Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bandmate recalls Rick Stel as 'a source of inspiration'; memorial service set

Rick Stel (Photo by Wolfgang Spider)
Bassist Jef Reynolds has been friends with singer-guitarist Rick (Stel) Salansky for 30 years or so, starting when they were part of a network of friends from Utica, Mich. that were in their 20s and “all about the music.”
Stel’s death from cancer at age 60 on Tuesday prompted lots of calls and messages to Reynolds, who played with Stel for years in the Rick Stel Project band.
“(The list) is a mile long, you hear from everybody,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “You know how it is when you’re longtime buddies and friends. When you hear about it, you say ‘damn!’ There have been long discussions and lots of reflection. Rick and I have gotten really close the last 7 or 8 years.”
Reynolds and his Rick Stel Project bandmates – keyboardist Mark LoDuca and drummer Dave Marcaccio – expect to be involved in a memorial tribute to Stel at a yet to be specified date.
“Rick’s son Eric (Salansky) said he would like for us to be involved when we do a tribute,” Reynolds said.   “Everybody in our network is in the same generation and we all have the same friends. A lot of us are in the Detroit Blues Society.
“We’’ll try to find the most common thread, maybe at a Detroit Blues Society function, or maybe at Callahan’s (Music Hall) where Rick played with us, with Jim McCarty’s Mystery Train, or sometimes with The Millionaires (swing band).”
Reynolds is working on completing production of a video of the Rick Stel Project performing at a festival last fall.
“Rick did a lot of music in town, but there’s not too much of this type of high quality documentation,” Reynolds said. “It looks pretty nice, he’s happy and he’s playing really good guitar.”
Reynolds described Stel as “a fun man to work with.”
“As far as his music, he was really a source of inspiration to all of us,” Reynolds said. “A lot of the music he wrote was based upon his life experiences. He was divorced, but he would write about it in a humorous way. He wrote songs called ‘My Wife Don’t Cook’ and ‘Chasin’ Women Blues.’ There was some remorse, but he would make fun of himself and write tongue in cheek. That endeared him to all of us who played with him.”
Reynolds, a retired engineer from Chrysler, had another bond with Stel, who was still working as a design engineer for GM. Marcaccio is a car guy too.
“I would characterize him as a roll up your sleeves type of guy, a blue collar guy,” Reynolds said. “He was pragmatic and hardworking. A lot of us came from the same culture from cars.
“We’re all buddies from that different side of life. We do the car thing during the day and come out at night and play the blues.”
According to Reynolds, Stel was the type of person everyone could relate to.
“He was kind of a Walt Whitman type, a plain spoken and poetic person.”

TRIBUTES TO RICK STEL BY FELLOW MUSICIANS
Rick’s Stel’s passing prompted lots of comments on social media, many from the top musicians in Detroit, a tribute to his talent. Here are a few excerpts.
“You were a true blues man who will be missed by many. Thank you for all the great years of music!” – Dylan McCarty
“Rick Stel was as kind as he was talented - a truly sweet soul and I am proud to call Rick my friend.” – Bobby Murray 
“I didn’t know him well, but every time you saw him he put a smile on your face. And that my friends is the greatest legacy perhaps we can hope for.” – Carl Henry
“A strong & swinging blues guitarist, a fine singer, he was also a talented blues piano man. ... He was a damn good person beyond his musical abilities. A major loss in our community.” – RJ Spangler
“He was a hell of musician and a fine, soulful singer who was a VERY important part of our music scene here, for many years." – Erich Goebel
"Rick was an excellent guitar player and a multi-talented musician. He was a class act and had ZERO ego. He will surely be missed."  Steve Allen

To see a previous blog post with comments from Jim McCarty about Rick Stel, click here.

