Monday, September 28, 2015


The jazz saxophonist John Wojciechowski is a native of Mount Clemens, MI, and a graduate of Western Michigan University. His dad was a sheet metal worker who moonlighted as a jazz organist, and who made sure music was a big part of his son’s existence. After college Wojciechowski played briefly in New York, returned to Michigan, and when the worked there slowed to a crawl around 2002, he moved to Chicago and became a valuable player and jazz educator there. Lexicon was his debut as a leader, showing Wojciechowski had a blue-collar swing ethic. Focus is his second album released September 18th on Origin Records. The ten cut album is a frigging good post-bop jazz album with much attitude, and exquisite playing by Wojciechowski's rhythm section pianist Ryan Cohan, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Dana Hall. Ternary, Twirl, and particularly the quartet’s working of Thelonious Monk’s classic Evidence will leave listener’s mouths hanging wide open. Wojciechowski has run the streets with Cohan, Carroll, and Hall since setting up shop in Chicago. As Focus shows, the musicians are in lockstep with each other’s musical psyches. As for Wojciechowski,  stylistically, it sounds as if saxophonists Sonny Rollins's and Joe Henderson's blood flow through Wojciechowski’s saxophones. By trade, he’s a post-bop craftsman check out In Your Own Sweet Way. He also possesses a gentle streak, On cuts such as Divided Man and The Listener, he redefines what’s regarded as smooth jazz

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Christian McBride Trio Live At The Village Vanguard is the jazz bassist’s second trio album. The album was recorded last year and released nationwide recently. For eight years running, McBride has had an annual weeklong engagement at the famed jazz club. He’s rocked the Vanguard with his quintet Inside Straight, and his Grammy-winning-big band. This time out, McBride performed with his trio drummer Ulysses Owens, and pianist Christian Sands. For Live at the Village Vanguard, McBride went with standards and some well-known R& B oldies that have simple melodies. McBride pushed his guys to pour their imaginations over the standards and oldies. There’s nothing earthmoving here, but you’ll have a ball listening to the trio play Fried Pies, Cherokee, Down By The Riverside, Car Wash, and The Lady In My Life, a hit by Michael Jackson.  Midway through the album you’ll concede, McBride built this trio around Sands’ chops. Stylistically, Sands has Hank Jones's spirit dwelling in his left hand, and Vijay Iyer influence crashing his right hand. The cut likely to get the most watercooler talk is The Lady In My Life. Sands’ solo would have the king of pop moonwalking in heaven. Sands has the biggest presence on the album, but Owens has some choice moments, showing his ass on Fried Pies and the closer Car Wash.

When the newly formed jazz trio Perez Patitucci Blade completed their new album, Children Of The Light,, the trio presented the album to saxophonist Wayne Shorter as a gesture of gratitude for being their musical father figure for nearly two decades. Perez, Patitucci, and Blade have made some unforgettable albums with Shorter, Without A Net being the most recent. Children Of The Light is the first time pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade have recorded as a trio. Children Of The Light is a marvelous album of eleven originals.  Each member contributed compositions, and the album comes off as a love letter to Shorter. Fortunately, the trio didn’t pay homage to Shorter by playing his music. They dove head first into the deep end of their imaginations and returned to the surface with opulent originals such as Looking For Light, Milky Way, and African Wave. Although each member shares equal billing, Perez is the star. His playing throughout was profound and wonderfully abstract. The music on Children Of The Light won’t have you strutting-what-your-mama-gave-you, but you’ll have a swell time hearing Perez, Patitucci and Blade ply their musical genius, which Shorter played a significant role in cultivating.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


My Personal Songbook is jazz bassist Ron Carter’s new album just out on In + Out Records. On the album, Carter teamed with the WDR Big Band, which is based in Cologne Germany, and the winner of seven Grammy awards. Carter and WDR play ten compositions he wrote years ago. The bassist association with the WDR goes back to 2013 when they toured cities in Germany and Switzerland. The tour was successful, and soon after Carter and WDR made My Personal Songbook, a nearly flawless big band album that puts the zoom lens on what a terrific composer Carter is. His reputation as an iconic jazz bassist is well-known. He’s played on 2,000 plus albums, steered Miles Davis’s second great jazz quintet, and made jazz classics such as Where, Yellow and Green, and Piccolo. WDR was the right fit for Carter’s music, adding to it their special seasoning, particularly on standouts Ah, Rio, Blues for D.P., and Wait For The Beep. My Personal Songbook comes with a companion DVD, so you get to see how this project evolved. 

