Nothing Goofy: Roe/Bickley/Kramer explore Disney music & more on their new CD

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

kramer-bickley-roe-ravens-cub

Monday night special: The Roe/Bickley/Kramer trio holds down a weekly gig at The Ravens Club in Ann Arbor. Photo by Christopher Porter.

The Ravens Club loves seasonal cocktails. Right now you can get the Donga Punch, As You Wish, Judge Holden, and The Filby Cocktail.

But come fall, the drinks will change with the leaves.

For the past year, though, at least one thing’s been constant at the club on 207 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor -- and I’m not talking about the 150 whiskeys on the menu. Every Monday night from 9 pm-12 am you can find the Rick Roe (keyboards), Rob Bickley (bass), and Jesse Kramer (drums) trio performing a mix of originals, jazz standards, and a whole lotta Thelonious Monk.

But the most intriguing part of the trio is its dedication to exploring Disney’s music.

Five of the songs on the group’s new CD, Heliosphere, are Disney tunes, with the other six coming from Roe. The trio will celebrate its release with a gig at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, July 14.

Method Man: Ken Vandermark's Marker at Kerrytown Concert House

MUSIC REVIEW

Ken Vandermark's Marker at Kerrytown Concert House

Marker Space: Electric guitarists Steve Marquette and Andrew Clinkman, drummer Phil Sudderberg, and bandleader Ken Vandermark, who is in front of violinist/keyboardist Macie Stewart. Photo by Christopher Porter

Ken Vandermark is a method musician.

The Chicago-based saxophonist/clarinetist likes to construct scenarios and systems for his various bands and then write material that fits whatever methods he's devised. It's rigorous work that forces Vandermark and his musicians out of their comfort zones, but it has led to a voluminous and varied body of work that is among the most impressive in modern jazz and composition.

Vandermark's latest creation, Maker, came to Kerrytown Concert House on July 9 and ripped through a four-song, 75-minute set that touched on avant-garde jazz, funk, drones, minimalism, and Afrobeat. 

A History of Mystery: Aunt Agatha's says goodbye after 26 years

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

October 5, 1992: Jamie, right, and Robin Agnew (shown with their daughter, Margaret) soon after they opened Aunt Agatha's bookstore.

Whodunit? They Did It: Jamie, right, and Robin Agnew (shown with their daughter, Margaret) soon after they opened Aunt Agatha's bookstore. Photo by Benjamin Rusnak for a story in the October 5, 1992, edition of The Ann Arbor News.

The world wide web can do many things: find the recipe for that cookie you had at camp that one summer, identify the weird rash you have on your arm, and tell you the name of the band that sang "Life in a Northern Town."

But there are many things that an algorithm simply cannot provide and many of those things can be found in bookstores like Ann Arbor's Aunt Agatha’s, home of new and used mysteries, detection, and true-crime tomes: the smells of old books that have been opened, read, and reread by many loving hands; stacks of dog-eared novels waiting to find their reader; sounds of pages turning, people murmuring over what they are reading. 

I love this author! I’ve read all of her books -- isn’t she great? She is so underrated.

Since 1992, Robin and Jamie Agnew's Aunt Agatha’s is the place that finds the authors you haven’t heard of before and makes you a lifelong fan, a store where writers who are at the beginning of their career blossom into major forces.

And it all ends this August.

Russell Brakefield explores music, myth, and Michigan in poems

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Russell Brakefield

Photo by Jon Rosenberger.

Music and myth. Michigan and memory. These subjects course through Russell Brakefield’s first collection of poetry, Field Recordings, which was published this spring by Wayne State University Press. As a Michigan native, when I read his poems I feel the desperation of winter, the joy of berry picking in the summer, and the layers of time. These place-based, lyrical poems highlight the discordant notes of relationships, plans, hopes, and sleep. 

Brakefield grew up in West Michigan, studied at Central Michigan University, and earned his M.F.A. in poetry at the University of Michigan in 2011. He taught at the University of Michigan following his M.F.A. and then also worked at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor starting in 2013. In 2017, he moved to Colorado and now teaches at the University of Denver, where he says he is learning a different landscape in the West. 

Here, Brakefield shares his experiences in a bookstore and with reading and writing poetry, as well as what’s inspiring him and what’s next.