MEMORIAL SERVICE
A memorial gathering for Rick (Stel) Salansky will be from 4-9 p.m. Friday, April 11 at Lee-Ellena Funeral Home, 46530 Romeo Plank, Macomb Township. A service is planned at 7:30 p.m. For information, click lee-ellenafuneralhome.com



To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailyrtribune.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Detroit blues world mourns passing of Rick Stel

Jim McCarty, center, with Rick Stel,  2nd from right.
Guitarist Jim McCarty has had many musical cohorts over his legendary career, but none of his collaborations lasted longer than his partnership with singer-guitarist Rick Stel, who passed away this morning at age 60 from cancer.
“What makes it heartbreaking is that he was a guy who never abused himself,” McCarty said. “He never used drugs or alcohol. I don’t think he even smoked. It makes you wonder why?”
McCarty and Stel first played together in the Detroit Blues Band when Stel took over for bassist Billy Landless. Their musical collaboration took a big step forward when McCarty formed his group Mystery Train.
“Memphis Smoke wanted me to put together a band as the house band,” McCarty recalled.
Stel moved over to his main instrument, guitar, and was the main singer in the band. The two guitarists instantly clicked, according to McCarty.
“He was terrific. We always had that understanding. It either fits or it don’t. It has to be there. I’m not sure it’s something you can work on. We had it right out of the gate.
“Rick came from the jazzy blues and I was doing more of the blues rock thing, but I listen to jazz at home more than anything else, so we had a deep bond with that.
“Over the years, things would get fine tuned and it just became second nature. I knew what he was going to do before he did it.”
McCarty described Stel as a “good guy, a straight ahead guy.”
“You could always count on him. He was always on time and always did the job.”
The interplay between Stel and McCarty was featured on the 2013 recording “Jim McCarty & Mystery Train Live.”
“I’m really glad that CD is there,” McCarty said.
“Twenty years is the longest I’ve played with anybody, even (drummer Johnny ”Bee”)  Badanjek. That’s a lot of notes. It’s a real drag.”

To see a blog post with comments by Jef Reynolds of the Rick Stel Project, click here.

To contact JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dream session becomes 'Real' for Laith Al-Saadi

