In Full Flow – Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble Captures Improvisational Spirit on New Live Album

The Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble Live album features tracks recorded over four nights at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe.

With lush instrumentation and fearless improvisation, the Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble instantly captivates live audiences at intimate metro Detroit jazz hot spots.

The Ann Arbor jazz quartet melds spellbinding pieces of modern swing, funky soul and atmospheric world music right before an enthralled Dirty Dog Jazz Café crowd.

“That’s the heart of it and what I want people to experience at my shows. I want them to have a sense of knowing this is being created right now, and that they’re a part of it,” said Crozier, who plays bass, didgeridoo and thumb piano.

Crozier and bandmates Rafael Statin (sax, bass clarinet), Keaton Royer (piano, keys) and Rob Avsharian (drums) beautifully capture that magical live essence on their latest album, Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble Live, which is now available on all streaming platforms.

Recorded live Feb. 6-9, 2019 at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe Farms, the album features four jazzy Crozier classics combined with two new transformative tracks, “Leafar” and “Surrender.”

“I try to let the tracks develop with the band organically live and not over-direct it so they end up sounding fresher. When Rafael would start going off on something, the band could just follow and not have a particular set of instructions. It just really drew on the band’s ability to be spontaneous and organized in the moment,” Crozier said.

“You hear that in the little hookups rhythmically and the stuff the band does together. It’s just listening, which is what I always encourage in my group. It’s the heart of jazz. You’re playing what you’re playing, and you’re listening to make sure that you’re connecting and communicating with the rest of the band.”

Continue reading “In Full Flow – Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble Captures Improvisational Spirit on New Live Album”

Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday

Chirp’s Jay Frydenlund and Sam Naples groove at Danfest in August. Photo – Mark Samano

Filled with progtastic, funkified fusion, Chirp will bring upbeat, dancy grooves to celebrate autumn’s upcoming arrival Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet will headline the Ypsi rehearsal and recording space’s annual fall-themed Equinox Party before intimate in-person studio and virtual livestream audiences.

“Ypsi audiences are always some of our favorites to play for, so we are extremely excited to play our first show at Grove Studios. It has a great music/arts scene, and my favorite part of playing for Ypsi audiences is all the creative folks we get to bump shoulders with at our shows there,” said Jay Frydenlund, Chirp’s vocalist and guitarist.

Frydenlund and his Chirp bandmates Brian Long (bass), Sam Naples (guitar) and Gastón Reggio (drums) will share the Grove Studios stage with some of the area’s most talented musical acts, including Violet Sol, Edison Hollow, Las Drogas, Fernando Silverio Solis, Jackamo, the Steve Somers Band, Ki5 Loops, Diont’e Visible and DJ Nitro.

The Equinox Party will feature seven hours of live music across three mini concerts in a small, socially distanced gathering as well as livestream sets from each artist. Attendees can purchase limited in-studio VIP tickets for afternoon, evening and night shows as well as tickets for individual artist livestream performances to watch at home.

“The Equinox Party is our annual anniversary celebration and largest event of the year where we showcase a diverse collection of artists, many of whom we’ve worked with or met throughout the year,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.

“We’ve decided to really blow it up with the Equinox Party this year. We’ll be hosting three, two-and-a-half-hour shows with three to four artists each and an hour of transition in between shows to cycle the artists and audiences in and out to follow the 25-person gathering rule Ypsi is currently under.”

Grove Studios has flourished in the virtual music space since launching Grove Sessions, a regular livestream performance and interview series, in March. The sessions spotlight a range of emerging and established artists and musicians in Washtenaw County and metro Detroit.

“We’re already six months into our third year on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti, which is super dope considering we’re still weathering the effects of a global pandemic and a previous three-month shutdown,” Friebel said.

“That reality, along with social distancing and gathering restrictions, encouraged us to rethink how we support the music community by moving our events to a virtual format and becoming a burgeoning media production company. We also activated our outdoor courtyard stage in May with audio and video production, which has evolved into a high-tech livestream performance format with small in-studio audiences.”

Continue reading “Fall Fusion – Chirp Leads Stellar Equinox Party Lineup at Grove Studios Saturday”

Hip-Hop Hope – Formula 734 Brings Sense of Community to Washtenaw County Men of Color

Formula 734 brings intergenerational men of color together to create hip-hop anthems about overcoming struggles and sharing successes. Artwork – CW Creatyv for Be Creative Studios

As a fresh community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734 poetically encapsulates shared stories of struggles and successes for men of color in Washtenaw County.

“I feel as though we’ve created a historical document for this particular time in history for Washtenaw County that people can refer to, or they can gain some primary source analysis of what it was like to be in Washtenaw County during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest related to the death of George Floyd,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the project with Jamall Bufford.

