Livingston County will be getting a rare musical treat with the Jazz & Blues Revue at the Hartland Performing Arts Center, featuring two of the genres’ top performers – Detroite saxophonist James Carter’s Organ Trio and Texas guitarist Mike Morgan with The Hawktones – on Friday, May 3. Doors open at 6 p.m.; the show starts at 7.
“We wanted to present a pair of powerhouse musicians – who really are at a level that we just don’t get the opportunity to see in this area very often – at a price that is extremely affordable,” said Whitney McClellan-Stone. She and her husband, Cal Stone, are 2 Stones Events, the concert promoter. “Every seat is just $25, so get yours early!”
Reserve tickets for the 764-seat show are available online HERE or by calling 810-599-0491.
The couple partnered with the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce this past December to present pianist George Winston for a sold-out concert at the HPAC.
“It’s a beautiful venue,” said Stone. “There are no bad seats in the house; there’s plenty of free parking; and it’s conveniently located.”
The HPAC is on the north side of M-59 (Hartland Road), one mile west of US-23; on the grounds of the former Hartland High School).
The jazz-and-blues theme is a natural for 2 Stones Events, which has handled the artist lineups for Brighton’s Smokin’ Jazz & Barbecue Blues Festival for the past 10 years.
“Mike Morgan played that festival in 2013, backed by Hank Mowery & The Hawktones out of Grand Rapids,” said Stone. “Mike is from that incredibly rich pool of Texas blues guitarists, and we are very fortunate that he’s going to come back here to perform”
The Stones have seen James Carter, a Detroit native who now resides in New York, perform several times over the years.
“You really have to see him live to believe what he can do with a horn,” said Stone. ”We wanted to book him for this year’s Smokin’ fest, but he was unavailable. But, now we’ve got James and Mike together in this intimate venue, and it will be a night to remember. Trust me.”
2SE have called on Heslip Audio to handle the sound, ensuring a top-notch experience for the players and the audience alike.
“Joe (Heslip) and his crew are vital to our concerts,” said Stone. “If we couldn’t get them, we probably wouldn’t do this show.”
FEEDING THE NEEDY
Another key component to this evening will be a food drive for Gleaners. The food bank has been the beneficiary of several 2SE concerts, and drove away with a van packed with non-perishable food items from the Winston concert a few months ago.
“It’s two things we’re very passionate about – live music and helping others,” said McClellan-Stone. “To include a food drive and ask attendees to bring food is a no-brainer, but the impact on lives – people right here in Livingston County – is enormous.”
2SE also hosts a monthly summer music series in downtown Brighton, renamed for 2019 as Jazz @ The AMP to reflect the Mill Pond bandshell’s new name, and that will also include a Gleaners food drive for each of the June-Sept. concerts.
“And if you don’t believe that hunger is an issue here, you’re not paying attention,” said McClellan-Stone.
In Livingston County, there are nearly 15,000 residents who are ‘food insecure’. That’s a person who struggles at times to put enough nutritious food on the table. A family that runs out of food days or weeks before there will be any money to buy more.
That number includes approximately 4,660 children, according to the Livingston Hunger Council. Gleaners helps in this battle by distributing 2 million pounds of food here every year.
“Just like great live music -- feeding others feeds one’s soul,” said McClellan-Stone.
CARTER FINDS A NEW GROOVE
In many ways, weaving together divergent impulses is at the heart of Carter’s music. Like the late tenor sax titan Ben Webster, he’s given to furious, high-velocity solos, but is just as likely to wax sentimental, using his big, bruising tone to tenderly caress a comely melody.
“You have to be totally comfortable wherever. I feel that music equals life; that’s the way my teacher always taught me,” said Carter. “You just can’t go through life and experience it fully with a set of blinders on. I think there’s tremendous beauty in cross-pollinations of music and influences.”
In 2000, he released two albums simultaneously that amounted to an anti-manifesto, a proclamation that everything is fair game.
