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6B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, April 1, 2004
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magi
ANN ARBOR JAZZ SCENE: NO REASON TO PLAY TH
B y Andrew Horowitz Daily Arts Writer
Photos by Mike Hulsebus Daily Staff Photographer
With its proximity to Detroit and an abundance of
neighborhood talent, Ann Arbor has developed a fervent
jazz scene. From clubs to concert halls, University con-
certs to festivals, the Ann Arbor jazz scene repeatedly
attracts first-rate talents and fresh new faces. Affordable
and accessible, it's a wonder most students take it for
The club scene centers on two main venues: the Bird
of Paradise and the Firefly Club. The Bird of Paradise is
located on Main Street, identifiable for its fluorescent
saxophone. The Bird, founded by bassist Ron Brooks,
has hosted local and national acts for nearly 20 years.
Situated in a basement, the Bird's large space is simple
and chic, with gray walls, black vinyl stools and elegant
"We're not your typical club; we're about maintaining
the art and culture (of jazz). We bring in only the best
names in music," manager Baye Perry said. Perry recom-
mends Friday or Saturday nights for newcomers - the
weekend usually offers world-class musicians. The
schedule fluctuates, but owner Brooks is a constant pres-
ence with his piano trio on Thursday nights.
Around the corner on South Ashley Street, The Firefly
Club offers a more intimate alternative to the 200-
capacity Bird. The ambience is cozy, with its cheerful
purple walls and framed posters of past performers.
Although touring musicians are less prevelant, when the
Firefly does get out-of-towners, they are usually worth
seeing. And the best part is, with its semi-tucked away
location, its not difficult to see someone who'd sell-out
in New York up close and personal without advance
On Sunday nights (at the only 19-and-over weekly
event), the old-fashioned but hot Rhythm Kings perform,
followed by the eclectic klezmer group Into the Frey-
lakh. Paul Keller's 15-piece big band performs Monday
nights, Keller's Ensemble plays Wednesdays and Thurs-
days feature Latin band Los Gatos with free salsa dance
lessons. "Live music is the best ... There's nothing like
the energy exchange of live music," owner Susan Char-
If you're looking for more of a conversation-conducive
atmosphere, check out Goodnite Gracie Jazz and Martini
Bar. Goodnite Gracie, located under D'Amato's Italian
restaurant, offers couches and soft lighting in a '40s
Manager Terry Martin says, "It's not just about the
music; it's about the scene too ... the music's important but
it's not the focal point." With no cover charge, it's a great
place to experience an eclectic array of live jazz (except
Tuesday nights, when a live DJ spins techno). And, as Mar-
tin said, "If you don't like the music one night, then you can
come back another night."
Aside from the clubs, there's a couple of other venues
worth mentioning. The Kerrytown Concert House, along
the brick-laden Kerrytown district, is a mecca for the
avant-garde. Hosting unique concerts in a living room
setting, the House attracts some of the best performers in
the world. From the exciting, cutting-edge October festi-
val Edgefest to performances from names like Dave
Douglas and Misha Mengelberg, the Kerrytown Concert
House is not to be overlooked.
While the Ark is primarily known as a folk club, every
once in a while it attracts big-name jazz artists. This
weekend it hosts the seventh-annual Mr. B's Blues &
Boogie Piano Celebration, which features two nights of
big-name performers, including Cyrus Chestnut, Barry
Harris and Bob Seeley.
There's so much jazz in Ann Arbor that it isn't feasible to
mention everything. The Music school's Department of
Jazz and Improvisation Studies has an established, actively
performing faculty and a plethora of rising talent. The Uni-
versity Musical Society is dependable for repeatedly bring-
ing in the best and most exciting. The annual Ann Arbor
Jazz and Blues Festival, Steve Rush's Canterbury House
jazz sermons, and increasingly rare jazz-friendly record
stores like Schoolkid's Records (In Exile) and Encore
Recordings also boast a wide variety of jazz music.
In the end, it's all about the music. As Perry of the Bird
of Paradise states, "Jazz is something that plays on your
emotions and speaks to your soul rather than just being
entertaining." The Ann Arbor jazz scene is a great place
to be adventurous and experience a little bit of everything
- take advantage of it.
- Daily Arts Writer Jiwon Lee contributed to this article.
Above: Goodnite Gracie Jazz and Martini Bar offers more than just jazz; the club hosts DJs
and other musicians as well.
Below: Though the Firefly Club is smaller than some of the other venues, its cozy
atmosphere still draws patrons.
Far Right: The Bird of Paradise utilizes its simplicity to welcome jazz lovers from all over the