Saturday, March 23, 2013


Sean Dobbins

The jazz drummer Sean Dobbins has a lot of irons in the fire lately. He works regularly with his quintet the Modern Jazz Messengers, makes the rounds with his longstanding trio, holds the drum chair in the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, and makes music for the new Mack Avenue Records imprint the Detroit Music Factory. When he isn't clubbing or in the studio. he teaches at a couple of colleges, and he runs the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Civic Jazz program.

His debut “Blue Horizons” was released independently in 2009. The Mack Avenue imprint will reissue it in  April. If all that isn’t enough early this week he premiered his new organ quartet at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The band has a week long run there.

 He favors the hard-bop branch of jazz. So, it’s refreshing to see him in a more soulful and funk driven light. Organ player Chris Codish, guitar player Ralph Tope and sax player Marcus Elliot is the core of the band.    

I caught the set Thursday night. The band was above par. I was surprised how well the band connected. Codish and Tope gave the band its funkiness. Codish has been a marquee voice on the organ for many years now. Tope is a magician on the guitar. But  it was the excellent play of Elliot that propelled the band. 

The tenor sax has a lineage. I could hear some of it when Elliot soloed. On "Tenderly" and "So What," he sounded like a cross between saxophone players Joe Henderson and Donald Walden. Pure sax magic.  

Surprisingly, Dobbins’ chose to perform mostly standards instead of cuts from "Blue Horizons". I was a little disappointed. I've been playing  the album nightly the past month. So, I hoped he'd call a few numbers. Of course, there's the likelihood he will over the weekend. 

He should take this band into the studio fast. Each member is in high demand and they have their own pet projects. So, it'll be difficult keeping this band together. 

Over the years, Dobbins has matured into a great bandleader. Early in his career, he was a big time ham desirous of the spotlight. But he was always a joy to experience.  He leaves the showboating to youngsters in his outfits now. Dobbins can still be lively and colorful at times. Now, he's mostly business. 

The great thing about his new band is he can cut loose if he so desires. He did so only a few times Thursday evening. There aren’t many chances to cut loose in his other bands. He’s too busy being the guiding light. 

It’ll be interesting to see his new band after the band has worked regularly. That'll be challenging enough. Each member is a bandleader and is involved with other projects. Holding on to them may prove impossible. 
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