The Charles Boles Quartet is a band that has a healthy accumulation of experiences and stories from life and from being jazz musicians. All the members have the perspectives of jazz where one learns from each other’s experiences and enjoy sharing their stories. These are jazz brothers, pals, amigos, cronies and certainly friends. Charles seems to go through life as an active friend collector.
Bassist John Dana always arrived on time every Tuesday for the band’s weekly gig at the Dirty Dog. He would haul his bass in his strong hands through the back door, past the green room and leave it on the band stand. He then returned to the green room to join Charles Boles who usually had his head in his music. Charles likes to arrive early to the Dirty Dog to organize his music for that evening, before his band mates arrive. Guitarist Ron English is usually the first to join Charles in the green room at the Dirty dog. Many of the new tunes the group plays will be Ron’s compositions. Ron English would peruse his music and strum some key parts while staying respectfully quiet. That’s what friends do. When he arrived drummer Renell Gonsalves would scan the menu and announce the specials. Before going on they would exchange some familiar banter including some news and political opinions. It was a standard musician ritual, with a little humor at each other’s expense. But it seemed to me that it was more than that. The four piece jazz band was a band of close friends happy to see each other after a week apart, happy to see they all made it one more time. Happy to get one more gig together.
JOHN DANA 1947-2018
The past week brought with it some difficult news. Our friend John Dana passed away leaving a huge hole in our lives.
John’s smile will be missing this week in the green room, a smile that assured us that everything was going to be alright. We will miss this sturdy man who was the rock of the Charles Boles Quintet. Bassist John Dana created the solid pocket that his mates depended on. He was the floor that held them up and when they needed it his bass line would lift them up to soar. John was the solid one, the supporting member of the cast until his solos. We then got a taste of his spirit. He sometimes hunched over his bass and became one with it. We knew he was on to something. These were great moments and will not be forgotten.
This week the Charles Boles Quartet gathered in the Dirty Dog green room for their Tuesday night gig. The banter was muted but smiles slowly returned. A new bass was hauled into the club and carried to the band stand by a good friend of the band, Jeff Pedraz. Jeff would not be replacing John but simply carrying on his spirit. Throughout the night John’s positive presence could be felt.
It has probably always been this way with musicians. They are able to escape into the music and for a moment escape their sorrow.
On Tuesday night music once again salved some of the hurt. There is something about playing jazz that is healing. So many times its effects have been studied and documented, but when it happens in front of you like that evening you become a believer.
Jeff Pedraz was a friend of John’s and said this of him: “Rest easy John. I feel fortunate to have known you, your beat, and your truly beautiful soul.”
That goes from all of us at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café.
THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
The music goes on.
CHARLS BOLES pianist
I have often been a bit intimidated by Charles Boles. He towers over me when I am in his presence. He is not imposing physically, but he has an assurance that comes from a lifetime of experiences and hard work. He is a product of Detroit’s black bottom neighborhood, which was a cauldron of creative jazz artists. Charles has faced down hardships, racism, personal losses and has persevered. He has a powerful inter-strength and has benefited from a lifetime of playing with great musicians. It shows in his piano playing. He has earned the respect of other musicians and those lucky enough to hear him live in a small club.
RODNEY WHITAKER bassist
I have known Rodney Whitaker since he was a young man earnestly starting out on his storied career. There is little that Rodney has set out to do that he hasn’t achieved. He is someone whose personal fortitude has made all around him better, just ask his students that come out of his program at Michigan State, or better yet ask his band mates when you catch him at the Dirty Dog this week.
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