This October roundup of West Michigan music news at Local Spins takes a peek at long-running jazz jams in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids, and a gospel legend appearing on national TV at Comerica Park.
TUESDAY JAZZ JAMS LIGHT UP THE GRAND IN GRAND HAVEN
At first blush, it sounds like an unlikely night for a live music phenomenon.
But for five years running, The Grand Seafood & Oyster Bar in Grand Haven has turned Tuesday evenings into a jumpin’ jazz affair with a host of West Michigan musicians jamming with fellow jazz players and furthering their craft to the delight of lakeshore audiences.
“I look forward to it every week, even when I’m tired,” said bassist and guitarist Mike Drost, a Grand Valley State University jazz professor who moved to Grand Haven five years ago from Chicago. “I enjoy hanging out with the guys, talking shop. We play new tunes, it’s a great place to do that. When there are people there, they really appreciate it.”
Located in downtown Grand Haven, The Grand – with its sleek bar and intimate setting – hosts the jazz jams every Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
With a menu that’s more upscale than the typical open-mic bar, the seaside theme of the restaurant keeps it cozy, with an eclectic fish tank mounted behind the bar. A dimly lit interior maintains an elegant, yet relaxed setting where diners can either tap their toes to live jazz or enjoy conversation.
OPEN TO ALL, WITH STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO SIT IN
Since the jazz jams first began in 2008, the venue has attracted everyone from professionals to local musicians just starting out.
“(The jams) are open to all,” said Drost, who serves as house bassist for the jams. “I like to encourage everyone, especially students, to come out and play. The owner is so gracious to have people come play every week.”
Drost first got involved thanks to Kája Lill, a GVSU student and bassist. Lill, after learning that Drost was a jazz guitarist, invited him out to the jams, which debuted in the summer of 2008 with musicians Scott Pellegrom, Lee Heerspink and Seth York.
Drost said he has enjoyed watching the evolution of players such as house drummer Jonathan Swanston and Lill, who has since moved to Texas.
“I watched Kája (Lill) become a great bass player,” Drost said. “We’ve had weird people come try to sit in. (The jams are) great during the winter when there’s not a lot going on.”
Although the bar is busier in the summer due to the tourist season, the jam is now focused on encouraging high school students to come out and play, with Drost emceeing.
“I want students to get the opportunity,” Drost said. “I had it when I was young. Teachers invited me to play in real-life experiences and it only served to further my playing chops.”
FOR EVERYBODY WHO LOVES JAZZ
Dutcher Snedeker, a junior at Grand Valley State University and pianist for award-winning local jazz quartet Brad Fritcher + trois, took the position of house pianist this past July after Lill left West Michigan to pursue graduate school in Texas.
“I love the fact that we can collaborate with solid musicians every week and play a variety of tunes,” Snedeker said. “It’s a great way for all of us to improve as musicians, especially when guests sit in on different tunes. Each week has a different feel to it and keeps things interesting.”
Snedeker pointed out that a variety of musicians turn out for the sessions, including Fritcher and “some other locals from the nearby area.”
Players of all levels are welcome.
“Everybody who loves jazz, who wants to learn about it, come out and play,” Drost said. “Music is an educational experience, and it’s a nice place to hang out.”
— Mary Mattingly for LocalSpins.com
RANDY MARSH CELEBRATES FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF SPEAKEZ JAMS
Give Grand Rapids jazz drummer Randy Marsh credit for his chutzpah and fortitude.
On Sunday, he’ll celebrate the first-year anniversary of his “Randissimo’s Sunday Night Jazz” jams at SpeakEZ Lounge in downtown Grand Rapids.
And while he may have a few years to go to catch up to the success of similar sessions at The Grand in Grand Haven (see story above), Marsh remains stoic and upbeat about his efforts to promote Grand Rapids jazz jams – which have come and gone over the years around town – featuring some of Michigan’s most talented and versatile players.
“I think it’s really great and am impressed that SpeakEZ is allowing me to keep my Sundays going. I believe they recognize the need to have a place where people can come out on Sundays and have a nice dinner and/or a drink, listen to the music, and if they are musicians or vocalists and know jazz standards can join in,” said Marsh, who moved his Sunday jams to SpeakEZ last fall after hosting similar sessions for more than year at HopCat.
This Sunday’s special anniversary session begins at 7 p.m. Sunday with guitarist Carlos Melendez and Ron Getz (from Traverse City) joining Marsh and acoustic bassist Jack Dryden. Marsh said the band will play an hour-long set with a 30-minute break, followed by two sets of jazz jamming.
With any luck, Marsh said, the jam will continue for another year because owner Eric “EZ E” Albertson is happy with the arrangement “and the staff as well love the Sundays.”
— John Sinkevics for LocalSpins.com
GRAND RAPIDS’ MARVIN SAPP TO SING NATIONAL ANTHEM AT TONIGHT’S TIGERS GAME
If the Detroit Tigers need some inspiration to overcome their 2-1 deficit in the American League Championship Series, they may find it in the uplifting strains of renowned Grand Rapids gospel singer Marvin Sapp.
Sapp, known for such motivation classics as “Never Would Have Made It” and “The Best in Me,” will sing the National Anthem prior to the Detroit Tigers’ 8 p.m. tilt against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Not surprisingly, Sapp told LocalSpins.com today that he’s excited about this opportunity to perform in the national spotlight and in front of a huge throng of Detroit Tigers fans, so let’s just hope the rain holds off in Motown.
I’m thinking the Tigers should also consider inviting Sapp to visit the locker room prior to the game to belt out a song from his most recent album that would further fire up Detroit hitters and pitches: “Don’t Count Me Out.”
— John Sinkevics for LocalSpins.com
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