Matt Borghi & Michael Teager’s ‘Subterranean Bearings’ and “Vanishing Point”

Some news on the ambient front.

Subterranean Bearings, the new Matt Borghi & Michael Teager album, is out now. Years in the making, it’s our first LP since 2014’s Shades of Bending Light. While reminiscent of our ambient recordings from 2013-2014, Subterranean Bearings explores new sonic terrain for us.

Subterranean Bearings

The material was recorded gradually from 2017 to 2018. Unlike our previous recordings, which were all live free improvisations, the guitar and saxophone parts were recorded separately in our respective home studios in East Lansing, MI and West Seneca, NY over many months. Borghi’s trademark sonic beds are often ornamented here by more active, overtly melodic gestures. Additionally, my contributions include multiple simultaneous horn lines. We tried to keep spontaneity at the core of our new collaborative process. As such, for each piece on the album, each saxophone track was recorded in a single isolated take, without regard for the other saxophonic textures. The horn lines at times complement and agitate one another in intriguing ways. These more actively polyphonic textures combine to offer a new take on the traditional Borghi | Teager aesthetic.

This release will be digital only and is now available for purchase from Bandcamp. It will be available for streaming via Spotify, Apple Music, and other outlets in the coming weeks.

To coincide with this release, we recently recorded a long-form piece in the vein of our previous work. The piece, “Vanishing Point,” will be released Tuesday 06/30 via the Ambient Soundbath podcast.

“Vanishing Point” via the Ambient Soundbath

We’re happy with the new album as well as its accompanying podcast appetizer. We hope you give a listen.

Find Subterranean Bearings on Bandcamp here.
More information on where to listen to “Vanishing Point” and the Ambient Soundbath here (https://ambientsoundbath.com).
More information on Matt Borghi & Michael Teager here.

(The photographs for the album art were taken by me in Austria’s Bregenzerwald [2016] and at Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon, MI [2019], respectively.)

Planting Seeds

A thought I return to periodically is: When it comes to the saxophone, who are my patients zero? In other words, who are the earliest saxophonists I heard that I, to at least some degree, still listen to?

I’m taken with the question because I wasn’t particularly drawn to the saxophone at a very young age, at least not more so than other instruments. (Or, at least, I don’t recall such an attraction.) A few years before choosing the saxophone for fifth grade band, I took guitar lessons for a couple months. A broken arm ended that brief career just as I was finally learning a couple classics by Buddy Holly, an early musical hero. So, the horn wasn’t on my radar in any notable way beyond the occasional cameo in the rock, pop, and musical theater I was exposed to and a fan of. And yet, a few notable folks planted seeds that I’d come back to in some form years or decades later.

The second part of that original question—folks to whom I still listen, at least to some degree—helped provide a good cutoff for this exercise. There are some early examples I clearly remember but chose not to include below. Examples are Danny Flores in “Tequila” by The Champs and Hank Carter in “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers. For the former, it’s a recording I like to this day, but it’s not one that stuck out to me through the years as an active interest for whatever reason. For the latter, I’ve never warmed to Thorogood beyond the singles. That said, I’ve heard the sax solo more times than I can count.

Another one who didn’t make the cut is Ernie Watts for his melody on Glenn Frey’s “The One You Love.” I seem to have been aware of that song and horn line for as long as I can remember, and I actually didn’t know the song’s title until last summer when I finally transcribed it (with utter glee, might I add). While I’ve listened to Watts in other contexts (e.g., GRP Big Band), neither that song nor my interest in his playing specifically seemed to warrant inclusion in the list proper. Still, I have to make a note of it. While “Careless Whisper” and “Baker Street” tend be the invincible force and immovable object of iconic pop saxophone riffs of the late ’70s and early ’80s, for me it was always “The One You Love” that came to mind first. Even if I didn’t know what it was called, I could sing it.

