A Man for All Seasons – Steve Somers Jazzes Up WCC’s Winter Semester Music Classes

Steve Somers performs at Grove Studios in Ypsilanti. Photo by Kyla McGrath and mural by Joanna Farben

For Steve Somers, jazz weathers all seasons, especially winter.

The Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will share his longtime love of jazz, guitar and music through virtual winter semester courses for aspiring musicians at Washtenaw Community College (WCC).

Starting Jan. 11, Somers will teach Creative Jazz and Improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) and Beginning and Intermediate Guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual consultation and assistance with varying recording projects as well as virtual recitals. Students can now enroll for these online winter classes through WCC’s website.

“The jazz and improvisation classes allow students to work on different songs each semester and learn about jazz and improvisation concepts. They submit solos and parts online, which I mix in my studio at Alley Records to create an audio recording,” Somers said.

“The guitar classes combine both beginning and intermediate students in one class. Beginners work on basic chords and strumming patterns while the intermediate students work on melodies, solo concepts and more advanced bar chords.”

Somers also will bring in Ann Arbor hip-hop artist and Grove Studios marketing head Max Preissner, aka Max Price, to offer a social media class for music students through WCC. Management for Working Artists (MUS 285) will help musicians learn how to promote their own music through social media.

“Many of the students are interested in eventually writing their own music, and Max will help them learn more about how to market it and utilize social media,” Somers said.

As another course offering, Somers will offer a virtual non-credit Community Jazz Orchestra class through WCC that starts Feb. 24. For those seeking financial assistance, WCC’s Emeritus Scholarships provide free tuition for Washtenaw County residents age 65 and older who enroll in non-credit and credit courses, including music.

Outside of the Community Jazz Orchestra, Somers will teach a virtual Ypsilanti Youth Jazz and Music Theory Class starting Jan. 9 for students ages 9 to 18. Adults are welcome to participate as mentors and learn more about jazz music and theory.

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All Apologies – Brian Perrone Reveals Deep Regrets on Haunting New ‘Sorry’ Single

Brian Perrone quietly mourns lost time on his latest single, “Sorry.”

Brian Perrone truly understands the meaning of a heartfelt apology.

The Livonia indie folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist deeply regrets missed moments and milestones on his latest lovelorn single, “Sorry,” which dropped Aug. 28 via all streaming platforms.

“‘Sorry’ is rooted in that awakening; that time is a gift. I have a friend who has gotten sick, and it made me think about how a diagnosis can change your life as ‘regrets’ and ‘if onlys’ come into play. When we we’re young, it seems as though we’re invincible and will live forever. This sounds like a cliché, yet it’s so true,” said Perrone, whose latest track is featured on the August edition of The Stratton Playlist.

Perrone quietly mourns lost time as somber, sparkling piano, thumping drums, jazzy cymbals and melancholic bass open his emotional floodgates. He tearfully reveals, “All the life inside of me/Extinguished by reality/Shapeshifting into memory/Two plus two is on my mind/A simple place, a simple time/Everything I thought I knew/Was everything because of you.”

“I hope that a listener might take a moment to reflect and make a positive decision to take action on something they have been putting off. Maybe spend some time with someone who’s important to them. Life seems to have gotten too busy these days; heck, it is also a reminder for me,” he said.

Peppered with shadowy elements of Radiohead and The National, Perrone recorded his poignant vocals and sorrowful piano for “Sorry” in his metro Detroit living room at the start of the pandemic. He also programmed drums and added a wistful bassline from Ypsilanti guitarist Steve Somers to highlight the track’s dark emotional intensity.

“The song almost wrote itself. I sat down one Saturday night, and it just poured out. I could barely keep up writing the chords and lyrics as they came to me. I didn’t want to miss a thing because it felt important, almost urgent. No matter who you are, or where you are in life, I think in the end there is always so much more you want to do and maybe say,” he said.

“‘Sorry’ is a subtle introduction to a more experimental style. It blends a progressive jazz rhythm section and a haunting vocal narrative while being guided by some minor chords on the piano. It’s similar to the headlights you would watch from your windshield on a dark and winding road.”

Perrone visually depicts the dark, haunting moments of “Sorry” in an eloquent puppet-themed, stop-motion video directed by Shyam Talwar. Throughout the Tim Burton-esque video, the skeletal remains of two lovers lead separate lives and long for one another while working, cooking and cleaning. Foggy, barren rooms symbolize the growing emptiness and lingering isolation they face each day.

“As a fan of Brothers Quay, I decided to seek out someone who might work in a similar medium, yet different enough to be original. After searching high and low, I recruited Shyam Talwar, and I explained my basic framework and hopes for this video. The video took about a month to complete, and I was extremely pleased when I saw the final cut,” Perrone said.