Refuge and Isolation: Ypsi Alloy Studios' "Sanctuary" at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ann Arbor Art Center's app for Sanctuary

ICON Interactive's virtual reality app for Ann Arbor Art Center's Sanctuary exhibit.

Ann Arbor Art Center’s Sanctuary exhibition features some pieces that focus on the meditative aspect of the titular concept, but other works confront the “double-edged sword” of what "sanctuary" means, lending to the gallery’s successful interpretation of a broad theme. 

Featuring work from 15 artists from Ypsi Alloy Studios, the show is described by the gallery as:

Hungry Hearts: Michigan Rattlers at Sonic Lunch

MUSIC REVIEW

Michigan Rattlers at Sonic Lunch, July 5, 2018

A sort of homecoming: Michigan Rattlers returned to Ann Arbor, the birthplace of bassist Adam Reed. Photo by Christopher Porter.

Raccoons, foxes, and hawks prey upon the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

But the Michigan Rattlers are most susceptible to being consumed by broken hearts, Bell's Two-Hearted, and the eternal debate about where your heart truly belongs.

Comprised of Petoskey-raised childhood friends Graham Young (guitar) and Adam Reed (upright bass), along with more recent members Christian Wilder (keyboards) and Anthony Audia (drums), the Los Angeles-based Michigan Rattlers returned to the Sonic Lunch concert series on July 5 and played 13 originals plus a cover of Leonard Cohen's "On the Level."

Young and Reed performed as a duo at Sonic Lunch last year and their close-harmony Americana was immediately striking for its beauty and simplicity. But as a quartet, Michigan Rattlers brought a honky-tonk rock 'n' roll vibe to their acoustic-guitar-based compositions.

Dream Weavers: Chirp at Top of the Park

MUSIC REVIEW

Chirp at Top of the Park, June 30, 2018

Ann Arbor jammers Chirp helped Top of the Park close its final weekend of the summer. Photo from facebook.com/chirpmusic.

I remember it; if you were a kid who grew up in Ann Arbor you do, too. The nights you spent in the hot summer air with cold lemonade, and the smell of the food trucks, the times you sat in the grass looking up at the sky, listening to bands on the main stage. It felt like a dream.

Top of the Park has been around now for 35 years and I've gone to it almost every year that I've lived in Ann Arbor. But this was the first time that I went alone to review a band. It's funny how being alone can sharpen your thinking and make you a keener observer.

By the time Chirp took the stage on June 30, the park had filled out. People stood or sat in chairs in front of the stage, while others sat in the grass or under the beer tent. Bassist Brian Long, guitarist-vocalist Jay Frydenlund, guitarist Ken Ball, and drummer John Gorine mix styles freely, touching on rock in their guitar work, jazz with the drum and bass solos, and soul through Frydenlund's voice.

The Photography of Art: Donita Simpson’s "Context Is Everything" documents Detroit artists

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Nancy Mitchnick by Donita Simpson

Picturing Art: Detroit painter Nancy Mitchnick, shown here next to her work in progress. Photo by Donita Simpson.

Donita Simpson is racing to record and archive images of the Detroit art scene’s most important and enduring artists as she writes the first draft of the city’s contemporary art history. A generous selection from the award-winning portrait photographer’s years-long project is on view in Context Is Everything at Connections gallery in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex.

Lifting Every Voice: Jazzmeia Horn at the Power Center

MUSIC REVIEW

Jazzmeia Horn by Jacob Blickenstaff

Jazzmeia Horn Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.

After being introduced, Jazzmeia Horn came onto the Power Center stage on June 28 just as casual as she could be as she let us know she was new to town.

But the command performance of Betty Carter's "Tight" that followed showed Ann Arbor to be the only thing to which Horn was new.

World of Sound: Indian, zydeco & global-folk from Michigan danced off Summer Fest's final Friday

MUSIC REVIEW

K. Jones & the Benzie Playboys by Anthony Norkus

Caution, May Induce Dancing: K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys by Anthony Norkus Photography.

Even though Top of the Park was entering its final weekend on Friday, the stage was still filled with infectious summer energy thanks to the music of Sumkali, The Ragbirds, and K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys.

All of these bands are based in Michigan, but their sounds are drawn from around the world.