Michigan proto-punk legends James Williamson and Deniz Tek team up for album of raw power

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James Williamson & Deniz Tek CD and LP covers

Forsythe Junior High and Pioneer High School grad Deniz Tek made his name as the leader of Australian proto-punk legends Radio Birdman.

James Williamson made his name as the guitarist for Iggy and The Stooges and was co-writer of every song on Raw Power.

But despite their shared love for search-and-destroy guitar riffs, these two Michigan music giants have never recorded together until Two to One, an 11-track album that comes out September 18.

Tek (67) and Williamson (70) sound like young guns on the album's first single, "Stable."

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.

This story originally ran June 12, 2019.

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.

Open to all 9-12th graders, U-M's Girls in Music & Technology summer camp goes virtual this August

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U-M's Girls in Music and Technology

Summer camps, like the rest of society, were put in disarray due to the Covid crisis.

But some summer camps were able to recast their normal activities into virtual ones and stay open.

The University of Michigan's Girls in Music and Technology (GiMaT) runs August 17-28 is one of those camps, and because of its focus, GiMaT will likely be one of the more successful transitions to the virtual world. After all, who better to run a virtual tech and music camp than actual tech experts?

GiMaT is for students in grades 9-12, and the "camp is open to students of all gender identities, and is designed to encourage and support campers who wish to explore musical applications of technology."

U-M Faculty Director Dr. Zeynep Özcan, who makes brilliantly brainy electronic music, will guide students in understanding the musical applications if technology, with help from U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Department of Performing Arts Technology faculty. The program overview includes:

Legendary Ann Arbor luthier Herb David passes away

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Herb David, 1978

On Their Way - Local instrument maker Herb David (above) proudly shows the ornate harp he created over a three-year period. David and his harp are on their way to the Smithsonian, which has selected the harp for a year-long show of musical instruments by American instrument makers. News photos by Larry E. Wright. Published in Ann Arbor News, January 29, 1978.

On July 26, David Siglin, the former director of The Ark, announced on his Facebook page the death of legendary Ann Arbor luthier Herb David:

I am very sad to report that Herb David died last night. Herbie was one of a kind, unique in every way. He was a very important influence on me and my love for folk music. I feel strongly that, if not for Herb and Herb David Guitar Studios, The Ark would have come and gone in the late 1960s or early 70s. But more than anything, he was a dear friend and I'm going to miss him greatly.

David was 89. (His birthday was April 11 and a February 1991 Ann Arbor News article lists him as 59 then.)

Originally from Chicago, David learned his trade at age 25 from a Detroit shoemaker named Sarkis "Sam" Varjebedian, who also repaired stringed instruments in his shop. They met because David had taken his own guitar there for repair. When Varjebedian died, David bought his tools, some of which were more than 300 years old and passed down generations in the family. Remarkably, David grew up playing the trumpet and never touched a guitar until a fellow soldier gave him a few lessons in the Army, which he enlisted in after graduating from Michigan State University.

According to this 1963 "local man" article in The Ann Arbor News, David left his career as a research psychologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit at the age of 30 to begin his career as a luthier. David told the News:

Saturday Looks Good to Me discovered some live gems during lockdown

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Saturday Looks Good to Me

Back in April, Saturday Looks Good to Me singer/songwriter/guitarist Fred Thomas was using some of his quarantine lockdown time to explore piles of cassettes he had featuring all manner of music from his various projects.

"I found this cassette that simply said 'Mar 11 2005' and was amazed to discover it was a show from one of Saturday's dreamier configurations during our peak touring times," Thomas wrote on the Bandcamp page featuring the live recording now titled March 11, 2005 • Champaign.

The "dreamier" Saturday sound on this tour -- compared to its more typically rollicking indie rock -- happened because Thomas didn't remember that drummer Steve Middlekauff couldn't come along for the tour until the night before. But rather than try to rope in a percussionist at the last minute, the group switched gears and adapted to the drummerless tour on the fly.

Strike Up the Bands: New music from Washtenaw County artists and labels

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Washtenaw County map

I had originally titled this post like I did the previous eight in this series: "New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine."

