Pianist Mike Jellick blows back from Chicago
Now he’s building a scene on Wednesdays at Northern Lights
Published: April 18, 2012
It never came to that. He finally found a steady gig at Randy's Jazz Club, and, as he prepared to return to Detroit, offers surfaced. In 2010, he returned to Detroit a stronger and more confident musician.
"It was never my plan to come back to Detroit with a big announcement, or like some prodigal son bullshit. I wanted to come back quietly."
His first gig back home was with drummer Thaddeus Dixon, who'd been touring with R&B and neo-soul acts. Dixon had a monthly spot at Cliff Bell's, and he hired Jellick.
Word spread: Jellick was new and improved, and he was playing his butt off. Established bandleaders such as Rodney Whitaker, Dwight Adams, Vincent Chandler, Karriem Riggins (on trips back to Detroit) and Marion Hayden hired him.
"I wanted to see how many people would walk up to me after hearing the revamped me, and would say, 'I have a gig for you. I really want you to be the piano chair in my band. I want us to work together and really mean it.'"
Since Jellick returned to Detroit, he's played one choice gig after another. When Riggins needed a piano player for his highly anticipated set with Common at the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival, and Hayden needed a pianist for her Detroit Jazz Legacy Ensemble, they hired Jellick. And he's been getting lots of work as bandleader.
Earlier this year, his trio played a two-week run at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. On Wednesdays, he runs the jam session at the Northern Lights, which he has lofty aspirations for. He wants the session to be about jazz musicians of all levels, from students to pros networking. And that's the range that he seems to drawing.
This summer Jellick will reunite with Palter for her long-overdue second album. Later this year, he plans to release two related albums, a trio date of standards and originals, and a second solo album revisiting the same compositions as solo piano vehicles.
"I'm finally getting to a point where I can reach people — that feels good. I'm not trying to put myself up on a pedestal, but it's important that I take that confidence and run with it."
The Mike Jellick Trio performs Wednesday nights at Northern Lights Lounge, 660 W. Baltimore Ave., Detroit; 313-873-1739.
Charles L. Latimer writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
> Email Charles L. Latimer