Joyful Music for Uncertain Times

Sixth Edition featuring NYC Jazz Pianist

Emmet Cohen

Monica’s Musings…

For this sixth edition of Joyful Music for Uncertain Times, I am beyond delighted to be able to write about award-winning jazz pianist and composer, Emmet Cohen!  Before the Covid-19 crisis cancelled our schedule, the Emmet Cohen Trio was booked to perform at KCH this coming Sunday.  When I reached out to him to officially cancel the gig, I took a chance and mentioned that I’d be over the moon if he’d consider playing a livestream concert for KCH this Sunday.  His response:  “I’d be honored!”

Yes, he’s that kind of guy.  Ashley Khan of JazzTimes describes him as “…blessed with a perennial smile.”  A smile that is fueled by his deep passion for jazz and his mission of securing its legacy.  A smile that is anchored in gratitude for his good fortune in being able to live his dream of traveling the world and playing for appreciative audiences. 

His travels have halted for now, but travel the world he has!  Cohen has appeared in the Newport, Monterey, Jerusalem, North Sea, and Detroit jazz festivals, among others, and at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall and Washington’s Kennedy Center. Cohen has headlined at the Village Vanguard, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Birdland, Jazz Standard, and Jazzhaus Montmartre. He is the 2019 American Pianists Awards winner, was awarded the American Pianists Association Cole Porter Fellowship, and named Artist-in-Residence at the University of Indianapolis. Cohen was a finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition.  Oh – and he also played for President Obama at the White House!

Cohen played at KCH last year (he broke a piano string while he was at it, but we won’t hold that against him), and his agent reached out to me last summer to say that he really wanted to play here again.  With such glamorous and international experiences under his belt, I asked Emmet, “Why did you want to come back?”

“I just love the community aspect that Kerrytown promotes. The first time I showed up to play, it was almost as if I were entering someone’s living room— it felt that personal. Now, I’d like to return the favor and invite all of you into my living room, offering some positive vibes and a sense of community in this challenging time!”

Cohen leads his namesake ensemble, the “Emmet Cohen Trio,” but he is also a vibrant solo performer, and that is what we will be getting this Sunday for our next Live @ The 415! concert – solo jazz piano by a player possessing a fluid technique, an innovative tonal palette, and an extensive repertoire, all presented with the command and passion of an artist fully devoted to his medium. Recently, he played for Lincoln Center’s #HumanityInConcert online series – you’ll find his solo rendition of Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford” in the column to the right.  You’ll also find video of him playing the innovative Youmans/Caesar – “Tea for Two” from the 2016-17 Gilmore Keyboard Festivals’ Rising Star Series, and another from Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola @ Jazz at Lincoln Center – a Joplin Rag.

Cohen has appeared regularly with jazz legends such as Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Tootie Heath, Houston Person, Kurt Elling, Billy Hart, and Brian Lynch, among others. He is committed to the intergenerational transfer of artistic knowledge, history, and traditions. Cohen’s signature professional undertaking is the “Masters Legacy Series,” a celebratory set of recordings and interviews honoring legendary jazz musicians. He serves as both producer and pianist for each album in the series. The goal of this landmark, ongoing project is to provide musicians of multiple generations a forum to transfer the unwritten folklore that is America’s unique musical idiom.  Cohen has observed that playing jazz “is enriched immeasurably by connecting and studying with jazz masters, forging backward to the very creation of the art form.”  To get a glimpse of this project and a measure of Cohen, himself, check out his Masters Legacy Series Volume 1:  Emmet Cohen featuring Jimmy Cobb in the column to the right. 

Cohen is currently quarantined in New York City with his trio, bringing live jazz music to all every Monday night from his living room at 7:30 PM ET via Facebook Live with “Live from Emmet’s Place.”  The trio has been playing together for nearly 8 years and with their Monday night live streams they are seeking to uplift audiences through music during these difficult times – very much in keeping with our Live @ The 415! series.  But uplifting audiences is not a new intention for Cohen.  Last year, when interviewed by Vail Jazz, he described his mission:

“We’re artists on a mission to try to improve people’s lives, to help them forget about pain they’ve been experiencing,” he says. “One of the main messages of jazz is that of hope. You can hear the sound of hope in all of the jazz masters. I try to play with musicians who want to leave other musicians, and the audience, with that feeling of hope.”

I like the sound of that!  And you will, too – this Sunday at 4:15! 

