By Nicole Rupersburg
Over the past two years, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been continuously reinventing themselves, attracting a new, more youthful audience. From the inaugural launch in 2007 of the successful “6 Days in June” program—a blend of classical, techno, contemporary, spoken word, and performance art—to their glossy website overhaul and two straight months of generous student discounts this October and November, the DSO has progressively gained more appeal with the fickle under-40 set.
Enter their latest and greatest effort: 37/11
In short, if you’re under 37 years old, you can purchase tickets to select DSO performances for only $11.00. No day-of rush tickets, no waiting in line, no banishment to the balcony. With the 37/11 program, you pick your seats and can purchase your tickets 1-3 weeks in advance. The catch? There isn’t one. You just have to register in advance on the website.
Oh, and look…here it is: www.detroitsymphony.com/3711
This highly progressive program—in fact, the most progressive program for young adults of any major orchestra—launches this Saturday, November 22nd with a performance by Evelyn Glennie, followed by an afterglow inside the Max M. Fisher Music Center featuring a performance by local post-punk synth-pop dance-rock band Silverghost, with cocktails and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
Dame Evelyn Glennie is a musician, composer, motivational speaker, educationalist, jewelry designer…and deaf. Her manic drumming is done barefoot allowing her to feel the vibrations and enable her to “hear.” She has composed commercials for Mazda, songs for Björk, and has performed and recorded full shows completely improvised. She is an amazing performer, one truly not to be missed.
Silverghost is a two-piece act featuring Marcy Bolen of the Von Bondies and keyboardist Deleano Acevedo. They blend fuzz guitar, analog synths, a drum machine, and both of their voices to create music that is dance-rock-pop-punk-new wave-rock.
This will be an evening of excitement and musical exploration—fun music, fun people, fun times. Be sure to register in advance online in order to take advantage of this extraordinary offer.
Come for a pre-thanksgiving celebration on Nov 21 at the Boll Family YMCA and enjoy two free events.
At 6PM have a glass of wine and take a look at Mario Moore’s solo art show; Through The Eyes Of A Black Man.
Mario is a senior at CCS who studied in Florence this year. This is what he says about his work:
“My work mainly deals with the figure on a representational level. I use elements of my life and the people around me to tell stories of young urban America. Although this is just one aspect of my work it tends to be an area of primary focus. Young African American men are one of the most ostracized groups in society. In a sense it is something that has been created since slavery, but the issues that young Black men have can be resolved within our own culture. Black men and women can help the development of Black life without the help of outside intervention. Many of my pieces show the negative impact history has had on young men and women. I show these dramatic images to call attention to the self-belittlement and destruction of our youth. I want to also tell stories of hardship and triumph, how a little boy from a run down home can grow and become anything he can possibly imagine. I want to open eyes and tell the stories of young Black men, the here and now. Another aspect of my work is to relate biblical stories that parallel the world today. I create these pieces using different mediums but my main resource is oils.”
At 7PM sit in the lovely Marlene Boll Theater and celebrate the first CD made by the YMCA Deep River Choir and the musical gifts of the Rev. Robert Jones and Matt Watroba. The Deep River is a grass roots community choir dedicated to the roots of American music and the diverse culture of Detroit. Y Arts at the Boll Family YMCA started the choir in 2007 to answer the question, “How can we keep from singing?” Not your traditional holiday CD, this unique album celebrates of the survival of the human spirit in adversity. It includes offerings as varied as the sweet harmonies of the contemporary folk song A SIMPLE FAITH, by David Tamelevich to the raw emotion of GOIN HOME, a prison work song written by Irvin Webb and originally recorded in 1956 by the great music historian Alan Lomax.
The Choir is lead by veteran choir director Bobbi Thompson and acclaimed musicians and educators Matt Watroba and the Reverend Robert Jones. Historically Detroit has been a destination for people seeking a better life, and in that spirit, the volunteers who make up this choir come from all over the world.
Cheer on this new exciting addition to Detroit’s Community chorale scene and buy their brand new CD at a special discount price of $10 (Only on Nov 21). It will make a terrific holiday gift. Free entry and a glass of wine!
Boll Family YMCA
ArtServe Michigan announced that Graham W.J. Beal of Detroit has been selected as the Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Leader Award recipient. Beal was honored at the 23rd Annual Governor’s Awards for Arts & Culture (The Guvvys), November 13, 2008 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The award is presented each year to a staff member of a Michigan arts and cultural organization who has demonstrated visionary leadership significantly advancing his or her organization’s artistic mission.
