I N - T H I S - I S S U E :
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.
Guitarist 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.