Springtime swings into Tree Town!

By the time this issue of Current hits the streets we should all be enjoying the shifting of the seasons. The softening of the earth and the warming of the air means that we can call an end to hibernation and move about with greater ease. While musical events ramp up, many will find the season itself beckoning us to return to the clubs and concert hall scenes that bring joy and inspiration. We will have plenty of opportunities in April and May! The world is blooming in Ann Arbor—and so is the music!

Thanks in advance

The spring fundraiser for WEMU 89.1 FM will also be concluded as you read this column, and it behooves me to thank you all in advance for helping us to continue to broadcast world-class jazz and blues as well as great local and NPR news services. We rededicate ourselves to this mission on behalf of a remarkably supportive community. Thank you very much!

It is still a great concern that the new Congress seems intent on slashing essential federal support for public broadcasting. I encourage you all to add your voices of support for sustained funding of public media. You can speak out at https://www.170MillionAmericans.org on the Web. Let your voices be heard on behalf of the programming you enjoy and require!

The Concert Scene (with Cuban spicing)

The University Musical Society is presenting a pair of thrilling World Music events which should excite and delight the jazz community. From the deep tradition of 20th century Cuban acoustic music comes Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro. This amazing trans-generational son music ensemble takes its name from one of the pillars of modern Cuban music. They were founded in 1927 and the tradition of musical excellence extends to their newest recording for the World Village label, “Sin Rumba No Hay Son!” The band is scheduled to appear at Hill Auditorium Thursday, April 7, at 8pm. Great singers and amazing players!

Tony Allen was the drummer (and heartbeat!) for Nigerian bandleader/legend Fela Kuti’s fabulous bands. Tony Allen’s Afrobeat Tour travels the world in the wake of his powerful CD “Secret Agent.” The songs and singers are great and the rhythm and horn charts irresistible! Allen’s own playing style reflects his youthful influences from the world of jazz: Art Blakey, Max Roach and Michigan’s native son Elvin Jones. They should raise the rafters at Hill Auditorium Saturday, April 16 at 8 p.m.

Cool Club Dates

The Ark plays host to some fine jazz dates as well. Julian Lage is a 23-year-old guitar virtuoso. He appears with his group at The Ark Friday, April 1, at 8pm. His band includes Brooklyn saxophonist Dan Blake and percussionist Tupac Mantilla. Pianist Mark Braun hosts Mr. B’s Piano Celebration for two shows at The Ark Saturday, April 9, at 8pm and Sunday, April 10, at 3:30pm. This year’s guests include long time partner-in-crime and Detroit boogie piano legend Bob Seeley, the renowned Eric Reed and emerging wunderkind Stephanie Trick. The ivories will be tickled to the point of joyful tears!

The month of May holds promise as Detroit blues and soul legend Bettye LaVette is scheduled to tear it up at The Ark Sunday, May 8, at 7:30pm. She is the real-deal with a powerful voice! Long, tall Marcia Ball returns to Tree Town with her rollicking piano and singing to swing The Ark Thursday, May 12, at 8pm.

April is busy buzzing at the Kerrytown Concert House as well! Bassist Dave Sharp’s Secret Seven roll there Friday, April 1, at 8pm. The All About the Trio series continues with the Ellen Rowe Trio Sunday, April 3, at 2pm. Pianist Rowe is joined by bassist Kurt Krahnke and drummer-hipster Sean Dobbins. An evening with Susan Chastain is set for Saturday, April 9, with two shows at 7 and 9pm. The singer will bill and coo with pianist Phil DeGreg and bassist-buddy Paul Keller. Intimate swing! Tumbao Bravo is Ann Arbor’s mighty Afro-Cuban jazz ensemble. They light up KCH with powerful, luminous rhythms Friday, April 22, at 8pm. Co-founders Paul VornHagen (sax and flute) and conguero Alberto Nacif front this great band with trumpeter Bob Mojica, bassist Patrick Prouty, pianist Brian DiBlassio (you know him from Los Gatos!), and the dynamic timbalero Javier Barrios.

Big Band Notes and Bye Byes

The Paul Keller Orchestra has a new home! You can enjoy their big band swing vibes every Monday night at Zal Gaz Grotto, 2070 W. Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor, from 8:15 to 11pm. Also note: the Easy Street Jazz Band plays the Grotto on Tuesdays.

David Swain’s II-V-I Orchestra continues the last Sunday of each month at the Creekside Grill. Each month they play an ambitious feature set. They offer up their take on the Clarke-Boland Big Band Sunday, April 24 and the swinging sounds of Billy May, appropriately enough, on Sunday, May 29. Showtime on Sundays is 6:30 to 9pm.

That’s it for this round…save one more sincere thank-you for doing your part to keep this life-force music alive and well on the radio, in clubs and in concert. What a great blessing! Thank you very much!

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