In total, 22 artists, arts and cultural organizations, arts educators and civic and business leaders from across the state of Michigan will be named as Guvvy honorees for their dedication to arts and culture, within 10 different categories, including: Arts Advocate; Civic Leader; Non Profit Arts and Cultural Leader; Arts and Cultural Organization (over and under $1 million); Exemplary Business; Michigan Artist Lifetime Achievement; Michigan Innovative Artist; Arts Education Organization; and Arts Educator. Also being honored, the 2008 International Achievement Award recipients: director/producer/writer/lyricist Jack O’Brien and musician Bob James.
“Michigan is home to a wealth of creative talents, and we are proud to honor these organizations and individuals,” said Jennifer Goulet, President of ArtServe Michigan. “All of our 2008 award recipients and honorees have helped to cultivate the creative potential of Michigan, its people and communities and express the vision of The Guvvys, rewarding exceptional artistic talent, creativity and innovation.”
As the Detroit Institute of Arts director, Graham W.J. Beal is most noted for his extensive work with the newly renovated and reconstructed DIA. Before joining the DIA in September 1999, the English-born art historian worked with museums both in England and the United States, such as Sheffield City Art Galleries, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Washington University Art Gallery. Beal served for three years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of American Art Museum Directors until 2007 and chaired its Art Issues Committee from 2002-2004. He also was actively involved in many nonprofit Detroit community organizations, such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
“I have long been impressed by his [Beal’s] leadership, and I am delighted with the ways in which he has remade the museum as a more engaging, lively and informative place,” said A. Alfred Taubman, City of Detroit Arts Commission Chair. “We have always known that the DIA was one of the best museums in the world. Now it is being recognized far and wide as one of the finest collections with one of the most engaging presentations.”
“Bringing projects like the museum’s [DIA] construction and reinstallation to completion was no easy task,” said Richard A. Manoogian, Executive Chairman, Masco Corporation. “I know how tirelessly Graham and his staff worked, and I admire Graham’s vision and leadership during the many years it took to bring the DIA renovation and expansion to fruition.”
In its 23rd year, the Governor’s Awards evolved from the Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan’s Governors’ Arts Awards. Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan was a non-profit, statewide citizens cultural advocacy organization, which later merged with three other art organizations, Arts Foundation, Business Volunteers for the Arts and Michigan Alliance for Arts Education, to form ArtServe Michigan in 1997. In 2006, ArtServe Michigan merged with the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies to become the new ArtServe Michigan. More than 700 artists, legislators, business leaders, arts managers, board members and patrons from across the state attend the Guvvys each year.
The two-day celebration also includes the Student Event on November 14, 2008 where middle and high school students explore creative career options through a talk-back session with the International Award recipients and hands-on workshops.
By Nicole Rupersburg
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, classical contemporaries who played to the same fickle courts and Viennese crowds (separated only by their small difference in age and Mozart’s untimely death), are the world’s first true rock stars. Mozart, a child prodigy whose reputation always preceded him and whose infamy survives still some 200-odd years later; and Beethoven, a tragic yet brilliant figure with a reputation for profoundly expressive pieces and a codgerly—at times even tyrannical—disposition, could just as easily be brothers in brilliant compositional abilities, arduous artistry, and unsurpassed fame. Mozart—the older, more free-spirited, more prolific brother set the tone for the younger, eager, and equally talented (though tortured) Beethoven. Both composed works that have remained popular long after their deaths and that are considered some of the most recognizable and beloved music in the world.
Last weekend the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performed selections from Mozart and Beethoven, two of the most influential men in the history of music and two of the greatest contributors to human culture, in a decidedly light program which consisted of Mozart’s Symphony No. 30 in D major and Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, as well as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major.
The program opened with Mozart’s Symphony No. 30, with the world-renowned and in-demand Marek Janowski conducting. This work was one of the many products of the inspiration Mozart received from his contemporary Joseph Haydn, who had been working on a new kind of symphony the likes of which Mozart had never before witnessed. As a result, Mozart composed Symphonies No. 28, 29, and 30; un-commissioned pieces full of fervor and artistic freedom rarely seen in previous works of his. This particular piece is much lighter in tone and playful than the other two. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s performance was one of dancing dynamism and intense vitality; it was an agile performance of a flirty, zippy piece.