Warmest regards,

Monica Swartout-Bebow
Artistic and Executive Director

Solo video: Lincoln Center #HumanityInConcert series –  
Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford”

Youmans/Caesar – Tea for Two
Gilmore Keyboard Festival’s 2016-17 Rising Star Series

Masters Legacy Series Volume 1:  Emmet Cohen featuring Jimmy Cobb

Emmet Cohen plays “Original Rags” by Scott Joplin
at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola @ Jazz at Lincoln Center

Introducing his brand new membership...

Emmet Cohen Exclusive!

A tiered membership program with exclusive benefits.

https://emmetcohen.com/exclusive

Subscribing to this program will help fund jazz tours, masterclasses, livestreams, and new video/audio recordings.  The benefits are described by Emmet as follows:

“As a gracious thank you, all members will have access to a unique and ongoing creative feed where I’ll post never before seen/heard recordings, unreleased videos, full performances and iPhone “bootleg” recordings of gigs.  I will also provide an insider’s view into the memories and relationships that drive and enrich my career.”  

Added plus: membership also includes vinyl and cds sent directly to your door!

Subscribe to Emmet's Newsletter

To purchase Emmet's CDs

Mr. B's Joybox Music For Uncertain Times

Fifth Edition featuring pianist, Mark Braun

Monica’s Musings…

For this fifth edition of Joyful Music for Uncertain Times, I am honored to celebrate jazz, blues and boogie-woogie pianist, Mark Lincoln Braun – affectionately known as “Mr. B” to those of us who delight in his music.

Today, there are not many artists devoted to playing boogie and blues piano. Fortunately, Mr. Bʼs passion for showcasing and extending the tradition makes him a major exponent of an essential form of American music. Mr. B has collected fans and friends through his educational programs and concert performances which have spanned the U.S. from coast to coast and also Europe, Canada, Mexico, and South America. How lucky for us that he lives in our own backyard, a country home on the outskirts of Ann Arbor that is a perfect place for his love of the outdoors and his other business – carpentry and custom cabinetmaking!

KCH audiences love to hear him make our Steinway “jump,” and in fact, nearly since its inception, the House has been a regular venue for Mr. B – most recently in February for his annual KCH event, Mr. B’s Birthday Bounce. When asked to describe the significance KCH and its audiences hold for him, Mark had this to say:

“I relish the opportunity to express my affection and highest regard for the Kerrytown Concert House. Early in my career, as a largely self-taught pianist playing well outside the classical realm – or even the well-worn path of academia in the jazz realm – KCH was a unique bridge to connecting me to discriminating audiences who embraced my offerings. Over the very many years I’ve performed there, it’s been a laboratory for me; a place where I could hone my craft under the absolute highest conditions. With comfort and freedom of expression comes the possibility of achieving the best within us. Many of my brightest moments as a musician have occurred at KCH, and I consider it a treasure in our community that deserves the best we can offer its future place in our lives.”

Born and raised in Flint, Mark gravitated to Ann Arbor in the 70s where the Blind Pig was an important venue for boogie and blues piano – a place for him to absorb the tradition and develop his own approach.  His lengthy career has included national and international tours, critically-acclaimed recordings, an appearance as a guest artist at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, significant collaborations with jazz musicians such as Ray Bryant, Horace Silver, Monty Alexander, J.C. Heard, Marcus Belgrave, Henry Butler, Benny Green, Sir Charles Thompson, and Junior Mance. He has appeared on numerous National Public Radio broadcasts, one of which – a Here and Now interview – is included in the column to the right. In spite of his international presence, Mr. B has always stayed connected with the local venues that have watched and listened to him hone his craft.

B is such an important part of the KCH fabric and family; his spirit and music are embedded in the walls. In the late eighties, he was one of the first artists to claim ground on the stage; veering from the usual classical genre. We watched him evolve from that charismatic and sure-fingered young pianist who was preserving a great tradition of another era to one who is extending it and making it live on in his own terms; never losing the charm and fingers!  KCH offered him a playground for this artistic journey and he brought us all along.  Always giving back, he has been a close advisor and supporter and friend for many years. Who could imagine now a February without the Mr. B concert!  
~ Deanna Relyea, KCH Founder

This week would have been Mr. B’s 23rd Blues and Boogie Woogie Celebration at The Ark, but like all public concert events right now, it fell victim to the current health crisis.  Such cancellations are a crushing blow for gig artists like Mr. B., so I greatly admire his innovation in response to this disappointment.  Together with his fiancée, Wendy, he is learning something entirely new and presenting livestream mini-concerts on Facebook called “Live From The B Hive,” Mon-Fri at 5:30 pm EST.  I am happy to share that this Sunday, April 26th , our next Live @ The 415 will feature a full concert version of Live From The B Hive: Blues, Boogie, Stories – from Mr. B’s music room in the country to YOUR living room! Tune in to our website homepage at 4:15 pm for some joyful “Joybox” music – Mr. B style!!