In partnership with Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK), the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Wallace and Bufford assembled an intergenerational group of disparate male creatives to write, record and release a compelling 12-track album with emerging hip-hop artists, producers and engineers.

“Jamall and I started to talk about our desire to engage young people with hip-hop in a positive way that taught a number of different skills. We started planning for the project, and our first meeting was in November,” Wallace said.

From November to February, Wallace and Bufford hosted Formula 734 meetings and recording sessions every two weeks with male creatives and hip-hop collaborators to build trust, teamwork and camaraderie at Grove Studios, The Workshop and The Neutral Zone’s Orpheum Studio.

Each gathering included a meal and a huddle to enrich, energize and inspire participants before they wrote and recorded music with Louis Picasso, Tru Klassick, Sam Watson, Beretta Shells, Konphlict, King Ogundipe and Approachable Minorities’ Drew Denton and TJ Greggs.

“One of the intentions of WMBK is to engage in discussions with men across generations as opposed to only focusing on young men. There are men across the spectrum of color who need support and who need positive experiences, so we try to bridge that gap, and through this project, we were able to do so,” Wallace said.

Concocting Formula 734

With Wallace and Bufford at the hip-hop helm, Formula 734 weaves introspective rhymes, thoughtful monologues, crisp beats, old-school jams and deep grooves while authentically amplifying the voices of local men of color. All 12 tracks challenge false narratives about men of color and raise awareness about the underlying causes of systemic racism.

“We want change to happen in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. One album probably won’t accomplish that, but we want this to be a stepping stone in the right direction to some of the systemic changes that we want to see for black men and young men of color in our community and around the country. We want this to hopefully be a catalyst for the conversation that needs to take place about what’s happening in our communities,” said Bufford, who’s a WMBK project specialist and Formula 734 co-executive producer.

Continue reading “Hip-Hop Hope – Formula 734 Brings Sense of Community to Washtenaw County Men of Color”

Saturday Stroll – Nina & The Buffalo Riders Headline Aug. 8 Grove Sessions Live in Ypsilanti

Nina & The Buffalo Riders will bring their groovy psych-blues rock to Grove Sessions Live Saturday in Ypsilanti. Photo – Carmel Liburdi

Nina & The Buffalo Riders will stroll through Ypsilanti Saturday night.

The Detroit psych-blues rock septet of Nina Ledesma (vocals, acoustic guitar), Daniel Decker (guitar), Oscar Sosa (guitar), Mike Fritz (keys), Ramiro Romero (bass), Chris Kaszuba (drums) and Baba Bohmbaedio (percussion, djembe) will headline Grove Sessions Live, an outdoor studio production session hosted by Grove Studios, before a masked and socially-distanced small audience.

They’ll share the intimate Grove Studios courtyard stage with three Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti acts, including progressive jam quartet Stormy Chromer, funk-soul-rock sextet Sabbatical Bob and jazz composer-guitarist Adam Kahana.

“It’s always great to connect and share stages with bands we have never met before. The more we can get together, the more we can learn from one another instead of competing. We have played with Stormy Chromer before, but none of the others. Stormy is always very entertaining – their music is incredible as well as their off-stage presence,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma and her Buffalo Riders bandmates are among a growing roster of local artists, including Dani Darling, Doogatron and Louis Picasso & The Gallery, performing at monthly Grove Sessions Live production events, which offer 50 people ticketed VIP access to four hours of live music. Those live performances are recorded and later combined with Grove Sessions livestream artist interviews every Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m.

“The Grove Sessions livestream series began online out of necessity in March due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order here in Michigan. We were determined to continue connecting with the music community and our clients by offering them a virtual space to share their creativity, even though our revenue had dropped to zero since we had to close our rehearsal and production space,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.

“Bringing performances and other content to livestreaming was something we had envisioned doing long-term, but our new reality pushed us to innovate sooner and quicker than we planned. The monthly production event gives artists an opportunity to be directly involved with our team in spreading their music and stories.”

Continue reading “Saturday Stroll – Nina & The Buffalo Riders Headline Aug. 8 Grove Sessions Live in Ypsilanti”

Tasty Tracks – The Stratton Playlist Whets Musical Appetites with July 2020 Edition

Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, there’s a new bunch of tasty tracks ready to sample.

The July edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will whet your musical appetite with shimmery pop-rock, upbeat country, mesmerizing post-rock, metalized modern rock, steamy blues rock, soulful folk, spunky hip-hop, groovy R&B and more freshly-squeezed tracks.

Featured artists include Melanie Pierce, The Steve Taylor Three, The Spider Accomplice, Asklepius, Seth Bernard, LovelyOcean, Adam Plomaritas, Nina & The Buffalo Riders, Kenyatta Rashon and more. Prepare to love every track at first bite.

