of the piece.



Jazz improvisational styles also vary from musician to musician. Some leave elements of the theme intact, allowing it to be prominent enough to shine through the improvisation, while others favor a more abstract, formless approach. Each type of Jazz seems to favor a different approach to improvisation as well. Traditional Jazz favors a more conservative approach while contemporary Jazz encourages the musicians to be more adventurous and experimental.


The attentive listener will be able to hear the alterations in the thematic material enough to appreciate the musician’s individual interpretation of the music. Most of the “pop” and “classical” music we hear doesn’t contain these free-form opportunities. But it is this intellectual and artistic depth that attracts us to the Jazz experience in the first place. It’s also what gives Jazz its lasting appeal because no two performances are alike.





Art Tatum, the Vogue Room, New York
1946 or 1948

Photo: William P. Gottlieb, Wikipedia

Art Tatum, (1909 – 1956) was a Jazz pianist who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest Jazz pianists and improvisors of all time. He was also a major influence on later generations of Jazz pianists. Critic Scott Yanow wrote, “Tatum’s quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries”.





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.

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January 28, 2020

JAZZ NOTES  /  It’s a Family Thing…


As we’ve mentioned previously in “Jazz Notes”, it’s not surprising that children growing up with professional musicians in the house often become musicians themselves. Growing up in a musical environment gives family members an advantage with their continuous exposure to the music and the “musician lifestyle”.






Bassist, Rodney Whitaker and his newest album “All Too Soon”…


There are many examples of musicians today who followed in the footsteps of their parents or other close relatives. It was wonderful hearing the talented Rockelle Fortin singing with her father, acclaimed bassist Rodney Whitaker and his band recently at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe.


I was impressed that he didn’t introduce her as his daughter but instead as Rockelle Fortin.  It showed his respect for her as an artist and it got me thinking about all of the other “Jazz” progeny in today’s music.  Rodney Whitaker will be at the Dirty Dog April 10,11, 2020.





The Marsalis family of Jazz artists. /  Photo by


The Marsalis’s are one of today’s most well-known musical families. Led by their father and mentor, pianist/educator, Ellis Marsalis, the famous brothers, Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason, Ellis III and Mboya-Kenyatta have helped put the Marsalis name on the Jazz world map.



gayelynnMckinney, photo-


Drummer and band leader, Gayelynn McKinney / Photo by


Detroit’s well-known McKinney family formerly led by the late pianist/educator and patriarch Harold McKinney, is now led by daughter and drummer Gayelynn McKinney with pianist Carlos McKinney, bassist Ray McKinney and trombonist Kiane Zawaldi among others.


Gayelynn McKinney is now one of Detroit’s most accomplished drummers and band leaders. Over the years she has played for renowned international music artists like the Aretha Franklin, Freda Payne, Chaka Khan, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, Larry Coryell, Marcus Belgrave, Ralphe Armstrong, Roy Ayers, and Geri Allen. She’ll be playing at the Dirty Dog 3 different times in the coming months, first with Ralphe Armstrong next week from January 29-February 1, then with her own band from March 11-14, and with Straight Ahead from May 27-30th, For reservations call 313-882-05299





Drummer Elvin Jones / photo by


Pontiac, Michigan’s Jones brothers were one of the first families of Jazz. Elvin Jones was one of Jazz’s most powerful and influential drummers. Having worked with John Coltrane from 1960-66, he continued on his own musical path until his passing in 2004. Pianist, Hank Jones, made significant contributions to the development of Jazz piano and Thad Jones was a famous trumpeter, composer and arranger who worked with Count Basie and, later, with his own band, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.



The fact that Jazz continues to grow in many ways is a good sign that the genre has lasting appeal. While musical families nurture and insprire their offspring, we also see this happening with Jazz education where exposure to the music is the key to forming new artists who feel an affinity to sounds of Jazz.


The influential and powerful Jazz drummer Elvin Jones (1927-2004) in 1976.  Photo Wikipedia




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.





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January 16, 2020





Ralph Armstrong performing at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe/ photo by John Osler



Award winning Jazz Bassist, Ralph Armstrong is at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe from January 29-Saturday Feb. 1


As a well respected Jazz bassist, Ralph Armstrong, loves being from Detroit and enjoys promoting its cultural treasures while performing in various places around the world.  Ralph’s personal history goes back to the turn of the 20th century with his father, (Howard Armstrong) taking a lead role in promoting the blues and other early American folk traditions.


LouieBluie BluesHistorian and raycontour

Ralph’s father, Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong



Ralph’s musical talents have allowed him to play with some of the top names in Jazz and cutting edge contemporary music including Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Larry Coryell and Jean-Luc Ponty to name a few. That’s Ralph , second on the left, with Mahavishnu in the 1970’s.