Having occasionally pondered this over the last several months, I’ve narrowed it down to three plus an additional four honorable mentions. Perhaps I’m retconning myself, but I think I’m relatively accurate here. For the first three, It’s worth noting that I didn’t know who these saxophonists were at the time, and it’d be many years before I learned their names. In two cases, it was a matter of learning that someone I was a fan of separately was sitting in with another band. The honorable mentions came later in life, but they were early saxophonists who stood out to me as musicians in their own right instead of just another element in a song.

Junior Walker — “Shotgun” by Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
I grew up listening to a lot of oldies music, because both it’s what my mom listened to and I genuinely enjoyed it. At that time, “oldies” consisted of songs primarily from the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s. While a lot of those songs featured horns to varying degrees, one prominent saxophone feature that stood out to me was “Shotgun.” And how could it not? After the syncopated snare drum intro, it’s the first prominent instrument before the verse, with a solo mid-song and again at the end. Such infectious rhythm-and-blues playing by Walker: riffing, roaring flutter tongue, bombast, and the blues. At the age of ~6 or so, I didn’t know that Junior Walker was both the singer and the saxophonist, nor did I know of his Michigan roots and connections (recording for Motown and living in Battle Creek, ~100 miles from my hometown). But I did know that I liked the song and whatever he was doing on that horn.

When I started to think about this topic of my earliest saxophonic memories, “Shotgun” was one of the first songs that came to mind. It’s unique in that the saxophonist and singer are one, and it perfectly distills that rhythm-and-blues approach on the horn. While transcribing a bunch of rock and pop horn parts last summer, I had to include “Shotgun” even though it wasn’t on the song list. I’d been hearing it for over three decades, so I figured it was time. And it’s one I’ve willingly returned to and sought out time and again through the years. Here’s some great live footage of Jr. Walker & The All-Stars showing how it’s done:

Michael Brecker — “Same Old Song And Dance” by Aerosmith
I’m guessing I first got Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits on cassette around 1991 (around 8 years old). I listened to it constantly for years. Consequently, “Same Old Song And Dance,” including Michael Brecker’s burning, bluesy solo, was burned into my brain at a young age. The first seed this planted was my affinity for Aerosmith. Eventually I’d graduate from my hits compilation to having all the studio albums (even the clunkers, for completist purposes). Years later I was re-reading the liner notes for Get Your Wings (perhaps my favorite Aerosmith album?) for the brass personnel and put two and two together: the Michael Brecker listed as playing saxophone was the Michael Brecker. Of course, in retrospect, it shouldn’t be a shock, given Brecker’s voluminous studio work. At the time, however, I unwittingly got my first dose of someone who I’d become so taken with years later. When I realized the unintentional continuity, from “Same Old Song and Dance” to Pilgrimage, I thought it noteworthy. To be honest, remembering this fact was the inspiration for this list.

One of the things I really appreciate about Brecker’s playing generally is that, even though he was quite adept at the post-Coltrane vocabulary and calisthenics, he had enough pop sensibility to adapt to whatever style he was called for. For this Aerosmith cut, Brecker eschews jazz conventions and channels the likes of the aforementioned Junior Walker: raucous blues from top to bottom. I’m not a Brecker-phile necessarily. I wouldn’t put him in my personal top 5 favorite saxophonists, but he’s definitely up there. For example, when perusing albums at a store, if I see his name as a sideman I’m more inclined to purchase the album than not. Here, though, it was simply fate.

