Blue Llama Opens with Joey D

The Blue LLama Jazz Club held its grand opening on April 5 with the Joey DeFrancesco Quartet.  It was a hard-hitting musical opening for Ann Arbor’s first jazz club in a decade and the LLama was equally impressive as a venue.  It has an up-to-date sound system with sound insulation so as not to disturb their neighbors, like The Ark (upstairs from the LLama) and a top-of-the-line restaurant menu focusing on small plates. The cover charge is high for national acts (on par with concert venues) but small or non-existent for “local” acts.

The DeFrancesco Quartet included an Australian born tenorist, Troy Roberts, who treated us to several full-toned and soulful solos.  I found guitarist Paul Bollenback not to my taste, but I know that others feel very differently about his approach to the guitar. Joey D was impressive on the organ but not as overpowering as I remember him from prior performances in Detroit and Ann Arbor. He spread himself too thin by doubling on trumpet and saxophone. The evening’s repertoire came largely from his recent album, In The Key of the Universe.

Coming up at the LLama in May is a long line of great jazz artists: Dave Sharp’s Worlds Quartet on May 1, Gayelynn McKinney & McKinfolk on May 4, Bob Sweet’s Quartet on May 8, trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s Trio on May 11 & 12, drummer Ralph Peterson’s Messenger Legacy on May 24 & 25, and Pete Siers Quartet on May 30. For more please consult our calendar or go to their website.

The Blue LLama is very welcome addition to the musical life of Ann Arbor. Thanks to owner Don Hicks and musical director Dave Sharp for their hard work.

photograph by Lars Bjorn