Sunday, May 31, 2015


Marcus Belgrave
Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave was known as a music educator, a mentor, and a jazz giant. Saturday, afternoon his family, friends, former students and jazz musicians from Detroit and across the nation packed Greater Grace Temple on Detroit’s Westside to celebrate his life.
Belgrave, 78, died of congestive heart failure May 24th at Glacier Hill, a continuing care facility in Ann Arbor, Mi. For years, Belgrave battle chronic obstructive pulmonary disease yet never allowed it to hinder his passion for teaching and performing jazz globally.
He was a native of Pennsylvania. Five decades ago, he established roots in Detroit. Largely, a self-taught musician, his extended musical education took place is bands run by Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, and one on one sessions with the great trumpeter Clifford Brown.
Weeks could be spent running down Belgrave’s accomplishments as a bandleader and music educator. His discography includes gems like “Gemini,” “Live at Kerrytown Concert House,” “Working Together,” and Marcus Charlie & Joan Once Again…”.
Belgrave's funeral was more of a celebratory jazz festival. After people lined up to express their condolences to the Belgrave family, the celebration began with a processional dirge fronted by the Gabriel Brass Band, followed by a lot of good jazz music interspersed with remarks about Belgrave’s infectious humanity. The Poet Melba Boyd, who knew Belgrave for decades, touched on how incandescent Belgrave was.
“Marcus was a happy person. I don’t ever remember seeing him without a smile on his face,” Boyd said. Then she read a poem about Belgrave titled “Blow Marcus Blow”.
The collective sadness was lifted after the Motown Legends of Gospel Choir, led by vocalist Hazelette Crosby, performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. 

Pianist Geri Allen fought back tears as she talked about meeting Belgrave in 1970 at Cass Technical High School. At his Jazz Development Workshop, Belgrave exposed Allen and other budding musicians to the nut and bolts of jazz.
Bassist Robert Hurst another of Belgrave’s protégés almost woke Belgrave up soloing on “Number Three”. Saxophonist James Carter received the first ovation after closing out the ballad “Tenderly” with one of his trademark cadenzas.
The most heartrending moment came when Belgrave’s wife, Joan, was escorted on stage. Before she sung “Crazy He Calls Me,” which felt like a final love letter to her beloved husband, she thanked the musicians who played with Belgrave while he was in Glacier Hill. “Thanks for helping Marcus keep his chops up,” she said.    

Before Rev. Daniel Aldridge’s eulogy, there was a trumpet salute with trumpeter Rayse Biggs, Dwight Adams, John Douglas, and Allan Denard. Aldridge’s eulogy was humorous and anecdotal. People applauded when Aldridge said a statue of Belgrave should be erected in Detroit. 

He also talked about how joyful Belgrave was and how he could play damn near every genre of music jazz, the blues, free jazz, funk, and reggae. Aldridge joked that he once saw Belgrave performing in a circus band.

“I couldn’t have that much joy at gunpoint,” Aldridge said. The overwhelming sentiment throughout the celebration was Belgrave spent the better part of his life giving. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


