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Corey Harris: Journeys now on DVD

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NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD WITH 30 MINUTES OF BONUS FOOTAGE FOR $27.50.

VISIT OUR ONLINE STORE

 

From childhood in Colorado to college in Maine and a year abroad in Cameroon, from New Orleans to Mississippi to Mali to Jamaica and beyond, MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris hasn't just studied the music, he has immersed himself in the cultures that created it. 



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The AMRF Brings "Corey Harris: Journeys to Public Television

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THE NEW OFFERING FROM THE AMRF, PRODUCERS OF THE AWARD WINNING MOTOR CITY BLUES & BOOGIE WOOGIE SERIES OF PUBLIC TELEVISION PROGRAMS
TELL YOUR LOCAL STATION THAT YOU WANT TO SEE



WATCH THE TRAILER

“If you don’t have any idea where your traditions, where your culture, where your popular culture comes from, that’s a problem. That’s what makes people unique, is that knowledge about where they’re coming from.” 
From: “Corey Harris: Journeys”

 

Those of us dedicated to keeping the Blues alive walk a thin line. On the one hand the blues will never die. As Chuck D said when Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “For those of you out there thinking ‘There goes the musical neighborhood’ let us not forget: We all come from the damn Blues.”

But in the interest of preserving the form which most all American popular music came from, Blues aficionados tend to penalize those who stray too far from it. “That’s not the Blues!” they say, as they mark down points for contestants at Blues competitions. The result too often is the casting of Blues as an ossified genre.

Finally, African Americans tend not to delve too deeply into their musical past. As Corey Harris explains succinctly, “White culture in American…likes to go back, and almost relive the past. Black folk don’t really do that. This guy came up to me one time and said, “I love this country blues so much, don’t you wish you could go back and live in 1930’s Mississippi?” Corey’s answer, as you can imagine, was an emphatic, “HELL no!”

Corey Harris knows where his traditions and culture and music come from, which is why Martin Scorcese chose him to take viewers on a musical journey from Mississippi to West Africa in “Feel Like Going Home,” the first episode of his celebrated PBS series “The Blues” in 2003.  Corey can surely play the Blues too, and there is nothing ossified about his performances. He can also play African music, reggae, soul and jazz, and he uses his mastery of the instruments, the complex cadences and rhythms, and the feelings of the music that evolved in the New World via the African diaspora to create something entirely new. Some call it “Progressive Blues.” Which is why he was chosen as a MacArthur Fellow in 2007.

Join Corey Harris as he performs solo, duets with harmonica virtuoso Phil Wiggins, harmonies with Detroit Blues Diva Thornetta Davis, and with the Rasta Blues Experience to weave an exquisite tapestry from these diverse musical threads in the AMRF's
Corey Harris: Journeys

Contact: boogie@amrf.net



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Corey Harris: Journeys Coming to Public Television

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COREY HARRIS forges an adventurous path marked by deliberate eclecticism. With one foot in tradition and the other in contemporary experimentation, he blends musical styles often considered separate and distinct to create something entirely new.
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 2007

COREY HARRIS: JOURNEYS presents the singer, songwriter, and virtuoso guitarist performing solo, duets with harmonica maestro Phil Wiggins, harmonies with special guest Thornetta Davis, and with the Rasta Blues Experience connecting musical dots from Africa to the New World.

DOWNLOAD FROM NETA ON HD04, SATURDAY, MARCH 1, 1400-1500ET.

Proudly offered by the American Music Research Foundation, producers of the award winning Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival series of programs.

Watch the first 5 minutes from NETA. Watch a 7 minute sampler.

CONTACT: John Penney boogie@amrf.net

 



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Eddie B. Burns, 1928 - 2012

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“Eddie B. Burns was born on February 8, 1928 to Albert and Eddie Mae Burns in Belzoni, Mississippi. He was the oldest of ten children. On Thursday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 84, Eddie went home to be with Jesus.

