As part of its Black History Month celebration, musical theater met Kahil El’Zabar & Co.'s jazz in perfect harmony at Encore

MUSIC REVIEW

Kahil El‘Zabar and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble on stage with singers from the Encore Musical Theatre, February 18, 2022

Kahil El‘Zabar and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble on stage with singers from the Encore Musical Theatre, February 18, 2022. Photo courtesy of Encore.

The “great American songbook” and jazz have always had a strong relationship. Popular songs have been an important source for jazz improvisation from the very beginning and jazz has influenced popular music composers to adapt dynamic rhythms, blue notes, and the uptempo style of the emerging jazz players of the 1920s.

The Encore Theater is celebrating Black heritage with an exciting pair of musical reviews this month. On February 18, a program called Modern Jazz Meets Musical Theater made a strong case that the popular music of the golden age from the 1920s to the 1950s was a collaboration of a diverse group of performers and composers that is still rich and vibrant today. Many of those who created the American Songbook were first-generation immigrants from Europe and Black Americans who found a common voice.

The man making that case is, as the Encore program says, the legendary Kahil El’Zabar, an inspired percussionist, driving band leader, and wise teacher. El‘Zabar and his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble joined forces with four superb singers to give us a sampling of show tunes, blues, and pop standards in a smokey setting on the Encore stage. Each song segued from vocalist and band to rich, lively, thought-provoking jazz improvisations on the music and then rounded back to the singers.

U-M's modern-leaning production of "Antigone" explores grief in the pandemic age

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Sam White, founder of Shakespere in Detroit, guest directed the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance’s recent production of Antigone (February 17-20). She felt the weight of the pandemic while conceiving of the staging and decided that rather than putting on a play written in 441 BCE as some sort of separate escapism from our current world, the two can interact and help one another.

Friday Five: Colin Stetson, MSD, Bulb Records, Thunderbuck Ram, MEMCO mixes

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five album covers for February 18, 2022

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features a horror-movie soundtrack by Colin Stetson, an upbeat electronic album by MSD (Mike Dykehouse), a Bulb Records noise-rock compilation, wah-wah rock by Thunderbuck Ram, and a whole slew of techno and dance mixes by the MEMCO crew.

Because the "Layl" belongs to lovers in choreographer Ali Chahrour's musical play

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

UMS's production of Layl. A couple is embracing in this black and white photo.

Photo courtesy of UMS

The curtains opened and revealed a dark stage. It was silent, and over the course of a few minutes, lights started to show the audience fragments of what was on stage while keeping the illumination dim enough that you had to squint to see there were people with instruments tucked in the left corner of the stage.

Eventually, the light, though still low, revealed everyone on stage: Sharif Sehnaou on guitar, Hala Omran with a microphone, Aya Metwalli with a guitar, Simona Abdallah on drums, and above them all, Ali Chahrour lay on top of the speakers, one arm dangling and the other with a bouquet of dead flowers in his hand.

This is the entry to Layl (Night) by Ali Chahrour, presented at the Power Center in Ann Arbor on February 12.

Friday Five: Idle Ray, Adam Shead Quintet, KUZbeats, Corrupt Immortal, Paralyzer

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Five album/EP/singles covers from this week's Friday Five artists: Idle Ray, Adam Shead Quintet, KUZbeats, Corrupt Immortal, Paralyzer

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features indie-pop by Idle Ray, experimental jazz by Adam Shead, cinematic electronica by KUZbeats, weirdtronica by Corrupt Immortal, and instrumental thrash metal by Paralyzer.

On the Corner: A new book about Zingerman’s Deli details the Ann Arbor institution's satisfying history

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Micheline Maynard and her book Satisfaction Guaranteed

If you live in Ann Arbor long enough, you will inevitably be asked about three things: University of Michigan football, the Art Fairs, and Zingerman’s Deli.

Since 1982, people have flocked to Zingerman’s for top-of-the-line sandwiches and outstanding customer service. The story of how the business grew from a 1978 idea hatched between restaurant colleagues Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw into a nationally known business is covered in Micheline Maynard's new book, Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community.

Maynard is a longtime journalist, educator, and frequent guest on both radio and TV. Her career includes writing as a columnist at The Washington Post, a contributor to The TakeoutMedium, and The Ann Arbor Observer, and as the author of The End of Detroit and The Selling of the American Economy: How Foreign Companies Are Remaking the American Dream

The genesis for the book began before the COVID pandemic.

The One Love Symposium aims to bring together public service professionals and the people they serve through conversation, music, and art

MUSIC PREVIEW

One Love Symposium 2022

The One Love Symposium (February 17-19) offers the community a chance to engage with public service professionals and help design a certification program to foster more effective communication between people in need or crisis and those who are called upon to help.

