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Monday, April 19, 2010

Claudia Schmidt at Wealthy Theatre April 22

The artistry of Claudia Schmidt goes like this: She's got a split-brain musical personality disorder--sort of. On paper, jazz and folk couldn't be further apart in most anything--audience included. However, over the course of a 35 year career Claudia has given the idea life and made it look easy. One might say her very own spot well-deserved; an 'X' on the musical stage of life. She practically invented a sub-genre of music--currently not classified by name--by infusing jazz and folk with highlights of spoken word and humor. Even with her unique talent and vision going for her, this duality is hard to grab hold of for some. Schmidt finds she must continue to carve out a space for herself.
“Those two forms--folk and jazz--as best as anything represent what I’ve been all along,” says Schmidt.
“I’ve always done a hodge-podge of different styles of music. My more easily described solo stuff tends to be more folk-ish and my band material more jazz-ish.”
The jazzy side of her sound will be the focus of her next show in Grand Rapids celebrating the release of her newest CD “Promising Sky” at the Wealthy Theatre on Thursday April 22.
Despite the boundary-straddling all is not on the downside for northern Michigan resident Schmidt. This twin approach has lead to musical appearances on the acclaimed “Prairie Home Companion” and spot in the movie “Gap-Toothed Woman.”
“Folk club owners are afraid to hire me sometimes for fear I’d sound too jazzy. Then you have jazz club owners who say ‘Oh. I didn’t know she was a folkie,’” says Schmidt from the middle of a two-week solo tour in the Pacific Northwest.
Add to that a perceived shrinking of an already-narrow mind set of some music listeners.
“It’s worse now than it has ever has been,” she says of people wanting to think of her in singular music categories
“People are less adventurous in terms of their musical palate.”
Leave it Claudia to come up with a handy answer for that.
“I’ve found I’m constantly there to rub salt in the wound of musical ignorance,” laughs Schmidt with her good-natured response.
“I’m here to say ‘Try this, it might not be as bad as you thought,’” noting that long term fans have always appreciated both sides.
“It’s still going to be me no matter what kind of music. It’s still my musical sensibilities. That is a constant,” says Schmidt.
“I’m only doing songs that I love to do. The art of performance for me is always about figuring out a fun sequence of songs. I never do the same set twice. That makes it fun for me. I always put together a set of songs that are special and particular for that night.”
Claudia Schmidt has stylishly out maneuvered musical margins—stealthy as she is—and that’s lucky for the rest of us.
On April 22 Schmidt will take the stage at the Wealthy with a quartet of jazz musicians from Traverse City plus local drummer Randy Marsh. Together onstage you get several decades worth of musical expertise.
“Promising Sky” contains several gems including the opening track, “Can’t Get Yourself Out of Love,” which reminds of Maura O’Connell courtesy of the languid pedal steel of Joe Wilson and enriching mandolin of Don Julin.
The bluesy side takes over on “Missy Ma’am,” a medium tempo propelled along by Marsh’s crisp drum work.
If putting together a long career weren’t enough, Schmidt must sometimes convince potential employers that while she might not be that much of a hot babe any longer, she remains the one who can deliver the goods.
“There are some club owners out there who when you call on them you get the impression they’re thinking, 'Oh, it’s you again. I thought you just went away…'”
At that point if Claudia has her druthers she’ll be right over with the salt shaker--no extra charge.

More info: http://www.claudiaschmidt.com/

Claudia Schmidt & her Funtet perform at the Wealthy Theatre on Thursday April 22 at 8:00pm. She also performs with the Funtet at Blissfest 2010 (Cross Village) July 9-11.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bruce Katz at The Livery in Benton Harbor 4/18

The Bruce Katz Band plays a live show at The Livery in Benton Harbor on Sunday April 18 at 6:00pm. The band features Katz, on Hammond B-3, along Chris Vitarello on guitar and vocals; Ralph Rosen on drums and Rod Carey (Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters) on bass and vocals. Lately Katz has been part of the Greg Allman & Friends band. Here is a review of his 2004 release A Deeper Blue for 88.1 WYCE-FM.

