Jesse Kramer's "Antinous as Osiris" interprets Roman passion and New York jazz through the lens of a Washtenaw County upbringing

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jesse Kramer by Jeff Dunn

Jesse Kramer photo by Jeff Dunn.

For roughly half a decade, the Roman emperor Hadrian was in love with a man who was not his spouse. Between 125 CE and 130 CE, the Greek youth Antinous became a favorite of Hadrian, and for the final two years of the latter's life they were side by side touring the Roman empire.

After Antinous' surprise death on the Nile, Hadrian was devastated and, in his grief, proclaimed his lover a deity, In turn, priests connected Antinous to the Egyptian god Osiris, lord of the underworld, afterworld, and rebirth.

Et voilà:

Nearly 2,000 years later we have Antinous as Osiris, the latest album by Ann Arbor jazz drummer Jesse Kramer.

To the Beat of Their Own Drummer: The Rasa Dance and Theater Festival spins off to highlight works from India

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Akshara Ensemble

Akshara Ensemble. Photo courtesy Rasa Festival.

Sometimes a multi-arts celebration does such a good job at presenting its multiple arts -- dance, theater and musical performances, visual arts exhibitions, literary events, film festivals, and culinary showcases in the case of Akshara's India-inspired Rasa Festival -- that it has to split itself up just so those interested can find the time to attend.

Rasa has filled venues in Washtenaw County every September and early October since its 2017 inception, but Ann Arbor's Sreyashi Dey -- dancer and president and artistic director of Akshara -- admits the dozens of high-quality events the festival presents became something of a traffic jam.

"What we were finding is that everything being concentrated and focused on in one month left a lot of people out even though they were interested in various events," she said. "There's always conflict and it's a busy time when people are coming back to school and other things are picking up."

The Rasa Festival will still be roaring throughout September 2019, but some of the dance and theater elements now have their own summer spotlight. On June 15, three dances and one dastangoi (storytelling) performance will happen at Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, with many of the works featuring a strong feminist point of view. (There will still be some dance mixed into the fall fest, too.)

Homestyle recipes and Mitten classics fill Mandy McGovern's cookbook, "My Little Michigan Kitchen"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Mandy McGovern and her book My Little Michigan Kitchen

Author photo by Melissa McGovern; book cover art by Michael McGovern.

What makes a food classic to Michigan for you?

This diverse state includes foods from many backgrounds, such as Lebanese, Native American, and Polish. Michigan is also known for its seasonal produce: blueberries, cherries, apples, and sweet corn, among others. Regional dishes abound, too, like pasties, fudge, and Detroit-style pizza. Many definitions are clearly possible.

A new cookbook by Mandy McGovern, My Little Michigan Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from a Homemade Life Lived Well, contains McGovern’s take on Michigan fare. This book springs from McGovern’s interest in food. When traveling, she would purchase a cookbook about the cuisine in the places she went. As she tried recipes from those books, she shared her explorations on her blog, Kitchen Joy, which she started in 2013 to document her cooking. McGovern then wanted to create a cookbook of her own focusing on Michigan.

The 100-plus recipes in My Little Michigan Kitchen cover breakfast, brunch, bread, soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetables, sides, main courses, desserts, drinks, dressings, dips, sauces, and also basics like pie crust. Monkey Bread, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Asparagus, Chicken Pot Pie, and Spiced Oatmeal Cake are among the recipes. 

McGovern will share samples and speak about her book on Thursday, June 13, at 7 pm at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. 

Sock It to Me: Bob Seger’s most crucial forgotten songs

MUSIC REVIEW

Bob Seger by Tom Weschler

Photo by Tom Weschler

On June 6, Bob Seger plays the first of his six final local gigs at the DTE Energy Music Theatre part of an extensive farewell tour announcing the rock icon’s retirement and delivering a victory lap after nearly 60 years of service.

You might be a die-hard Seger fan yourself, one of the millions who bought his records, filled his stadiums, or slow-danced to “We’ve Got Tonight” at prom. Maybe you rank Seger among the great troubadours of American pop music, call him the Michigan Springsteen, our state’s very own rock royalty. 

Or maybe not … for other, often younger listeners, the ubiquity of Seger’s classic hits on radio, film soundtracks, and truck commercials renders them as toothless background Muzak at best, pre-fab corporate pablum at worst, his tunes all past their sell-date and worthy only of ironic comment. 

There are no right answers when it comes to taste, but Bob Seger’s musical history is deep and wide enough to shake any preconceived notions about the man’s legacy. 

Seger spent much of his youth living here in A2, forming his first band in 1963, The Decibels, with some friends from Ann Arbor High School (now Pioneer) and going on to local renown in groups like The Town Criers and Doug Brown and the Omens. By 1966 he hung out his own shingle, releasing regional radio hits like “Heavy Music” as a solo artist backed by the Last Heard, and even charting nationally with the Bob Seger System’s immortal “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Both songs are staples of classic rock/oldies radio and retain a measure of respect within the man’s canon, but Seger’s formative era has been neglected officially, much of it out of print and actively suppressed by the artist for reasons both contractual and aesthetic.

For many years, Seger’s pre-Silver Bullet Band records were difficult to find outside of dodgy bootlegs or expensive original pressings, a sad state considering how vibrant, exciting and alive so much of his early material remains. The recent release of an officially authorized CD called Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 filled in some of the biggest gaps, but there’s still a great deal of great music deserving of attention. The following are eight of Bob Seger’s most crucial forgotten sides:

Sarah Dessen's novel "The Rest of the Story" depicts a transformative summer on a lake

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Sarah Dessen and her book The Rest of the Story

Book art by Jenny Carrow.