I’ll meet you there, virtually, with gratitude and delight, but until then, please enjoy the audio and video links along the right side of your screen!

Monica Swartout-Bebow
Artistic and Executive Director

Mr. B appears by arrangement with Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates, Ann Arbor, MI

To purchase Mr. B's CDs

Click the image above, which will take you to Mr. B’s Facebook page where he asks that you send him a private message to place an order.  He’ll get back in touch with you soon!

“My Sunday Best” live in NYC

Mr. B’s Blues and Boogie Celebration (2015)
With Mr. B, Bob Seeley and Sylvan Zingg at the Detroit Institute of Arts

NPR – Here and Now – Interview with Mr. B (2015)

Joyful Music For Uncertain Times

Fourth Edition featuring KCH Founder, Deanna Relyea

Monica’s Musings…

For this fourth edition of Joyful Music for Uncertain Times, I am honored to feature KCH’s Founder, Deanna Relyea!  You’ll find three videos in the column to the right that celebrate the breadth of Deanna’s artistry, from comedy to avant-garde!  But first, I have a few things to say, and so does she!

When I reached out to Deanna about my intention to do this, her first response was to brush it off with an “…oh, you don’t have to do that…” remark.  But I insisted, she agreed, and when we were about to finish the call, she said offhandedly:  “Well, you know there is something that I just found out about yesterday – apparently, I have been named a ‘Jazz Hero’ by the Jazz Journalist Association.”  This is the very thing that inspires me about Deanna. Thirty-five years ago, she didn’t set out to be a “hero,” she set out to create a special performance space for musicians.  Her efforts in doing so were fearless, sometimes thankless, and most certainly heroic for the lucky artists and audiences who have found a musical home here.  And still, when asked to talk about herself a bit, this accolade did not immediately come to her mind.  Now, on the other side of conceiving, establishing, and building Kerrytown Concert House, Deanna says:


“My world has been enriched and expanded by a stream of disparate artistic happenings as, for decades, I literally opened the doors, turned on the lights, and ushered performers onto the stage. I call it my graduate education!  As Founder and former Executive/Artistic Director, it is gratifying to say that most people now don’t know – or can’t remember – how or when KCH began its work, that many fans now would not recognize me on the street, and that KCH’s place on the cultural scene is taken for granted! That makes me proud and happy.  So, I am content: lucky to sing a song occasionally, hold my grandchildren’s recitals and recording sessions there, and to direct Edgefest, the avant-garde jazz festival that gives KCH its prominence on the international scene.”

Though well-deserved, there is a bit of irony in Deanna’s JJA Jazz Hero Award because her original vision for the House revolved around classical music and the desire to provide a classical performance space that wasn’t in a church or at the University.  Over the years, Deanna broadened her original vision, though, to include other genres, the spoken word and visual art forms.

“As the doors opened to a wide variety of creative activity and community events, the artists, arts organizations, and audience members began to claim the House as their home, taking ownership.  Such a variety of people these owners are now: factions that perhaps hardly know one another, set apart by their unique tastes, from classical to avant-garde and all genres in between–yet they are bound together by the spirit of creativity and inclusivity that they themselves helped to establish, and now maintain, with their generosity and attention.  They are the “village” it takes!”

I would argue that this “…spirit of creativity and inclusivity…” originated with Deanna herself. Deanna truly celebrates the talents of others, and embraces all aspects of artistry. Back when I was a young classical singer, Deanna got wind that I sang other styles, too (jazz, blues, cabaret). She asked me to perform them at KCH, and never once made me feel less of a classical musician for doing so. And like any collaborative performer of substance, Deanna is more interested in celebrating the “ensemble” at KCH than herself:

“So many wonderful individuals–staff, board, artists, and volunteers–have contributed to the success of KCH over the years.  Today, the House is fortunate to have Monica Swartout-Bebow at the helm:  a world-class artist with an intense sense of community.   Monica will fight through the current crisis with her creative skills, including using the internet to connect to our larger community right here on the KCH website!”

I consider myself lucky to call Deanna Relyea a friend, to be the beneficiary of her mentorship, to share the stage with her regularly, and now, to collaborate with her on Edgefest.  As her friend and a fellow artist, I am deeply impressed by what she has accomplished, and it is my honor to carry on her good work!  