Branford Marsalis — “I Love Your Smile” by Shanice
This one’s a bit of a curveball. Shanice’s “I Love Your Smile” came out in 1991, meaning this song was in my aural ether around the time of Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits. Aside from some obligatory MTV viewing, the other radio station I listened to at the time besides the local oldies station was the pop hits channel. Shanice’s single was all over the latter station and MTV. I never purchased the single nor the album, but the song was inescapable for years (I don’t mean that pejoratively), and it’d rear its catchy head every so often afterward. It’s one of those songs, for me, that whenever I hear it, I want to listen until the end. It’s catchy with a lot of moving parts, and it’s no surprise that the song made its way into the jazz world, with drummer Jerome Jennings recently delivering an excellent cover that’s worth highlighting here in full:

I can’t really say whether, at a young age, the original recording’s saxophone solo itself made a huge impression on me separate from the song. I definitely noticed and enjoyed it. I do know that the times I heard the song after years of not, I remembered the sax solo was coming and I looked forward to it. If anything, early on, it probably stuck out to me as being different from what I was used to hearing in pop/rock contexts: that aggressively gritty and bluesy archetype demonstrated by Walker and Brecker in the above songs. In hearing “…Smile” regularly over the last few years thanks to SiriusXM’s ’90s on 9 channel, I had another small epiphany: when Shanice says “Blow, Branford, blow,” she’s cheering on none other than Branford Marsalis. Similar to Brecker, Marsalis knows how to tastefully fit inside non-jazz styles (e.g., Sting, The Grateful Dead and its later iterations, and many more). With Shanice he’s melodic, diatonic, and borderline “smooth,” and it’s excellent. My personal interest in Branford is similar to Brecker: a fan but not obsessively so. It’s worth noting, though, that Marsalis’s Contemporary Jazz was one of the first modern jazz saxophone albums I owned in high school.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in roughly chronological order of first noticing them by name)
Lou Marini
I know I’m not the only one of my generation who saw The Blues Brothers at a young age and fell in love with both the movie and the music. Given my deep familiarity with the aforementioned oldies and my interest in musicals, my mom must’ve known I’d get a kick out of it. (That, and my obsession with Ghostbusters and Star Wars gave me an in with Dan Aykroyd and, via cameo, Carrie Fisher.) Given that, “Blue” Lou Marini was one of the first saxophonists I could identify, even if I didn’t know upon early viewings that I was watching an actual musician (as opposed to just an actor playing a part). Eventually I’d see him on television sitting in with other bands as a session musician, and it started to click that his job was to just play the saxophone wherever needed. It was a treat for me to finally see Marini live as part of James Taylor’s band years back.

Tom Scott
Piggybacking off of my interest in The Blues Brothers, I was introduced to Tom Scott at an early age. Little did I know it at the time, but he’s on the film’s soundtrack even though he’s not in the film. He did tour with the group, however, and I remember hearing his name when listening to the band’s live album and thinking, “Who’s that? He wasn’t in the movie.” These days, I’m a big, longtime fan of his, both as a leader with The L.A. Express as well as his prolific sideman work. (His work with Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan are some personal favorites of the latter.) I’ve brought him up here, here, and here (w. the Blues Brothers), among others. As for his time with The Blues Brothers, his bat-out-of-hell solo on “Going Back to Miami” is one of my favorite solos to this day. Bringing it full circle, taken from Standing in the Shadows of Motown, here’s a hard-to-beat recording of Tom Scott with Gerald Levert and The Funk Brothers performing Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun” (in a different key). (When I learned years ago about a Funk Bros. documentary that also included Tom Scott, I had to get it. Highly recommended, particularly if you’re not familiar with The Funk Brothers by name, though you certainly already are by ear.)

(To bring it full circle in another manner, Tom Scott played with the aforementioned Ernie Watts in the GRP Big Band, which I also referenced in my last post.)

LeRoi Moore
Roi. What is there to say that hasn’t been already discussed? In short, I disqualified him from the primary list above because of when I started listening to him. I know I heard DMB before 1996’s Crash was released, but not in a way that stuck out to me too strongly. I got Crash the year it came out and was immediately hooked. I listened to that album several times daily for months after I bought it, and Roi’s solo on the studio cut of “#41” was the first saxophone solo I remember really obsessing over. I could sing it from memory. I found his playing so refreshing. Here was a saxophonist playing with a rock band who succumbed neither to the rhythm-and-blues pyrotechnics nor the jazz trappings. After that, the rest is history. Go here for arguably my favorite Moore saxophone solo, with a short flute solo as an appetizer. The opening lick from that solo was one of the first things I transcribed after I started getting into jazz and improvising.