“As a young child, Eddie’s parents were sharecroppers, and he disliked picking cotton. Eddie Mae would tell of how instead of picking cotton Eddie would run through the cotton fields watching the birds flying free and imitating them. He said he wanted to be free like the birds. Seeking freedom and job opportunities, he headed north.”

So begins the obituary for Eddie printed in the program for his home-going celebration at the Lemay Church of Christ on Detroit’s east side on December 20. Eddie had been baptized and joined its congregation in 1996, and unlike many, his eulogy was delivered by a preacher who knew and loved Eddie, his wife Alma, and their family.

Eddie had 15 children with Alma and his first wife, Carmen Laberdie. They and their children and their children’s children filled literally half the church at the home-going. That’s how beloved a man Eddie Burns was. And oh-by-the-way, he was a brilliant musician too.

Eddie arrived in Detroit in 1948. Days he worked in an auto plant, nights he haunted clubs and house parties. In 1949 Eddie was blowing harmonica with guitarist John T. Smith at a house party in Black Bottom when John Lee Hooker heard him through a window. Hooker dropped his plans, entered the house and asked Eddie if he could sit in. Three days later Eddie made his first recording with Hooker, who was already a rising star on the strength of his 1948 recording of “Boogie Chillen’.”

Eddie remained with Hooker for many years, playing harp on recordings, holding down club engagements when Hooker was away promoting his records, and ultimately taking over his regular spot at Detroit’s legendary Harlem Club. He continued to develop his guitar chops, and on Hooker’s seminal “Real Folk Blues” sessions for Chess in 1966, Eddie played guitar throughout.

Eddie was a mainstay in the thriving Detroit blues scene throughout the 60’s. In the 1970’s he toured Europe with his own band several times and in the 1980’s continued to tour the U.S. and record. In 1994 he was honored with a Michigan Heritage Award. The citation asserts, “Eddie is the only pure blues musician to live and perform continuously in Michigan…His maintenance of blues tradition while contributing new compositions and effects on the guitar and harmonica makes Eddie Burns a key bearer of the living blues tradition.”

Aaron “Little Sonny” Willis was one of Eddie’s closest friends and musical associates. In the program for Eddie’s home-going he is included as family. Like Eddie, he fled the south seeking freedom and a job, arriving in Detroit in 1957. Like Eddie, he worked in the auto industry by day and haunted clubs by night. The very first joint he visited was the Plantation Bar on Russell Street, and Eddie was on the bandstand. “He had that place locked down,” said Sonny. “That was his main gig.”

In his eulogy at the home-going, Sonny noted that his very first time on the bandstand was when Eddie let him sit in, and that Eddie’s last time on the bandstand was with Sonny at Detroit’s Music Hall during the 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008. Sonny was in semi-retirement himself at the time, and he agreed to the performance primarily because he was asked to play with and pay tribute to his long-time friend and band mate.

Eddie’s health was already failing and he could no longer play the guitar, but he sang and played harmonica through three songs and received a thunderous ovation as he left to sit in the wings with Alma for the rest of the set. From the stage Sonny said, “There might not have been a Little Sonny if it hadn’t been for the first man you saw walk out here to perform.” He then dedicated Z. Z. Hill’s “I Found Love” to Eddie and Alma.

Sonny spoke often afterwards of how much that appearance meant to Eddie, about how much joy the performance and recognition gave him. We didn’t need Sonny to tell us that at the time because we could see it in the smile on Eddie’s face. But then it was rare to see Eddie without a smile on his face. It was infectious, and Eddie spread warmth in every room he walked in to. He was one of the most gentle, gracious, and generous people we have ever been privileged to know.

A little over a year ago Eddie was admitted to an assisted living facility, but he came home for a last Thanksgiving. The house was packed with family, and Eddie gave as much love as he received. Three weeks later we went to sleep, peacefully and for the last time.

