As he introduced each piece during his July 16 performance at Kerrytown Concert House, [http://pulp.aadl.org/node/362940|André Mehmari] tended to position himself between the small audience and the jet black bulk of the concert piano behind him on stage. Standing in a manner that was at once relaxed and poised, the 40-year-old Brazilian pianist and composer would sometimes lightly rest a hand on the edge of the instrument’s body as he spoke, engaging with his audience in a manner befitting the intimate space of the venue.
“I think that it’s very important to play this music, to tell the story of Brazilian music,” he explained. Mehmari -- who appeared at Kerrytown Concert House nearly a year prior -- brought with him an exciting collection of repertoire, music infused with influences of jazz, ragtime, classical, and all manner of Brazilian and Latin American music.
➥ [http://www.aadl.org/files/media/pulp_tcl_20170609-approachable_minoriti…|MP3 for "Bodies” + “Bet"]
➥ [http://www.aadl.org/files/media/pulp_tcl_20170609-approachable_minoriti…|720p video], [http://www.aadl.org/files/media/pulp_tcl_20170609-approachable_minoriti…|480p video] or [http://www.aadl.org/files/media/pulp_tcl_20170609-approachable_minoriti…|240p video]
[http://pulp.aadl.org/taxonomy/term/107572|Tools Crew Live] is an ongoing video series where we invite artists to perform with gear borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library's Music Tools collection: [http://www.aadl.org/musictools|aadl.org/musictools].
* This video contains explicit content. *
As evidenced by their name, [https://www.facebook.com/ApproachableMinorities|Approachable Minorities] make strong social statements couched in playfully pointed language. The Ypsilanti hip-hop trio -- MCs Drew Denton and TJ Greggs with DJ Marcus McKinney -- released its debut album, [https://approachable-minorities.bandcamp.com/releases|Afro-American], in April 2016, and Denton’s solo LP, [https://soundcloud.com/drew_denton/sets/the-ascension-theory|The Ascension Theory], arrived in December.
Approachable Minorities have worked hard to promote their music through a series of concerts under the name [https://www.facebook.com/NorthernThreatEnt|Northern Threat Entertainment], but the group is largely still a Washtenaw County phenomenon. But any label or manager looking to sign a talented and motivated group of artists who are ready to put in the work to promote their art would do well to turn 2017 into Approachable Minorities’ breakout year.
Impressed by the ensemble’s creativity and energy, we invited Approachable Minorities and their friend Cole Greve to check out a bunch Music Tools from the Ann Arbor District Library, learn how to use the gear, and come cut a Tools Crew Live video. The group re-created two cuts from Afro-American -- “[https://approachable-minorities.bandcamp.com/track/bodies-co-prod-by-mo…|Bodies]” and “[https://approachable-minorities.bandcamp.com/track/bet-co-prod-by-motor…|Bet]” -- on the library’s gear and performed the songs at AADL’s downtown branch on June 9, 2017.
We spoke with Denton about the group’s history, the stories behind the songs, and the challenges and rewards of learning new music gear from scratch.
[http://andremehmari.com.br/new/paginas/frameset%20Biography.html|André Mehmari] plays piano like it's an extension of his body. It's easy to imagine his fingers taking the place of the piano's hammers and directly pounding the strings that stretch from inside the keyboard and connect directly to his brain. His hands move like dancers, gliding over the keys with such grace and flow that it's hard not to stare at them as he fills the room with gorgeous melodies and blissful harmonic combinations.
Born in 1977 in Niterói, Brazil, a town across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro, [https://www.facebook.com/andre.mehmari|Mehmari] began studying piano with his mom at age 5, learned how to improvise soon after, and by 10 had written his first compositions. His wide-ranging, highly personal playing incorporates jazz, classical, and all forms of Brazilian music, and those styles spill out on the piano with stunning fluidity.
[https://www.musica-extraordinaria.com/mehmari|Mehmari] returns to Ann Arbor to play [http://www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com/index.php/events/event/andre_mehma…|Kerrytown Concert House] on Sunday, July 16, two weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of his last concert there. He’s also playing the Toledo Museum of Art on Saturday, July 15, where he will get to perform in the [http://www.toledomuseum.org/glass-pavilion|Glass Pavilion] on a super-cool [https://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/slideshow-photo/wendell-castle-piano-by…|Wendell Castle-designed Steinway piano] as well as playing a percussive improvisation on original glass art that was crafted for the museum’s Hot Shop.
We talked to Mehmari about his technique, sui genris Beatles covers, and glass marimbas
[http://www.robcroziermusic.com|Rob Crozier] had to end our interview because he arrived at his job.
“I’m an entertainer. I do a lot of senior home gigs,” he said. “I go play ukulele and guitar, and I sing Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, old country, singalongs. That’s my day gig.”
In fact, Crozier's senior concerts are only one part of this Ann Arbor musician's many gigs. Multi-instrumentalist [https://www.facebook.com/crozierbass|Crozier] is also a jazz bassist, co-leader of the Irish-fusion group [http://nessamusic.com|Nessa] with his vocalist-flutist wife Kelly McDermott, a music educator, and the proprietor of [http://www.event-jazz.com|Eventjazz], which provides live music for weddings, corporate events, and more.
And when you’re a full-time musician, sometimes you play gigs that wouldn’t make anybody green with envy, such as trying to entertain St. Patrick's Day revelers who are already three sheets to the wind at 8 am.