Dick Parry
Similar to Roi, I disqualified Parry because of getting into Pink Floyd (with whom he most notably played) at a later age—around the time I got into DMB, actually. It’d be a couple more years still until I bought a Pink Floyd album, but the classic rock station was part of my sonic diet at this point, and I knew his tenor solo on “Money” well. I doubt I noticed such qualities early on, but eventually I found that Parry’s rhythm-and-blues style (a la Walker, etc.) is an odd fit, stylistically and sonically, with Pink Floyd. I mean, it ultimately works within the songs in question (“Money,” “Us and Them,” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pt. 1),” etc.), but his approach is a bit of an anachronism when compared with the albums at large (The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, etc.). Still, he left an impression.

Cover-ing the Standards

I spent quite a bit of time and effort last summer learning scores of new (for me) standards—listening, transcribing solos and parts, and making charts. These were all for tunes I’ve known as a listener for years but never learned on my instrument. It was enjoyable, frustrating, and rewarding work. These tunes weren’t jazz standards, however, but rather a broad cross-section of pop songs.

Last year I began playing with a working cover band in the area. (Like many others, we’ll resume performing as soon as it’s safe to do so.) After the initial meeting and introductory sit-in, I went to work on putting together my book based on the band’s repertoire, and I’ve continued to add to it as the band has further expanded its song pool. With few exceptions, the band’s catalogue really covers the bases as far as horn-based pop songs from the sixties onward. Selfishly, part of my wanting the gig was to have an excuse to play these songs—cheese and otherwise—live with a band, if nothing else to exorcise those demons a bit. I played with a cover band in the year I lived in Houston a decade ago, but hadn’t done so since and had been feeling the itch for a while. As a saxophonist, it’s one thing to hear Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” or Glenn Frey’s “The One You Love” in passing and either chuckle or cringe, depending on the recording. But it’s quite another to learn and then tackle them in performance. It’s not dissimilar from finally getting to play a jazz standard like “Stars Fell On Alabama” on the bandstand after putting in the work in the practice room. There are differences, of course, but in the end it’s about knowing the song and the style.

Style is key. Rock and pop can be deceptively difficult, particularly when approaching them from a jazz perspective. I’ve long felt comfortable as a saxophonist in a rock setting, be it covers or originals, as it’s the music I grew up listening to. It’s not that I always try to think like a guitarist, but it’s easy for a saxophone to stick out like a sore thumb if not careful, especially if it’s the solitary horn and not part of a horn section. Of course, that’s a consequence of nearly always being an auxiliary instrument—a novelty. After rock graduated from its rhythm-and-blues roots in which horns were common, only a handful of rock bands with full-time solitary saxophonists have hit the mainstream. And I mean full-time as in always playing the saxophone. For example, Mark Rivera plays a mean horn with Billy Joel and is a full-time member of the touring band, but he also plays guitar and percussion and sings a significant portion of each show because the horn solos aren’t so frequent. Seger, Springsteen, and Dave Matthews Band have done it with varying approaches, but they (and a few others) are the exceptions that prove the rule. (Of course, I learned parts for the former two for the current cover band gig.)

In keeping with style, there are myriad possibilities, especially for original music. But if you’re talking the notable horn solos of yore, it’s a narrower scope: an extension of the rhythm-and-blues flavors such as a big sound, growling, prolonged altissimo, a brash or honky timbre, and melodically sticking to pentatonic scales and the blues. One or more of these qualities are apparent in such saxophonic hits as “Money,” “Touch Me,” “Turn The Page,” “Bad To The Bone,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” and on and on. I wrote a bit about this “rock sax” phenomenon here.) Alto Reed (Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band) and the late Clarence Clemons (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band) are of this lineage. Even on a soft-rock ballad like “The One You Love,” Ernie Watts‘s fat tone makes his pentatonic melody a force to be reckoned with (and it’s great!), and ditto Jim Horn‘s outro solo (still great!). It’s a smoother, easy listening extension of those more rough-and-tumble forebears.

I should note that DMB‘s LeRoi Moore was of a different breed, as, at least in the first nearly two decades of the band’s run, the saxophone (along with the violin) fulfilled the role typically filled by a lead guitar. Consequently, the saxophone was more of an organic part of the band’s sound instead of the aforementioned novelty. And, coming from a jazz background originally, Moore eschewed many of the more obnoxious so-called “rock sax” trappings. The band’s sonic architecture changed after his death, but I covered that elsewhere.

Splitting the difference of the above two points (Moore vs. more traditional rock saxophone soloing), I think part of my strong affinity for Tom Scott has to do with his ability to straddle this divide. He seamlessly fits into both pop and jazz settings, and sounds great all the while. For example, here he is with Joni Mitchell (scroll to bottom) and here he is with the GRP Big Band (also with the aforementioned Ernie Watts).

The above is by no means a comprehensive survey of the horn’s history in rock. It’s barely a taste. However, it’s worth setting the stage to compare it to what most saxophonists do when learning standards: listening to and absorbing the nuances of the jazz greats who came before. Often when learning a jazz standard, once you have the melody and chord changes, many recommend learning the lyrics (if any) and a solo (often of a like instrument). That’s because the style is perceived to be inherently more demanding, and it is in a number of ways: harmonically, melodically (in navigating improvisational lines), chromatically (how to extend the existing harmonic and melodic structure), and rhythmically (degrees of swing, etc.). That said, there’s an almost religious devotion that’s expected when learning jazz standards. Not that I really disagree—I still regularly work on standards even though I haven’t had a steady jazz gig in years.

And yet, I feel that such preparation and reverence for The Great American Songbook, though justified, can often lead one to dismiss the inherent nuances of pop and rock, material that appears on first blush to be simpler, particularly in terms of harmony. The harmonies may be simpler on net, but that certainly presents its own challenges. For example, during a solo, running a flurry of notes riddled with chromaticism doesn’t really fit. It’s best to think more like a rock guitarist than a jazz horn player. I’ve witnessed and heard of this numerous times, a jazzer sitting in to solo with a rock band on something besides a blues and they just don’t gel. (I’ve heard rock guys complain more than once about saxophonists playing too many notes, followed by a version of “this ain’t a jazz gig.”)

Does that mean that a jazz musician should sit and learn all the rock and pop solos they can find? No. But a few wouldn’t hurt, particularly in terms of picking up the nuances that are sprinkled in. Even something like “Rosalita” that doesn’t even have a saxophone solo can be eye-(and ear-)opening. Clemons’s prominent saxophone melodies and countermelodies throughout are rife with those more traditional characteristics: big and brash sound, growling, scoops, and more. And though it may not seem like much, it can be a workout, especially if realistically playing loud enough to be heard in an amplified setting.

My digging into this other set of standards last summer and since has been a nice learning process. One notable aspect is just how gratifying it was (and still is!). Sure, the work itself was legitimately rewarding and good for the ears and fingers, but getting inside of the tunes and then being able to perform them with such a good band was and remains just plain fun.

Mark Stryker’s ‘Jazz From Detroit’


I unintentionally kicked off 2020 with a bang, at least in one respect. I read Mark Stryker’s excellent Jazz from Detroit last month, and it was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in some time, sticking with me weeks after I finished it.

