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September 20, 1994 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-20

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 20, 1994
Shakin' at the Blues and Jazz Fest

By DUSTIN HOWES
Once upon a time, according to a
concert veteran at this past weekend's
Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival,
Miles Davis and Ray Charles played
Gallup Park. At least two other greats
came to Ann Arbor this weekend and
simply drove the crowds nuts.
To kick off the festival on Friday

night attheMichigan Theater, Gil Scott-
Heron performed innovative tracks
from his new album "Spirits" and
groundbreaking work from his past.
Heron stepped on stage alone, immedi-
ately establishing a rapport with the
audience in a pseudo-stand up comedy
routine. His mind and his politics are
still as powerful and thoughtful as when

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he recorded the seminal "The Revolu-
tion Will Not Be Televised".
After five minutes, he sat down at
his Roland and was joined by his crew;
they began to play tunes like "Winterin
America" and "The Other Side." It was
clear that Heron has progressed far
beyond world politics and now resides
deep in spiritual grooves. With a solid
personnel, including theincredible Kim
Jordan on piano, the band slowly won
over the Michigan Theater.
At the other end of the festival, on
Sunday night, was Taj Mahal at Gallup
park. In contrast to the Gil Scott's six
person collective, Mahal was by him-
self, with just his guitar and a piano. In
contrast to Heron's flood of intricately
worded, soaring ideas, Mahal brought
the music straight down to earth with
plain dirty blues.
An elder statesman of the blues,
Mahal added incredible intensity to an
already gorgeous night of clear skies,
orange sunset and shining moon. De-
spite the sexist lyrics, he compelled the
Ann Arbor crowd to "shake that booty"
and "move that thing" for an hour and
a half. Mahal played the blues like few
can, taking the volume down to barely
audible levels while keeping such a
consistent and funky groove that the
crowd could not help but clap their
hands and stomp their feet.

But besides these greats there were
the opening acts. On Friday it was the
little-known Ben Harper and on Sun-
day it was the respected Gene Harris
Quartet. Ben Harper is a 25 year-old
phenomenon waiting to happen. Influ-
enced by hip-hop rhythms, but deter-
mined to include acoustic instruments,
Harper brings a funky beat to folk.
With powerful lyrics, a highly emo-
tional voice and a quality trio to accom-
pany him, the crowd was impressed by
the force of this newcomer's perfor-
mance.
Gene Harris played some traditional
style jazz tunes, backed by solid talent
on bass, drums and electric guitar. Talk-
ing and motioning to people in the
crowd while he grooved, he clearly
enjoyed working the audience. Every-
thing was good until he dropped the
title track from his new ClD'"Funky
Genes" - then it got great.
All in all, it was a great weekend for
music in Ann Arbor. If you missed it...
you missed it; there is no replay. How-
ever, all of these artists are available at
all the stores; though it is certainly not
the same as watching them work, each
has something to offer. If you ever get
a notion to tap into a root, a feeling, a
soulful groove, any of these folks fit the
bill. And next year, don't miss the
show.

Never Mind Your Classes
. Here's DailyArts

he crowd at the Blues and Jazz Festival JONATHON LURIE/Daily
You Don't

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