Laith Al-Saadi records at Ocean Way Studio. (Photo by Barry Holmes)
Every musician has envisioned a dream session, where he jams with his all-time favorites.
For blues musician Laith Al-Saadi, his dream became a reality when he recorded his new EP “Real” in Los Angeles.
Producer Jeffrey Weber saw the Ann Arbor native performing at an L.A. club and was impressed by Al-Saadi’s songwriting and performing talent.
“He said he wanted to do a record with me,” said Al-Saadi, who performs Friday at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. “I got done with the gig at 2 a.m. and had to leave at 5 a.m. to fly back to Michigan. When I got back that morning, I already had an email and two phone messages from him, so I knew he was serious.”
Weber suggested recording the session live to two track and Al-Saadi loved the plan.
“I was excited by that idea and totally up for it. There’s not enough music recorded without a net these days. I asked him ‘who can I ask to be on the record?’ and he said to ask whoever I wanted, and that the worst they can say is no.”
Al-Saadi ended up with a backup band of legendary session musicians.
Bassist Lee Sklar has performed on over 2,000 recordings, and has worked with James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, Hall & Oates, and Linda Ronstadt.
Drummer Jim Keltner has worked with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and the Traveling Wilburys. He played on Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” and George Harrison’s “The Concert for Bangladesh.”
Organist Larry Goldings has worked with many jazz artists and pop musicians including Tracy Chapman, Walter Becker, Leon Russell, John Mayer and Norah Jones.
The horn section included jazz saxophonist Tom Scott, who has recorded with such diverse artists as George Harrison, The Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Whitney Houston, and Frank Sinatra.
Baritone saxophonist Brandon Fields, trombonist Nick Lane, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg also have impressive credentials.
“I didn’t go to the Paul McCartney level, but I picked the studio cats whose records I love, and everyone said yes,” Al-Saadi said.
Al-Saadi’s parents did not listen to rock ‘n’ roll music in their home. His mother preferred classical and spiritual music and his father, who is Iraqi, listened to Arabic music. Laith was exposed to classic rock ‘n’ roll by two older sisters.
“I started listening more when I started playing guitar and discovering music on my own,” he said. “I learned more about the individual performers, and these guys played on so many records I loved.”
Knowing he only had one day to work with these great artists in famous Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood put pressure on the 36-year-old singer-guitarist.
“It was really exciting and scary at the same time,” Al-Saadi said. “Knowing these guys so well, I was not worried about their ability to get it, but it was still intimidating because they had never heard my music before.”
According to Al-Saadi, the first take was the initial time the musicians heard the song. Most cuts were finalized between 2-6 takes, he said. There was no mixing, editing or overdubbing.
“It was a really fun, interesting experience and the guys had a blast. They don’t get to record like that often enough.
“In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it was normal to cut a song several times in order to get a good take. The improvisational nature of blues and jazz was an influence on the record as well. I really wanted to capture the music of the moment and the right treatment captured the right vibes for the tunes.”
Weber was impressed.
“Laith is the real deal,” Weber said in a release. “He has jaw-dropping technique and an evocative vocal character that captures the unbridled passion of his lyrics. He made a believer out of every one of us.”
The session was scheduled for four songs, but the group ended up knocking out six — five originals and a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia,” as a tribute to the late Levon Helm.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of The Band,” Al-Saadi said. “Levon Helm passed away in 2012. I wanted to dedicate the album to his memory and the song ‘Ophelia’ is a fitting tribute.”
Jimmy Vivino, best known as the leader of the house band for late night talk show host Conan O’Brien, played resophonic guitar on “Real.”
“Jimmy Vivino was so generous,” Al-Saadi said. “The producer asked him to rearrange his schedule to record one song that I needed resophonic guitar on called ‘Complete Disgrace.’ (Vivino) said, ‘If Laith wants anything else, I’ll do it for free,’ and he ended up playing on the whole record.”
Vivino, who is scheduled to perform with The Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux on Saturday at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, will join Al-Saadi for the concert at the Magic Bag on Friday. Also performing will be bassist David Stearns and drummer Mark Damian.
The Magic Bag show is sure to revive memories of the “dream” recording session for Al-Saadi.
“It was intimidating, but I was in ‘go mode’ all day,” Al-Saadi said. “We had so short a time and I knew the recording was on the line. They were consummate professionals and incredibly nice.
“It was so much fun to make. I love it as a testament to that moment in time.”

LEARNING TO LOVE THE BLUES
Like many musicians, Al-Saadi started playing as a teenager, learning to play guitar so he could accompany himself on tunes by The Beatles.
It only took about 6 months before he started playing the blues.
“It always has appealed to me,” he said. “It’s the visceral and emotional quality of it.
“I always gravitated to Ray Charles and Louie Armstrong and a lot of musicians with a blues influence, before I really got into the blues. It is one of the most expressive musical forms out there in this country and the common denominator for all types of music I like – jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, bluesgrass and most forms of American roots music.”


For more on Laith Al-Saadi, click laithmusic.com.