“I can play (the senior home) for an hour and have a really appreciative crowd that isn't vomiting, necessarily, or falling on themselves,” Crozier said, recalling a particularly harrowing St. Patrick’s Day show. “Green eggs and blllluuuuuurrrrgggh!”
[http://www.redbaraat.com|Red Baraat] set Rackham outdoor stage ablaze on Saturday night. The eight-piece, Brooklyn-based band's melodious mix of Bhangra dhol beats and big-band brass had the approximately 300-person crowd at Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park throwing their hands up and shrugging their shoulders in high-energy Bhangra form.
For those unfamiliar with Bhangra, the dance moves are commonly described as being like a "light bulb twist." Though I cringe a bit at that cliche, Red Baraat leader Sunny Jain used this very description to encourage audience members to dance to his electrifying dhol drumming.
All good music begins in the garage. Music festivals, too.
“I did a show in my dad's garage last summer and started talking with one of the bands that played and started October Punk Fest last year,” said Ypsilanti-raised Ryan Wilcox, 37.
Wilcox has upped the mosh and morphed October Punk Fest into the [https://www.facebook.com/events/263862854022095|Summer Metal Fest], which happens July 8 at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.
“This year the Farm Council Grounds was booked in October so we moved the date to July and changed the name,” Wilcox said. “I'm still deciding if I want to do both shows next year; I know for sure I will be doing Summer Metal Fest again.
“I can do my comedy thing up here, and I’m not afraid to do it,” joked guitarist, singer-songwriter, and [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulfpeck|Vulfpeck] drummer [http://www.theokatzman.com|Theo Katzman] to a packed [http://pulp.aadl.org/node/360345|Sonic Lunch] crowd on Thursday, June 29, at Liberty Plaza. “I have a safety net of 300 people to catch me if I fall”
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_Katzman|Katzman]’s songs are filled with this kind of honesty and humorous self-reflection, which is what makes them instantly relatable. His poetic and catchy sound blends elements of classic rock, soft rock, pop, and R&B, and his lyrics often revolve around the difficult and rewarding aspects of romantic love.
Before the first encore of The Church’s set at The Ark on Wednesday, June 28, guitarist Peter Koppes joked, “We can use the encore to rehearse for tomorrow's festival.”
Every good jape contains a kernel of truth, and Koppes’ honesty hit the mark. Singer-bassist Steve Kilbey said this was the band’s first show in a year, and The Church spent a lot of the show working out the kinks: adjusting their sound mid-song, dealing with equipment malfunctions, and relearning songs new and old.
Even after hitting stages around the world for 37 years, it's nice to know that the band best known for the 1988 hit "Under the Milky Way" can sometimes still feel like absolute beginners again -- and do so with giant smiles on the muscians' faces.
[http://thollem.com|Thollem McDonas] might be a compulsive collaborator. The American pianist, composer, keyboardist, songwriter, activist, teacher, and author's many projects have included several renowned, and lesser known, players over the years, and he doesn't seem to be slowing.
From improvisations with perennial experimental music headliners -- guitarist [http://www.nelscline.com|Nels Cline]; double bassist [http://www.williamparker.net|William Parker]; the late composer, accordionist, and electronic music pioneer [http://www.paulineoliveros.us|Pauline Oliveros] -- to his Italian agit-punk unit [http://tsigoti.com|Tsigoti] and the art-damaged spiel of the [https://www.facebook.com/TheHandToManBand|Hand to Man Band] (also featuring American punk icon [http://www.mikewatt.com|Mike Watt] on bass and [http://deerhoof.net|Deerhoof]'s John Dietrich on guitar), there's little ground [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thollem_McDonas|McDonas] hasn't covered or isn't covering. He might just be the ideal "six-degrees-of" candidate for people into that particular Venn diagram of weird improv, challenging chamber music, and thinking-people's punk rock.
[http://www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com/index.php/events/event/thollem_mcd…|McDonas plays Kerrytown Concert House] on Friday, June 30, with a trio completed by two accomplished locals: reedman [https://lsa.umich.edu/content/ii-directory/ii/en/people/all/p/piotrm.ht…|Piotr Michalowski] and cellist Abby Alwin. We talked with the restless, and very thoughtful, pianist by email about his many collaborations, balancing political action with music, and sitting down at Claude Debussy's piano.
When [http://thechurchband.net|The Church] announced its summer 2017 North American tour, I was surprised the band was booked at The Ark. When I saw the group play in 2015, the long-running Australian rockers filled the large Fillmore venue in Silver Spring, Md., with loud, room-rumbling psychedelia. The intimate Ark and its acoustic-friendly acoustics might have to call in the remodelers after The Church is done blowing the roof off the place on Wednesday, June 28.
Led by prolific singer-bassist [http://thetimebeing.com|Steve Kilbey], The Church formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1980. While the group will forever be best known for its 1988 hit "Under the Milky Way," the band has survived lineup changes, record label problems, and a changing marketplace to continue producing smart, sonically compelling songs that reward close listening. (Kilby's [https://stevekilbey.bandcamp.com/|numerous solo albums and collaborations] fit that description, too.)
The Ark show kicks off The Church's North American tour, and my colleague Amanda Szot -- AADL's graphic designer -- bought a ticket as soon as they went on sale. We've talked about The Church many times, so we decided to create a Spotify playlist of our favorite songs -- including the lovely new single "New Century" -- and have a GChat about the band.