Friday, July 15, 2011

IMPROVED SWINGER

Mike Jellick
Piano player Mike Jellick spent the past two years in Chicago soaking up its diverse jazz scene and it did him a world of good. His playing has grown considerably. I caught Jellick’s sets Thursday night at Cliff Bell’s in downtown Detroit. Jellick played with rising jazz lion’s drummer Jesse Kramer and bass player Noah Jackson. 

Jellick has been on my radar for a while. I heard him for the first time on jazz singers Jesse Palter’s outstanding 2006 album Beginning to See the Light. Jellick was in his early 20’s then and he was promising.

A year later, I caught Jellick at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge with tenor saxophone player De’Sean Jones’ band. The concert was disappointing. Jellick got tangled up in his solos as if his imagination was ten steps ahead of his technical ability. I wrote a harsh review on the Metrotimes music blog, singling out Jellick as the band’s weak link.

I kept my eye on Jellick though. I knew he’d improve by woodshedding, and working with more advanced jazz musicians. Over time, that happened. Now Jellick’s ability and imagination are neck and neck. He's an awesome piano player and an adventurous arranger.  Jellick proved that Thursday night.

Jellick’s trio opened with Joe Henderson’s Recorda-Me. Then the trio played Song for My Father. Horace Silver would love Jellick’s modern and funky spin on his classic. Modernizing Silver’s classic wasn’t enough. 

Jellick gutted the standard Alone Together. Then he remodeled it. The trio played the standard in 7/4, and  changed tempo several times. Jellick played the electric keyboard and the acoustic piano simultaneously. And his left foot wiggled under the piano like a catfish out of water.

Normally, Jellick plays the monthly concert with Jesse Kramer. Kramer is a wonderful young drummer. He looks like Penn of Penn and Teller. Kramer has a full and a ferocious sound like Elvin Jones. Noah Jackson was Jellick special guest. 

Jackson lives in New York now. He's running the streets with some young and hungry jazz musicians. Jackson chops have blossomed the ten months he's been in New York. This week, Jackson is in Detroit to promote Contemplations: A Suite, his first album as a leader. The album release party is Saturday at Cliff Bell's.

Jellick’s arrangements allowed Jackson room to explore. Jackson took full advantage. When he soloed, Jackson sounded like a mix of Don Mayberry and Rodney Whitaker. Jellick, Kramer, and Jackson would be a successful jazz trio. Jellick should  keeping the trio together.  
Post a Comment