perspective: jazz


The kaleidoscopic range of jazz sounds coming our way in February and March include a pair of fascinating programs with a world music tilt.

The exciting African chanteuse Angelique Kidjo makes her UMS debut at Hill Auditorium Friday, February 1 at 8pm. She is a remarkable singer with influences from Miriam Makeba to Jimi Hendrix. She is also a powerful social activist and a UNICEF and Oxfam goodwill ambassador. Her opening act will be emerging star Meklit Hadero, blending urban jazz, folk and African stylings.

The UMS Global Music Series continues in March with an intriguing double billing which features traditional Iraqi music in jazz contexts. Hamid Al-Saadi and the Iraqi Maqam Ensemble tag teams with Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers at Hill Auditorium Saturday, March 23 at 8pm. Maqam is an ancient and complex tradition of Arabic modes of vocal and instrumental music. Al-Saadi is the only living singer to master all of the compositions of the maqam repertoire. Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar is a real delight with traditional instruments like the oud and buzuq alongside the tenor sax of Ole Mathisen and second-generation jazz drummer Nasheet Waits. The result is mesmerizing and wildly rhythmic.

Aboard The Ark

Ann Arbor's world-renowned folk emporium has always celebrated and embraced world music traditions. The Klezmer Guy (a.k.a. Bert Stratton) offers up comedic sketches and beatnik clarinet with pianist-singer-chauffeur Alan Douglas as collaborator Friday, February 15 at 8pm. World music guitar virtuoso Pierre Bensusan plays the Ark Tuesday, February 19 at 8pm. Gypsy jazz guitarist John Jorgenson returns Thursday, February 21 at 8pm. He has a remarkable pedigree that includes membership in the Desert Rose Band and Elton John's band!

The Hot Club of Cowtown is slated to appear Friday, February 22 at 8pm. This Austin-based outfit is delightfully, bucolic big fun! Their most recent recording, "What Makes Bob Holler," pays homage to Bob Wills.

Jazz cats will be pleased to know that soulful bluesman Keb' Mo' is set to play the Ark Friday, March 22 at 8pm. The man with the peace sign is back by popular demand!


There is a dizzying array of talent lined up to play a living room near you during Groundhog month! Trumpeter and composer Derek Worthington is the founder of the experimental Arbor Composers Collective. They appear at Kerrytown Concert House Sunday, February 3 at 8pm., celebrating the release of Worthington's debut recording. "Lovely Properties" features trumpets and tuba, saxes and clarinets, strings and percussion. Progressive vocalist Cyrille Aimee hits with three Guitar Heroes Friday, February 8 at 8pm. Her cultural pool includes powerful rhythms from the Dominican Republic and French
Gypsy traditions.

Pianist Kris Davis has drawn a lot of attention in NYC. She brings an adventurous quintet to KCH Friday, February 15 at 8pm. The band includes Mat Maneri on viola and hipster Tom Rainey on drums. Pianist Mark Braun, better known as Mr. B, celebrates with his hard-swinging, annual birthday bash Saturday, February 16 at 8pm. Seriously funky fun!

Leading-edge guitarist Michael Musillami brings a trio with bassist Joel Fonda and drummer George Schuller. Their complex telepathy will be on display Tuesday, February 19 at 8pm.

Pianist-composer Ellen Rowe fronts a stellar quintet featuring trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and including Midas-touch sax cat Andrew Bishop, bassist Kurt Krahnke and drummer Pete Siers. They are set to circle the sonic wagons Friday, February 22
at 8pm.

Drummer Jason Marsalis turns to mallets for his KCH gig with the Jason Marsalis Vibe Quartet Sunday, February 24 at 7pm. The band features pianist Austin Johnson with bass and drums.

Highlights from the KCH calendar for March include the Jazz Master Series, featuring saxophonist Chris Collins Saturday, March 2 at 8pm. A professor and director of jazz studies at Wayne State University, Collins has worked with Mel Torme, Doc Severinsen and Lou Rawls. He will be joined by a piano trio with Tad Weed, Kurt Krahnke and Sean Dobbins. The deeply emotional singer Naima Shamborguer performs at KCH Friday, March 15 at 8pm. The band features Vincent
on reeds, pianist Sven Anderson, bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Sean Dobbins. Lovely
evening glow!


Baritone sax cat and bandleader David Swain fronts Ann Arbor's longest-running big band. He puts his big fun II-V-I Orchestra through their paces the last Sunday of every month at the Creekside Grill starting around 6:30pm. Their program for Sunday, February 24 features the music of Dizzy Gillespie! In March they pay tribute to the Tonight Show Band.


Lastly…did you think I forgot? It would not be a complete column for February if I failed to recall the promise of my favorite secular holiday! Groundhog Day is Feb. 2, and whether the furry fellow is spooked or not, we can be assured that spring will be coming soon! Play ball!

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