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The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will livestream a show Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios as part of Arts, Beats & Eats’ “The Beats Go On” virtual and drive-in live music series. Photo courtesy of Valerie Barrymore

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will bring sparkling, soulful grooves and delectable, dancy R&B to an Arts, Beats & Eats livestream performance Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.

Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”

“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.

Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.

Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”

“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.

Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”

“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.

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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.

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Equinox Party – Grove Studios Hosts Fall-Themed Celebration for Ypsilanti Creative Community

Grove Studios provides a 24/7/365 rehearsal and recording space for local artists and musicians. Photo courtesy of Grove Studios

For Grove Studios, fall’s arrival calls for an annual celebration of music, creativity and community.

The Ypsilanti rehearsal and recording space will host an “Equinox Party” Saturday to bring artists, musicians, creatives and community leaders together for an evening of networking and performances.

“We had a similar event last year, and it’s like an anniversary party for us. It’s also a back-to-school event celebrating the fall intermixed with networking and performances,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios partner and director of operations and community. “We’re going to have people from different support organizations and service providers and feature performances from a variety of rock bands, hip-hop artists and DJs.”

The “Equinox Party” will feature presentations from Grove Studios, Alexis Ford from the Music and Arts Guild, Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert, Dan McPherson from Leaders Must Lead, Leo Casares with Issa Wrap Productions, E-Man Bates with Beats and Brews podcast, Rod Wallace from Double Negative People and RW Consulting, and Taylor Greenshields of Fundamental Sound Co.

“I just want people to take away how welcoming and opening the vibe is and how it’s a place where artists can come and they can create, and it’s not just about coming into a studio space with 55 racks on the wall that are never being used,” said Wallace, who serves as the studio’s lead engineer.

“It’s really a place where true collaboration and true artistic freedom can happen, and there’s a great deal of trust that the owners have in allowing people to come into this space 24/7/365.”

The “Equinox Party” also will include performances from Steve Somers and Friends, Painted Friends, Still in Denial, DJ Nitro, Graham Rockwood and Rockwell Music Therapy artists, Louis Picasso and The Gallery, and Wallace as well as live painting from Doradiaspora and Holly Schoenfield.

“These presentations and performances are from people who use our space and patronize our growth. We’re about a year and a half in at the current location, and prior to that, we had been doing events at Riverside Arts Center,” Friebel said. “Before that, when we were at the Michigan Avenue location, Alexis Ford from the Music and Arts Guild was doing a lot of the booking for us for events there.”

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In the Round – Livonia’s Brian Perrone Joins Tonight’s Songwriter Showcase at Parliament Room, Releases New ‘Dog with Ball’ EP

Brian Perrone performs tonight at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply in Ferndale.

At tonight’s “Singers in the Round” Songwriter Showcase, Brian Perrone will debut tracks from his new “Dog with Ball” EP in a live, intimate acoustic setting in Ferndale.

He will perform at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply, 345 E. 9 Mile Road, starting at 7 p.m. with Tom Butwin, Shiny Penny and JonPaul Wallace.

“It’s such a neat experience because every person is clearly different, so you might have somebody playing blues, somebody playing folk. I feel really honored and blessed to have an opportunity to take the stage with the three people I’ll be playing with,” said Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter.

“I get to do four songs, and I’m going to do at least one from ‘All Growns Up,” and then I’m going to do two from ‘Dog with Ball.’ My fourth one is either going to be this brand new one I just wrote or another one from ‘All Growns Up.’”

Today also marks another significant musical milestone for Perrone – the release of “Dog with Ball,” a new five-song EP with stripped-down, piano-based tracks that chronicle changing relationships, personal growth and inner reflections. It’s a warm, dreamy follow-up to his 2014 jazzy debut, “All Growns Up.”

Perrone collaborated with a host of talented, established Detroit area musicians on “Dog with Ball,” including Ypsilanti producer and guitarist Steve Somers, Re-Cure and Ethos guitarist and Siamese bassist Eric Cojacari, bassist Ronnie Smith, guitarist James Peltier and Honey Monsoon vocalist and guitarist Ana Gomulka.

“I think I’m gravitating toward more rock, that’s where I’m really rooted, and I love acoustic simple stripped-down basic songwriting,” said Perrone, who features his bulldog Sookie on the EP’s cover. “I love the singer-songwriter movement that’s going on.”

Continue reading “In the Round – Livonia’s Brian Perrone Joins Tonight’s Songwriter Showcase at Parliament Room, Releases New ‘Dog with Ball’ EP”