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January 12, 2017


Detroit Guitarist’s Mid 70’s “Fish Feet” Album on Strata Finally Get’s Released






Guitarist Ron English is a well-respected member of Detroit’s music community. He has helped shape contemporary Jazz styles since the 1960’s with a diverse repertoire covering Jazz , Blues, Avant-garde, Motown, Soul/Funk and Gospel.



Growing up in Lansing, he came from a musical family, as his father was a guitar teacher, starting, him on lessons at an early age. He soon got involved in the Jazz scene in Detroit at the Artists’ Workshop and started playing with the Detroit Contemporary 5 which included some of the city’s most progressive artists such as trumpeter Charles Moore, pianist Kenn Cox, Drummer Danny Spencer, bassist John Dana, and saxophonist Larry Nozero. They soon created the artist-run, now legendary, Strata Records.



Strata was more than a label. It was a magazine, a venue for concerts, poetry readings and other performance arts and many more activities that provided services for artists of all kinds. Their headquarters and performance venue was at 46 W. Selden in the University/Cultural Center of Detroit.



For the next two decades Ron was very active, touring and recording with Detroit’s who’s who of Jazz during that era, including Lyman Woodard, Phil Ranelin, Wendell Harrison, Kenn Cox, Eddie Russ and many others. He toured as a backing musician for many Motown artists such as the Supremes, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and others. He was also a founding member of the Woolies who had a hit cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” in 1967.



During this time he also led his own group which played weekly at Cobb’s Corner on Cass and Willis opening for such notables as McCoy Tyner, The Jazz Crusaders and other big names.



Currently, English teaches guitar, Jazz theory and ensemble classes at Marygrove College. He can also be heard every Tuesday night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe with the Charles Boles Quartet with Boles on piano, Renell Gonzalves on drums and John Dana on bass.





Ron English with the Charles Boles Quartet performing each Tuesday at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe


Photo: John Osler




Last week, Ron handed me a copy of his mid-1970’s album Fish Feet which is being released for the first time by 180 Proof, who are releasing much of the material from the famed Detroit based label, Strata Records. 180 Proof has their catalog of 30 unreleased masters in addition to their 6 official commercial releases. Their house DJ Amir is creating appropriate remixes, restorations and covers from the Strata catalog, creating new synergy between the players of the past and the music fans of today.



Ron’s Fish Feet features 5 out 7 tracks that are originals. Band members include some of the best artists from the era.



These include the great Norma Jean Bell on Alto, Lyman Woodard on organ, George Davidson on drums, Phil Ranelin on trombone, Kenn Cox, piano, Ed Pickins bass, Danny Spencer, drums/percussion, Charles Moore, trumpet/percussion, Leonard King, percussion and Larry Nozero, tenor. The horn section used throughout consisted of Marcus Belgrave, Phil Ranelin, Norma Jean Bell, Larry Nozero, and Ralph (Busy) Jones.



The limited double vinyl LP is also being released on CD. The artwork was done by Overton Loyd best known as the artist who created covers for George Clinton including the 1978 classic “Motor Booty Affair”.






This album takes you back to a time when Jazz was starting to infuse more Soul and Funk into its sound due to the emerging popularity of these newer styles. The music is a soundprint of the sounds of Detroit Jazz in the 1970’s when the Jazz scene here was hotter than hot!


Congratulations Ron!



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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