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Recent Recordings by Area Musicians


Saxophonist Doug Horn has been a regular on the Ann Arbor music scene for many years, playing often in local restaurants and clubs, teaching in the public schools and occasionally doing repair magic on instruments brought in by locals as well as by traveling musicians. Horn is an unabashed be-bopper, and he openly worships Phil Woods. Indeed, his debut CD Hornithology (BOPO 015) opens with an original tribute to the great alto man entitled "Phil in the Gap." The leader opens up from the very first moment, featuring the alto sax, his main horn. His tone is bright and open and he phrases like a veteran bopper, contrasting longer tones with flawlessly executed double time passages and throwing in a quote from "Melancholy Baby." His cohorts, Terry Lower on piano, Paul Keller on bass, and Sean Dobbins on drums follow with their own flowing, idiomatic solos. The rest of the album follows suit; this is relaxed modern jazz with a nice edge, performed by a quartet of experienced craftsmen who play for the music and not for effect. More than half the tunes are originals by Horn, who mostly sticks to alto here. On two ballads "The Very Thought of You" and "Blame it on my Youth" he opens up his warm big toned tenor sound, and pulls out the bigger horn again for a fast romp through "I Want to be Happy." For many saxophonists the flute is a secondary horn, required on some gigs, but rarely mastered. To hear Horn play flute here, you would never know he was a "doubler;" his tone is full and his articulation shines. Anyone who has heard Horn play knows that he has an amazing technique and can often burn wildly. He does push the music here, but never overwhelms, and if anything he often understates, using his expert control to make subtle musical points.

Over the years Hugh Leal has brought some of the finest traditional jazz players to Windsor and featured them in concerts together with Michigan players. His many recordings of these gigs have been taken over by the New Orleans Jazzology label; among their recent offerings there is a gem featuring trumpeter Marcus Belgrave in tandem with pianist Art Hodes and fellow trumpeter Doc Cheatham (Marcus Belgrave, In the Tradition (Jazzology JCD-324). The five duets with Hodes, recorded almost two decades ago, show Belgrave at his best; with no other instrumental support he is able to demonstrate the full range of his trumpet skills, swinging and swaggering with his heart on his sleeve. Hodes had a great left hand and there was absolutely no need for bass and drums. Three tunes recorded in 1995 find Belgrave in the company of another trumpet master, the late Doc Cheatham, who also sings in his own inimitable manner, with lovely obligatos by Belgrave. They trade choruses and chase each other with spirit and verve and it is hard to imagine that Cheatham was 90 years old when these sides were recorded. James Dapogny strides mightily on the piano, and Paul Keller on bass, as well as Pete Siers on drums offer strong, idiomatic support. The disk is rounded out with two tracks on which saxophonist Charlie Gabriel and pianist Claude Black replace Cheatham and Dapogny. Cheatham and Hodes are now gone and this is a small reminder of their highly individualistic contributions to 20th century music, but Belgrave is alive and well, and has few rivals on his horn. Whether strutting through "Sweet Georgia Brown" or gently intoning "A Ghost of a Chance" he offers a perfect balance of tradition and modernity, technique and soul, as well as sheer musicality that is his alone.

The Northwoods Improvisers have been pursuing their own singular musical vision for many years, but in recent times their work has been changing. On their latest release they are joined by tenor and alto saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey, invoking Griot Galaxy and the heyday of Detroit new music (Faruq Z. Bey with the Northwoods Improvisers, 19 Moons, Entropy Stereo). The regular Northwoods trio of Mike Gilmore (vibes, bone guitar), Mike Johnston (bass), and Nick Ashoton (drums) stretch their musical horizons here, working into drones and grooves as Bey intones and preaches on his singing saxophones. Bey's musical roots lie in the sixties and his sax playing is very much the late-Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders incantatory mode and it works very well against the more abstract backgrounds provided by the trio. The result is an infectious, highly spiritual music. On two tracks Leo Bukowski joins the foursome on the contra-alto clarinet, providing effective deep drones, and on "Fountain" they are augmented by the tambura of Patrick Boyer.

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Southeastern Michigan
Jazz Association


is published monthly. 
It is edited by Lars Björn and Piotr Michalowski
with additional assistance from Barton Polot (production editor and Webmaster), Judy Alcock, Margot Campos, Lynn Hobbs, and Marcel Niemiec.


Index of SEMJA reviews