The Michigan Daily-Friday, June 2, 1978-Page 9
Ron English plays the Earle
By ERIC SMITH
Since its opening late last year, the Earle jazz club has been a showcase for
Detroit-area musicians. Wednesday night marked the opening of a four-day stint
by the Ron English Quartet, consisting of English, guitar, Jerome Spearman,
drums, Don Maybefry, bass, and Gary Schunk, piano. This is not simply another
jazz group that relies on old standards, as the quartet amplydemonstrated its
familiarity with contemporary material, including some of their own compositions
The quartet presented an extremely extroverted style of music, at times over-
stressed by the heavy amplification. The first set's opener, "Mas Quadro," a
dynamic and hard-hitting number with metrical shifts beneath tense melodies, set
the emotional tone of the evening.
"SLIM GOODY," an English composition, began with a funky rhythm and
then successively built and released tension. It was a showcase for Schunk, whose
piano articulated a mood of soulful joy. Herbie Hancock's "Toys" was given an
appropriately relaxed treatment, with bassist Mayberry playing short, sighing
lines amidst the number's meter changes and mysterious tone qualities.
English explained, "Our organization principle is one of drama or building up.
It's an aesthetic experience too, a dialogue."
A large part of this dramatic effect was created by drummer Jerome Spear-
man, who revealed himself to be a sensitive musician, capable of executing
decrescendo effects as well as crescendo. "Jumping the Blues" featured a
Spearman solo which was marked by cautious and emotional timing.
ENGLISH, whose influences include Kenny Burrell, Charlie Christian, Jimmy
Rainey and Chick Webb, has a style that is difficult to pin down. His guitar
technique is more assertive than that of Wes Montgomery, but has a warm timbre
that was sometimes marked by an easy, pleasant vibrato. His composition "The
Lullaby" was interesting for its dramatic transposition from a meditative blues to
Detroit jazz buffs may recall that Ron English played with the Lyman
Woodard Organization at Cobb's Corner in Detroit this past winter. "We played
together for about four or five years," English said. He cited his appearance on the
new Lyman Woodard album Saturday Night Special as an example of their team-
work. When asked why he broke with Woodard, English said, "both of us compose
and write music. There is only so much room in a group for one person's ideas. I
guess I had been spending more time with (my) quartet in the last year or so."
ENGLISH IS an instructor in jazz studies at Oakland University and is also
president and co-founder of Allied Artists Association. The Paradise Theater Or-
chestra Hall Jazz Series is one example of the many activities English is involved
in, and he is excited about the growth of live jazz in Ann Arbor and Detroit.
English said that Allied Artists has two new projects.in the planning stages.
One is the redirection of the Orchestra Hall shows, with more emphasis on local
Detroit area jazz composers. The second is a grant which will help jazz artists
travel to Michigan colleges.
-- Srn aeJn
this was not the only moment of con-
troversy. According to Harburg's son,
Ernie, wealthier members of the
audience were leaving the theater overr d
See HARBURG, Page 10
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Daiy Photo by NDemEBER
Guitarist Ron English will be playing with his quartet at the Earle through
By ELEONORA Di LISCIA
E. Y. Harburg will be playing at the
Earle this Sunday, and if that name
doesn't ring a bell, maybe the song
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" will.
Harburg is the man who wrote the wor-
ds to that pretty tune, as well as the rest
of the lyrics to the score of The Wizard
Winding back to the beginning of
memory lane, Harburg, who was born
in 1898, began his career graduating
with a bachelor's degree in chemistry
and running an appliance business up
until 1929, when "they blew the whistle
on me and everyone else." The business
went bankrupt and Harburg was en-
couraged by his friend Ira Gershwin to
write lyrics. He was good, and was
hired almost immediately by one of the
"I HAD always been writing poetry,"
says Harburg. "I was editor of the
college magazine. I had always sold
bits of it in a dilletantish way, never
seriously. During the depression, I got
into the real world and started
Harburg's first major hit was
"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?",
written in 1932 before Roosevelt's elec-
tion. After writing 13 major shows for
production companies like Ziegfeld
Follies and the Earl Carrol Revue,
Harburg was asked to come to
In Hollywood, Harburg wrote songs
like "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," for
Groucho Marx in A Day at the Races,
and "April in Paris." In 1939 came The
Wizard of Oz.
During the 40s, Harburg went back to
Broadway. He wrote for a show called
Bloomer Girl, which was the first play
on Broadway to have a true story
behind it and break away from the
traditional chorus girl routine. The
show was about feminist Dolly
Bloomer, "the first one to say the hell
with the hoop skirts."
THE NEXT show to shock the
traditionalists was Finian's Rainbow.
Harburg wrote the book, the lyrics and
directed the show, which was one of the
first plays to have blacks and whites on
the same stage together. At one point in
the play, one of the white characters
turns black. After turning white again,
he gains a sense of compassion. And
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