May 22th 2014 was Sun Ra’s 100th birthday. To celebrate it, the current makeup of the Sun Ra Arkestra flew to Istanbul and made this live album Live in Babylon, which came out nationwide September 4th. Sun Ra, a way-out showman, formed the Arkestra in 1953, and the free-jazz ensemble made in the neighborhood of 100 albums. After Sun Ra passed in 1993, saxophonist John Gilmore ran things. Two years later, the Arkestra’s current leader alto saxophonist Marshall Allen became the leader. At 91, Allen is still kicking much ass. Live in Babylon is an awesome tribute to Sun Ra, who for his otherworldly strangeness made some excellent free-jazz music. The Arkestra’s open a Costco size jar of whoop-ass on selections like Saturn, Carefree #2, and Satellites Are Spinning. Baritone saxophonist Danny Ray goes balls deep on the album's best track Discipline 27B, which also have crazy sweet solos by trumpeter Cecil Brooks and tenor saxophonist James Stuart. There’s extraordinary singing by Tara Middleton on the Arkestra’s reworking of the standard Stardust. The album’s linchpin, however, is Allen.  To this very day, his playing is still inspired and youthful

Monday, September 7, 2015


Oliver Lake

The late jazz bassist Charlie Haden formed the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969 and outfitted it with some of the leading free-jazz lions of that era trumpeter Don Cherry, saxophonist Gato Barbieri, and pianist Carla Bley.  The orchestra’s self-titled debut album was suffused with aggressive protest music. Haden’s mission statement for the orchestra was, “This music is dedicated to those who will dream of a society with compassion deep creative intelligence, and respect for the preciousness of life for our children, and for our future”.

At the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage Sunday evening Haden’s wife, Ruth, reiterated Haden’s vision for the orchestra before she introduced CHLMO’s members and ran down the set-list. Presently the CHLMO has many great musicians such as bassist Steve Swallow, drummer Matt Wilson, and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. Pianist Carla Bley runs the orchestra.

Sunday evening performance was my first time experiencing the orchestra live. The performance wasn’t what I’d expected. I wasn’t in any way disappointed. I loved the music, and Tenor saxophonist Malaby and guitarist Steve Cardenas can count me as a new fan of theirs. I expected a set of aggressive protest music. 

“This Is No America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Amazing Grace” were some of the songs presented. On every selection, the members played from the deepest regions of  their hearts. I was damn near in tears listening to “Amazing Grace,” which had some mood changes, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. The moment that stuck to my ribs occurred when the horn section parted, and the spotlight hit Matt Wilson as he put his drum kit through a cardio-like workout.


The Oliver Lake Organ Quartet has one foot planted in the avant-garde jazz, and the other foot rooted in straight-ahead jazz. The quartet played both styles. A blind person could see Lake designed this organ quartet, which almost blew up the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage Sunday night, around organist Jared Gold’s chops. Gold is the quartet’s life force and deserves major props because he pushed the quartet to the brink. Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix deserves much love also
Hendricks hands down was the crowd favorite. He hung out in the upper register of the trumpet on most of the tunes. During several solos, he nearly blew the moon out the sky. Lake has been a star avant-garde alto saxophonist for decades. He proved solo after solo, Sunday night that his chops are still mint after all these years on the frontline, and his improvisation has a youthful exuberance. One of the highpoints of the quartet’s terrific show happened mid-way through a song. Lake surprised the audience by reading a poem he wrote titled “You Look Marvelous” dedicated to the late poet Amiri Baraka.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Rene' Marie
Michael Jewett, the jazz radio personality for WEMU, told the audience at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage Saturday afternoon that Blade was the most dynamic drummer in jazz. The performance was Blade’s and his Fellowship Band first time playing the Detroit Jazz Festival. Blade has played the festival many times as a sideman. Two songs into the performance Blade had proven that Jewett wasn’t bullshitting the audience about Blade’s status in jazz. 

