GOODNESS, JAZZ AND ART
My life has been full of “how the heck” moments.
The latest “how the heck” question that I have is, “How do quiet gentle people create bigger than life, over the top and sometimes in your face pieces of art?” We are used to thinking of artists as temperamental and a little crazy. Often they are hard to deal with and shouldn’t be allowed out in public. We love their work because they are so very different than we are, and we get a glimpse of their untidy lives.
Then there are those constant gentle souls who are so self assured that they feel free to create anything they want.
Here is a friend, Judy Bowman, who is as gentle and kind as a person can get. She seldom seems down. I have never seen a photo of her without a smile. Yet, Judy understands all emotions and feels free to show them. She was principal of Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences while she raised her family. On retirement she threw herself completely into her paintings. This was good for us. All of Judy’s work has force and energy that I often find lacking in angrier artists.
THEN THERE IS THIS GROUP OF ARTISTS
AND THE DETROIT JAZZ FEST ALL STARS
Last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café four musicians who had never played together as a group formed a band. New York based T.K. Blue arrived in Detroit and showed up at the Dirty Dog about 2:30PM last Wednesday. Waiting to meet him were his pianist Buddy Budson, his bassist Marion Hayden and his drummer for the week, David Taylor. They are all Detroit Jazz Fest All-Stars.
By 3pm T.K., Buddy, Marion and David had already discovered that they shared a bunch of character traits, They all have engaging smiles, good reasons for smiling and a willingness to share their good nature. They each also have a bundle of talent and experience. Buddy, Marion and David all knew each other but the question was, how would they blend with this international super star coming in with his personal musical messages? As I wrote last week, T.K. has a monster resume and speaks French. This was answered with their first exchange of genuine joy to be in each other’s company. The glue that good people exude instantly bound them together for their four day gig. Here were four gentle, kind and expansive souls forming a rock firm unit. ready to throw caution to the wind and to energetically explore T.K.s music.
If you caught the shows this past week you would have seen four gentle people supporting each other to perform some powerfully and bold jazz.
BUILDING A BAND IN TWO HOURS
From 3pm to 5:30PM on Wednesday the newly formed band set up their instruments and spent some time working on getting the sound just right and began going through T. K.’s playlist with him. It was a party of learning. What to me would be a nerve racking head scratching moment was turning into a love fest. These people didn’t seem to know that they were about to play two hours of jazz over two sets starting in a few hours all in front of patrons who were paying good money to hear them. He had passed out music which they put on music stands. T.K. also played the start of each tune and guided them in their roles. Mostly they exchanged approving glances and outright smiles, obviously not aware of the pending potential for disaster. I was witnessing civility and professional talent triumphing over any fear of failure. There were no abject compliments as from a teacher to a student. These were musicians getting to do what they were born to do and loving every minute.
Out of this mutual respect, appreciation for each other’s artistry came friendship. Out of that friendship came a jazz ensemble that for eight sets grew into a cohesive force.
I was fortunate to be able to watch this happen. T.K. and I had started a dialogue and I was invited into the artist’s green room. T.K. asked me if between sets we could continue some thoughts that we had started. With the table set with the Dirty Dog’s great food I realized there was going be more eating. story telling and laughter than serious conversation. This easy cordiality was typical of jazz bands breaking bread in the green room. Maybe, to play great music as a group, the group has to become family.
I came across Shades while he was creating a mural in the Eastern Market forthe Detroit Jazz Festival. Shades again showed me that through his good nature he could overcome tough circumstances. While I was there proud members of his family came by, including his brother, cousin and son (seen in photo above). The results will reflect their support.
COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG
JUNE28 – JULY 1
Michael will merge his understanding of the rhythms of West Africa from his travels with the State Department with his knowledge of jazz he has learned playing with Art Blakey, Pharaoh Sanders and Donald Byrd. Another great week of jazz at the Dirty Dog.
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