To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com

Monday, March 10, 2014

Howard Glazer leads Detroit Music Award blues nominations

Howard Glazer  left, with Emmanuel Young
Official nominees for the Detroit Music Awards have been announced, and singer-guitarist Howard Glazer tops the blues artist list with five nominations.
Glazer has been nominated in the Outstanding Blues Artist/Group, Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist, and Outstanding Blues/R&B Songwriter categories. He received a nomination in the Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording category for his recording "Stepchild Of The Blues," and also received a nomination for Outstanding R&B Artist/Group with Detroit blues veteran Emanuel Young.
“I’m honored,” Glazer said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s definitely a lot of competition. There are a lot of good players out there.”
Glazer, who has had several prior DMA nominations, but is still looking for his first win, was most pleased about the nomination he shares in the Outstanding R&B Artist/Group category with Detroit blues veteran Emanuel Young.
“It’s quite an honor for me, and even more so for Emanuel, who turned 75 in November,” Glazer said. “He’s been pretty much under the radar and there are so many people in the city who don’t know who he is.”
Glazer said he first met Young in 1999 when Young was performing with Billy Davis (Hank Ballard and the Midnighters) at the Olympia nightclub on Grand River and McGraw in Detroit.
“He was there every Sunday night for eight years,” Glazer said.  “Another club he played was Cooley’s Lounge on Van Dyke. He was there on Friday and Saturday nights from 1977 until 2005 when it closed.
“He’s played in inner city neighborhoods, but he is someone who definitely deserves to be known (by a wider audience).”
Glazer said that Young played with blues legend John Lee Hooker in 1959-60, but that Young probably considers himself more of a rock ‘n’ roller.
“He doesn’t play that gutbucket, Delta style of blues,” Glazer said. “He plays a fusion of blues and late ‘50s rock ’n’ roll and R&B and puts them all together.
“He’s a really good guitar player with a very melodic style.”
Bobby Murray
Several other artists received multiple DMA nominations.
Guitarist Bobby Murray, best known for his over two decades working with the late Etta James, received nominations as Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist, Outstanding Blues Artist/Group, and Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording for his CD “I'm Sticking With You.”
 “I’m completely surprised – and honored, especially to be among so many wonderful artists, who are so deserving,” said Murray, who won his first DMA last year for Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist.
Paul Miles, who also sings, received nominations in the Acoustic/Folk Instrumentalist, Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist, and Outstanding Blues/R&B Songwriter categories. Miles also garnered a nomination in the Outstanding Urban/Funk/HipHop Recording category for the recording "Save Detroit" by Paul Miles & Friends.
Singer-guitarist Laith Al-Saadi received nominations in the Outstanding Blues Artist/Group, Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist, Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording ("Real") and  Outstanding Blues/R&B Vocalist categories.

DMA nominees include:

Outstanding Blues Artist/Group
Bobby Murray
Howard Glazer
Laith Al-Saadi
Royal Blackbirds
Erich Goebel
Broken Arrow Blues Band

Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist
Howard Glazer - Guitar
Bobby Murray - Guitar
Brett Lucas - Guitar
Laith Al-Saadi - Guitar
Pete Peltier - Guitar
Chuck Bartels -Bass
Philip Hale - Keyboards
Motor City Josh - Guitar
Paul Miles-Guitar

Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording
Bobby Murray "I'm Sticking With You”
Howard Glazer "Stepchild Of The Blues"
Laith Al-Saadi - "Real"
Harper and Motor City Josh "Bare Bones"
The Infatuations "Yesterday Morning"
Laura Rain and the Caesars "Electrified"

Outstanding Blues/R&B Songwriter
Tino Gross
Howard Glazer
Paul Miles
Jim McCarty
Al McKenzie
Laura Rain & George Friend

Outstanding Blues/R&B Vocalist
Thornetta Davis
Barbara Payton
Kathleen Murray
Tosha Owens
Caleb Gutierrez
Laith Al-Saadi

Outstanding R&B Artist/Group
The Infatuations
Mainstreet Soul
Laura Rain and the Caesars
Tosha Owens
The Groove Council
Emanuel Young & Howard Glazer

The Detroit Music Awards will be at the Fillmore Detroit on April 25. For more information, click detroitmusicawards.com


To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com


Friday, February 28, 2014

Alberta Adams tribute honors 'Detroit's Queen of the Blues'

