Friday Five: Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quintet, Josie Ala Quartet, Galen Bundy & Travis Aukerman, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Shigeto & Melanie Charles, Westbound Situation
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features New Orleans jazz by Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quintet, post-bop jazz by Josie Ala Quartet, ambient-gospel jazz by Galen Bundy & Travis Aukerman, spiritual jazz by Mark de Clive-Lowe, Shigeto & Melanie Charles, and chamber-bluegrass jazz by Westbound Situation.
This is a very late, backdated edition of the Friday Five because you can't stream jams when you're sans electricity. Shout-out to the 2023 ice storm.
Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quintet, Boodle-Am Shake
On day four of having no electricity, my wife and I decided to enjoy Sunday brunch at Ann Arbor's North Star Lounge, which is the new venue run by the Detroit Street Filling Station. For $35, you get a huge vegan meal, unlimited coffee and orange juice, and live music. The band that day was Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quartet, who play straight-up vintage New Orleans jazz. Guitarist Belhaj is an Ann Arbor native who moved to New Orleans in 2015 to study and play the music he loved. He moved back to The Mitten five years later and resumed leading this terrific, joy-filled band, which includes Ray Heitger (clarinet), Dave Kosmyna (cornet), and Jordan Schug (string bass)—and on the Boodle-Am Shake album, drummer Peter Siers to make it a quintet. Belhaj and Co. recorded this record before he decamped to New Orleans, but until September 2021. Kosmyna and Heitger are experts in playing the front-line style, where, say, the cornet plays the melody as the clarinet engages in a call-and-response with the brass line. And they are also fabulous singers, boasting resonant voices that can really carry and propel the tunes that call for vocals. Schug also adds some counterpoint and Belhaj chops away on his acoustic guitar, holding down the beat like a drummer, and occasionally adding vocals as well. His lighter, sweeter voice is a nice contrast with Kosmyna and Heitger's booming voices. Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quartet plays the North Star brunch again on March 12 and the event is a great way to kick off your Sunday—but let's hope another electrical outage isn't the reason why you decide to go.
Josie Ala Quartet, Live! At the Canterbury House
I wrote about trumpeter and U-M student Josie Ala's debut EP, If I Were a Bird, when it came out in December, and now you can watch the record-release concert in its entirety, recorded at Ann Arbor's Canterbury House on December 9. Ala along with Jordan Rattner (guitar), Reuben Stump (bass), and Philip Buchman (drums)—with a guest spot by U-M professor Andrew Bishop (tenor saxophone)—perform 10 songs, keeping things swinging and signing in a post-bop style.
Galen Bundy & Travis Aukerman, "Forlaurn"
Keyboardist Galen Bundy and drummer Travis Aukerman have been playing out in Southeast Michigan together quite a bit as of late, including at their local club, Ziggy's in Ypsilanti. "Forlaurn" is a lovely, bluesy, almost gospel-ambient take on jazz. More, please.
Mark de Clive-Lowe, Shigeto & Melanie Charles, "The Creator Has a Master Plan"
Ann Arbor-raised drummer and electronic musician Shigeto has teamed up with Los Angeles-based keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe and Brooklyn-based flutist and singer Melanie Charles for a take on spiritual jazz on their forthcoming album, Hotel San Claudio, out March 24. The first single is an interpretation of the Pharoah Sanders classic "The Creator Has a Master Plan," with the artists leaning into their electro-acoustic hybrid take on jazz that incorporates fusion, broken beat, electronica, and more.
Westbound Situation, "Neef"
Ann Arbor quartet Westbound Station mixes chamber music, bluegrass, and jazz on "Neef," the first single from its forthcoming album, Accord, which comes out May 5.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.