LOOKING BACK AND GOING FORWARD
As I am getting a little older, I find myself contemplating more and planning actual tasks less.I am more comfortable bringing back good memories than looking ahead at those things that might require an effort. Any reminder of how good life has been will carry me for a while. Sometimes when we are looking in the rear view mirror we catch a glimpse of an image that causes us to smile and sometimes it reminds us of a forgotten challenge.
HERE IS ONE OF THOSE MEMORIES
RECALLING A SUMMER DAY WITH RON CARTER & RUSSELL MALONE
Ron Carter; Musician, Legend and Cass Tech Graduate
Ron Carter is among the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in jazz. With more than 2,000 albums to his credit, he has recorded with many of music’s greats. He is a Detroiter and has that built in empathy for others that makes him a good teacher and collaborator.
Ron is a graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan which has been a cauldron for America’s greatest jazz musicians. He has lived up to all the expectation as an artist and as a man. When I caught up with him, it was nearly 60 years since he graduated from Cass Tech.
He was at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café where he was gently but firmly showing our next generation how a man acts and a jazz man plays.
It was a beautiful summer day and I had a lot of outdoor projects lined up. In the morning of a near perfect day I learned that the jazz legend Ron Carter was going to be at the Dirty dog Jazz Café. He was in town and had offered to spend some time with fortunate local high school students from the Detroit Jazz Festival Program. Reluctantly I said goodbye to the warm sun filled backyard. I packed up my camera, I ventured out into the sunshine to the Dirty Dog and into one of my most soul enriching experiences.
The students had arrived and set up to play some music. There was some youthful jabbering until Ron Carter arrived. Ron Carter looks as good in person as he does on his CD covers, only taller and even more elegant. He introduced himself to a suddenly very quiet group of young jazz musicians. He asked them to play and soon with some gentle nudges a relaxed band entered into a shared learning experience. Here was a player of jazz music who has had an entire lifetime at the top of his craft listening carefully to some Detroit kids starting out. His taking the time didn’t go unnoticed.
The next day I returned to the Dirty Dog knowing that Ron Carter was setting up for an evening gig. He was scheduled to join his pal the great guitarist Russell Malone for a special evening honoring the supporters of the Detroit Jazz Festival. I figured that they would do a quick sound check and leave. The staff was busy setting up for the guests. Tables were being arranged and covered. In the middle of this activity were two artists making music for themselves. I set my camera down as I knew that it was too loud for the occasion. Imagine being in the room with these two great artists who were spending some time quietly facing each other for almost an hour, musically surprising each other and grinning just like a couple of kids, a couple of really talented kids. It seemed as though they were happily transferring a lot of knowledge. I will carry this experience with me for some time.
THE TRUTH IS THAT THIS IS HAPPENING MOST DAYS IN THE CITY OF DETROIT
Ron Carter and Russell Malone are familiar names, and it was a privilege to be in their presence. However this was just one of what is a common occurrence in Detroit’s jazz world. I have so many brilliant memories of watching musicians share and care.
At some point I suggested to Ron Carter that I felt that we had reached an age when we had little we had to prove to anyone and inferred that we could rest on our handlebars like we did as kids after a long ride. He looked at me as as if I just stepped on his bass.
He said something like :
“Every morning when I first get up I hope that this will be the day when I find that new note that I have been looking for.”
Zing went the arrow of reason into my weak lazy heart. This was a better way to begin a day rather than starting on cruise control. On days when I am up to it I try to follow Ron’s directive. That new note is still out there.
This fall I will be looking for that new note
One place that I will look for that new note will be on the third floor of the Devries Cheese Store in the Eastern Market
This store is deeply Detroit. This family owned store has been in the business of selling cheese and just about everything else that will start a conversation on your patio. On the top floor of Devries Cheese I go to paint in a loft that overlooks the market and Detroit.
I have some space where I can paint and store my work.. It is a magical space above Vivios Restaurant in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The space is only accessible by going to the third floor of Devries Cheese Shop and then passing through Luis Resto’s music loft. Luis could be anywhere, but he chooses to create his art in the top floor of this very old building. He is here because of the sound he gets in this place with its high ceiling and wood trusses. Luis is a genuinely nice guy. He is exceptionally generous with his time, except when it is his time to create some music. He goes deep into his creative cocoon and is completely unaware of anything or anyone around him. I know to walk quietly through his space and not disturb him when he is lost in his music. He will never look up. His concentration on his craft is inspiring to other artists.
LUIS RESTO: A REALLY GOOD LISTENER AND A FINE MAN
On Saturdays when he is in town he opens up his loft to allows musicians and shoppers at Devries Cheese Shop to play / hear some music. The public is welcome. Many folks wander in not knowing Luis and not really expecting what will likely happen next. If they choose to grab an instrument or a mike and join in, Luis will listen to their contribution and go with it. This is who Luis is: a sound sponge. Luis really listens. Luis is very honest when he talks about how important these encounters are with these Saturday compatriots. He thrives on the diverse approaches to music from his fellow professionals to the kids banging on the drum set. He will listen, file it and maybe use it in his next tune. Nothing is dismissed as not being worthy. When something falls on the floor the sound is picked up and used.
The way Luis has created music is explored in a short film created by Evan Gulock.
This past week Luis’s loft was packed to celebrate Evan’s new film.
In Evan’s words, ” I have put together Luis’s story: his life, his inspirations, his insights into making soul-driven music and living a heart-driven life.”
Here’s how Evan described his subject:
“Luis Resto is a multi-talented, Oscar and Grammy award-winning Detroit-based musician with the spirit of a humble genius and an affinity for giving back to his community. He has collaborated with a wildly diverse collection of accomplished artists, from Eminem to Willie Nelson. He is a microcosm of the thriving music world in Detroit. It is a city that has a sound unlike any other; it always has – from Motown to rock to jazz. As Resto says, “It’s got stank.”
To begin the evening Ann Delisi sat down with Don Was, Luis and David McMurray for a public chat. It gave us an insight into how free they were to take risks. They sure seemed to enjoy looking backwards. We then viewed Evan’s film, followed by live music that propelled us forward. All the life inside of Luis’s music came bursting out when the veterans were joined by Ian Finkelstein, Raphael Statin and Salar Ansari.
Music in Detroit may pause to look back but is quick to find the fast forward button again.
I will be looking forward and back at the Dirty Dog.
Dave Bennett will honor America’s jazz history this week, by adding to it. He will bring some cohorts with him to help him explore new ways to play familiar tunes. For all four nights the place will be packed. It will be jammed with those who have an appreciation of jazz’s roots. They will be treated to being only a few feet away from musicians who share their love of jazz and will be playing it about as well as anybody could. They will unabashedly play music that makes one feel good to be alive. We all can look forward to Dave looking back.
COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
September 18 -21
Expect the unexpected along with the expected when Dave Bennett brings his band to the Dirty Dog this week.