Blade had to stop playing in the middle of the third tune because he was playing with such reckless ferocity he broke the pedal of his bass drum. That mishap didn’t stop the Fellowship – saxophonists Melvin Butler and Myron Walden, pianist Jon Cowherd, and bassist Chris Thomas – from pushing the composition forward while Blade got it together. Blade is the driving force behind the Wayne Shorter Quartet, and Blade’s go-for-broke-mentality has carried over into the music the Fellowship makes. 

Honestly, the Fellowship sounded a lot like Shorter’s quartet. The likeness is attributable to the abstract manner in which the Fellowship swings. During the Fellowship’s set, there’re many highlights. The one plenty people in attendance will wake up Sunday morning thinking about is Walden’s solo on the third number. Walden wolfed down the chord changes like breakfast cereal. Butler was on, too. He played a solo so hot and humid I thought his tenor would melt in his hands before the completion.

The Steve Turre/ Rahsaan Roland Kirk 80th Birthday Celebration Band set was the one I was most anxious to experience Saturday. The band performed some of Kirk’s well-known material such as “Bright Moments,” “Inflated Tears,” and “Theme for the Eulipions”. And the Birthday Celebration Band was stocked with some of my favorite jazz musicians alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, pianist Xavier Davis, and saxophonist James Carter. 

Two numbers into the set, however, I was ready to split. Carter, an exciting multi-saxophonist, who’s at his absolute best fronting his band, seemed out of sorts playing the flute on “Bright Moments”. The band didn’t click right away. That changed when vocalist Naima Shambourger sang “Theme for the Eulipions”, Shambourger shifted the momentum of the set, and got the crowd excited, Then Turre called “Travon’s Blues,” the standout cut from his most recent album “Spirit Man”.  Given all the star power in this band, it took the band nearly half the set to get it together.
My plan was simple. Catch half of jazz vocalist Rene’ Marie’s set at the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage, shoot over to the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage to hear some of the Maria Schneider Orchestra,  and then finish out  Saturday night at Kenny Garrett’s hit at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage. Suffice it to say, my plan didn’t pan out because after Rene’ Marie and her terrific rhythm section – pianist John Chin, drummer Quentin Baxter, and bassist Elias Bailey – got going I couldn’t tear myself away from Marie’s concert. 

Marie sang six songs two from her Grammy-nominated album “I Want To Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt” and three songs from an upcoming album “The Sound of Red”.  Marie threw in a Temptation classic for good measure. The classic was “Just My Imagination,” and that classic set the audience off. Marie sang it so beautifully Eddie Kendricks, the Temptation who immortalized the song, would’ve been envious. 

