As this issue of Current hits the streets, WEMU 89.1 FM will be swinging into spring fundraiser mode and residents will begin to appreciate softer clothing and an end to winter's hibernation. It's time for a warmer walk in the woods and a return to the clubs and concert halls. And we'll have plenty of motivation — Linda Yohn has been recognized once again (!) as the nation's best jazz music director on radio. The tone she sets is evident on all of WEMU's fine locally hosted programs. Ahem, Young'ns! If you haven't checked out real radio in beautiful "our area" then WEMU is a fine recommendation for a kaleidoscopic alternative to your pocket digital devices … give us a couple of weeks and we will begin to change your world!
And when readers check out the following stream of great acts being presented in April and May it will become apparent that you can change your world night by night in the university of jazz culture that is the club or concert hall. To wit, “I give you a testimonial!”
UMS brings a fine pair
The University Musical Society is presenting a pair of popular and critically acclaimed performers. Bassist, singer and bandleader Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society plays the Michigan Theater Saturday, April 6 at 8 pm. What a great story she has! A critic's darling with real popular appeal, a right fine bassist and singer, rising to the top as a sideman with Joe Lovano's Us Five, winning a well-deserved Grammy for Best New Artist, and unveiling her Radio Music Society! Whew! The band features pianist Leo Genevese and saxophonist Tia Fuller, and brings what you might call a fresh approach to fusion. Soulful sounds with smart surprises. Funky, fun and very hip!
Improvisational vocalist extraordinaire Bobby McFerrin returns to play Hill Auditorium Thursday, April 18 at 7:30 pm. This cat is a special performer possessed of serious vocal gifts, improvisational imagination and a playful spirit. You have to see him transform an audience to appreciate this latter blessing. The Hill Auditorium show should be just the place as he offers up "Spirit You All" in tribute to his father opera singer Robert McFerrin, Sr., and the history of Afro-American hymns and gospel traditions. This one should be an evening of inspirational big fun!
Springtime aboard the Ark
The Ark is also presenting a pair of very exciting spring programs. Pianist Mark Braun, better known as Mr. B, presents his annual Blues & Boogie Celebration Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 pm with an encore show Sunday, April 14 at 7:30 pm. Under the thematic banner “East Meets West,” B tag-teams with longtime local partner-in-crime Bob Seeley and plays host to special guests Mark Katz from New York and Fred Kaplan from L.A. Katz is an acclaimed player whose pedigree includes work with John Hammond and Delbert McClinton. Kaplan was a part of the Hollywood Fats Band and is known as an encyclopedia of West Coast blues styles.
The progressive and genre-bending guitar stylist Bill Frisell comes to the Ark Saturday, May 4 at 8 pm. He has a very distinctive voice ranging from mirrors and laser beams to laconic and bucolic Americana. It's hard to overstate the breadth of this cat's musical vision. He is a sympathetic sideman and a dynamic leader. This one should be truly transportational!
At the Kerrytown Concert House
The familial confines of the Kerrytown Concert House are perhaps the most intimate jazz experience in town. Detroit drummer R.J. Spangler's Planet D Nonet pays funky tribute to Billy Strayhorn there Friday, April 5 at 8 pm. The All About the Trio series has pianist Ellen Rowe in the good company of Paul Keller and Pete Siers Sunday, April 7 and Sunday, May 12 at 2 pm. Great playing and intriguing discussion! Singer Susan Chastain's Annual Birthday Concert is up on Friday, April 12 at 8 pm. She'll have the sympathetic pianist Phil DeGreg with Keller and Siers!
Fans of guitar jazz take note! The legendary Bucky Pizzarelli hooks up with Michele Ramo Trio for an evening of beautiful sounds Sunday, April 21 at 7 pm. A rightly respected swinger this cat is!
Emerging pianist Matt Endahl brings a trio to KCH Wednesday, April 24 at 8 pm. Program includes pieces by George Russell and Steve Swallow!
Vincent York's Jazzistry celebrates International Jazz Day Tuesday, April 30 at 8 pm. The fine band includes trumpeter Dwight Adams and veteran guitarist Ron English!
KCH events in May include a date with bassist Dave Sharp's Secret Seven Friday, April 3 at 8 pm. Dave's a smart guy and his band is progressive, driving and joyful!
Composer Doug Halladay's New Beginnings Ensemble appears on Friday, May 17 at 8 pm. These are serious Detroit players, including Dwight Adams, the "Vincents" Bowens and Chandler on sax and 'bone, singer Ursula Walker and Buddy Budson on keys, with rhythm mates Marion Hayden and Gayelynn McKinney.
Down by the creekside
David Swain's II-V-I Orcherstra continues at the Creekside Grill the last Sunday of every month with music for dancing and listening beginning at 6:30 pm. The band pays homage to Bill Holman Sunday, April 28, and the spotlight is on Billy Strayhorn Sunday, May 26. Their workshop performance vibe is always big fun and bandleader/baritone saxophonist hep cat Swain sets the bar pretty high. Always recommended!
A note of thanks
I would like to close with a note of personal thanks in advance to readers and the community-at-large for your inspirational ongoing support for our inspirational NPR affiliate and jazz and blues cornucopia WEMU 89.1 FM. As I say on the air, “we are happy to do this with you and for you, and couldn't do it without you!” Thank you! And oh yeah, go Tigers!