This was followed with another high-energy performance; Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. Though Mozart preferred the piano, he still paid homage to his early training and his father’s trade instrument by featuring the violin in numerous compositions and allowing it to play a prominent role. Violin Concerto No. 3 is an almost worshipful, expressive piece meant to showcase and honor this instrument, and allowing the soloist ample opportunity for serious showmanship.
The soloist here was Baiba Skride, an accomplished violinist hailing from Latvia and only 27 years old, and her performance was at once fluid and graceful, sharp and witty. The soloist’s work here is very demanding—quick and intricate and with little pause, the bow a constant flurry of short and violent yet beautiful movements. In another performer’s hands it might have sounded jerky or jarring; in Skride’s fluttering, skillful hands (and her Stradivarius “Wilhelmj” violin) the solo work had a flowing, dancing, rippling continuity. Performing without accompaniment for long, frenetic stretches of time entirely from memory, Skride’s reception by the audience was a little less exuberant than one might have anticipated. I can only assume it is largely because the majority of the audience was likely there to hear pieces by Mozart and Beethoven, and not hear them played by anyone in particular. Still, her performance deserved a thunderous applause which it did not receive—through words I offer it now.
The Violin Concerto No. 3 was followed by Intermission, and the program closed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in D major. This is a fascinating piece, if for no other reason than its origination—written at the time when Beethoven truly began to realize the traumatic impact of his progressive hearing loss, the piece itself is actually at times slowly revealing, at times energetic, but never melancholy. This dramatically lyrical piece is highly engaging, both for the audience as well as the players. Conductor Janowski showed an obvious preference for this piece with his much more enthusiastic conducting, which had hitherto been significantly softer and toned-down, almost sleepy in style. The orchestra, too, seemed to have a great deal of fun while playing—during the joyously energetic finale, Assistant Concertmaster Hai-Xin Wu wore an enormous smile on his face which he simply could not contain, and the feeling seemed to be infectious.
A concert such as this, featuring the “rock stars” of classical music, tends to draw a more popular and trendy set of music lovers. The audience itself was a significantly younger crowd, full of people in their twenties and thirties who are apt to benefit greatly from the DSO’s forthcoming 37/11 program being launched later this month, through which young adults under age 37 can purchase select tickets in advance to DSO performances for only $11.00. To take advantage of this offer, you must first register at www.detroitsymphony.com/3711. There will also be more information available here at www.thedetroiter.com.
The pieces selected by the DSO for this program are actually not representative of what people think when they think of Mozart or Beethoven. Audiences typically relate to the highly dramatic, emotionally raw, tragically dark facets of these musicians’ work, yet both men wrote scores of compositions in a variety of genres, and the mood of their music ranges from the very light and playful to the darkly emotional and expressive. For as much pain there is in their music, there is joy; for as much mourning, hope. I commend the DSO’s slightly more daring choice of works to feature, in that they do not appeal to the popular conception of these men as tragic, tortured figures; these pieces highlight the artists in a much more playful, enthusiastic, fun light. And for as much as tragedy might provide the greatest inspiration, what kind of rock star doesn’t also have a little fun?
October 23, 2008 8 pm:
Changing The Language Of Jazz
We have many great musicians” says drummer Andre Wright “but few legends who have actually changed the language of jazz”. Legends like miles Davis, Charley Mingus, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane, Charley parker and Dizzy Gillespie have each infused the universal musical discourse with their personal lexis opening broad visions and eloquent discussions. “Notes From Jazz Legends “ featuring Ambrose Akinmusire winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition who will make his own statement at 8:00 P.M on Thursday October 23rd. at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 North Fourth Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Ambrose’s journey into a new musical language never excludes beauty. He listens intently, values the fertility of a pause, of communication and tension. He seeks other genres of music to analyze and draws inspiration from such musicians as Bjork and Chopin. Ambrose’s music restructures accepted notions of jazz in a way that reflects his ability to recognize nuances, multiplicities, and patterns.
Akinmusire will be accompanied by three accomplished veterans, bassist, Marion Hayden, pianist Tim Whalen and drummer, Andre Wright. Sponsor and master trumpeter Marcus Belgrave will also make an appearance.
“Notes From Jazz Legends“ is sponsored by Marcus Belgrave and the
Detroit Jazz Musicians Co-Op Inc. Ticket prices are $25 reserved seating, $15 reserved seating and $10 general admission. Reservations over the Internet must be made at least 2 hours in advance of the event. If it is less than 2 hours before the show, please call 734-769-2999 to place a reservation or visit http://www.kerrytownconcerthouse.com/reservation
October 23, 2008 8pm:
Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis, along with members of the Philharmonia Brasileira, as they coalesce to form the unique and exhilarating music of Marsalis Brasilianos at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts .
Marsalis Brasilianos, brings together Branford Marsalis, one of the giants of the jazz world, with a remarkable 35 piece Brazilian orchestra - The Philharmonia Brasileira (Gil Jardim, conductor) on the main stage at Music Hall, Thursday, October 23rd @ 8PM. Together they celebrate the rich and sensual music of Heitor Villa-Lobos . Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) combined Brazilian folk music with the European classical tradition to create soothing yet powerful melodies. Marsalis Brasilianos gives Branford Marsalis a chance to demonstrate his talent, as he uses his “mastery of both jazz and classical music [to allow] the language of Villa-Lobos’ compositions to truly shine.
Branford Marsalis, the New Orleans-born jazz artist and this Brazilian ensemble find a point of departure in the work of Villa-Lobos, whose music draws on Afro-Brazilian folk influences (the roots of 1950s bossa nova—the now-classic meeting of jazz and Brazilian music) as well as an admiration for classical composers such as Stravinsky, Bach, and Milhaud.
This is an amazing musical hybrid that should not be missed. The perfect acoustics of Music Hall will provide the ambience for a potentially, magical evening of up-tempo rhythms and steamy hot jazz – flavored to the classical tradition, yet swings with an unbridled Brazilian passion.
Learn more about Heitor Villa-Lobos here: http://www.villalobos.ca. Tickets are available at Music Hall Box Office and Ticketmaster.com. Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts is located at 350 Madison, Detroit, MI 48226. Call 313- 887-8500 fro more information or visit www.musichall.org.
November 7th & 8th
Jeff “Tain” Watts
World-renown drummer and bandleader, Jeff “Tain” Watts and his hot-shot trio of sidemen, Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet will perform 2 sets a night at Jazz Café, November 7th and 8th at 10PM and 12 Midnight each night.
Raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Watts is one of the most respected jazz drummers in the world today, Jeff started out majoring in classical percussion at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, where he studied to be a timpanist, but then matriculated to the Berklee School of Music, where he pursued jazz studies alongside such soon to be household name players as Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Greg Osby, Aimee Mann, Steve Vai and Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
Jeff Watts joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989.
Watts has worked in the film and television industry as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues". Jeff joined Kenny Garrett’s band after returning to New York in 1995 after three years in LA on the Tonight Show. Watts also continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Ravi Coltrane.
Watts’ latest album is with his other group, Tain and the Ebonix is the 2007 Dark Key Music release, “Folk’s Songs".
Tain’s Quartet boasts a power packed line-up featuring, Bassist, Chris Smith, Sax man, Kebbi Williams and Lawrence Field on piano who together, make this another all-star night at Jazz Café.
The Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet are also a part of the Practice Your Cool in ¾ Time package, along with Victor Goines (Nov 28-29) and Javon Jackson with Les McCann (Dec 12-13).
Act between now and October 30th, and purchase all three shows for $30!
Otherwise, tickets are $15 available at Music Hall Box Office or Ticketmaster.com. Jazz Café at Music Hall, 350 Madison, Detroit, MI 48226. Call 313.887.8498 for more information or visit www.jazzcafedetroit.com or www.myspace.com/jazzcafedetroit
By Nicole Rupersburg
Robert deMaine, principal cellist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 2002, is perhaps one of the most passionate performers I’ve ever witnessed. Many musicians have fun with their music; many enjoy it. deMaine inhabits it, playing from the heart, not the music sheet. As a result, his audience feels the music instead of merely hearing it.
As a performer, deMaine is delicate yet determined. His bow dances across the strings lightly for playfulness, evoking lightheartedness and joy. Other moments the bow tortures the strings, careening back and forth relentlessly, telling a tale of interminable mourning. His performance is almost a visual presentation of the soundscape he creates—his body gently swaying, eyes closed in rapture, the flurry of his arm and fingers.
This is my second time seeing deMaine in a dedicated performance, the first being in 2006 when deMaine played Dvořák’s masterful Cello Concerto in B Minor. At that time I fell in love with him as a performer, so when I found out that he was performing one of my favorite pieces from one of my favorite composers, I was practically giddy as a schoolgirl.
Robert Schumann’s Cello for Concerto and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 129 was written at the height of his career, though not performed until after his death. To describe Schumann as a genius fails to do him justice—he was ambitious and arrogant; tortured and talented; inspired and impudent; experimental, fearless, rash, and completely brilliant. This Cello Concerto is just one example of his compositional prowess, and the intricacies of the soloist’s work allows the strongest of performers to shine.
deMaine is just such this kind of performer, who takes what Schumann put down on paper and envisions the hauntingly tender and affectionate world Schumann created. At once graceful and melancholy, frantic and impassioned, deMaine’s playing breathes life into the piece, giving it substance, making it a direct reflection of the player’s and composer’s innermost souls.
My only point of contention is not in the playing but the programming. Since this was the featured piece of the program—essentially, this was the piece people came to see—why oh why was it scheduled in the first half of the program? César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor is a perfectly fine work, but it is certainly no follow-up to Schumann’s Cello Concerto or deMaine’s playing of it. In terms of timing, yes the Cello Concerto is the briefer of the two pieces, and perhaps there was concern over pacing, but I still feel this was an error. Despite the Orchestra’s skillful and energetic playing, Franck’s Symphony was nothing if not anticlimactic.
But this still does not detract from the experience of the performance itself. In the future, when you see the names “deMaine” or “Schumann” on the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming programs, just buy the tickets. Don’t ask questions. And if you ever see the two names together, buy tickets to every single performance. It would be well worth it.
Louis Jordan Commemorative Stamp
Before Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, James Brown or The Big Bopper began to “Rock & Roll” there was the “Jumpin’ Jive” of Louis Jordan. It was the sound that influenced them all and earned Jordan the titles “King Of Rhythm And Blues” and “Grandfather Of Rock & Roll”. The SereNgeti Galleries will celebrate The 100th Birthday Of Louis Jordan on July 21, 2008 with a 5:30 to 6:30 PM Reception and Signing by Mrs. Louis Jordan of her autobiography “The Debutante That Went Astray”. The reception will be followed by a 7:00 PM concert with Ben’s Friends Big Band featuring The DeSean Jones Jazzy Five and the short film “Caldonia” .
Louis Jordan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the US Postal Service just issued a postage stamp in honor of the centennial year of his birth on July 8, 1908. He had 54 hits on the charts during the 1940s. Eighteen of them were number one including “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Caldonia,", “Let The Good Times Roll” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry.” His short “soundies” provided popular entertainment and are considered forerunners of today’s music videos.
Martha Weaver, the daughter of a prominent St. Louis dentist, met Jordan while dancing at New York’s Club Baron in 1946. Martha performed in the chorus line for shows that featured Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey, who was one of her good friends. She was a frequent performer in Detroit where she worked with Ziggy Johnson. Louis and Martha became friends in the 50’s and were married in 1966. She traveled and sang with the Louis Jordan Band and took care of the finances. Martha was amused when Louis referred to her as ‘the debutante who went astray’ referring to her middle class upbringing. It inspired the title of her book.
The July 21st centennial celebration of the life and music of Louis Jordan will be Hosted by Judge Claudia Morcom and Bill Foster. Admission is $15 and the proceeds will benefit the Louis Jordan Scholarship Fund. The SereNgeti Galleries are located at 2757 Grand River in Detroit just one block south of Motor City Casino. For information call 313-715-0170.
Club Prive` in downtown Detroit made for an elegant setting for thedetroiter.com interview with local singer extraordinaire L’Renee. This exciting, talented young lady burst on to the scene two years ago and now with her debut CD, “2nd Chances” blowin’ up on IPODs and MP3 systems, it seems soon she’ll be on everyone’s regular playlist. Her song “I Love My Life” is quite infectious, with its smooth groove and on point vocals. After catching her appearance over Valentine’s weekend opening for the group “Impromp2” I knew I was catching a glimpse of a future star.
TheDetroiter.com: What made you chose this career path?
L’Renee: Really the career chose me. I went to college and got my degree in business management. I grew up wanting to be an architect but the music in me was too strong to ignore so this is what I decided I had to do.
TheD: What was the biggest mistake you made along the way?
L’Renee: (laughing) Waiting so long to get started.
TheD: How did you get so far in just two short years?
L’Renee: Lots of hard work. I devote of lot of my time to my career since I started off late. But I’m glad I went to school and got my degree first. It will help for the business side of the music industry.
TheD: Why do you feel it’s important to live and work here in Detroit whereas lots of artists leave as soon as they get a little success?