Warmest regards,

Monica Swartout-Bebow
Artistic and Executive Director

To read the full article about this award, click the image above

From Wine, Women & Song XVII – Go Back Home by Kander & Ebb

Deanna puts a cabaret spin on Hundley’s Sweet Suffolk Owl

“Days of Awe,” from Lifelines (Jason Kao Hwang, composer)
Commissioned by Edgefest 2012 – New York City performance
Full video: https://youtu.be/9CFwk2riKxs

Joyful Music For Uncertain Times

Third Edition featuring Bolcom & Morris

For this third edition of Joyful Music For Uncertain Times, I wanted to feature our Cabaret House series, and who better to help me do so than the iconic duo (and Ann Arbor townies), William Bolcom and Joan Morris!  Bolcom & Morris have literally performed at Kerrytown Concert House since the doors opened in 1984, when they, along with many of their illustrious friends, presented two benefit concerts to help give the budding concert house a kickstart. Indeed, those concerts gave KCH an auspicious beginning, putting it on the map of the arts, and soon “the House” became an important part of the cultural fabric not only of Ann Arbor but also Southeastern Michigan. 

Over the years, Bill & Joan have delighted KCH audiences with Bill’s original compositions and with music from the ragtime era to the end of the 20th century.  They performed here this past September with two New York artists, Amy Burton and John Musto, in a concert entitled “Double Date” that was, in turn, delightful, touching and hilarious!

This past Sunday a concert featuring Bill’s music was to have taken place entitled Tears at the Happy Hour with acclaimed Canadian soprano, Rayanne Dupuis, and award-winning pianist, Guy Livingston. Unfortunately, it became one of the many concerts I have had to cancel.  Rayanne approached me last fall with this idea and expressed a real desire to perform the concert at the House with Bill and Joan in attendance.  You’ll find the promotional video they put together for this tour at the end of this message.

Of Bolcom’s music, they write, “…Bolcom blurs the lines between cabaret, classical, music theatre and even country music in his setting of texts by Auden, e.e. cummings, Shakespeare and his long-time collaborator Arnold Weinstein. The result is a body of work which reveals a darkly humorous, sardonic world view.”  You’ll find another video at the bottom of this message of Bill & Joan performing “Three Penny Things,” by John Wallowitch – a perfect nod to their “…darkly humorous, sardonic world view.”
 
Bill’s hilarious setting of Arnold Weinstein’s poem, “Amor,” is widely performed and an audience favorite.  I found one more video for you of Rayanne and Guy in a delightful live performance of this song at the Atelier de la Main d’Or in Paris. Enjoy below! 
 

I hope this 3rd edition of Joyful Music for Uncertain Times gives you a bright moment of music today and a much-needed distraction from our current cares.

With warmest regards,

Monica Swartout-Bebow
Artistic and Executive Director

A message from Joan ~
 
Kerrytown started with an idea Deanna Relyea had about starting a performing place as an alternate to the usual venues in town, the auditoriums and churches that held regular concerts.  When we met her at the House to check it out, we were struck by the intimacy and unusual L-shape, which we had previously seen only at the Village Gate in New York! When we pulled together the first concert, we talked about the range of talents in Ann Arbor, from actors to singers to instrumentalists and groups, from jazz to classical to New Age to improvisation, and decided to throw together a mixture of some of those performers for the first concert.
 

We all had so much fun, and the audience did, too!  From that day forward, Kerrytown has welcomed every variety of performer and creator in town, including artists and speakers. The profile of the House has expanded to bring in edgy acts from outside, including Europe and Asia and…well, the whole world!  From Deanna’s inspired vision to Monica’s inspired leadership and guidance, Ann Arbor is lucky to have Kerrytown Concert House.  For me, it was performing in front of an awake audience, they know when you’re making it happen, and you feel it when you’ve missed the mark.  An audience member once said to me, “I don’t believe you doing that song.”  It taught me that I can’t tell every story that intrigues me, only the ones I’ve been through and survived.  KCH, long may you wave!

A message from Bill ~
 
One day in 1984, Joan and I received a phone call from flutist Jill Felber; she and Deanna Relyea wanted to start a place to give small concerts in Ann Arbor.  I’d always hoped for something like that in our town.   Having it away from campus (and not affiliated with our university music school) would open a venue for local and independent music making of all genres. 
 