I had been looking forward to the book’s release for some time, though it took me longer than expected to get around to it. (Upon seeing him at a wonderful Prism Quartet recital in Ypsilanti in November 2018, I introduced myself to let him know I was looking forward to the book’s eventual release.) I’ve followed Stryker’s work for years and his Twitter timeline is a wonderful repository of historical and musical morsels. I’ve seen him around at various shows in southeast Michigan over the years (the trademark hat and mustache make him easy to identify).

Whether people are aware of it or not—and many are likely not—Detroit has played an integral role in the development of jazz. For those with even a modest jazz collection (…for those who even have a non-streaming collection anymore, that is…), look through the liner notes and you’re bound to see at least one name who is from or spent time in the Motor City. I mean, where would jazz as an art form be without the John Coltrane Quartet (with Detroiter Elvin Jones on drums) and Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet (with Detroiter Ron Carter on bass)? (Hell, Ron Carter alone is credited on over 2,000 albums.) That said, until Jazz from Detroit‘s release in July 2019, no one had tried to cover that history in a single volume.

A richly detailed and comprehensive look at both the musical heritage of the city and the lineages in which Detroit has played an integral part, Jazz from Detroit has much to offer to both the musician and layman. Coming in at nearly 300 pages—not including the informative appendices and voluminous index—it’s a taut text that covers a century of not just musical developments, but economic, industrial, demographic, political, and sociological ones too. Stryker reaches beyond purely musical considerations, digging deeply to examine the factors that helped make Detroit such a cultural powerhouse. Bassist and pedagogue Rodney Whitaker said it best, telling Stryker, “That’s what we do in Detroit. We make cars, and we make jazz musicians.” (p. 294)

Stryker spent decades doing his homework, much of that time as a critic for the Detroit Free Press. In addition to his digesting existing scholarship, many of the interviews with the musicians and sidemen discussed throughout the book, including several who are now deceased, were conducted by Stryker personally. His authority comes from being someone who is both a fan of the music and history as well as someone who is himself a part of it. (His anecdote about his first phone call with bassist Ralphe Armstrong had me laughing out loud.) Additionally, his genuine love of the city and its heritage come through with every passage. He’s not a dispassionate scholar who swoops in from parts unknown to examine a phenomenon, only to leave once he’s collected his data. Rather, he’s a champion of the city and its legacy, pulling it out from under the shadows of New York City and Los Angeles, and, to a lesser extent, New Orleans, Kansas City, and Chicago. As the author writes:

“Many Midwestern and Rust Belt cities with large African American populations also experienced golden ages of jazz in the middle of the 20th century—Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Cleveland among them—but their musical impact eventually faded. Meanwhile, Detroit continued punching above its weight class.”

(p. x)

This book deals with jazz specifically. Myriad other books, articles, and films have been devoted to Detroit’s Motown and rock offerings. Though there is some musical cross-pollinating where Motown is concerned, Stryker, to his credit and the book’s benefit, stays in the jazz lane.

The book is divided into six parts. “Setting the Stage” (~1900-1950) lays the initial groundwork for much of what follows, particularly regarding the automobile industry and its role in shaping Detroit’s public education system and black working and middle classes, as well as discussion of some early musical figures in and around the city. “The Golden Age, 1940-1960” gets into the real meat and potatoes, with over a dozen chapters, each covering a notable musical figure (e.g., Barry Harris, Yusef Lateef, Tommy Flanagan, Ron Carter, Curtis Fuller, Sheila Jordan, and more). “The Jones Brothers” discusses that remarkable triumvirate Hank, Thad, and Elvin. “Taking Control” explores some of the more communal and entrepreneurial musical developments in Detroit, including the Detroit Artists Workshop, the Strata Corporation, the Creative Arts Collective, and more. “Marcus Belgrave and His Children” dives into the music and legacy of Marcus Belgrave, one of the city’s patron saints of jazz who mentored many of Detroit’s more well-known contemporary exponents (e.g., Kenny Garrett, Rodney Whitaker, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, James Carter, and more). Lastly, “Tradition and Transition” takes stock of the health of both the city and its music of the last couple decades through early ~2019. Each chapter includes recording recommendations for the relevant artist or group.