The symposium begins on Thursday, Feb. 17 at Ypsilanti District Library, Whittaker Road Branch. Local high school students will be presenting original musical and theatrical performances, as well as participating in a panel discussion with law enforcement, education, and healthcare professionals including Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, EMU Police Chief Matt Lige, Ann Arbor Pioneer High School Principal Tracey Lowder, and others.

The Symposium continues on Friday, Feb. 18 with a special virtual edition of Jazz Chat Live, hosted by Detroit Jazz Festival director Chris Collins and featuring a discussion with renowned jazz performers Marion Hayden, Sean Dobbins, Keyon Harrrold, and Marcus Elliot. Following the discussion will be a live performance by trumpeter Allen Denard at the Andy Theatre in Detroit.

Saturday, Feb. 19, the Symposium wraps up with a virtual panel discussion on alternative methods of gauging public opinion.

Out of the "Shadows": Jazz vocalist Olivia Van Goor explores lesser-known songs on her debut EP and returns to Blue LLama

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A headshot of jazz singer Olivia Van Goor. She has brown-blonde bob-type hair and blue eyes and is wearing a blue dress.

Photo by Ryme Media

For her debut EP, When The Shadows Fall, Milford jazz vocalist Olivia Van Goor unearthed and reshaped five hidden gems from the Great American Songbook and beyond.

“None of them are any of the classic standards like ‘Fly Me to the Moon,'" Van Goor said. "I intentionally chose standards that most professional working jazz musicians know, but not all of them. The two that are standards are ‘Willow Weep for Me’ and ‘No Moon at All. ... I did the Detroit Jazz Workshop two years in a row, and the first time I sang ‘Willow Weep for Me,’ and the second time I did ‘No Moon at All.’ I picked my milestone moments with learning the music.”

Those milestone moments also serve as a timeless journey through a spectrum of emotions ranging from hope to heartbreak. Each When The Shadows Fall track waltzes, swings, and bops from one era to the next. 

“I was really inspired by Veronica Swift, and she’s one of the best jazz vocalists of the time right now," Van Goor said. "On her last album, she took some musical theater songs that haven’t been taken by any of the legends and turned into standards and did them in that format.

“If you listen to an old recording of ‘Shadow Waltz,’ you’ll notice the style is completely different (from my version). I arranged all of the songs, and that’s my biggest originality to it, except I wrote the lyrics to ‘Hershey Bar.’”

The Olivia Van Goor Quartet will return to Ann Arbor’s Blue LLama Jazz Club on Feb. 18 and will perform songs from When The Shadows Fall as well as some past and new tunes.

Friday Five: Chirp, Telesonic 9000, zagc, Evan Starr & Naxxar, Nadim Azzam

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Album and single covers collage. Artists featured: Chirp, Telesonic 9000, zagc, Evan Starr and Naxxar, and Nadim Azzam

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features a soulful jammer by Chirp, Kraftwerk-ian electronica by Telesonic 9000, a MEMCO mix by zagc, hip-hop-pop by Evan Starr and Naxxar, and a new video by Nadim Azzam.

 

The short documentaries "Boogie Woogie Express" and "Mr. B's Joybox Express" showcase Michigan piano titans

FILM & VIDEO

Mark "Mr. B" Braun and Bob Seeley, two masters of boogie-woogie piano, sit on the same piano bench while performing a tune together in front of a crowd at the Ann Arbor Art Fair

Image from an Ann Arbor News video.

On the surface, Boogie Woogie Express is a short film about piano player Bob Seeley, who was born in Detroit in 1928. But at 11-minutes long, there's not a ton of room for biography in this movie by Ypsilanti filmmaker Donald Harrison of 7CylindersStudio—yet it's the perfect amount of time for a quick and fun primer on the art of boogie-woogie piano. It's especially interesting to hear and see how boogie-woogie evolved into rock 'n' roll, with Seeley demonstrating the rhythmic differences between the two styles.

Shot in 16mm black and white film, Boogie Woogie Express premiered in 2007 at the Detroit Docs International Film Festival and on YouTube on February 1, 2022.

Because boogie-woogie piano is a niche community, it's no surprise that Seeley has performed with Ann Arbor's Mark "Mr. B" Braun on numerous occasions; the twosome even made a concert film together in 2009 called Back to Back Live. Both were heavily influenced by boogie-woogie giant Meade Lux Lewis and the duo covered his "Honky Tonk Train Blues" in the concert film.

Boogie Woogie Express is embedded below, along with a couple of videos of Seely and Braun performing together on a single piano—back to back, cheek to cheek—and Mr. B's Joybox Express, a 15-minute documentary from 2017 on Mr. B.