On Chasin’ the Gypsy, a voluptuous, lyrical session partly inspired by the timeless collaboration between Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, he assembled a thrilling group with violinist Regina Carter and Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo for a project born out of some soundcheck jamming with Lubambo and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista during a tour with Kathleen Battle.
The groove-laden Layin’ in the Cut, featuring James Blood Ulmer’s former rhythm section with electric bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer Grant Calvin Weston, combines harmolodic freedom with a deep reservoir of funk, and developed out of a project inspired by another legendary guitarist, Jimi Hendrix.
He reinvented the organ combo (with 2005’s Out of Nowhere and again in 2009 with John Medeski on Heaven and Earth), explored the music of alt-rock band Pavement (on 2005’s Gold Sounds), and paid loving tribute to Billie Holiday (on 2003’s Gardenias for Lady Day). Taken in context, Carter’s creative rendezvous with composer Roberto Sierra with the Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra made perfect sense.
Now Carter presents us with James Carter’s Elektrik Outlet, a new configuration within which he has found a new groove to explore. Shifting his sax into a keen array of electronics and pedals just might be the perfect “outlet” for Carter to tap into that “frustrated guitarist” that he often describes himself to be. An excellent selection of tunes from Eddie Harris, Gene Ammons, Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Ripperton and others provides impetus for Carter’s Elektrik Outlet to sizzle, slide, and pop. Adding energy to the group are fellow Detroit artists, Gerard Gibbs on electronic keyboards, Ralphe Armstrong on electric bass and Alex White on drums.
For the Jazz & Blues Revue, the lineup includes Carter, Gibbs and White.
CLASSIC BLUES WITH A MODERN SPIRIT
Born in Texas in 1959, Morgan received his first guitar while in the third grade, but didn't begin to take playing seriously until he discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan's debut album, Texas Flood, in 1985.
"When I heard Stevie's first album, that was it," Morgan recalls. "I already knew how to play the guitar, but Stevie showed me a lot of things I didn't know. After that, I dove headlong into playing the blues."
Morgan was not merely a Stevie Ray knock-off, but rather an original player with a sound and style all his own. Morgan moved to Dallas in 1986 and soon hooked up with experienced vocalist Darrell Nulisch.
Mike Morgan and The Crawl quickly made a name for themselves as one of the best contemporary blues bands in Texas, writing original songs that were on a par with the classics they chose to cover. After Nulisch left the band in 1989, Morgan found the perfect match in Kansas City native and blues veteran Lee McBee, whose smoky, seasoned vocals were reminiscent of the legendary 1960s soul singers Morgan listened to while growing up.
Shortly before a performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Morgan's old pal Anson Funderburgh took Black Top owner Hammond Scott to a gig. Scott was so stunned by the band's talent and originality that he signed them to the label immediately following the Jazz Fest appearance.
The band found a national audience with the release of their debut recording, Raw & Ready, in 1990. Backed up by extensive national and international touring through the decade, Mike Morgan and The Crawl five highly regarded albums: Mighty Fine Dancin, Full Moon Over Dallas, Ain't Worried No More, Looky Here!, The Road and I Like The Way You Work It.
Blues Access Magazine raved, "Mike Morgan and the Crawl crank up an irrepressible of fresh gritty blues and romping Stax/Volt-era soul."
New Year’s Eve 1999 saw an end to the Morgan/McBee era of the lineup as the latter ventured out to do his own band back home in Kansas and Morgan took over as front man. In 2000, Texas Man, Mike’s first vocal outing was released on Severn Records followed in 2004 by Live in Dallas and Stronger Every Day in 2007.
Morgan has rarely toured since 2006, preferring instead mostly local gigs with a few scattered touring appearances. For the Jazz & Blues Revue, Morgan will be backed by The Hawktones — Hank Mowery, vocals/harp; Troy Amaro, guitar; Chris Bracey, drums; and Chris Corey, keys.