L’Renee: I’m very proud to be from Detroit. There’s a lot good things happening here musically and I want to be a part of it. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but I’m very glad to be here right now representing Detroit.
TheD: Tell me your earliest memory musically?
L’Renee: (laughing) Grabbing the mike and singing, ”Doin’ The Butt” with my father’s band when I was maybe 2 years old.
TheD: I bet that was pretty funny.
L’Renee: Yeah. My father’s band used to rehearse in our basement. They played all over town.
TheD: What was the name of his band?
L’Renee: (still laughing) I can’t remember.
TheD: What was the most embarrassing thing to happen to you musically?
L’Renee: Let’s see…Forgetting the words to a song while I was performing in college.
It was ok though. The audience started singing the lyrics and then I picked back up. They gave me good time about it but it was all in fun.
TheD: What are the top 3 things you want your fans to know about you?
L’Renee: That I’m kind hearted, a hard worker, and I’m very determined.
TheD: Three things you’ll need in this business.
TheD: Final question. Where do you see yourself 4 years from now?
L’Renee: (laughing) Not to sound arrogant but accepting my Grammy award.
TheD: I can see that happening. You have a unique sound, and you are very talented. We wish you much success to you in your future.
L’Renee: Thank you.
For more on L’Renee, check out her website: www.myspace/Lreneedetroit
A blend of hip-hop, r&b, neo-soul, and jazz warmed Detroit on a cold Saturday night last Valentine’s weekend as the duo Impromp2 greeted their favorite city with their trademark smooth sound. With opening act L’Renee setting the stage with her infectious sultry sound, the audience was treated to an extraordinary night of love songs, old favorites, and new grooves from this group of performers. Performing three songs from her CD “2nd Chances”, this lovely and talented young lady was been entertaining Detroit steadily for the past year, getting raves wherever she performs. Check out her my space page at www.myspace.com/l’renee (el-reh-nay).
Impromp2 has been thrilling Detroit audiences since their debut “You’re Gonna Love It”, in 1995. With their new CD “It Is What It Is”, it is apparent that after a long hiatus Impromp2 is back in a big way. Crafting their unique sound with many heavyweights in the music game including Ray Parker Jr. Marcus Miller, and Wayman Tisdale among others, this new effort was featured prominently at this concert at the new venue Asian Village, on Detroit’s revamped waterfront. Although they performed most of their new music throughout the night, they didn’t disappoint the many fans who came out to hear some of the favorites from the past including their hits “Enjoy Yourself”, You’re Gonna Love It”, and of course “Summer Nights”. Check out our video interview with one half of this super group, vocalist and trumpeter/keyboardist Johnny Britt and also their web site www.myspace.com/impromp2.
Along with “Holy Hip Hop!” new portraits of hip hop icons by Russian-born artist Alex Melamid, and Rei Kawakubo’s ReFUSING FASHION opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit tonight, Detroit-based hip-hop artist MIKE-E Ellison will be performing live at 9pm. MIKE-E is a growing sensation around the country and in Africa, and most recently he’s garnered greater attention as a song of his has been featured as part of Barack Obama’s campaign. We caught up with Ellison a while back to discuss “AfroFlow,” his debut album and the movement (in all senses of the word) that it represents.
Ellison defines “AfroFlow” as meaning, quite literally, “flowing from Africa.” In his words this concept, is a curriculum, an approach to educate and bring awareness of not just African-American’s roots in Africa, but all of humanity’s, and thereby help “create a culture of respect.” It’s a socially conscious message – that you can dance to – out to alter people’s perceptions of Africa, Detroit, Hip-hop, and themselves.
I’ll take it all the way back – where it all began
The message and the music are about educating and giving a sense of identity to African-Americans, and understanding of all peoples. As he says, unlike Europeans who came to America fully aware of their cultures and a strong sense of self and thus could start over, those who came from Africa, came by force and lost their culture, their very identity. Without that, it leaves a lot of people struggling. So AfroFlow is in part a history lesson. Instead of devoting a single month to the history of African-American people and learning just a few figures, MIKE-E’s talking about it as a true curriculum – discovering inventors, scientists, the contributions from Africa and African-Americans. Not at the exclusion of others, but inclusively – to teach respect for all cultures. And rebuild a sense of identity.
