Recent Area Recordings

A few notable recordings have emerged from southeast Michigan’s rich jazz scene recently. Two include the wonderful drummer Jesse Kramer as both a leader on Antinous As Osiris (Big Sky Recording and and another the trio date Heliosphere (Rack Em’ Up Records Studio), by Roe Bickley Kramer.

The latter features Rick Roe fronting on piano, along with Kramer on drums and Rob Bickley on bass working together on a well-produced disc with six tunes by Roe and five more by a mix of other writers. We take a lovely winter meander as Roe shows the beauty of his mellow side on “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” and “I See the Light.” With the open heart of “Renewal” we gain a feeling of safety in the these tricky times. Bickley and Kramer provide excellent support and solos.

Kramer’s Antinous As Osiris, with its literary influences and adventurous vocals by Sarah D’Angelo, is more of a challenge but worth the effort. “Flatter Beers,” inspired by a Langston Hughes poem, has the driving energy of the young testing their wings, agonizing over life and never sleeping. “Stone Farm” is a fine exploration of sound and space with Kramer’s drifting but sure percussion and Tim Haldeman’s sax over Max Bowen’s guitar and Brian Juarez on bass.

Detroit Tenors (Detroit Music Factory) is James Wood and Carl Cafagna offering tribute with swinging tunes by masters like James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, George Coleman and Dexter Gordon plus a couple of their own tunes. Gene Ammons’ “The One Before This” sports fine blues piano by Scott Gwinnell, and the tune by Wood, “Mobius Modes,” has a more soulful groove with sweet knocks back and forth from other solid band members, drummer Sean Dobbins and bassist Paul Keller.

Lastly we bask in another look back by eclectic jazz, jump and blues impressario RJ Spangler and the Planet D Nonet, with their Kings of Kansas City Swing: Bennie Moten and Count Basie (Eastlawn Records). For many years, Spangler has been one of the hardest working musicians in the Midwest, playing a variety of jazz and jump styles, at clubs and at many libraries where he educates the public about this great music. This recording is from the 2017 annual spring show at Detroit’s Scarab Club.

The fourteen cuts of swing tunes by classic early jazz composers come in a good-looking package with an informative booklet by Jim Gallert that gives interesting context for the exciting nightclub scene controlled by political bosses and the mob. The liquor and vice scene combined with the music of Bennie Moten, Walter Page, Jo Jones and Count Basie rivaled that of New York City, Chicago and New Orleans.

Soulful crooning by James O’Donnell on “Good Morning Blues” by Count Basie and Camille Price singing on Julia Lee’s “If It’s Good” give an authentic feel to this date. Moten and Basie’s “Jones Law Blues” has a Western feel, and “Somebody Stole My Gal” and “Moten Swing” are just a couple of several rousing dances tunes for your enjoyment.