I am not dead. I did not die;
I simply chose to live another life.
I have no pain, so don’t weep
You might disturb my peaceful sleep
My soul is free like a morning breeze,
No cares, No worries, No needs.
Don’t worry about me being alone, I have a new home
I am with Jesus, I can’t be alone, I am happy as can be.
So, don’t stand at my grave and cry
‘Cause I am not there, I did not die.
Eddie B. Burns



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R.I.P. Johnnie Bassett

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Johnnie Bassett, 1935 - 2012

A few weeks ago, as we were working to put all the pieces together for both the NETA distributed public televison program and DVD release of "Detroit Blues & Beyond," word filtered down that one of Johnnie Bassett's band mates had taken him directly from a gig to the hospital and that he was in critical care. The outpouing of prayer and support that ensued is a testament to how beloved Johnnie is but was not enough to make a miracle happen. Johnnie Bassett succumbed to liver cancer in hospice at St, John's Hospital in Detroit on Saturday, August 4, 2012. He was 76 years old. 

AMRF Board member and Producer Keith Irtenkauf shared this reminiscence:  

We had the honor and pleasure of working with Detroit’s “Gentleman of the Blues” during our 2006 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.  Johnnie Bassett was a soft-spoken man who let his unique guitar style and smooth singing voice speak for him.  Watching a performance dozens of times during an edit can get very monotonous, but it was different with Johnnie.  His restrained, but precise attack at the strings and his excellent lyrical timing made his set a pleasure to watch over and over.  There was always something new to see and hear, something pleasant and exciting.  Try to put your finger on his style; a bit like B.B. King, but different, a bit like Elmore James, maybe a little like T-Bone Walker, maybe a little like Jimmy Reed?  Familiar, yet totally unique, that was Johnnie.  Johnnie preferred playing deep-bodied electric guitars in a rarely-used tuning and had a unique tone that was warm and clear.  His voice was smooth and soulful.  Like many blues musicians who came up in the heyday of Detroit’s blues scene, Johnnie wasn’t born in Detroit, but was proud to be a Detroiter.   Johnnie’s just-released CD opens with a tune by the same name “”Proud to Be From Detroit.” 

Listening to Johnnie talk about his own history, you got the sense that he was proud of his musical accomplishments and that fame was not important, it was the music that was important.  Johnnie just wanted his music to make people happy.  His jump style of blues was upbeat and soulful, and his jazz chops added a precision to his guitar playing that was truly unique.

Johnnie was born in 1935 and was the son of a Florida bootlegger.   Johnnie’s family moved to Detroit in 1944 and Johnnie attended Detroit’s Northwestern high school.   It was during his high school years that Johnnie started playing guitar.  He joined the Army in 1958 and was stationed in Seattle, Washington. After 6 years in the Army, Johnnie stayed in Seattle for a while and picked up gigs.  Johnnie tells a great story about a young Jimi Hendrix coming to his Sunday night jam sessions and being amazed by Johnnie’s sound - Johnnie tells this story without a trace of arrogance or immodesty.  Jimi wants to know how Johnnie gets that unique tone and the working man musician Johnnie encourages Hendrix to find his own sound; “You don’t need to sound like me, do your own stuff and get your own sound.” 

Johnnie would return to Detroit in the mid 1960’s and was a solo performer and session musician for Fortune, Chess and Motown Records.  Johnnie played with the likes of Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner.  Later in life, he stayed busy as a local musician gigging with Joe Weaver and Alberta Adams.  He released five CD’s and was nominated 5 times for a W.C. Handy Award (the highest Blues honor).  Johnnie was also a multiple winner of the Detroit Music Awards best blues musician award.



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  • Thank you for taking the time to post the story about Detroit gem, Johnnie Basse...more
    - [groovedaddy]

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Detroit Blues and Beyond: New from NETA at 1500ET on 8/31

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NEW FROM THE PRODUCERS OF:
 "ALLEN TOUSSAINT: THE SOUL OF NEW ORLEANS"
  "BIG BAND BLUES & BOOGIE WOOGIE"  "4 SHADES OF BLUES"

DETROIT BLUES & BEYOND

Exploring Detroit's Rich Blues Culture
FEED FOR RECORD FROM NETA ON HD04 FRIDAY 8/31 1500-1600 ET

ALBERTA ADAMS is Detroit's undisputed Queen of the blues. She began as a dancer on legendary Hastings Street, recorded for Chess Records, and toured with the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan.

