From songs such as Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus" to full albums such as Max Roach's We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, jazz has been a voice for social issues and protest. Ann Arbor saxophonist Tim Haldeman makes a strong statement on his new album, Open Water As a Child, a brilliant suite that rages against the Flint water disaster.
He originally presented the suite at the 2017 A2 Jazz Fest with no intention of ever playing it again; Haldeman simply wanted to blast out a singular, focused, powerful intention into the universe. But the reception to Open Water As a Child was so positive that Haldeman reconsidered and decided to document his protest piece.
Haldeman (tenor sax) gathered poet John Goode (words/vocals), Dan Bennett (alto sax), Justin Walter (trumpet), Jordan Schug (cello), Jonathan Taylor (drums), and Ben Willis (bass) at Big Sky Studios in Ann Arbor and they cut a powerful record that inspires even as the topic it tackles infuriates.
The album features five songs with loose structures that allow the players to improvise freely in a way that builds upon his framework and gives them room to add their own voices of discontent to the suite. The album is bookended by Goode's poems, which trace Flint's interactions with water and tragedies, tying the trials of Native Americans with the present-day residents poisoned because of goverment negligence.
Open Water As a Child is an important record. Its release will be celebrated at Ziggy's in Ypsilanti on Thursday, October 11 at 8 pm. I talked to Haldeman about the creation of the album.
The third annual A2 Jazz Fest wrapped up on Sunday and -- as often happens soon after Southeast Michigan music fests or concerts end -- Jeff Dunn uploaded dozens of great photos of the performers and shared them on his SmugMug page and the Facebook group Lifting Up A2 Jazz.
Dunn hasn't always been a concert photographer -- he only started snapping shows in 2012 or so -- but he's loved jazz for nearly 50 years.
"I've been a huge jazz fan and supporter since the early '70s," he says. "The first time I went to [Detroit's] Baker's Keyboard Lounge in 1973, I was hooked! I've been addicted to live jazz performances ever since."
Dunn got his jazz-photo start because of a musician friend.
When the phrase "guitar shredder" is deployed, the general picture that comes to mind is a poodle-haired metal guitarist finger-tapping his way through impossible scales on an electric ax.
Marcus Tardelli will change your mental image of what it means to be a guitar shredder.
The Brazilian plays an acoustic with the same sort of jaw-dropping heroics as his plugged-in brethren, but the music he creates evokes that of a full band, not a solo showcase -- even though he usually plays unaccompanied, as he will at Kerrytown Concert House on Thursday, October 4.
The A2 Jazz Fest (A2JF) began in 2016 as a single day, featuring 14 acts over 10 hours.
Even if your name is Jazzbo von Chromatic Chord Progression, 600 straight minutes of jazz is a grueling marathon.
A2JF added a second in 2017, spreading out the shows, and it's a three-day event in 2018, running Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, at LIVE Nightclub and Sunday, Sept. 30, at Kerrytown Concert House. Bassist and fest organizer Dave Sharp said it was a "natural progression and a way to make it easier to attend more events."
And the whole event is still free of charge.
But there was an additional reason for stretching the fest to three days: "From musicians, there was intense interest," Sharp says, "and the committee worked hard to include as many groups as possible." (See the full lineup below.)
Everything I learned about rockets as a kid came from a Kiss song. That's rather unfortunate because I found out much later that "Rocket Ride" was not, in fact, about space travel but rather very Earthy matters.
In Pitchfork's review of Fred Thomas' new song and video, "Good Times Are Gone Again," Contributing Editor Jayson Greene notes the tune is "a little less agonizingly specific than Thomas’ usual fare."
That's true of the song's lyrics, but if you know Ann Arbor, the music video is filled with scenes that are very specific.
The promo clip is for Thomas' new album, Aftering, which comes out September 14 on Polyvinyl Records. The video features Thomas interacting with friends and strangers -- who immediately fall ill as if he passed on an instant plague, echoing the song's lyrics: "Bad things are happening now / Sharp days are wrapping around us."
It's the song of the bummer summer.
Ann Arbor is featured throughout the video: Thomas spends time walking alone through Buhr Park and strumming his guitar behind the long-running punk joint Far House; and he spreads his illness at Encore Records, The Hosting art space, Lab Cafe, a recording studio in Ellsworth Commerce Park, his bandmate Chuck Sipperley's home, and his own apartment where his wife, spoken-word artist Emily Roll, starts foaming toothpaste at the mouth.
When I came across a blog post recently that referenced rare Neil Young tapes from Canterbury House, I assumed it was an old story related to the Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968 album that came out 10 years ago.
But it turns out there might be another tape from the Nov. 8-10 stand Young had at Canterbury House's 330 Maynard St. location. (It's now at 721 E. Huron St.)
Sugar Mountain is made up of recordings from Nov. 9 and 10, so it's possible the Nov. 8 performance was found. But Young also played Canterbury House on Oct. 16, 1969 -- the final time he played the venue -- so perhaps it's that show.
Kathy Asheton’s voice was cracking.
“It’s all very sensitive,” she said, the sentence trailing off to silence.
She’s recalling her brothers, Ron and Scott, the guitarist (and later bassist) and drummer for The Stooges.
Ron died in 2009 at 60 and Scott in 2014 at 64, and their younger sister still struggles with their loss.
The Facebook page Kathy runs for the Ron Asheton Foundation is filled with personal remembrances and family photos taken in their West Ann Arbor home near Weber’s Restaurant. Her mom bought the house from Herman Weber in 1964, and it's still owned by Kathy.
The modest 1,400 square foot structure, with its brick facade on the lower half and siding on top, doesn’t look like the sort of place that would launch a musical revolution. But the band that helped plant the roots for punk rock, The Stooges, began its life here, all with the blessing of mother Ann Asheton.
“She was not only accommodating by letting my brothers practice -- that’s where the band literally started, in the family home,” Kathy said. “But she could also rip and say, ‘Don’t drink out of the milk cartons!’ and let us have it. She was a mom in the true sense. She yelled at them like she yelled at us.”
“Them” includes the MC5 and other bands who passed through the Asheton home, and it was Iggy who Ann yelled at for drinking out of the milk carton. Momma Asheton’s support was repaid in song.
Some people seem destined to be stars.
Sunflower Bean is fronted by a supernova.
The New York-based Julia Cumming (bass, vocals), Nick Kivlen (guitar, vocals), and Jacob Faber (drums) flew to Ann Arbor specifically to play Sonic Lunch on July 12, and their 13-song spirited performance under sunny skies turned Liberty Plaza into a rock 'n' roll club.
"Are you guys here for a good time?" Cumming said. "Just because it's noon it doesn't mean we can't rock." She then taught the crowd to sing along with the "no, no, no" part of the chorus for "Crisis Fest."
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.