Marie is masterful at getting an audience on her side and keeping them spellbound. She has a voice that could give God goose bumps. A big part of her magic is a knack for putting together the right band. Marie’s was the draw, but she gave the lion share of the spotlight to John Chin, who had smoke coming from the tips of his fingers at the completion of the performance. Marie had the audience so fired up they wouldn’t disperse until she sang an encore.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Christian Scott
Trumpeter Christian Scott isn’t a stranger to the Detroit Jazz Festival. The native of New Orleans got a taste of the fest at age seventeen playing in alto saxophonist Donald Harrison's band. Back then, Scott was a clean cut trumpet savant, with the history of New Orleans variety of swing flowing through his trumpet. Scott is 32, now, has made eight albums as a leader and two albums as a co-leader, and he’s one of the top jazz experimentalists of his generation. The music that he’s been putting out the past decade is an amalgamation of jazz, hip-hop, and rock. Scott’s music hasn’t gone over well with many of New Orleans's elder jazz musicians. Scott goes into detail about the chastisement he’s received in the liner notes to his excellent double-disc Christian a Tunde Adjuah, a recording that shows the breadth of his chops and the depth of his imagination.  Scott’s latest twist on jazz is called Stretch Music, which surely he’ll breakdown during his set.
Christian Scott Stretch Music Monday, September 7th Wayne State University Pyramid Stage 6:15 pm-7:30 pm
Rene Marie
Jazz vocalist Rene Marie sings Saturday evening at the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage. It marks her Detroit Jazz Festival debut, but it isn’t her first time performing in Detroit. A little over a decade ago, Marie played twice at the Serengeti Ballroom in Detroit. The jazz writer for the Metrotimes caught Marie’s first show, and he documented the following: Rene Marie knows how to get inside the marrow of a song. At her concert, she floats around the bandstand. She hovers over her pianist, lands next to her bass player leans her head on his shoulder while he feeds her pieces of the melody. People flock around Marie because she includes them in the performance.” When that was written, Marie was beginning to build her brand. As the story goes, she’d walked away from a secure and good paying profession and jump headfirst into her passion singing jazz. Marie sings her beautiful ass off whether singing a ballad, swing, or a politically themed song. Marie’s voice is in the same league as Ella Fitzgerald’s and as Carmen McCrae’s. Marie, 59, is a native of Warrenton, Virginia. “How Can I Keep From Singing” and “Voice of My Beautiful Country” are I Dig Jazz favorite Rene Marie albums.
Rene Marie “Experiment in Truth” Saturday, September 5th at the Wayne State Pyramid Stage 8:45 PM-10:00 PM                                                                                                                 
Rudresh Mahanthappa
Alto Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, I Dig Jazz’s favorite alto saxophonist,  has a fantastic album on the market titled Bird Calls. The original compositions have traces of Charlie Parker’s spirit. The thing is; Mahanthappa swears up and down Bird Calls is not a Charlie Parker tribute album. Mahanthappa, 44, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and he gained national attention collaborating with pianist Vijay Iyer.  Mahanthappa cites Parker as a significant influence. Bird Calls is one of the best jazz albums I Dig Jazz has listened to this year. Mahanthappa’s band Adam O’Farrill, Matt Mitchell, Francois Moulin, and Rudy Royston will play the music from this album at the Absopure Waterfront Stage. Surely, Charlie Parker’s spirit will be on the bandstand.
Rudresh Mahanthappa “Bird Calls” Saturday 5th Absopure Waterfront Stage 5:45 Pm-7:00 PM
Brian Blade

He’s been the driving force behind the Wayne Shorter Quartet short of two decades. His name is Brian Blade, and he’s a drummer. He’s 45, hails from Shreveport, Louisiana, and his resume includes work experience with bands led by Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The best way to describe Blade’s style of drumming is to think of a mad scientist mixing drummers Art Blakey’s DNA with Ed Blackwell’s DNA. When Blade is not and touring with Shorter’s quartet, he’s the CEO of his very own jazz dynasty called the Brian Blade & Fellowship Band. To date, the band has put out four albums. Landmark is the most recent. Keep your fingers crossed Blade will call cuts from Landmark in the set-list the Fellowship’s performance Saturday afternoon at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage. The Fellowship band isn’t your conventional post-bop jazz band. The variety of jazz the band is into is thought-provoking, the kind of music a group of jazz musicians with the souls of intellectuals could manufacture.
Brian Blade & Fellowship Band Saturday 5:00 pm-6:15 pm at the JP Morgan Main Stage
Steve Turre
The late saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk 80th birthday was August 7th. Kirk was a colorful jazz musician who could play several reed instruments simultaneously, and Kirk had a proclivity for being comical and militant. In celebration of his birthday, trombonist Steve Turre assembled the Steve Turre/ Rahsaan Roland Kirk Birthday Celebration Band. The band has been touring nationally. Saturday evening the band, which includes pianist Xavier Davis, saxophonist Vincent Herring, drummer Gerald Cannon, and bassist Dion Parson, will hold court at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage.  Turre added extra muscle to this band having saxophonist James Carter as a special guest. The Birthday Celebration Band is a dangerous group with Turre, Herring, and Carter on the frontline. It’s advisable to wear a hard-hat and safety glasses during this performance.

The Steve Turre/ Rahsaan Roland Kirk Birthday Celebration Band w/special guest James Carter Saturday 6:45pm-8:00 pm at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage