I N - T H I S - I S S U E :


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.



Motown Jazz Project Comes to Eastern Michigan University

SEMJA is excited to announce a partnership with Eastern Michigan University, their Jazz Studies Program, Campus Life at EMU, and local Detroit jazz musicians. The Motown Jazz Project will present a concert performance on Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:00 p.m. at the EMU Student Center, highlighting the contributions of jazz players to the hit making music of Motown Records. The event is sponsored by SEMJA — the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association.

PortraitsGuitarist Ron English — himself a former Motown session participant and former instructor (of English) at Eastern Michigan University — will lead a band of top-notch musicians. The concert will feature Toledo-based vocalist Ramona Collins with several musicians who toured backing Motown stars: keyboardist Al McKenzie, legendary music director for The Temptations and Martha Reeves; bassist Darrell "Peanut" Smith, former music director of the Spinners; saxophonist/flutist Vincent York, former musical director for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; trumpeter Dwight Adams, who tours regularly with Stevie Wonder; and drummer Ron Otis, who tours with KEM, a contemporary vocalist at Motown.

Instrumental lead sheets from the Motown archives, housed at EMU, will be performed. The EMU Jazz Ensemble student band under the direction of Donald Babcock will open the show, also playing Motown lead sheets. Special guest performers will be included, while veteran radio MCs will introduce the bands while lending their insight on the Motown Jazz connection.

Prior to the performance, several activities are planned. On Thursday, April 3, dj ‘munk will spin Motown hits at the Student Union from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

On the day of the event, April 5, Campus Life will present a screening of the film Standing In The Shadows of Motown in EMU's Alexander Music Building. The film tells the story of the Funk Brothers, the musicians who backed up Motown's vocalists. These musicians came from a jazz and/or R&B background in Detroit.

The film will be shown at 1:00 p.m., followed by a roundtable discussion at 2:30 p.m. featuring Ron English, Al McKenzie, jazz historian Jim Gallert and several guest panelists, in the Alexander Music Building. Drummer/bandleader R.J. Spangler, who was associated with original Motown artist, the late Joe Weaver, will join the discussion. Lars Bjorn (SEMJA president, who wrote Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920–1960 with Gallert) will be the moderator.

Back at the Student Union in the mezzanine area, there will be a pre-concert reception at 7:00 p.m., which will also feature a display of some of the Motown archives surrounding the event.

SEMJA is also coordinating a film documentary of the process, rehearsals, and the event itself. We are linking associated videos onto our website, and will offer additional opportunities to learn more about the Motown jazz story.

All of these activities will be free of admission charge. To help SEMJA defray some of these costs, we are seeking sponsors for the event. Please contact us at 734-668-7470, or e-mail to inquire on how to contribute.

FROM TOP: Ramona Collins, Dwight Adams, Vincent York, Al McKenzie

Parking on EMU Campus

Where do you park for the SEMJA / EMU Motown Jazz Event?

You can park for free (the gate is open on Saturday) at the Student Center Guest Paid Lot, just East of the Student Center. To get there, take Oakwood Street off Washtenaw Ave., travel north past West Circle Drive and Structure Drive, and make a right when you see a sign for the Student Center Guest Paid Lot. The official address of the Student Center is 900 Oakwood Street, Ypsilanti.

The movie and the panel discussion will take place at the Alexander Music Building, located at the eastern end of campus off Lowell Street on East Circle Drive You can enter Lowell Street off North Huron River Drive, then make a right on East Circle Dr. and a left into the Alexander Guest Paid Lot. At that lot you have to pay $1 an hour with cash, credit or debit cards. The EMU website has a helpful online campus map.

Directions to Eastern Michigan University

Alexander Music Building

From Northeast — Go South on I-275, West on I-94, take Exit 183, go North on Huron St., turn left on Jarvis, enter North lot from E. Circle Dr.

From East, West or South — Take I-94 to Exit 183, proceed as above.

From Northwest — Go South on US-23, take Exit 37A, Go East on Washtenaw Ave., turn left on Hewitt, turn right on Huron River Dr. which then becomes Lowell St., proceed as above.

Student Center

From Northeast — Go South on I-275, West on I-94, take Exit 183, go North (right) on Huron Street, take a left at W Cross St, take a right on Oakwood St. Student Center will be on your right.

From East, West or South — Take I-94 to exit 183, proceed as above.

From Northwest — Go South on US-23, take Exit 37A, Go East on Washtenaw Ave., turn left on Oakwood St. Student Center will be on your right.