4 the red, 4 the green, 4 the green, 4 the gold
This message of empowerment comes through in MIKE-E’s lyrics, as well as his actions. Listening to his words is an education – as the history of Africa comes through, a few listens and we pick up on references from the colors of our traffic lights coming from the Ethiopian flag to the Berlin Conference of 1885, that led to the division of Africa by European colonial powers to a pretty stirring excerpt from a Sidney Poitier speech in the movie “A Piece of the Action.” MIKE-E is active in the Detroit Public Schools, working with the kids and doing public service announcements. Trying to help change their perception of Africa, and thus their own perception of their origins and themselves.
AfroFlow applies to Ellison’s own origins too. He was born in Ethiopia, to African-American parents, and spent his first few years there. From there it was off to North Virginia where he grew up. But it was summers spent in Queens visiting with his cousins, where he was introduced to hip hop. As a young man, he went into, as he puts it, “jobs that seemed like you were supposed to go into.” This led to a career in sports management, first in New York, which then brought him to Detroit. Despite it being a solid job, something was missing. “For me sitting in a cubicle is a prison sentence. I’ve always been a pretty hyper guy.” As he sings in “Four More Exits,” “I’m in the office, trapped like a mouse in 4 corners. U call ‘em cubicles, I call ‘em unsuitable. It feel like punishment, cruel & unusual. My energy’s creative, but I never get to be creative.” Something had to give. He had to find his art.
From the Blue Nile 2 Belle Isle
“Detroit woke me up out of a creative coma.” Ellison credits the city and its rich musical and creative heritage and environment as helping him tap into the poetry and rhythms he’d been struck by as a child in Queens. He began honing his writing skills on the slam and spoken word stages in Detroit. This experience made him a better lyricist, as he puts it, “When you take away the music and the hype, you need integrity.” It’s this foundation of strong lyrics, good thinking that his music is built on. In fact, he says, “In some ways, AfroFlow is a cleverly disguised spoken word album.”
Ethiopia to Detroit & Back Again
Ellison would return as an adult to his birthplace of Ethiopia. He wrote “Everything will be alright,” for the people there, which slid through the underground to become a huge hit in that country. Many of his songs reference Ethiopia, trying to bring respect to a place that’s seldom been given much. In “Call Us By Name,” he combats the view of Ethiopia of just starving children and a helpless people. “They make it look just like hell, they never show u the wealth/ They always got lies 2 tell, folks always got jokes as well/ They never say 1st on earth, they always say last in line.” Using a clever, catchy rhythm, he turns from what “They Say” to what is: “this is the home of the earth’s first inhabitants / The birthplace of science, medicine & mathematics.” And “I’ll never hold my head in shame / I’ll make the world call us by name.”
The beautiful rhythm, The powerful rhythm
As MIKE-E brings cultures together through his words, he does so through the music as well. The music is a mix of African, hip-hop, and other world beats, all mixed together into a cohesive whole. It creates not only something lively and strong, but an education of rhythm as well.
People sacrificed life so I could rap on this mic
In putting forth a positive message of empowerment and education, MIKE-E also addresses the hip-hop and rap cultures. He turns away from emcees battling each other, and instead credits the civil rights leads and the sacrifices that they made, as being the real emcees, the one to learn from and emulate. “A Malcom, Mandella, Martin Luther lovin’ lyricist / U want sum inspiration 4 the nation, baby, her it is”
I had 2 take it back home & make the people feel it
And so now, MIKE-E is lending his talents to a modern day political emcee, Senator Barack Obama. A retooled version of his song “Everything will be alright” has been part of campaign rallies for the aspiring presidential candidate. From Detroit Public Schools to Ethiopian towns, and now across this nation, MIKE-E is spreading a message of empowerment, of possibility, through music.
Catch him tonight at MOCAD, and from there he’ll be continuing the AfroFlow Tour, which is put on in conjunction with the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY (ACS), “as part of an anti-tobacco initiative aimed at historically black colleges and universities throughout the United States.” For more on MIKE-E and AfroFlow, check out his website here. – Nick Sousanis
9pm Friday, February 08, 2008 at MOCAD, Admission $5.
