September 3, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Opening the festival, Jeff Tain Watts's Drum Club was a visual feast in itself with Tain upstage audience right, Joe Locke downstage left, and an ocean of percussion in between. One man on one instrument, Joe worked and danced and made melodies HAPPEN, climaxing solos with fully extended, 180-degree-arm-coming-down mallet strikes. Several times. In a row. He held his own and then some.
Upstage, Tony Lewis, Horacio Hernandez and Tain played kits on platforms left, center and right. In the middle tier, Rafael Statin played saxes, Susie Ibarra was at her beautiful kulintang -- a Philippine instrument of inverted, knobbed metal flower pots (an improvised description at best); conguero Pedro Martinez (in the photo); and bassist Bob Hurst. And the rest was all Tain’s turf, including a beautiful tympani down front. But he stayed mostly at his drumkit. Imagine rhythms flying, at first more abstract, then in deeper grooves, which the audience loved. The festival has begun.
© 2011 WBGO
September 2, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
We are here! With the Tigers and the Lions. It's hot, in the low to mid 90s yesterday and pushing higher today. The heat is a shock to my system. Yesterday the DJF crew put up the Chase Stage - platform, sound, lights, canopy. Sound check at noon, concert tonight opens the Festival with Artist in Residence Jeff Tain Watts's Drum Club at 7:30, and then Sing the Truth! headlines. We're crossing our fingers that you'll tune and listen for them, in Monday at noon.
Yesterday, as fans streamed out of Comerica Park (though fewer fans than in NY), the Detroit Bucket Boys were sitting in the street playing great music. They try to be there after every Tigers game. I asked if I could put them on the blog and how many words is "Bucket Boys," and they said .. sure! but it's never been in print before, so do what you want!
Walking back toward the hotel, I passed a historical marker about Detroit's history as a northernmost point in the Underground Railroad. And today in the Free Press, the front page above-the-fold article is about Rosa Parks' keepsakes. There is great history in Detroit.
© 2011 WBGO
August 31, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
We won't meet until tomorrow or Friday, but I had an opportunity to ask Angelique Kidjo, the great singer from Benin in West Africa, about SING THE TRUTH! .. the three-woman concert coming to WBGO from the Detroit Jazz Festival, Labor Day at noon. You do not want to miss it!
SING THE TRUTH! is Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright with a list of 40 songs that they pare down to about a dozen. They make some of the choices while they're onstage.
"We do it as we go along, as we feel. That’s the beauty, it’s not written in stone. . . there is a variety of ways we pick and choose depending on how we feel.
"I’m thinking about 'Both Sides Now' from Joni Mitchell and '32 Flavors' from Ani di Franco, Tracy Chapman’s song 'All That You Have Is Your Soul,' 'How I Got Over' from Mahalia Jackson about how everybody struggles on a daily basis, Miriam Makeba’s song 'Savuda' from her really important last concert she made in South Africa before she left. She said, 'Jazz is my music but I will sing my ancestor’s song.' 'Saduva' means nobody can kill my spirit, you might try to think I’m not a human but I am, as a human being I deserve respect, nobody’s going to crush me."
Angelique continues, "Women have shown us through the music, writing, craft how hard it is to be a woman in a man’s world, and how you can keep your femininity, your identity ... We are all about love."
Kidjo is more than a singer; she dances! Her mother had a theater group. The performances were sufficiently long that she had to insert an intermission, but "when you put an intermission in Africa, you come back, the public is gone! So she put an African ballet in the middle of [the show], [and to do so] she went and learned the dancing and brought it back. And me, I was six years old, ... I was sitting down there as 'Miss Curious' and I learned everything by heart," including the dances. "Because of my curiosity, there's no dance I can't repeat. I put my own stuff in, it's my way, I cannot move as you move because my body's different than your body."
"One [more] thing, in Africa they don’t call for an encore. [Instead,] they ask you to sing the same song three times back to back. When it comes to playing music, the concept as you know it here is not an African concept. There’s a moment that we need a release, a good time moment, to express a feeling, to remember the good time we spent with a person, the best way is through music. Gather together, dance, sing, and then we part."
© 2011 WBGO