Interested in becoming part of “The Stratton Playlist” on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres are welcome.

July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments

Melanie Pierce reflects inward on her latest single, “Illusions.” Artwork – Jenya Po

Melanie Pierce magically travels to the other side of the mirror.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter ventures beyond the looking glass and reflects on misunderstood life moments in “Illusions,” a spellbinding glimpse into vivid realizations and intense ruminations.

“I was in this relationship for a long time and had felt misunderstood on so many levels throughout that period of time. And not just by that person, but also by my family because they were not super on-board with music. I also lost some friends in a short amount of time due to music and that relationship,” Pierce said.

“I was really reflecting on that time, and I remember exactly what I was doing when that song came out of me. The first line that actually came out was, ‘Painted words on paper-thin walls,’ and I was watching this TV show, and I paused it and went to the piano. That song was written in like 40 minutes, and it was written very easily and clearly, like I knew in me what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get out.”

Featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Illusions” blends somber synths, sorrowful piano, shimming electric guitars, soaring electronic drums and throaty bass into a hypnotic, sonic head-trip.

Akin to Vanessa Carlton, Pierce’s soulful vocals implode her romantic mirage as she ponders, “I thought I’d figured it out/Wide-eyed, I mapped it out/But you say I’m too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I try to pull back/Quiet the noise inside my head/But you say it’s too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I’ll never let this go.”

Pierce recorded “Illusions” earlier this year with producer Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. He helped Pierce crystallize the track’s vision and added majestic arrangements to quickly transform it in the studio.

“We would go back and forth like, ‘What do you hear for this part?’ and he had a good direction of where the production was headed. He came up with an awesome, meaty bassline, and I can’t really say enough positive things about him,” said Pierce, who learned about Rye through his collaborations with Michigander.

Continue reading “July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments”

Fall That Jazz – Steve Somers Offers Virtual Music Classes through Washtenaw Community College

Longtime guitarist Steve Somers performs live in Ypsilanti. Photo courtesy of Steve Somers

Steve Somers plans to jazz up fall classes in Washtenaw County.

The longtime Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will offer fall semester jazz, guitar and music courses virtually for aspiring musicians through Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Starting Aug. 31, Somers will teach jazz combo and improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) along with beginning and intermediate guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All 16-week classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual virtual consultation and assistance with various recording projects. Students can now enroll for fall classes through WCC’s website.

“The virtual classes will be offered with Zoom meetings, and we will do recording projects online where people submit their parts or solos, and then I will mix it all down here at the studio at Alley Records,” said Somers, who also leads the Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble.

Somers also will host a non-credit jazz orchestra class virtually through WCC starting in October. The class will feature a mix of online meetings and performances for all ages.

As an influential musician, creative entrepreneur and community leader, Somers has taught jazz guitar classes at WCC for nearly 20 years and performed in jazz, classical, blues, R&B and rock solo and group projects since relocating to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area in 1979.

Somers relocated to Michigan after touring nationally and internationally with a California-based band in 1970s. They hosted mini-residencies five to six nights a week at clubs and hotels as far east as Minnesota before disbanding a few years later.

After that, Somers started studying classical guitar with Nelson Amos at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar music performance in 1984. Two years later, he studied with world-renowned composer and conductor Anthony Iannaccone while earning a master’s degree in music theory and composition from EMU.

“When I was still an undergraduate, he accepted me, and we worked for a couple of years and made some good progress writing music for piano, guitar and other instruments. Then, he accepted me in the master’s program, and I wrote a piece for the chamber orchestra that’s still in the library there,” Somers said.

Continue reading “Fall That Jazz – Steve Somers Offers Virtual Music Classes through Washtenaw Community College”

Second Chances – Youssef Salloum Goes from Beirut to ‘Believe’ on New Random Ties EP

Random Ties’ Youssef Salloum performs in metro Detroit. Photo courtesy of Random Ties

Youssef Salloum believes the best things in life aren’t planned.

The Random Ties vocalist-guitarist elegantly weaves a lifetime of chance encounters and unexpected lessons into a new introspective, grungy debut EP, Believe, with bandmate KD Murray (drums).

Believe is inspired by the roller coaster ride we go through touching on subjects, such a losing a loved one, difficulties in starting a family, struggling with faith and moving on. All the songs were written with a high-energy, feel-good vibe and a dynamic sound topped with an honest message,” Salloum said.

Originally from Beirut, Salloum spent more than two decades making Believe an alt rock-fueled reality after putting music aside for different careers, personal relationships and international moves. The EP thoughtfully represents a renewed self-commitment to creativity, motivation and persistence in a disconnected world of musical uncertainty.