That headline implied quarantine was for a limited period of time, but with the pandemic mishandled every step of the way by the federal government, there is no timeframe for the end of lockdown. <Insert 40,000-word diatribe>

The time of quarantine is now and for the foreseeable future.

It's how we have to live in order to stay alive.

Artists are resilient and they create because they have to, no matter the circumstances. So, this post is highlighting new music made by or released by Washtenaw County artists and labels -- the same as they did during normal times. Because our current time is our normal time even if it doesn't look like it did in the past.

Shoutout to the creators persevering through this mess.

Two lifelong friends challenge each other to write new songs on the No More Covers podcast

MUSIC INTERVIEW

No More Covers podcast logo

Michigan natives Chris Erickson and Hadley Robinson have been friends since birth.

“Before birth, actually," Erickson says. "Our dads grew up together, our grandmothers went to college together and they lived on the same street in Midland.”

The two stayed in touch through adulthood as each became artists in different ways.

Robinson is a video producer based in Brooklyn: “My background is in journalism, I used to be a newspaper writer. I’ve worked in video full time for the past five years while dabbling in audio, which has been helpful with this endeavor.”

Erickson teaches in the IB program at Huron High School where he also serves as the creative activity service coordinator, guiding students to find and pursue their creative interests. 

School of Music, Theater, Dance, and Jams: U-M SMTD faculty have been compiling mixtapes during quarantine

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Cassettes photo by Vova Krasilnikov from Pexels

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov from Pexels.

Late winter and early spring is usually a busy time for the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD). Students have started working on their final projects, music performances fill the auditoriums of the Earl V. Moore Building, and theater and dance events abound. 

But since the coronavirus pandemic shut down all activity, the SMTD started engaging its audience by offering livestreams of discussions, archived performances, and even yoga classes.

My favorite SMTD offerings are the faculty-compiled mixtapes on Spotify.

Blue LLama and pianist Matthew Ball team up for Pride Month benefit concert for the Jim Toy Center

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Matthew Ball

Matthew Ball promo photo.

The coronavirus has forced clubs and restaurants to figure out ways to survive under duress. Some places struggled and have gone out of business; other places have figured out how to make their businesses work in a reduced capacity.

But almost from the start of the pandemic, Ann Arbor's Blue LLama Jazz Club has navigated the situation with confidence and creativity.

Blue LLama started coping with the new normal by streaming archived concerts from the club -- all performances there are recorded -- and moved into curbside delivery, new live performances streamed from the empty club, and offering free meals to laid-off workers in the community. As Michigan entered Phase 4 in the reopening plan, Blue LLama resumed serving food and having concerts in the club, but it has continued to live stream shows and offering contactless food pickup for those who aren't yet comfortable with hanging out inside with others. (*This writer raises his hand and touches the sun to make it clear he is not ready to be anywhere in public right now.*)

The latest Blue LLama community outreach project during the pandemic is a benefit concert for the Jim Toy Community Center as part of Pride Month.

A new single from Ann Arbor's Dani Darling takes on social-media weirdness during lockdown

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Dani Darling S+M single cover

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Dani Darling and her bandmates were recording a new EP in a studio when the Covid-19 stay-at-home order began. The Reverie EP is still on track for release this summer, but the first single, "S+M," features Darling solo.

"I found myself with those sessions and more to say, so I went back to doing my bedroom pop, late-night studio sessions," Darling said. "The beat is by a London producer GC Beats. Really just sounded like Dani when I heard it."

"S+M" features jazzy guitar chords over a slow-groove R&B beat with Darling's ethereal voice floating over the mix. She sings playful puns to tell her tale about what it feels like to be a musician in lockdown.

"'S+M' is a snapshot of my experience during the stay-at-home order -- my music career on hold indefinitely, feeling social media shift from a strength to something sinister," Darling said. "If felt like a scramble for the airwaves, like either you shut down and take time for yourself or you dive right in and try to make a wave, make a difference. I wanted to do that because I don't think of my music as purely entertainment -- it's a way to connect and healing is a big theme in this project. So I wanted to make an impact, but it started to feel like an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes you go online and you know you shouldn't; sometimes you go look at someone's [social] media knowing it will hurt and do it anyway. Sometimes people form an unhealthy relationship to you as fans."