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Jazz Notes With Judy Adams
May 14, 2020


Ancient Trumpet

An ancient trumpet from 2,000 B.C.


Jazz Notes with Judy Adams/  Jazz Trumpets Lead the Way


The trumpet is one of the original instruments in Jazz. As the loudest and highest pitched member of the brass family, it often takes the lead voice in an ensemble. It dates back to around 2000 B.C. and evidence of early trumpet type instruments has been been found on virtually every continent.


Don Cherry, unique trumpeter


Trumpeter, Don Cherry was a unique artist who blended centuries-old folk music with modern improvisational Jazz.


The trumpet has played a prominent role in Jazz throughout its history. It’s bright, exuberant sound has made it one of the most well loved instruments used in Jazz since the beginning of the art form when most instruments were portable as they were used in gatherings such as parades and other processions.


Trumpeters paved the way for Jazz styles such as Swing and BeBop. Louis Armstrong was one of most significant trumpeters in Jazz along with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.



Louis Armstrong (early photograph)

Photo of Louis Armstrong :


From the late 1890’s to the mid-1920’s the trumpet led the band lineup which also included cornet, clarinet, trombone, banjo, bass, and tuba and only occasionally the saxophone which rose to prominence after the advent of the big band an swing era.



Some of the music’s most important artists have been trumpeters including early Jazz pioneers King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong. The multi-faceted trumpeter/composer Miles Davis had a major influence on Jazz for five decades which included the founding of Be Bop in the 1940’s along with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie who helped create Latin Jazz. For more than 30 years, award winning Wynton Marsalis has been one of today’s top Jazz performers and has devoted his career to promoting the music to both Classical and Jazz audiences worldwide.



Other significant Jazz trumpeters who made their mark over the years include Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Bix Biederbecke, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson, Quincy Jones, Hugh Masekela, Eddie Henderson, as well as Detroiters Donald Byrd, Lonnie Hillyer, John Douglass, Rayse Biggs  and Howard McGhee and Pontiac’s Thad Jones to name a few.



There is also a treasure trove of Jazz trumpeters performing and recording in the world today. The partial list includes such notables as Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Chris Botti, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, and Arturo Sandoval. Most of Detroit’s current Jazz trumpet stars have all played The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe with the world renowned, late great Marcus Belgrave heading the list that also includes, Rayse Biggs, late great Johnny Trudel, Sean Jones, and Dwight Adams.


Our goal with Jazz Notes’ is to discuss the many facets of the music to provide some context to further enhance the listening experience. The more we are conscious of,  the more we can appreciate. It’s like a great meal!



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April 24, 2020

Jazz’s Future / Discovering New Jazz/ the Future of Jazz is in our hands



The Detroit Jazz /Festival audience


After writing about new today’s artists and new Jazz releases the past several years in my blog “Jazz Notes” it made me think about all of the musicians on the forefront who are keeping the idiom fresh with new ideas.


IanFink @DDJC Osler

Versatile Detroit Piano Virtuoso, Ian Finkelstein at the piano

at the Dirty Dog



As we’ve mentioned in previous blog articles, Jazz must stay current while preserving its heritage. By staying current, it ensures Jazz’s future by constantly infusing itself with the newest sounds being created by Jazz artists around the world. Since the beginning, Jazz has been able to avoid being stagnant, and instead, grow with the times by reflecting current culture.



This is primarily done by the up and coming new and emerging artists who are usually close to the newest sounds trends.

World-class Jazz Bassist/Virtuoso/ style-maker , Esperanza Spalding, who was an artist-in-resident at the Detroit Jazz Festival a few years back


Or it could happen at a well programmed Jazz club such as the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe and others in this area. It could also happen at a well programmed radio station. Detroit’s listener supported WRCJ 90.9FM  just added many new shows….go to their website.



Detroit Drummer extraordinaire: Nate Winn


One of the best places to discover new sounds in Jazz is at well programmed Jazz festival such as the Detroit Jazz Festival which takes place annually on Labor Day weekend on various stages in downtown Detroit. Check out other Jazz festivals all over the world.



Unfortunately many of these festivals are not able to have live performances because of the various quarantines in place for our safety, due to the Coronavirus. Let’s hope things are lifted and in place soon.



Our world renowned festival has been around since 1980 and it continues to be a showcase for veteran players and classic styles as well as new trends and fresh talent. If you want to discover new Jazz this is the place. It’s free so you’re able to take in as much music as you like. You can stroll from stage to stage and get a good taste from a variety of styles whether you’re a seasoned fan or new to the music.



For more information on our festival, including the performance schedule, go to


JazzPianistRobert Glasper:photo by NPR


Award-winning Style-maker pianist, Robert Glasper


This year’s “Artist in Residence” is the great vocalist, Dee Dee Bridgewater! Previous ones were also big names in Jazz and style-makers such as Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Pat Metheny, Stanley Clarke and many others over the years. I love how the Dirty Dog has an annual tradition of inviting them each to perform live in the intimate setting of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café…that’s what Jazz is all about. Hope to see you there.




Detroit Jazz Festival director, Chris Collins is also the Director/Professor of Wayne State University’s Jazz Studies program with it’s excellent faculty and alumni. His job puts him in place to identify tomorrow’s Jazz leaders and style-makers.


Yes, Detroit is definitely one of the greatest music cities in the world.  No shortage of talent here!


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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April 20, 2020

Dexter Gordon Our Man in Paris



As we have mentioned in our blog many times over the years, Jazz and the blues are two of the most influential music genres the world has even known. They influenced the creation of most modern musical forms including R&B, Rock, Country, Funk, Hip Hop and more, as these genres are also born in America.