Deep down saxophonist Russ Nolan is a savant of  Latin jazz and of authentic post-bop. Nolan stayed loyal to that comfort-zone on his latest recording "Call It What You Want". He moves from acoustic-bop to various forms of Latin jazz. The acoustic-bop stuff probably won’t broaden your attention span, but the Latin goodies such as “MI Remedio,” “Cancion Sabrosa” and “Las Tecias Negras” will. Those are numbers played at a tempo that won’t have your shirt drenched with sweat after you have finished dancing to them.
“Invictus” is jazz drummer Reggie Quinerly’s second album as a session leader. Quinerly composed 10 of the 11 songs. To perform them, he hired vibist Warren Wolf, guitarist Yotam Silberstien, pianist Christian Sands and bassist Alan Hampton, equally yoked musicians who at heart are rugged swingers. It appears, however, they popped a chill-pill before the session. “Invictus” is mellower than Quinerly’s 2012 debut “Freedom Town”. That date was primarily a platform for his prodigious skills as a jazz drummer. Like his forefathers drummers Jimmy Cobb and Lewis Nash, Quinerly has an aggressive streak but overall is uniquely tasteful, which manifest more on "Invictus". On the debut, it was obvious Quinerly was the leader. On "Invictus," Wolf has the most sway. It seemed as he bogarted the session. That's not the case at all. Zero in on "Light Work," "The Star, The Crescent and The Police Captain," and the "Lester Grant" and you'll realize Quinerly designed this album, in part, with the intent of giving Wolf the lion share of the spotlight. 
The recent release of “Old Friends And New Friends marks pianist David Berkman’s return to Palmetto Records after an 11-year absence. From 1998 to 2004, Berkman was on a winning streak with the label. On this album, Berkman wrote nine new compositions. He invited saxophonists Billy Drewes, Dayna Stephens, Adams Kolker, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Brian Blade over to make the homecoming celebration grand. With three strong-willed saxophonists on the frontline, you would expect a lot of hand-to-hand combat. The saxophonists blended nicely on “No Blues No Really No Blues” and “Past Progressive”. What force of nature kept them in check? The excellent drumming of Brian Blade. 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Collective Portrait, Eddie Henderson’s latest album on Smoke Session Records, is a thorough representation of his net worth as a jazz trumpeter and bandleader. Henderson has an eclectic track record in jazz. He played with Herbie Hancock’s jazz fusion group three years, migrated to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and currently is on the front line of the jazz ensemble the Cookers. Henderson was also a big follower of Miles Davis. Throughout “Collective Soul” Davis’s spirit runs deep in Henderson’s horn as he moves effortlessly from jazz fusion to some aggressive post-bop. This 10-track album is a brilliant portrait of Henderson’s eclecticism. There’s some outstanding workmanship from saxophonist Gary Bartz on “Morning Song,” and “Zoltan,” and from pianist George Cables throughout.

Trombonist Steve Turre has an innate understanding of the inner dynamics of post-bop, the blues, and Afro-Cuban jazz. This album is a hybrid of those genres. Spiritman is his latest gem. Turre brings a shaman's spirit to his musical projects. If you go beneath the surface of his music, especially the cuts on this album it is clear Turre loves to swing foremost. His soloing on “Bu,” “Funky Thing,” and “Blues for Trayvon” is sufficient proof of that. This is an album devoid of imperfections. Some of the love should go to Turre’s pit crew pianist Xavier Davis, saxophonist Bruce Williams, bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Willie Jones III, plus a cameo by percussionist Chembo Corniel. With that kind of muscle, hell was bound to break loose on this album.

 Wes Montgomery in the beginning, a two-disc set soon to be released by Resonance Records, has some of Wes Montgomery's recordings with the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet Buddy Montgomery, Monk Montgomery, Alonzo “Pookie” Johnson and Sonny Johnson. The first disc was recorded live in 1956 at the Turf Club and the second disc in 1958 at the Missile Lounge. The sound quality is such you feel as if you’re present, listening to Montgomery pour his heart all over his guitar. “Wes Montgomery in the beginning” is worth standing in line for. You get to experience Montgomery as a wet-behind-the-ears-hell-raiser and bandleader. Also, the set comes with an informative companion booklet. While you listen to  selections such as “After You Have Gone,” “Going Down to Big Mary’s,” and “Carlena’s Blues,” you can read about Montgomery’s early years before he was a household icon.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Pat Metheny
From now to Labor Day weekend, you have enough time to grow an extra pair of ears. Lord knows, you will need them to hear the performances on tap for the 36th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival, the biggest in North America. On April 28th, the lineup was announced at the Detroit Athletic Club. 

The lineup has an eclectic mix of mainstream and swing-outside-the-box performers and bands such as Ron Carter, Steve Turre, Carmen Lundy, Rene Marie, Christian Scott, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Monty Alexander, Brian Blade & His Fellowship Band, and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. The festival runs from September 4th thru 7th.

Guitarist Pat Metheny is this year’s Artist-in-Residence. The 60-year-old Missouri native has put out 50 plus albums, won 17 Grammies, andhe has freelanced in bands led by jazz luminaries such as Gary Burton, Ornette Coleman, and Herbie Hancock. 

Metheny residency will likely have as many surprises as the former DJF’s Artist-in-Residence, which includes Joshua Redman, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Danilo Perez, and Christian McBride. Metheny will perform four sets during the festival, plus beforehand participate in some pre-festival programs. For a complete list of the scheduled performers click on