As someone who grew up in Michigan, it was great to see how some of the more “local” or regional names fit into the larger musical and cultural tapestry. For example, laying all my cards on the table, I knew Marcus Belgrave was a longstanding musical and pedagogical institution in Detroit, having seen him at various masterclasses and concerts in college and elsewhere (annually leading and sitting in with myriad groups at Detroit Jazz Festival, sitting in with Wynton when he visited Detroit, etc.), but save for the occasional mention in a liner note when I’m getting a new (for me) album, it wasn’t always clear to me just how he fit into the larger puzzle beyond the Midwest. (Admittedly, perhaps it was my own ignorance.) I now have a much clearer understanding, thanks to Stryker’s work.

Stylistically, much of the book is weighted toward The Tradition, but that’s to be expected. After all, many of the figures discussed are known for styles steeped in the blues, swing, and bop (be- and post-). Even the more avant-garde folks who appear throughout, including bassist Jaribu Shahid, drummer Tani Tabbal, and pianist Craig Taborn, had a foot in more mainstream styles at one time or another. My only real quibbles with the book are extremely minor and subjective. For one, I was surprised to see Massive Attack labeled a rap group. (That said, as a fan, I was as surprised as anyone to see the group mentioned at all, and, admittedly, trip hop isn’t too widely known of a label.) Additionally, and it’s just because the album is a desert island disc for me, I would have included Chasin’ the Gypsy as a recommended James Carter album instead of either Heaven on Earth or Present Tense. But that’s me.

Selfishly, as a point of saxophonistic privilege, I must highlight one of my favorite passages. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of Joe Henderson’s training and that he studied with Larry Teal. More than that, though, I was floored to read of the following convergence of greatness. Talk about a pantheon of jazz and classical saxophone: “[Larry Teal’s] Tuesday morning lineup of students in 1956-57 was Yusef Lateef at 9:30, Henderson at 10:00, and Donald Sinta at 10:30.” (p. 132) A real murderers’ row!

If you’re at all into jazz, history, or Detroit culture, I highly recommend Jazz from Detroit. Mark Stryker knocked this one out of the park. I only hope there’s a sequel of sorts in the future.

Recommended Reading:
Perhaps to whet your appetite if you’re still wondering whether or not you should read Jazz from Detroit, I highly recommend these excellent interviews of Stryker conducted by Ethan Iverson for Do The M@th: here and here.

Audience Highlights Over the Decade

Though tired of the relentless assault of best-of lists, I guess I can’t help but jump on the bandwagon. The last decade was big for me personally—marriage, a family, multiple interstate moves—but this list isn’t about that. Instead, for posterity’s sake, here’s a list of some of the best things I witnessed from the audience over the last decade. These are listed in chronological order, with mostly a single item per year. Some years had much more competition that others, but each year’s pick was formidable in its own way.