There are those summers -- or seasons in general -- when it feels like everything changes. Perhaps you change, someone else changes, or something about your environment shifts. 

The Rest of the Story, the new young adult novel by Sarah Dessen, tells the story of one such pivotal summer. The main character, Emma Saylor, finds herself confronting family history when she has to spend several weeks with her mother’s side of the family, whom she barely knows. There at the family business, a hotel on a lake, she forms new relationships, learns about her family’s past, and expands outside of her identity as she knows it. 

The author of 14 novels, Dessen hails from North Carolina, has taught at the University of North Carolina, and lives in Chapel Hill.

She will speak, answer questions, and sign books at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location, 4th-floor conference room, on Tuesday, June 11, at 7 pm. (The reading was previously scheduled at Literati Bookstore but moved to the Downtown Library owing to demand.) Pulp had the chance to ask Dessen a few questions. 

Modern Element and the Trunino Lowe Quartet will play ALL the genres in Ann Arbor

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Modern Element

Modern Element prides itself on being “a band made up of all genres," said Trunino Lowe, the group’s trumpeter and 21-year-old leader. "We have a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, gospel, blues, neo-soul, Latin, reggae and pop. We don't have a favorite genre. We just play for the soul."

The Detroit group consists of Benny Rubin Jr. (alto sax), Jeffrey Trent (tenor sax), LeRoy Mickens (keyboards), Tony Stanford (bass), and Louis Jones III (drums) and has been spreading soulful vibes since their high school days.

"We all went to Detroit School of Arts together," Lowe said. "Being in band and jazz band, we were always together. While being in combo together, we decided to really be a band after high school." 

That education was a huge influence on Lowe's life and he has trouble understanding why arts classes are always on the chopping block in schools.

Pulp Bits: A Roundup of Washtenaw County Arts & Culture Stories, Songs & Videos

Pulp Bits, Common People

A round-up of arts and culture stories featuring people, places, and things in Washtenaw County, whether they're just passing through or Townies for life. Coverage includes music, visual art, film & video, theater & dance, written word, and Pulp life (food, fairs, and more). If you're reading this in the future and a story link is dead, look up the URL on web.archive.org; we've cached every post there.

Featuring a new mix of Ghostly music by Shigeto and Charles Trees to celebrate the Ann Arbor-launched label's 20th year, the NSFW debut video by Ypsi rap duo Guttatown, the EMU-graduates-made fantasy film "Pandora's Wish," and much more.

The Music of Life: “Fractured History: A Solo Exhibit by Aaron Dworkin” at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Aaron Dworkin's Train Station

Train Station by Aaron Dworkin

Aaron Dworkin's Fractured History exhibition is art in the key of life. His 11 artworks in the Ann Arbor Art Center’s entry-level gallery gives us a revealing glimpse of this authentic Michigan institution as well as his view of the world around us.

It would be a step too far to say the display is autobiographical. Dworkin is a bit too cagey to be revealed in his art, but his choice of themes and topics in Fractured History compensate for the otherwise lack of biographical detail.

After all, this a man who has already had enough rarefied experiences to fill a handful of lifetimes.

Living While Black: Theatre Nova’s production of James Ijames' “Kill Move Paradise” is powerful

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Theatre Nova's Kill Move Paradise

Photo by Golden Record Media Company.

The list is long, much too long.

Sometimes it seems like every few days a black American is gunned down by a police officer. They are often unarmed, unthreatening and involved in confrontations with the police that should have never escalated into deadly violence.

Sometimes the police officers involved go to jail, many times they don’t.

This tragic story of two American cultures in deadly conflict is the theme of James Ijames' play Kill Move Paradise, being presented in Michigan for the first time by Theatre Nova.

In a burst of blinding light, gunshots, and the cacophony of urban noise, a man is thrust on to a stage, a bare closed room from which he can not escape. It’s a sort of limbo, where he waits for a judgment about what it was that brought him here. He is a fatal victim of police violence. He is in turn followed by three other black men into this limbo. As one victim says, it reminds him of an episode of the old Twilight Zone TV show.

And they are in a show because the audience is visible to the four men. They comment on the audience and come to believe that the audience will decide their fate. In this case, and Ijames must have thought in most cases, the audience at Theatre Nova’s opening night was primarily white.

This message is for them.

Redbud Productions takes on the power of family in the Michigan premiere of "The Herd"

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Redbud Productions' The Herd

Lisa Coveney as Carol in Redbud Productions' presentation of The Herd.

Redbud Productions explores with humor and heart the dynamic of a family raising a child with special needs in The Herd by Rory Kinnear.

Mother Carol (Lisa Coveney) is anxiously putting together the perfect 21st birthday party for her son Andy, who is severely disabled and living in a care home. Also invited to the party are Carol’s parents, Patricia (Lenore Ferber) and Brian (Michael Haifleigh), and Carol’s adult daughter Claire (Katie Whitney), who takes this opportunity to introduce her new boyfriend Mark (Chris Krenz) to the family. Carol’s estranged husband Ian (Brian Hayes), who abandoned the family when Andy was a baby, also chooses to attend unannounced. In the words of producer Tim Grimes, “The intrusion does not go well.”

Now in its 20th year, Redbud Productions, offers acting classes for adults and high school students using the techniques of Sanford Meisner, which, among other things, focus on emotional work.