The Bruce Katz Band: A Deeper Blue

Ross Bon of the Mighty Blue Kings poses this question: Is Ray Charles a first-rate blues singer or just a great jazz piano player? “You know what,” he says. “It’s both.” Bon ought to know; everyone just had to ask MBK if they were blues or jazz. Simply put, it was jazzy jump blues which couldn't help itself from smoldering in soul. A similar sentiment holds for this disc from Severn records--a solid blues label from the East Coast stabling Darrell Nulisch and Mike Morgan along with Bruce Katz. Katz is skillfully proficient on the piano as anything else: check out the honky-tonk duet “Stovepipe Boogie.” Most other times he builds on the soulful organ groove of the Hammond B-3. Many tracks on here are originals but one cover features guest guitarist Ronnie Earl (Katz was/is a member of The Broadcasters) on a vintage Earl Hooker piece, a cooker called "Blues in D Natural." A Deeper Blue offers shining and lively blues with jazzy low-down sensibilities. At his best Katz keeps the tempo moving just long enough for the sweaty lower-back, slow-drag blues to come around. All the players are solid. Enjoy now.

WYCE album review by Chet Eagleman, Jr.--July 2004

Friday, April 16, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Smokin' Joe Kubek records live at Callahan's (Auburn Hills) w/ Jimmy Thackery 4/25

TMGR is reporting that blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery will join the set of Texas blues band Smokin' Joe Kubek with B'nois King for a live recording at Callahan's near Detroit. Thackery, with his band the Drivers, plays the club the night before. The Kubek band will feature Patrick Recob (Gary Primich, Lee McBee& the Confessors) on bass.

More info: http://www.atcallahans.com/

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All-Michigan Not So Taxing Wine Event at the BOB in Grand Rapids, April 15

Although no fault of our own, April may forever be remembered as Dreaded Tax Deadline Month. Now for the good news: April has also been designated Michigan Wine Month by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Throughout the month Michigan’s regional wineries are getting operations cranked up and ready to roll for the busy summer season. The wine industry gets things started with a bang at the “All-Michigan Not So Taxing Wine Event” to be held at the BOB in downtown Grand Rapids on April 15 from 5:30 to 9:00pm.

Event organizer Bill Koski says the reason to hold such a gathering is simple.

“We’re here to promote Michigan wines and at the same time promote Michigan jobs. This industry has to be one of the few bright spots of growth in our economy,” says Koski.

According to the michiganwines.com website, the official website of Michigan’s wine industry, wines made here produce nearly $790 million in total economic value for the state. Wine makers in the state employ 5,000 people with a payroll of $190 million.

Koski reports that 31 wineries will be represented Thursday on the 3rd floor of the BOB to display wares and talk shop. The $20 admission price includes opportunities to meet the winemaker, educational talks designed to inform about wine production in Michigan and, of course, chances to sample wines and food made from by wineries and bakeries from Traverse City to Fennville.

According to Koski, General Manager with the Gilmore Collection, large wine gatherings like this are rare.

“Normally--other than conventions--these large events are held up north at places like Shanty Creek. We’ve got a who’s who of winemakers coming down from Traverse City including Chateau Chantal and Larry Mawby. The southwest growing region is well represented by Fenn Valley, Round Barn, and Lemon Creek Farm Winery of Berrien Springs,” says Koski.

Koski noted that five Michigan food producers are signed up. They include Stone House Bread of Traverse City (now available locally at D&W), the famous Farm Country Cheese House in Lakeview--the heart of Amish Country--which collects milk from 80 Amish farms to produce Amish cheese. Also, what would the afternoon look like without a trout farm representative on hand. The Douglas Winery from Manistee will be there with organic cheeses and hard apple cider. Cider, Koski notes, is “the oldest drink in America.” Other vendors slated to appear are Vertical Paradise Farms with tomatoes and Ingraberg Farms of Rockford with greens from their garden.

Koski says that because of the increased interest from winemakers he hopes to make this event an annual stop on the wine calendar.

“This is by far the biggest all-Michigan tasting event to date. It’s not too often this many winemakers get together in this area let alone in the same room. It should be fun.”

More info: http://www.thebob.com/

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An American Daughter at Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids

A Wendy Wasserstein drama set in Georgetown Washington D.C. is the next production of Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids.
An American Daughter
features local veteran actor Ray Gautreau in the role of the father figure. Gautreau was seen most recently in the G.R. Civic Theater presentation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest where he portrayed the character Randle Patrick McMurphy. TMGR has learned that Gautreau's role in Daughter features a steamy scene at a pivotal moment with a delightfully attractive blonde cast mate and one wonders what will unfold next. An American Daughter, directed by Jeralyn Pinsky, will be presented in the Spectrum Theater on the campus of Grand Rapids Community College. Show dates are April 15, 17, 18, and 22, 24, 25. More info at www.jtgr.org