2010: Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge Ampitheatre (George, WA) on 09.04.10
— One of the best DMB shows I’ve attended. The band was on fire and several of my all-time favorites were played: “#41,” “Fool to Think,” “So Right,” “The Stone,” and “Two Step.” I may have celebrated too heartily afterward.
2011: Smashing Pumpkins at Riviera Theater (Chicago, IL) on 10.14.11 | Keith Jarrett Trio @ Orchestra Hall (Chicago, IL) on 10.21.11
— These back-to-back treks to Chicago were well worth it. One of the better SP shows I’ve attended (“For Martha” to close the main set!), plus it’s always nice to see Billy Corgan in Chicago, where it all began. Having his family in the audience made Billy a little extra chatty. As for Jarrett, it was the last time I saw him in concert. I’ve seen him four times (twice solo and twice with the trio), all in Chicago, and this was the better of the two trio shows I attended. It hurts that the trio has since disbanded after so many years of great music-making.
*Honorable Mention: Bon Iver at UIC Pavilion (Chicago, IL) on 12.11.11
2012: Einstein on the Beach at the Power Center (Ann Arbor, MI) on 01.22.12
— A once-in-a-generation production and tour. I’m still grateful I was able to attend this. Nearly a decade later, I still think of this performance often.
*Honorable Mention 1: Charles Lloyd‘s New Quartet at Michigan Theater (Ann Arbor, MI) on 04.14.12 (that version of “Go Down Moses” haunts me still…)
*Honorable Mention 2: James Carter Organ Trio, Spectrum Road, and Neneh Cherry with The Thing at Montreux Jazz Festival (Montreux Switzerland) on 07.07.12
2013: Rienzi at Oberfrankenhalle (Bayreuth, Germany) on 07.07.13
— A uniquely odd but wonderful performance and setting for Wagner’s bicentennial celebration.
*Honorable Mention: Dave Liebman residency at Detroit Jazz Festival (Detroit, MI), Labor Day Weekend 2013
2014: Tord Gustavsen Quartet at Constellation (Chicago, IL) on 02.22.14
— A moving, intimate performance, and afterward I got to hang for a bit with the one and only Tore Brunborg, one of my favorite saxophonists.
2015: Dave Liebman’s Expansions at Kerrytown Concert House (Ann Arbor, MI) on 10.13.15
— Lieb always delivers, and seeing his new regular band was no exception.
2016: River of Fundament at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Cleveland, OH) on 01.30.16
— Need I say more? Arguably the top “performance” of the decade for me, even though it’s a film.
*Honorable Mention: Der fliegende Holländer at Bayern Staatsoper (Munich, Germany) on 07.22.16
— This was my second time seeing this engaging production by Peter Konwitschny in Munich. Even though the end was changed at the last minute due to exigent circumstances (the onstage explosion was pulled due to the chaos ensuing from that evening’s nearby shooting), I got much more out of the production than the first time through. Dr. Mark Berry wrote a lovely review here. (After the opera, my students and I spent the night camped out at the Staatsoper due to the “shelter in place” order from the US, most of them eventually sleeping. It was an unforgettable evening for many reasons.)
2017: Die Walküre at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Chicago, IL) on 11.14.17
*Honorable Mention: Götterdämmerung at Canadian Opera Company (Toronto, Ontario) on 02.05.17
— My first time seeing Christine Goerke at Brünnhilde. Her commanding performance quite whetted my appetite for her debut in Chicago’s Ring cycle later that year.
2018: Radiohead at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 07.20.18 | Middle Kids at Mohawk Place (Buffalo, NY) on 06.07.18 | Elton John at Scotiabank Centre (Toronto, Ontario) on 09.25.18
— 2018 is a difficult one due to lots of great shows. My gut reaction is that Radiohead’s concert was the best one I saw that year. Simply amazing; even better than the previous time I saw the band. However, I can’t leave Middle Kids off the list. Middle Kids is easily my favorite new band of the last several years. The Australian band has yet to really break big here in the US, but fortunately for me the group played Mohawk Place in downtown Buffalo, an intimate, long-running rock club that holds a couple hundred people at most. Being front row for that was a special experience. (One of my great regrets of the last several years regarding this blog is that I haven’t written about Middle Kids. Hopefully that’ll change at some point.) And of course Elton. This was arguably one of the two best shows I’ve seen of his. Hercules and the whole band were on fire all night.
2019: Redoubt at Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT) on 03.02.19| Tool at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 11.12.19
— Attending the premiere of Redoubt (both the film and exhibit), along with attending an artist talk and getting to briefly meet Matthew Barney, was quite an experience. And then, months later, I learned that my boys are back. Great bookends to the year.
*Honorable Mention: Bon Iver at Scotiabank Arena (Toronto, Ontario) on 10.06.19