“The song ‘Believe’ says ‘There was a time I lost a dream.’ It’s never too late, and no matter how hard it feels, things get better if you hang in there long enough. At the time, I had made the decision to see how I was going to make a living while having music as a hobby instead of a career. My intention was to be a musician, but at the end of the day, when you look at what’s going on around you, there was no internet, and there was no social media,” said Salloum, who returned to Ann Arbor in November 2018.

Through Random Ties, Salloum poetically chronicles his international musical journey through six heartfelt alt rock anthems. Together, those profound Believe tracks represent a highly relatable narrative about overcoming personal struggles regardless of age, geography or culture.

Week 39 to Why

One of those struggles includes eagerly awaiting the birth of a child after overcoming years of infertility on the Pearl Jam-tinged “Week 39.” Now a father, Salloum poignantly addresses the anxiety-induced anticipation of son Liam’s arrival during his wife’s 39th week of pregnancy.

Piercing, distorted electric guitars, pulsating drums, rhythmic cymbal taps and humming bass entice Liam leave the womb as Salloum throatily beckons, “Son, this song is all for you/All I have is all for you/Son, this song is about you/All I am is all I am for you.”

“Those last few weeks of anxiety were more than all the previous nine months put together. You want him to be safe more than anything else in life and then suddenly Liam was born and in our arms. It was a special time because it wasn’t easy for us to get pregnant, and it was the most powerful moment in our lives,” Salloum said.

Continue reading “Second Chances – Youssef Salloum Goes from Beirut to ‘Believe’ on New Random Ties EP”

Summer Sounds – The Stratton Playlist Test-Drives New Tracks with June 2020 Edition

As summer kicks into high gear, get ready to test-drive a new batch of tunes from emerging local and regional artists.

The June edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will gain traction with grungy alt rock, lo-fi jazzy soul, inspirational pop rock, indie folk, bouncy pop punk, dancy pop, melodic prog rock, bouncy pop punk and uplifting country.

Featured artists include Random Ties, Dani Darling, Trey Simon, Mason Summit, U Might Be Mine, Anthony Retka, Louis Picasso and more. Get behind the wheel and ride into the sunset with the picture-perfect soundtrack.

Interested in becoming part of “The Stratton Playlist” on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres are welcome.

Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’

Katie Pederson has recorded three new tracks for her latest EP, “The Tracking Room Sessions.” Photo by Savannah Wilde

Katie Pederson magically creates her own silver linings.

The Nashville pop singer-songwriter sprinkles hopeful words of wisdom and growth after recovering from heartbreak on her latest poignant, three-track EP, The Tracking Room Sessions, which dropped May 1 via all streaming platforms.

“I think at that time in my life I was going through a lot of that in different areas. A lot of times for me, breakup songs are so much more than that. I think there’s a lot of loss in different areas of my life, and that was just the best way that I could articulate it,” Pederson said.

Pederson beautifully articulates her personal reflections about love and loss throughout her fourth piano-centric release recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville. Soulful, emotive vocals and hypnotic, uplifting piano chords immerse listeners in spirit-healing waters after experiencing the unexpected sting of rejection.

That first drop of relief arrives in “Quiet Waters,” which blends deep, sparse piano, delicate bass and sweeping drum brushes with Pederson’s melancholy, velvety vocals as she laments, “Take me back to that night/Manhattan and a glass of wine/When my hope was alive, you had that fire in your eyes/Ritter on the radio, singing I’m coming home/And the stars in the sky were aligned/All the things we didn’t know such a short time ago/All my days I thought you’d be mine.”

While initially ruminating in “Quiet Waters,” Pederson confidently embarks on a therapeutic journey throughout “Recover.” The self-assured track weaves soulful hums, rhythmic finger snaps, lingering piano, delicate synths and light bass as she emphatically declares, “I’m moving to Alaska/Lord knows I am never coming back,” and “There is no amount of red or white to calm this anxious mind.”

“‘Quiet Waters’ and ‘Recover’ were songs that I had written in June or July of last year, and I had written quite a few in that time period. Those two were the ones that stuck out to me the most,” said Pederson, who’s originally from Ann Arbor.

Perhaps Pederson’s most striking track includes a new soaring acoustic version of “The Landing” as vibrant, thoughtful piano entwines with sorrowful, optimistic vocals. Throughout her turbulent flight, Pederson tries to “soften the landing” as she sings, “Oh the road has been long and lonely/And one of my darkest nights/I swear you saved me/I was high as hope could’ve ever let me fly/And we were alone, you and I.”

Continue reading “Silver Linings – Katie Pederson Shares Hopeful Words of Wisdom on ‘The Tracking Room Sessions’”