JOHNNIE BASSETT has been nominated for 5 W.C. Handy Awards by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, received several Detroit Music Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society in 1994. 

SIR MACK RICE was knighted by Stax Records in recognition for the success of Wilson Pickett's version of his song, "Mustang Sally." As a successful artist and writer for Stax, Mack commuted regularly from Detroit to Memphis in his Cadillac.

CALVIN COOKE was for three decades the principal steel guitarist for the House of God, Keith Dominion Pentacostal Church. He mentored Robert Randolph and has ben called the B. B. King of the Sacred Steel.

THE HOWLING DIABLOS began as the house band for legendary Detroit blues club Sully's in the 1990s, and today is one of Detroit's most renown bands with a unique, rocking funky blues style. In 2012 alone the Diablos won five Detroit Music Awards.

THE AMERICAN MUSIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION IS A NON-PROFIT DEDICATED TO THE PRESERVATION, PROMOTION, AND DOCUMENTATION OF AMERICAN MUSIC. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT OUR WEBSITE  WWW.AMRF.NET

Contact: John Penney johnp@illuminatingconcepts.net

 



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Detroit Blues & Beyond: The Best of Detroit

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"I think that's how most of white America got into the blues; people like the Rolling Stones saying, 'You love us so much, how can you not know about your own American blues artists who influenced us?'"
Tino Gross of the Howling Diablos in

The American Music Research Foundation's 
Detroit Blues & Beyond
Alberta Adams
Johnnie Bassett
Sir Mack Rice
The Calvin Cooke Band
The Howling Diablos

five minute sampler 

VISIT OUR ONLINE STORE

 



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Philipe Lejeune at Cliff Bell's Friday April 6th

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Philippe Lejeune performed at the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie in 2005, and is featured in our program and DVD, "International Boogie Woogie." He is coming back to the Motor City for a performance at Cliff Bell's on Friday, April 6th, starting at 9:30pm.

Mr. B once told us, "I've always admired guys who, when they sit down at the piano, you don't know exactly what you'll hear. That's what keeps me interested as a listener." Philippe LeJeune is one of those guys. 

Philippe grew up in the south of France studying classical piano. His world changed in 1968 when his mother took him to hear Memphis Slim perform in Reims. "I did not even imagine such music could exist," said Philippe. He threw himself into the blues and boogie woogie, scouring shops for recordings by the masters - Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Cow Cow Davenport, and many more. 

How much did he learn and how well could he play? Memphis Slim had become a Parisian citizen in 1962. He had heard Philippe and in 1980  asked him to record an album of piano duets. Just their four hands on two pianos. Enough said.

Today Philippe is recognized primarily as a jazz pianist, but his repertoire is broad, his approach his own. "For me music has to be different," he told us in 2005. "I like to play jazz standards with a blues feeling, or boogie woogie with jazz chords."

Friday night at Cliff Bell's you can hear for yourself. Don't miss Philippe LeJeune.

 



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Corey Harris

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The short version is that the AMRF is presenting Corey Harris & the Rasta Blues Experience with special guests Phil Wiggins and Thornetta Davis at Callahan’s Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17th, for two sets beginning at 5:30pm, and will capture both the performance and an interview with Corey on video for posterity and public television.

The long version is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum: How to convince you, without jumping into hyperbolic space, that this is an event you daren’t miss?

On the one hand we could write a few hundreds or thousands of words about Corey’s unparalleled musicianship. About how he has done more to connect the musical and cultural dots between Africa, the Caribbean basin and America than perhaps anyone else on the planet. About how he made those connections, not by proxy, but by literally going there and doing that, from the streets of New Orleans to Cameroon, Mali, Guinea, and on stages around the world.

