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Detroit Jazz Composers Hastings Street Lives!

Detroit Jazz Composers Hastings Street Lives! image
Parent Issue
Day
24
Month
September
Year
1976
OCR Text

When the legendary C. D. Dean passed away two weeks ago, former residents of the old Black Bottom on Detroit's east side- from the Mayor's office to the suburbsof Oak Park- paused n quiet respect. One of the last code-carriers of Black Bottom nightlife, Dean is remembered as a man who could always be found "taking care of business" somewhere along old Hastings St., which was also known as "Paradise Valley." Dean's death brought back vivid memories of the exciting Paradise Valley scène, which found ts highest expression n steaming-hot nightclubs like the Turf, the Horseshoe Bar, Sportree's, and the Three Sixes that lined the swinging strip in the 30's and 40's. In the 50's, Detroit's centralized black community was shattered as bulldozers gouged out Hastings for the Chrysler Freeway and the surrounding neighborhoods were levelled for "urban renewal." The scène was broken up, but its culture and music live and grow today in many different forms. Recognizing the need to preserve the artistic heritage of the Motor City, a group of over fifty creative musicians known as the Detroit Jazz Composers, Ltd., has put together the Hasting Street Jazz Experience, a band that combines many of the diverse elements of the Dettroit music scène, past and present. Founded in 1972 by musicianjazz historian Ed Nelson along with Dedrick Glover and Charles Miles, the Hastings Street Jazz Experience has just released a unique and very challenging album on DCJ's Midnite Records label. Ed Nelson- small, quietly intense, a prime mover in both DCJ and the Hastings Street Experience- tells us: "Our focus is not on individual musicians. Most bands showcase their 'stars'- we're not about that. Our goal is to preserve and perpetúate the history of jazz, particularly Detroit jazz. We want to get to the people and influence them, help them remember what their roots are, where they carne from. "There is a lot of apathy among Dctroiters. The people of this city have generally taken for granted the outstanding talent here. Musicians and artists in Detroit must strive for excellence in order to satisfy their audience-which may be the reason why this place has produced such great talent." Despite the historical reference in their name, the Hastings Street Jazz Experience is no "nostalgia trip," and there is no attempt to "recréate an era" on any particular song. There are almost 40 musicians listed in the liner notes, representing "very decade of development in recent Detioit musical history. The overall effect of the collaboration is one of real fusión, with limitless combinations of styles creating a new- but very deeply rooted-music. The recording band ncluded tenor saxophonists Charles Brown, Miller Brisker, Charles Gabriel, and Walter Strickland; alto saxists Louis Barnett, Samuel "Sonny" Spraggins, and the late Ted Buckner; soprano sax man and multi-instrumentalist Ted Harris; baritone saxophonist Ernie Rodgers; Ronald Fain on flute; Sylvia Turner on harp and pianp; Nasir Hafiz (Abe Woodling) on vibes; trumpeters Charles Hooks, Eddie Jones, Herbie Williams, and John Wilson; Duke Billingslea on bass;guitarists Vaughn Klugh (Earl's brother) and Earl Thomas; pianists Leonard McDonald and Will Davis; Ed Nelson on drums; Mitchell Atkins, Sherrell Rowland, and Sundiata O. Mausi on congas; and percussionists Edgar Spand and Margo Harris; plus lead vocalist Kim Weston and nine other voices. "Our personncl is not like an ordinary band," understates Ed Nelson, a drummer who has played with countless Motown artists and visiting jazz musicians- includng Sonny Stitt, Wes Montgomery, Ike and Tina Turner and the Temptations- and who now teaches Jazz and Afro-American Music at Wayne Co. Community College. Detroit Jazz Composers, Ltd., which publishes all of the compositions by the Hastings Street Experience artists, was founded by tenor saxophonist Miller Brisker. Miller also teaches Jaz at WC3 and has played with a whole pantheon of people in both jazz and r&b, including the likes of Clark Terry, George Bohannon, Aretha Franklin, King Pleasure, the Five Royáis, the Suprcmes, Stevie Wonder, and T-Bone Walker. The composers' group voted that each creative writer would be limited to one song on this first album so that it would You can purchase The Hastings Street Jazz Experience album at local record stotes, or write directly to the Detroit azz Composers, Midnite Records, P.O. Box 9563, Detroit, Michigan 48202. Send $6.00 plus 50 cents postage & handling for each Lp ordered. remain open in format. Composer credts on the Lp go to Wil Davis ("Mark-1 "), Miller Brisker ("Ja-Mil"), Sylvia Turner ("Song for 'M' "), Ed Nelson ("A Little Love For You"), Teddy Harris ("Yes Lord"), Nasir Hafiz ("Arjuna"), Alma , Foster ("Nobody Had To Teil Me"), and Donald Townes ("Now You 're Gone"). Both Nelson and Brisker are deeply concerned with education. "There is a lot of talent here, but music and sports programs n the Detroit Public Schools were curtailed. There is presently no place for students to get a systematic music course. We would like to get music back in the schools," Nelson says with great consternation. During the 1 974-1 975 school year, the Hastings Street )azz Experience conducted assemblies in school auditoriums around the City. In many cases, the children were able to meet the composers of the songs which were played. Art and sculpture were displayed and a questionand-answer period after the performance added to the "educational" nature of the experience. Previously, Hastings Street had a cultural center in gang territory on Mack, where they were able to keep youths off the street by giving free art and music lessons. Nelson continúes: "We are a people's band- we are nöt thinking of making a lot of money. Hopefully, the people will support us, so that we can produce more. "We plan not only to showcase local talent with an emphasis on history, but also to use some of the proceeds to sponsor musical scholarships. We hope to establish a music program here so that people will not have to go to schools in other communities. "Wespecifically had in mind Wayne County Community College, because t is decentralized, it is viable, tuitions are low, schedules are flexible, and there is a center located in all neighborhoods. "Hastings Street Jazz is very interested in young talent, and we just hope that we get enough support so that we can continue to pursue this interest. "This album s only one of the steps planned by the Detroit Jazz Composers to promote and develop jazz, to give information.and to assist Detroiters in protecting their music." We'll be waiting for the next one- and any other program the Hastings Street }azz Experience has to offer. Detroit needs more people like these- right away!