In many small towns in Europe, concerts will be staged in the same place as the local conservatory (often a converted large house).  What is now known as Kerrytown Concert House already housed studios for teaching — it was ideal, with a room for 100-150 seats (in the same L-shape as today’s Poisson Rouge in New York).  Would we help pull together two inaugural concerts?  
 
We wanted KCH to be where you could find chamber music, jazz, poetry readings, both classical and popular song, even a small opera — whatever is around.  We wanted the feeling that anyone in any style might be included. The first concerts would feature all these musics and more: folk musicians, jazz pianists, guitarists (even a hurdy-gurdy player if memory serves), university performers too.
 

We are so proud that KCH is still going strong, despite crises (like the one now).  Here’s to another 36 years!

Bolcom & Morris: Three Penny Things by John Wallowitch

Dupuis & Livingston: Amor (Bolcom/Weinstein) at Atelier de la Main d’Or in Paris

Rayanne Dupuis & Guy Livingston: Tears at the Happy Hour – promotional video

To learn more about Joan’s book, Let Me Sing and I’m Happy
http://www.pendragonpress.com/book.php?id=761

To listen to Guy Livingston’s Podcast: William Bolcom in Linz – Guy Livingston travels to Linz in 2016, for the European premiere of Bill’s opera McTeague! Guy talks with conductor Dennis Russell Davies, publisher Evan Hause, and Bill Bolcom himself.  
http://guylivingston.com/radio/william-bolcom-in-linz/

Joyful Music for Uncertain Times

March 25, 2020 - Second Edition featuring Louis Nagel

Monica’s Musings…
 
For this second edition of Joyful Music For Uncertain Times, I wanted to offer something that represented our Classical Salon Series.  Right away, pianist and Steinway Artist, Louis Nagel, came to mind.  Louis has performed at Kerrytown Concert House regularly since its inception, and loves our Steinway Hamburg Model C – especially in its newly refurbished state!  In fact, he appeared here last month, giving another fantastic performance entitled, “Some Chestnuts and a Harder Nut to Crack!”  Plans are already in the works for his return next year!  About KCH, Louis said, “The Kerrytown Concert House with its wonderful piano, beautiful artwork and history of great performances is an Ann Arbor gem.  I love performing and listening in this unique space.”
 
A graduate of The Juilliard School (earning three degrees) and Professor Emeritus of Piano at The University of Michigan School of Music Theatre and Dance, his recordings include works of Bach, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Liszt and Balakirev. Some of these recordings were made at KCH! Louis is also a passionate teacher, and each year, he places an ad in our programs for his teaching studio. This year, when asked if he’d like his ad to be in color instead of black and white, he said, “I exist only in black and white, like the piano I play.”
 

In my interactions with Louis since I became the KCH director, I have found him to be funny, brilliant, humble, confident, approachable and utterly charming. Listening to his recordings online in search of something joyful to share with you, I picked a Bach Gigue and the “Islamey” by Balakirev and asked Louis if it was okay if I used them. Of the Bach Gigue (recorded at KCH), his response was: “You know, that G major gigue is better than I thought. Use it.” And of “Islamey,” by Balakirev, he wrote: “The Balakirev was live from Austin, Texas, years ago, but it was the only time it ever went really well!”

I would say it went more than “really well,” and I hope that Louis’ words and his music are a bright spot for you today!

With warmest regards,

Monica Swartout-Bebow
Artist and Executive Director

Joyful Music for Uncertain Times

March 17, 2020 - First Edition featuring Noah Fishman

Mandolinist and composer, Noah Fishman, is a jazz performer by training, a classical composer on paper, and a traditional musician at heart – a perfect fit for Kerrytown Concert House! Below is a message and music from Noah:

Dear friends of Kerrytown Concert House,

If your inbox is anything like mine right now, it’s full of cancellations, postponements, and logistical upheaval. Maybe even a touch of fear and frustration.  With so much now cancelled or on hold, I’m taking a moment to send a beam of joy out into the internet. What I can offer today is some music: A nice video of a nice tune, plus an energetic, uplifting album.

Creating “The Way Home” in Sweden with Samuel Lundh, Ida Meidell Blylod, and Simon Nyberg required taxis, buses, planes and trains. It seems those days may be on hold for a while: I’m so glad we were able to get our synergy on film.  “The Way Home” is now on Spotify, Apple Music, or your platform of your choice.

The tune in the video above is “Evan’s Chambers,” a lovely, crazy jig that I wrote for my dear teacher Evan Chambers, my professor from my days at the University of Michigan!

Wherever you are, I hope you’re taking good care!

Best,
Noah