We could write about how Martin Scorsese chose Corey to narrate and perform in his film, “Feel Like Going Home,” and about how the Macarthur Foundation called Corey out of the blue one day to tell him he was a Genius.

On the other hand we could simply say, “Trust us. You want to be there.” 

Purchase tickets here.  



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James "Red" Holloway, 1927 - 2012

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James “Red” Holloway
May 31, 1927 – February 25, 2012

 Life is after all a terminal disease, and even if we were still teenagers, our mission at the AMRF pretty much guarantees there will be more funerals than weddings. It’s just that some passages are harder to take than others. Red Holloway’s death at the age of 84 on Saturday, February 25th, is one of the hardest.

 Just hearing his name I see his ever-present smile. I hear his laugh, and the way he said, “greazzy,” with more than a couple of z’s. I hear him snoring contentedly in my car as I drove him from rehearsal at the Firefly in Ann Arbor back to his hotel in Farmington. Mostly I hear his tenor saxophone, so sweet and so gritty all at once.

It’s not that I really knew Red; he wouldn’t recognize me on the street, and it’s beyond doubtful he’d even remember my name. He spent but four whirlwind days with us in Detroit during the 8th Annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2006. But what I took from him during the few hours in which we were together and he wasn’t snoring was more meaningful than days and weeks I’ve spent with some others.      

The AMRF had decided in January to present a big band boogie-woogie show.  Paul Keller had agreed to serve as Music Director, with his 14-piece PKO providing the foundation. Pianists Mr. B, Bob Seeley, Charles Boles and Axel Zwingenberger were all in the mix, and we were casting about for additional players and vocalists, and also big band boogie woogie charts; Paul has a massive book but there were some holes we were looking to fill, and the more material to choose from the better.

It was sometime in the spring when I walked into AMRF President Ron Harwood’s office and he said that Axel had suggested we consider a guy he had worked with, Red Holloway, who played saxophones, sang, and probably had some charts. Ron asked me what I thought. After peeling myself off the ceiling I told him in language more colorful than can be repeated here that I thought it absolutely brilliant.

Red was 79 years old, a seasoned veteran and product of Chicago’s south side who straddled the worlds of jazz and blues with ease. He had played with everyone from Roosevelt Sykes, Willie Dixon, and B.B. King to Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and Dexter Gordon. He was a member of organist Jack McDuff's famed quartet in the early 60’s, with Joe Dukes on drums and a teenager named George Benson on guitar. He was a favorite sideman for vocalists Etta James, Joe Williams, and Carmen McRae.  He was the perfect choice to round out our ensemble.

I Googled Red and found his website. There was phone number I figured was for his agent. It was Red’s home number and he answered himself, the first of many pleasant surprises from this wonderful man. I explained the project, said that Axel had recommended him, and just like that, he was in. Just like that.

The concert itself was so magical we made two television shows from it. Red’s soul infused the entire evening. He reached deep into the mud for an exquisite duet with Mr. B on “Going Down Slow,” swung mercilessly with Charles Boles on "Rt. 66," and blew the house down while Axel pounded out the boogie woogie. He pulled out a pennywhistle to play an achingly beautiful ballad, and pulled in the audience to clap along and sing with him on “Locksmith Blues.” It made the crew a bit crazy that he was playing through the vocal mic, holding it in the bell of his horn between choruses, but they got over it.

Red’s contributions to the concert were extraordinary, but it’s the interview that really sticks with me. The express purpose of our Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festivals is to bring artists to us so that both their music and stories can be captured on video for posterity. Red’s anecdotes alone were beyond entertaining: Sitting next to Johnny Griffin at fabled DuSable High in Chicago. Being stranded, starving and freezing on tour in North Dakota. Practicing a lick over and over in the closet with a towel jammed in the bell of his horn, so that he wouldn’t be blown off the stage at next week’s jam session in a south side club.

