Summer Guide 2012
Published: June 13, 2012
The pianist-bandleader-arranger salutes one of Detroit's cultural wellsprings in his new release The Cass Corridor Project, forthcoming on Mack Avenue records. This is part of the 25th annual Music on the Plaza series, a presentation of the Grosse Pointe Village Association, every Thursday through Aug. 2 at the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair (or, in the case of rain, at Maire Elementary School, two blocks west at 740 Cadieux). Later acts include Alvin Waddles, Johnnie Bassett, Ron Kischuk's Masters of Music — with Shahida Nurullah. See villagegp.com for the full list. (And if you miss Gwinnell's ensemble here, their dance card includes Cliff Bell's on June 16 and several other nights through the summer.)
Jazzin' on Jefferson began as a spirited initiative to unite Detroit's lower east side, celebrating its vibrant history with a weekend full of music and food. Now in its ninth year, the outdoor fest features 30 jazz, blues and soul acts including Johnnie Bassett, Chris Codish, the Rootsologists, Gigi Mack and urban youth orchestra Urban Stringz II. In an interesting twist, the fest is going to forego traditional carnival fare, instead featuring local entrepreneurs from FoodLab Detroit selling fresh, healthy creations. Also new this year, late night pop-up jazz joints will open inside empty storefronts after the fest closes, letting festival-goers keep the party going while getting a sneak peak inside some historic buildings. The free fest happens on Jefferson Avenue between Marlborough and Ashland streets in Detroit; see jazzinonjefferson.com for more info.
A musical collaboration between Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance and Elisa Ambrogio of Magik Markers, 200 years relies primarily on acoustic guitars and vocals to create quietly mesmerizing music. The hushed tunes are occasionally supplemented with hints of electronic guitars, accordion and pipe organ, but for the most part, the power of the music lies in its delicate minimalism. Ambrogio's soft vocals demonstrate the beauty and power that can be found in gentleness, and her quiet voice and the lush imagery of her lyrics serves as a perfect counterpoint to Chasny's guitar. 200 Years released its self-titled debut last year; the duo perform in support of it at the Destroy Compound, 5984 Lincoln, Detroit; with Dead Machines, M.U.G. House Unit and DJ Mike Connelly.
The Sixth Annual Detroit River Days Festival is especially boisterous this year, with more than 75 street performers and musical acts taking over the Detroit RiverWalk for the three-day event. The lineup includes national acts Kansas, Boys II Men and the Whispers, as well as a wide range of local talent, from Ty Stone and Thornetta Davis to the Howling Diablos, Luis Resto and the Detroit Symphony Civic Jazz Orchestra. But the music is just the soundtrack to the party of buskers, which includes magicians, fire artists, circus performers and break dancers. A 5K run, tall ships, poochapalooza pet walk, kids' activities, carnival rides, jet ski demos and riverboat tours are also on the agenda; see riverdays.com for more info. The fest closes just in time for the annual Target Fireworks, which light up the sky Monday, June 25.
It's a great time for a 101 course on the last half-century of Detroit art. Kathryn Brackett Luchs and Shaun Bangert's film is hyped as "a tense visual montage combining original silent footage with new information and bringing to light the mood and art of the time." The time discussed is the '60s and '70s, when Cass Corridor artists were setting the stage for much of the Detroit art that would follow. Included in the film are such artists as John Egner, Steve Foust, Michael Luchs, Nancy Mitchnick, Gordon Newton, Ellen Phelan, Paul Schwarz and Robert Sestok. Just so happens that some of those artists are on display a block away at the N'Namdi Center in the show Menage a Detroit: Three Generations of Expressionist Art in Detroit 1970-2012, with Cass Corridor artists like Sestok and Newton in the first generation. Some of the figures of the film and Menage overlap again with Jim Pallas' amazing exhibit of 16 portraits Art Giants in Detroit, also the N'Namdi Center. "Images" is a one-night, free-admission event at 8 p.m. on June 23, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (with a soundtrack by the late Mick Vranich), at 4454 Woodward, Detroit; 313-832-6622. Menage and Giants show through July 21 at N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, 52 E. Forest Ave., Detroit; 313-831-8700. Jim Pallas gives an artist talk about his work at 6 p.m. on June 21 at the N'Namdi Center.