With modern technology and the media, these styles ‘went viral” with the advent of radio and records nearly a century ago.It’s sonorities and rhythmic elements have reverberated all over the world since the beginning of the 20th century.



“Classical” composers such as Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Gershwin, were all drawn to Jazz and its influence is evident in their music. Some became huge fans of Jazz, especially after hearing it on their visits to America.More than ever, America needs to recognize and embrace Jazz as a major component of its cultural identity. Much like European countries have embraced Classical music as one of their major contributions to world culture.



While Jazz has a huge following here at home, there’s still room for more Americans to accept Jazz as part of their musical heritage.  Today, Jazz has established itself as a major musical art form in Europe, Central and South America, and Asia. Countries with a fervent Jazz scene include France, Spain, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Japan, Italy, and of course the U.S.



There are more than three thousand Jazz clubs worldwide in more than 100 countries and 38 American states.International Jazz Day is a yearly event on April 30, organized by UNESCO to celebrate “the virtues of Jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.”



Many musicians have said that there seems to be more support, acceptance and appreciation for Jazz outside the U.S. Major Jazz recording artists have consistently found more gigs in other countries than in America when on tour. While Jazz has a huge following here at home, there’s still room for more Americans to accept Jazz as part of their musical heritage.



Over the years, these attitudes led to many artists becoming expatriates and moving to countries where there was more support for the music. This includes well known artists such as civil rights activist, actress, singer, Josephine Baker, who became a huge star in France in the 1920’s and beyond. Also, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who left the United States in the 1960s to live in, primarily Paris and Copenhagen. There, he played with fellow expatriates and continued to record for Blue Note. He experienced better treatment in Europe, as a Jazz player, than he had in the United States.



Nina Simone

Nina Simone



The great Jazz singer/songwriter and pianist Nina Simone, lived in Liberia, Switzerland, England and Barbados before eventually settling down in the South of France.


This is still happening today as American artists continue to find more financial support for their music in other countries who quite often pay artists a stipend to support their efforts to maintain a higher quality of life in their communities.


Dexter Gordon spent years living and performing in Paris, France. In 1986, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the French film, Round Midnight and was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. Last year was the 50th anniversary of his celebrated album “Our Man in Paris” . The album’s title refers to where the recording was made, Gordon (who had moved to Copenhagen a year earlier) teaming up with fellow expatriates Bud Powell and Kenny Clarke, both Parisian residents, and native Parisian Pierre Michelot.



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April 6, 2020

Jazz Vibes


LionelHamptonAnd HisOrch



Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra /  Lionel Hampton, the greatest vibraphonist of them all / born April 20, 1908 in Louisville, Kentucky.  He was also a drummer, pianist, percussionist, band leader and actor.



Aside from the instrumental stand-bys such as the saxophone, trumpet, bass, piano and drums, musicians over the years have brought a wide array of instruments to the Jazz idiom including ancient and traditional instruments from various cultures including percussion, violins, harps and even bagpipes.



One such instrument is the vibraphone, also known as the vibraharp or simply the “vibes”. Although it was invented around 1920, this electrically powered instrument is related to the balafon and marimbas, which have ancient roots in Central Africa going back nearly a millennium.



The Balafon


The balafon was created in Central Africa in the 12th century. It has wooden slats or keys that rest on top of gourded resonators. The marimba’s ancestor is a type of balafon that African slaves built in Central America around the 16th centuries and was used by the Mayans in festivals and religious ceremonies.



These instruments were actually early keyboards and influenced the creation of the piano, xylophone and other melodically based percussion instruments.



The vibraphone’s sound comes from tuned metal bars or slats that are struck with felt or wool mallets that make its soft, mellow tone quality. Suspended vertically below each bar is a tubular resonator that sustains the tone when the bar is struck.


The special feature that gives the vibraphone its name, are small, electrical fans below the bars that cause a vibrato effect by opening and closing the resonators. A pedal-controlled felt damper, can silence the bars, permitting the playing of short notes and sustained chords. Changing the speed of the vibrato, or using hard mallets are other ways to alter tone quality of the vibraphone.



The vibraphone was first used to add novelty sound effects in vaudeville orchestras and early films. This was soon overpowered by its popularity in Jazz in the 1930s – the idiom where it is mostly used to this day. Louis Armstrong was attracted to its sound around 1929, however it was Lionel Hampton, (1908-2002), who is most associated with the instrument. He was a popular drummer and pianist who noticed the vibraphone back stage at the NBC studios where it was used for the NBC chimes on the radio. It was love at first sight.



“Hamp” became the vibes’ biggest “star”, playing the instrument on stage and in films with such notables as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Quincy Jones, as well as in his own bands. He had a prolific career and still performed well into his 80’s.



The Dirty Dog Jazz Café has recently hosted many world-class, award-winning vibraphonists including the amazing Roy Ayers as well as Jason Marsalis, Warren Wolf, and others.


Other significant Jazz vibraphonists have  included Cal Tjader, Red Norvo, Tito Puente, Terry Gibbs, Stefon Harris, Dave Samuels, and the Grammy-winning, Mack Avenue recording artist, Gary Burton.



Some important vibes players from Detroit include the legendary Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Terry Pollard, and Jack Brokensha, among others.



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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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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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
  An ancient trumpet from 2,000 B.C.   Jazz Notes with Judy Adams/  Jazz Trumpets Lead th [..]
  The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will remain closed until our jazz family can again safely gather in [..]
  The Dirty Dog Jazz Café will remain closed until our jazz family can again safely gather in [..]
Each week the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe hosts live performances from the greatest jazz musicians across the country.