Most compelling is the extent to which his story informs our understanding of what music is, and what it means to be a musician. I hear every nuance of cadence and inflection as he said, “If you cannot play the blues, you cannot play good jazz.” I am still awed by the breezy eloquence of his simple statement, “I liked jazz, but I liked to eat too.” His equally eloquent summation gives voice to a universal truth: “If you’re going to be a real musician, you’re going to play anything that’s going to make you some money, so you can eat regular, and be just like the people who work six or seven days a week.”

We have been privileged at the AMRF to capture the performances and stories of over 50 artists, and we have learned from every one of them. We are particularly proud that one of those artists is Red Holloway. Not only did he provide some of the most compelling footage in our archive, but in the process he touched us all with his wisdom and beautiful soul.  He made us feel, not just good, but greazzy good. RIP

John Penney, AMRF



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  • i had the pleasure of working with red holloway in the 2006 concert and I must s...more
    - [Charles Boles]
  • Thanks for the wonderful article about my Dad! He was truly one of a kind and w...more
    - [Lianne Holloway]

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The AMRF Presents Corey Harris and Rasta Blues Experience

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THE AMERICAN MUSIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION PRESENTS:
COREY HARRIS AND THE RASTA BLUES EXPERIENCE
AT CALLAHAN’S MUSIC HALL MARCH 17

The American Music Research Foundation is proud to present MacArthur Fellow Corey Harris and the Rasta Blues Experience with special guests Phil Wiggins and Thornetta Davis at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday March 17th. There will be two sets, start time is 5:30pm. Tickets are available at Callahan's or at 248-858-9508. Both sets will be recorded for broadcast on public television.

Harris was born in Denver and began his career as a street singer in New Orleans. In his 20’s he lived for a year in Cameroon, which had a profound impact on his approach to the blues. A powerful singer and an accomplished guitarist, Harris leads a contemporary revival of country blues with a fresh, modern hand. He performs both traditional country blues and his own compositions, infusing both with Caribbean and African influences, particularly reggae. His musical artistry is complemented by serious explorations of the historical and cultural conditions that gave rise to the blues.

Harris has performed and recorded with the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Henry Butler and Ali Farke Toure, and released nine CDs under his own name. In 2003 he was a featured artist and narrator of Martin Scorcese’s film, “Feel Like Going Home,” which traces the early evolution of the blues from West Africa to the southern U. S. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007, receiving what is popularly known as the “genius grant.”

Phil Wiggins is arguably America’s foremost blues harmonica virtuoso. While rooted in the melodic “Tidewater” style of blues native to his home in the Chesapeake Bay region, his playing transcends stylistic boundaries. Thornetta Davis is the Detroit Music Awards' 2011 Outstanding Blues/R&B Vocalist of the Year, on of the city's most revered talents.

Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd. in Auburn Hills, is Southeast Michigan’s premier venue for the blues.

 

 

 



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Deanna Bogart at Callahan's Friday January 27th

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Deanna Bogart is not our BFF at The American Music Research Foundation just because she raised the rafters at our 9th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2007. Nor because she was the Blues Music Awards Horn Instrumentalist of the Year three years running and has received 22 Wammies (Washington Area Music Association Awards) along the way.

It’s not because she’s a pianist who can boogie your woogie ‘till the cows come home, a vocalist who can make your hair stand on end, and a live performer who can singe that hair right off your head and make it grow back in the color of your choice in a single set.

It’s not because she was born in Detroit either, though that helps.  

Deanna Bogart is our BFF because no matter what the room she’s the hippest person in it, whether blowing a horn, tickling keys, singing, or just hanging out.

She’ll be doing all of the above at Callahan’s Music Hall this Friday night January 27th. Trust us when we tell you that, if you go, you’ll have a new BFF too. Doors at 6:30, show at 8:00.



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Allen Toussaint The Soul of New Orleans on DPTV Saturday Jan. 21 9pm

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 Join DPTV's Fred Nahhat and the AMRF's John Penney for a special fundraising edition of “Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” 9:00 - 10:30pm Saturday, January 21, on Detroit Public Television, WTVS Channel 56. 

Watch the first 5 minutes.

The program is the eighth in the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival series produced by the American Music Research Foundation and the first to focus on an individual artist.

