Monday, March 17, 2014


Saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky
Jazz concert promoters Andrew and Diane Rothman began the Detroit Groove Society home concert series 10 years ago. Many top jazz musicians such as Danilo Perez, Cedar Walton, and Geri Allen have played the series. There are several jazz series around Detroit that also book top national jazz musicians.The DGS series is different. You hear musicians in the quiet of the Rothman’s living room, and you can mingle with the musicians between sets. 

At the other series, the musicians are hard to get to. You have to stand in a long line to get an autograph. Not at the DGS series. Last year, the DGS took a break. The series averaged four concerts per year, and had been going strong 10 years. 

Sunday afternoon, the DGS restarted the series with an outstanding concert from Russian born alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky, featuring guitarist Randy Napoleon. Much of last week, the pair performed around Detroit with bassist Paul Keller and drummer Sean Dobbins. Not a bad pickup band. The band sounded as if they have toured together for years.

Baevsky moved to New York from Russia in 1995, and since he has made quite the name, putting out three good albums The Composers, Down With It, and Introducing Dmitry Baevsky. His style is like the great Art Pepper, particularly when Baevsky races through up-tempo bebop tunes. He called several Bud Powell numbers Sunday, which the band had a blast navigating.

The concert opened with a hard bop burner Circus straight from the Jazz Messenger’s songbook, followed by Benny Golson’s Fair Weather. The band stuck with bebop and hard bop tunes throughout. There were breathtaking takes of cuts by Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath and Tadd Dameron.

Baevsky told the crowd he wanted to team with Napoleon for years, and it finally happened recently. He did not let on if they plan to make an album. It would be criminal if they did not make at least one.

Napoleon’s style is a nice contrast to Baevsky’s way of working through chord changes. Although Napoleon has enough chops to fill up an auto supply warehouse, he carries on like an accompanist. 

Napoleon graduated from the University of Michigan, played with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and he has been Freddy Coles go to guy for seven years.

Baevsky and Napoleon were the headliners Sunday, but Keller and Dobbins were the crowd favorites. Their solos tickled and excited the crowd. They played throughout like kids happy to be home from school on a snow day.

In the past, the DGS has favored jazz pianist. Andrew is a pretty good closet jazz pianist, so his strong like for pianists is understandable. The series was set to restart with a solo set from pianist Fred Hersch, but that didn’t work out. Booking Baevsky was a damn good plan B to ge the DGS running again.
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