RalphArmstrong+JohnMcLaughlin's Mahavishu orchestra


And, like so many other successful musicians from Detroit, he went to Cass Technical High School and Interlochen School of Fine Arts in northern Michigan. Something else that sets Ralph apart, was that he was born into a musical family as his father Howard Armstrong was a famous musician and artist known as “Louie Bluie” (1909-2003) who was part of a an award-winning trio known as Martin, /Bogan and Armstrong.


It started when he joined a band led by Blind Roland Martin and his brother Carl Martin. He was known as a well-respected musicologist and blues historian, a country blues musician who played many different instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, and guitar.


Ralphe Armstrong as a child, with his father Howard


Ralph Armstrong as a child, with his father Howard, “Louie Bluie”, in the early 1960s



They toured the United States playing work songs and spirituals through popular Tin Pan Alley tunes. As Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, they also performed at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. The music these artists created and played is at the core of blues-based contemporary music which is the root of most of the music created in the past century. That is very significant when you stop and think about it.



LouieBluie LouieBluie

Louie Bluie Album Cover



After serving in World War II, Howard Armstrong moved to Detroit and worked in the Auto Industry until 1971. With a revival of old-time African-American music, Martin, Bogan and Armstrong reunited, and the band recorded, performed at clubs and festivals and went on a tour of South America sponsored by the U.S.State Department. They played together until Martin’s death in 1979.



Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong (March 4, 1909 – July 30, 2003) was a recipient of a prestigious  1990 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.



He continued to perform with a younger generation of musicians and released his first solo album, Louie Bluie, in collaboration with his son Ralphe Armstrong and Ray Kamalay in 1995. The album earned him a W.C. Handy Blues award nomination for Acoustic Album.


Armstrong was also an expert painter, and designed the juke joint set for the film The Color Purple.
He died in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 94.




Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM. She made her mark at WDET 101.9FM where she was program director and daily on-air music host for more than 30 years.





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January 8, 2020



IanFink @DDJC Osler


Pianist Ian Finkelstein at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe / Photo by John Osler



Back about 14 years ago I produced a live music series at the Jazz Café at the Music Hall. It was called the Jazz Café Discovery Series. Each week we’d feature local bands and artists from area high schools and universities. Their performances would be broadcast each Sunday night on WVMV 98.7 radio.



Since then, many of these young artists have gone on to become some of today’s best Jazz musicians in the Detroit area with many of them attracting national and international attention. These include Rafael Statin, DeSean Jones, Marcus Ellliot, Alex White, Jon Dixon and Ian Finkelstein to name a few.



As we mentioned in a previous blog article, Ian Finkelstein is known today as a pianist, producer, composer and educator.



IanFinkstein B+W Osler


Ian Finkelstein at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe / Photo by John Osler



During our Music Hall series, Ian really stood out as he played with technical precision and a good understanding of improvisational structure – making it hard to believe he and some of the others were still in high school.



Many of them have begun touring around the world and all have played the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Ian and his band will be there again January 15-18. For more information go to our website at I’m looking forward to hearing his intuitive interpretations of Jazz standards as well as his own compositions.



Last time, he created a trance-like listening experience filled with personal intensity while flawlessly executing the music on the keyboard.


Ian graduated from the University of Michigan with two degrees: a BFA in Jazz Piano Performance and another in Performing Arts Technology. He’s also been mentored by many top musicians such as the late Marcus Belgrave, and Geri Allen and has shared the stage with many legendary Jazz artists including Benny Golson, Robert Hurst, and others.



Chick Corea, who was in town for the 2015 Jazz Festival was immediately impressed with his playing when he accidentally walked in on Ian (who was rehearsing) on his way to the Green Room at the Dirty Dog.



IanFinkstein B+W Osler


Detroit Jazz pianist, producer, composer, and educator, Ian Finkelstein.
Photo by John Osler



IanFink @WDET.orgStripeShirt

Ian Finkelstein  / Photo by WDET-FM



In 2014 he performed in Marcus Belgrave’s band at in New York with Marcus Elliot, Marion Hayden, Joan Belgrave, and Gayelynn McKinney. New York Times Jazz writer Ben Ratliff wrote, “the band also included two young Detroit musicians, the tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliott and the pianist Ian Finkelstein, convincing and confident, evolved in touch and tone, the kind of musicians New York would be lucky to have….”



A fan of many kinds of music, Finkelstein says some of his favorite pianists are Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard and Ramsey Lewis. He said he’s been enjoying a lot of house and techno music these days, and also been creating a lot of his own. Other favorites include Theo Parrish, Norm Talley, Rick Wilhite, Roy Ayers and many others. As mentioned earlier, he’s also been checking out the late pianist Ken Cox’s Contemporary Jazz Quintet, from the 1970s and beyond and also the masterful drummer, Max Roach.





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.




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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
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Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.