HOLY HIP HOP! New Portraits by Alex Melamid
ReFUSING FASHION: Rei Kawakubo
“Everything will be alright” remix for Obama:
Interview with Mike-E:
2008 Mike-E AfroFlow Tour Dates (As of February 5, 2008)
February 20 – South Carolina State University (Orangeburg, SC)
February 21 - Claflin University (Orangeburg, SC)
February 22 - Savannah State University (Savannah, GA)
February 28 – Winston Salem State University (Winston Salem, NC)
Feb. 29-March 1 – CIAA Tournament Fan Experience (Charlotte, NC)
March 10 – University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, MD)
March 11 – Howard University (Washington, DC)
March 12 – Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD)
March 18 – Delaware State University (Dover, DE)
March 28 – ACS/HBCU Conference - Carolina Theater (Raleigh, NC)
March 28 – University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)
April 1 – Morehouse College/AUC (Atlanta, GA)
April 4 – Shaw University (Durham, NC)
April 5 - St. Augustine (Raleigh, NC) - Afternoon
April 5 - Duke University (Durham, NC) – Evening
April 8 – Benedict College (Columbia, SC)
April 10 – Norfolk State University (Norfolk, VA)
April 11 – Hampton University (Hampton, VA)
April 17 – Fort Valley St. University (Fort Valley, GA)
April 18 - Albany State University (Albany, Georgia)
April 23 - Bowie State University (Bowie, MD)
April 25 – ACS Relay 4 Life (Onslow, NC)
April 26 – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, NC); to be confirmed
May 2 – ACS Relay 4 Life (Brunswick County, NC)
May 9 – University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)
May 16 – ACS Relay 4 Life (Bertie County, NC)
* Stay Tuned for additional dates
Up&Up Records brings you K’Jon, whose sophomore album is called “The Ballroom Xplosion featuring the #1 Hits “On The Ocean",Prettiest Face", and his current smash single “Feels Like Love". Look for K’Jon with his band,"The Takeover” live coming soon.
Check out Rick’s interview with K’Jon here:
Concert Video here:
In a time when the genre of hip-hop is resonating with the sound of redundancy and conveyor belt creativity, 26-year old Detroit-based DIAL81 (born Blair French) brings an innovative and inventive flavor to the genre with his wit laced rhymes and delectably unorthodox beats.
Raised in the suburbs of Clawson, just north of Detroit, French’s musical voyage began in the 8th grade when he released his first four track cassette tape with a young group. This project acted as a musical catalyst for the ripe emcee, transforming him into a musical nomad seeking out a place in hip-hop to call his own. For a number of years of weaving in and out of styles and hip-hop ventures, honing his skills as an emcee with such projects as F.R.eeze, Level Jumpers, Formless Figures, and Cosmic Handshakes. These collaborative efforts helped French travel the landscape of hip-hop allowing him to develop geography all his own within the genre-a cross-pollination of sharp tongued lyricism and unconventional beats.
For French, the new millennium would prove to be one of both personal and artistic growth. In 2002, at only twenty, he opened up for award-winning, rap giant, Ludacris. In the same year he began to learn how to produce with the guidance of free form producer, Fahrenheit 2040. French’s ever blossoming knowledge of music would mold him into a musical shape shifter and yielded to impressive collaborations with plant-e artist, Jason :brownstudy Hogans, Fat Beats recording artist, Count Bass D, and Parliament Funk’s, Larry Frantangelo, to name a few.
French’s intrinsic desire to learn both from a musical perspective and as a budding business man found him booking his own shows at Dally In The Alley, The Berkley Front, The Emerald Theater, and Black Lotus Brewery, as well producing his own albums, slanging mix tapes from the sidewalks of Detroit to clubs in Canada, screen printing Dial 81 shirts, and designing his own album art.
Like any artist, polished by his experiences, DIAL81’s music emulates that of his everyday life. “People are so used to clean, perfect music. My life isn’t like that,” the charismatic emcee/producer confesses. French’s observations about the changing face of a genre are crisp, frank, and much welcomed. His ability to craft songs that are bright yet familiar stems from his varied musical travels throughout his 26 years and his diverse ear for music (check his crates and you’ll find anything from Leonard Cohen to Wu Tang Clan, Roy Ayers to Blondie).
Blair’s influences have deviated comprehensively from the sanitary sound of recent trends-citing Skylab, Jeru, Ray Johnson, Edan, and Rakim as artistic muses. His eclectic hip-hop sound is a symphony of funk, soul, jazz and psychedelic beats interspersed with witty humor and razor sharp interpretations. As a hybrid creature blending cinematic lines that beckon sci-fi, Eastern philosophy, Nuwaubic studies, and an unsullied skill for metaphor, DIAL81’s sound is precisely for those looking for a healthier diet of hip-hop.
His full length album, Box Car Portal, is slated for release in mid-spring of 2008 and the video for the “dehydration” is available on YouTube.com now. For more information, check out DIAL81 at www.myspace.com/dial81.