JAZZ CHATS WITH COOL CATS
featuring Arwulf Arwulf & Mark Braun
Thursday, March 18 @ 5:30 PM EDT
A new interview/concert series with host and jazz luminary, Pete Siers, where he and his guests combine musical collaborations with passionate conversations about all things jazz.
This month, Pete talks with Arwulf Arwulf (jazz scholar, historian, Ann Arbor icon) and pianist Mark Braun (“Mr. B”).
Known since 1971 by the name Arwulf, Theodore Grenier is essentially a creature of the University of Michigan’s multicultural environment. Arriving in Ann Arbor as a precocious and impressionable bookworm in 1968, he soon developed a strong working relationship with the UM library system which has intensified over the years. Throughout the 1970s, Arwulf’s filmic sensibilities evolved at screenings sponsored by campus film groups, and at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, which he first experienced when it was held in what is now Lorch Hall’s Askwith Auditorium. The plot thickened as young Wulf participated as both student and teacher in a series of highly unconventional “free schools” which flourished in Ann Arbor’s experimental alternative education environment.
Following involvement at the ambitious Solstis School program, Arwulf attended classes at Community High during its first years of operation (1972-74) and began defining his autodidactic methodology. Subsequently enrolled at the smaller and progressively intimate high school known as Earthworks, he audited art history lectures at UM and EMU, experiencing Diane Kirkpatrick’s popular Dada and Surrealism slideshows and discussing art theory with Alan Kaprow, the inventor of what were known in the 1960s as Happenings. While his older brother Zach Grenier pursued a career on stage and screen, Arwulf directed his theatrical efforts toward performance poetics, absurdist street theatre and experimental collaborations at the original Performance Network (located on the site currently occupied by the Ann Arbor Y).
After hosting a three-hour Sunday morning traditional jazz show on WEMU for one quarter of a century, Arwulf chose to sever ties with that NPR affiliate in early 2012. Since 1977 he has been involved at student-run, community-connected WCBN 88.3 FM, where he serves as cultural historian, philosopher, musicologist and broadcasting advisor. He hosts Face the Music, a carefully researched program of historic marvels and early jazz that airs Thursdays from 7-8 PM. Arwulf is also one of the rotating hosts of WCBN’s Euro-Classical program, Dead White Guys, which may be heard Sundays from 6 to 9 AM. Professionally billed as arwulf arwulf, he writes for the Ann Arbor Observer, gardens and tends a flock of felines with his wife and soul mate Lindsay Forbes.
Blues and boogie-woogie pianist Mark Lincoln Braun has become one of the premiere purveyors of a vanishing art. Having learned his craft first-hand from the early masters, he is a rare living link to the first generation of blues and boogie pianists. Steeped in the rich legacy of this tremendously exciting music, Mr. B learned directly from blues and boogie legends like Little Brother Montgomery, Boogie Woogie Red, and Blind John Davis.
In demand for both educational programs and concert performances, he has performed coast to coast and throughout Europe, Canada, Mexico, and South America. In 2002 and 2016, he was a guest artist at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. He is also the organizer of the annual Mr. Bʼs Blues and Boogie Piano Celebration that attracts major figures in the blues and jazz piano world to Ann Arbor for collaborative performances with Mr. B.
Mark Lincoln Braun was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. He gravitated to Ann Arbor in the 70s where the Blind Pig was an important venue for boogie and blues piano. While absorbing the tradition and developing his own approach, Mr. B was also listening to a variety of jazz pianists, especially those with strong blues roots such as Ray Bryant and Horace Silver. This broad range of interests enables him to feel equally at home playing boogie woogie classics with authentic fervor, and expanding the tradition into lively new settings, including jazz orchestra. Today he further promotes his art and breaks down stylistic barriers by frequently collaborating with such world renowned mainstream jazz pianists as Monty Alexander, Henry Butler, Benny Green, Ray Bryant, Sir Charles Thompson, and Junior Mance. He has appeared on numerous National Public Radio broadcasts, including “Mountain Stage,” “Good Evening,” “Our Front Porch,” “The Flea Market,” “At the Bride,” “All Things Considered and in 2015 “Here and Now.”
Mr. Bʼs many critically acclaimed recordings also demonstrate his breadth and originality. His most recent, for which Mr. B assembled nine noted Ann Arbor-area pianists and benefits youth in the arts and athletics, is “9 Pianists – Our Town, Our Time.” “Live at the Kerrytown Concert House” shows the solo pianist playing original takes on blues and boogie standards while “Joybox” features him stretching out on his own compositions supported by bass and drums. With legendary jazz greats J. C. Heard and Marcus Belgrave, he recorded “Partners in Time.” His recording of trios and duets (“My Sunday Best”) features the renowned be-bop drummer Roy Brooks. Mr. Bʼs collaboration with the 15-piece Bird of Paradise Orchestra (“Hallelujah Train”) has produced an original and explosive blend of boogie, blues, and big band jazz. Most recently he has collaborated in the studio with some of todayʼs premiere blues artists, including John Hammond (“Found True
Love”), Duke Robillard (“Dangerous Place”), and Big Bill Morganfield (“Ramblinʼ Mind”) among many others.
Today there are not many 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. As noted by Jazz News International, “the future of blues piano is in good hands with Mr. B.”