Toussaint is one of the most important musical figure to emerge from New Orleans in our time and yet a relative unknown because his accolades have come for work behind the scenes. He was cited as “the chief architect of the New Orleans sound” when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1998. In 2009 he received the Grammy Trustee Award, given to "individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording.” This year he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Because Toussaint performed so rarely, no one was quite sure what to expect when he played solo on a Steinway at Detroit’s Music Hall in 2008. But when he opened the show with “Java,” “Certain Girl,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Working in a Coal Mine,” and, “Get Out of My Life Woman,” the gasps from the audience were audible: “He wrote that too?” Toussaint wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience either, and he was obviously delighted by the reception. The result was a relaxed, joyful, and exquisitely intimate performance.

During the on-camera interview earlier that day at Cliff Bell’s Toussaint had been eloquent and expressive about growing up in New Orleans and the city’s musical heritage. The documentary built from this interview and the performance is extraordinary, and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

DVDs are available at the AMRF’s online store.

Listen to John Penney's "Jazzfest Detroit" Saturday's 7-9pm on 90.9  WRCJ FM Detroit, a joint service of Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Public Television



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Mike Montgomery

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All of us at the AMRF are still reeling after the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our oldest and dearest friends. Mike Montgomery passed in his sleep sometime after midnight last Tuesday, June 22, 2011. He was 77 years young.

Mike was a world renowned authority on ragtime, early blues and jazz, and particular on piano rolls; he discovered a barn full of them as a teenager growing up in Chicago and was immediately smitten. Mike produced some 26 LPs and CDs, wrote liner notes for many more, and contributed hundreds of scholarly lectures and articles. You’d be hard pressed to find a CD or book or anything in any media published in the last 50 years having to do with ragtime that does not acknowledge Mike’s contributions.

To call him a “Scholar” however doesn’t do him justice. Mike was a Sage.  More than just knowledgeable, he was wise and enlightened, and since music was his avocation rather than vocation he led with his head and heart rather than his wallet.  Mike was more interested in sharing than he was with taking credit, content that his extraordinary contributions simply be disseminated whether acknowledged in a “Special Thanks” section or a footnote or not at all. He went out of his way to share his discoveries; a friend in Ann Arbor reminisced about how Mike showed up out of the blue one day bearing an envelope filled with information about the history of the building he lived in, hooting with delight as he revealed its contents.  All of us who knew and worked with Mike have similar stories.

Mike and AMRF Founder and President Ron Harwood were close friends and colleagues for many decades. Mike rarely missed a Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, and his research provides fundamental underpinnings for the book on Sippie Wallace and the Thomas family that Ron is writing with the AMRF’s John Penney. Mike continued to make significant contributions until his tragic death. He was a regular visitor at Ron’s offices, where he was well known and well loved. “Make sure to bring Mike by to say ‘Hi’” was a common request.

At Mike’s Memorial one man tearfully recounted how his father had died when he was a youngster, and how Mike had become, in a very real sense, a father to him.  He went on to say that, after he had given a tearful and mournful eulogy for his father, Mike pulled him aside. “You are speaking in a minor key,” Mike told him. “You need to speak in a major key.” How brilliant, how Mike…

Though for many of us Mike Montgomery’s passing is almost more than we can bear, we can take some solace in the joy and wisdom he shared and that enriched our lives. That we could count him a friend is more than a precious thing, and when we speak of him, and sing of him, it will always be in a major key.



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  • We called him "The Encyclopedia Montgomrica." This is a terrible loss....more
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Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans

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NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD with 30 additional minutes of interview footage and a train-wreck boogie woogie featuring Toussaint with Pinetop Perkins Band, Michael Kaeshammer, David Maxwell, and Bob Seeley.

ALLEN TOUSSAINT: THE SOUL OF NEW ORLEANS

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
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Performing his songs: Java, Certain Girl, Working in a Coal Mine, Mother-in-Law, Fortune Teller, Get Out of my Life Woman, Southern Nights and more.
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