Charles Boles To Receive 2019 SEMJA Award

Pianist Charles Boles is the 2019 recipient of SEMJA’s Ron Brooks Award for his contributions to jazz in Detroit. Boles will perform with his quartet for the Award celebration at Schoolcraft College on Sunday, June 9. The location is Schoolcraft’s VisTaTech Center, 18600 Haggerty Rd., near Seven Mile in Livonia. Boles’ quartet includes tenor saxophonist James Hughes, bassist Jeff Pedraz and drummer Rennell Gonsalves. You can expect hard-swinging mainstream jazz in the bebop vein from the quartet that features the veteran pianist and bandleader Boles and the much younger Hughes and Pedraz. As we all know, jazz communicates across generations — and this quartet illustrates this proposition beautifully. Boles has always excelled as a bandleader since the 1960s by judiciously picking young firebrands to play with veterans of the art form.

Boles is a master of many shades of jazz from boogie and blues to bebop. Born in Detroit, he started playing in bars along fabled Hastings Street in Paradise Valley in 1947 and hung out at jam sessions with budding bebop stars like Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Barry Harris, Donald Byrd, Sonny Red, and Paul Chambers. Boles tried New York for a year, encouraged by Harris and Flanagan, but decided to come back to his hometown for a career that allowed him to have a more family-centered life.

He has spent many years as an accompanist for vocalists like Damita Jo, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Pancho Hagood, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mary Wells, and most notably B.B. King — who said of Boles “I want this guy because he can play the blues in any key.”

Most recently, Boles has led a quartet at a weekly gig at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe for six years. That quartet released a CD, Blue Continuum, on the Detroit Music Factory label in late 2013. The group included guitarist Ron English, late bassist John Dana and drummer Gonsalves.

SEMJA’s Ron Brooks Award is given periodically to Detroit musicians, educators, broadcasters, or writers who have made significant contributions to the jazz community. Previous awardees include Ernie Rodgers, Louis Smith, George Benson, Kenn Cox, Matt Michaels, Bess Bonnier, Ed Love, Hazen Schumacher, Michael G. Nastos, and Linda Yohn.

This tribute will be a fundraiser for the non-profit SEMJA organization. The celebration starts at 2:00 p.m. with hot hors d’oeuvres (from Schoolcraft’s excellent kitchen) and a cash bar. Charles Boles quartet will play from 3:30 to 5:00. The cost is $25 in advance or $30 at the door. You can pay in advance with a check by mail made out to SEMJA and send it to SEMJA, 712 East Ann St., Ann Arbor MI 48104, or by credit card online. If you have questions, please call 734-668-7470.