Did you know the Detroit Public Library has a jazz music series?
I was really excited to find out about the jazz series because I am a BIG jazz lover! My mother introduced me to jazz when I was a little girl. I don’t remember the names of all of the artists she listened to, but Wynton Marsalis is an artist I remember well. I remember Mom had one of his albums on cassette. (Makes me feel old just typing that. My kids don’t even know what a cassette tape is!)
My mom’s love for jazz had a great impact on me because I grew to love the music, too. I realized my love for jazz when I was in college. When I studied for my classes, I’d always stream a jazz music station on the internet. Two jazz artists I really loved listening to in college were Miles Davis and Diana Krall.
But you know, I never actually went to see a live jazz performance. I had always wanted to go, though. When we lived in Tennessee, Travis and I talked all the time about visiting a jazz lounge in Nashville for a date night. We just never got around to going.
When we moved to Metro Detroit in 2015, we found out about the Detroit Jazz Festival. We were so amazed to learn the city hosts a huge jazz festival every year. I had never heard of something like that before!
SIDE NOTE — We haven’t had the opportunity to attend the jazz festival yet. I know, I know. You’re thinking: What?!! Why not?! Don’t worry – we plan to go this summer. 🙂
Last week’s jazz concert at the DPL was a real treat for me because it was my first time seeing a live jazz performance! The Mike Monford Trio performed last Tuesday at the Detroit Public Library (DPL) in the Clara Stanton Jones Friends Auditorium. They did not disappoint; I enjoyed every minute of it.
Special Guest Appearance by Mahogany Jones
One of my favorite Detroit hip-hop artists, Mahogany Jones, was also a special guest at the show. She had just returned from a music-related trip to Nepal and Mike Monford invited her to perform a song with him at the Jazz & Java show. I connected with Mahogany after the show and she shared with me her thoughts on Detroit Jazz.
Even though Mahogany is a hip-hop artist, she loves jazz music and finds there are similarities between jazz and hip-hop music. She first discovered jazz in the late 90s when she was in college. She grew up loving hip-hop, but Mahogany said there was a phase during the 90s when she fell out of love with hip-hop.
“I was in college and I found this station – NPR actually – and they were playing jazz music,” she told me. “I really reconnected with jazz music and then by listening to the jazz music station, I found underground hip-hop.” She said jazz music is definitely her second favorite genre.
Curious to know more about Detroit Jazz music, I asked Mahogany what she feels makes Detroit Jazz music so special. Mahogany told me when she thinks about how special Detroit Jazz is, she is reminded of “treasures like Black Bottom.” She said despite the dismantling of Black Bottom Detroit, it still resonates so heavily.
“I think the narrative and just what’s in the fabric of Detroit, is very much embedded in the fabric of jazz music,” Mahogany told me. She said the richness of the sound of Detroit Jazz is very special.
She went on to explain, “I think a lot of jazz music, unfortunately, has really been whitewashed, and that’s not a racial thing. It’s been watered down. It’s been refined. I think that there’s something raw and unrefined about Detroit. And I think that there’s something beautiful and unrefined about the essence of jazz.”
Catching Up with Mike Monford
After the show, I found Mike Monford to tell him I enjoyed the show and ask him a few questions about his music. He was very kind to chat with me before the library had to close for the night.
Mike is a native of Detroit and he has been a musician since he was young. He told me he was gone for 20 years in New York and he studied music at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut.
When Mike isn’t creating and performing music, he serves as a band teacher for young people in the Detroit Public School System.
“I like it,” Mike told me during our interview. “It just really connected with everything else I was doing. Instead of getting [the students] late high school or college, I’m able to help nurture them from 9th grade on.”
Mike teaches everything musically from jazz ensemble, concert band, and orchestra. He also teaches the students how to play various instruments such as the clarinet, flute, trombone, and trumpet.
Being a band teacher for the youth is a career Mike enjoys doing. Mike said this about his new gig as a band teacher, “A lot of times you have to educate yourself, too. I like it because I feel like I’m making a difference. I feel like I’m teaching the youth.”
Before we had to pack up and leave, I asked Mike what makes Detroit jazz so special. Mike said he feels it’s the strong jazz community in Detroit and the rich history of jazz artists teaching other artists.
“What makes our music (Detroit jazz) so special is because of the jazz community here. It’s a long, long, long tradition – like what I’m doing now, you know – mentoring. And it just keeps going. We still have a very vibrant jazz community with the up-and-coming guys and then the guys that have been here. So I would say the community part.”
Java & Jazz Music Series Schedule
On deck for the next Java & Jazz concert is Isis Damil. I’m really looking forward to seeing Isis perform! She will perform on Tuesday, May 16th at 6 P.M. Here’s the schedule for May, June, and July.
6 p.m. Tuesday, May 15
Born from two Detroit Jazz musicians, Isis Damil was destined to follow the music in her heart. Having performed with renowned musicians around the country, Damil has honed her outstanding vocal talents to include a variety of musical rhythms. Her vocal styles are a reflection of classical training with jazz, funk, soul, scat, and fusion.
6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19
From touring around the world with musical groups like “The Temptations” to establishing a record label and musical institution in Detroit, Al McKenzie has contributed to the music industry for more than half a century, and he isn’t stopping now. McKenzie will turn on the McKenzie Magic and bless guests with an evening of melodic jazz.
6 p.m. Tuesday, July 17
Known for clean notes, vibrant melodies and vocal versatility, Joan Belgrave is a remarkable jazz singer. In addition to her trademark jazz sound, Belgrave performs blues, gospel, big band, standards, and contemporary R&B.
If you would like to attend the Comerica Bank and Detroit Public Library Java & Jazz music series, you can get the details here at the DPL’s official website.
Special thanks to Maghony Jones and Mike Monford for taking the time to share their thoughts with me about their music and Detroit Jazz!