Alberta Adams performs at the Southfield Public Library in 2011. (Photo by Joe Ballor)
The Detroit Pub Music Room’s Sunday Steak & Blues Series kicks off from 7-11 p.m. Sunday, March 2, with “To Alberta With Love,” a tribute to Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, Alberta Adams.
The evening features entertainment by singer Thornetta Davis and her band with special guest singer Tosha Owens, and a special appearance and signing by Alberta Adams, who is 96.
Adams began her career as a dancer in the 1940s, but soon switched to singing, touring with big name musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.
Her solo career enjoyed a resurgence starting in the 1990s with her association with manager/musician RJ Spangler. She recorded two CDs for the now defunct Cannonball Records label and then moved to Detroit-based Eastlawn Records. Her third record with Eastlawn, "Detroit Is My Home" (2008), features collaborations with pianists Mark "Mr. B" Braun, Al Hill and the late Ann Rabson (Saffire). Thornetta Davis also appeared on the CD. Alberta has also recorded for the Chess, Savoy and Thelma (Gordy) labels.
“She is a completely unique, one of a kind artist and, of course, a beautiful person to work with,” said Spangler, who is president of the Detroit Blues Society.
Admission is $10 with proceeds benefiting Alberta’s “quality of life.”
The Detroit Pub is at 33401 Harper Ave. in Clinton Township.

Detroit Blues Society Mardi Gras Party
RJ’s Rhythm Rockers will entertain at the Detroit Blues Society’s Mardi Gras party on Saturday, March 1, at Shelly Kelly’s in Fraser.
“This is our 2nd annual event,” said RJ Spangler, bandleader with the Rhythm Rockers. “It is a smaller version of the event we’ve been doing at Rochester Mills Brewery for 10 years.”
RJ and his band have performed in New Orleans and, in Detroit, have backed up visiting musicians from the Crescent City, including singer Johnny Adams, singer-guitarist Earl King and singer-pianist Eddie Bo.
“We have a great affinity with the music in New Orleans,” Spangler said.
The fun starts at 9 p.m. and there’s no cover charge. 

St. Cecelia at Town Pub
The band St. Cecelia -- guitarist Brett Lucas, bassist James Simonson and drummer Todd Glass -- performs every Saturday at the Town Pump, behind the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
Lucas reports that the gig has a really great vibe, thanks in part to DJ Halfacre, who spins vinyl on the band’s breaks.
“He is a huge vinyl dude that loves great music, old blues, funk and soul,” Lucas said. “He has some really rare stuff, like this Little Richard record I’ve never heard before. It doesn’t even sound like Little Richard. It sounds like Al Green or some funky thing.
“It is really cool and people love it. When we take our breaks, people don’t leave and kind of dig it.”
Music starts at 9 p.m. and there’s no cover.

To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Youth Blues Challenge bands needed; Taj Mahal and Johnny Winter shows upcoming

The Detroit Blues Society is looking for bands to participate in the 2014 Youth Blues Challenge, which will be held Sunday, Aug. 10, at Classic Lanes in Rochester Hills.
Applications will be accepted through June 1. Six bands will be chosen to compete from all qualified applicants. Bands and solo/duo acts are eligible. Original material will be scored higher than covers.
The winning act will move on to the International Blues Challenge Youth Showcase in Memphis in Jan. 2015.
All musicians must be under the age of 21 at time of the Youth Showcase in Memphis in January 2015.
For information, click detroitbluessociety.org, or call Cherie at 248-894-5338.

Upcoming shows
Two blues greats will be performing in the Detroit area in March.
Blues and roots artist Taj Mahal and his trio will be at the Magic Bag in Ferndale on Saturday, March 1.
Taj Mahal
Mahal has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning two for “Senor Blues” (1997) and “Shoutin’ in Key” (2000).
His music features many influences, including blues, Caribbean, West African  and even Hawaiian music.
Tickets are $58. For information, call 248-544-3030 or click themagicbag.com.
Guitarist Johnny Winter brings his “Down and Dirty – LIVE” tour to Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills on Sunday, March 16.
The concert will celebrate the release of Winter’s "Down& Dirty" movie and career-spanning box set “True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story.” 
Winter celebrated his 70th birthday on Feb. 23 with a show at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York.
Advance tickets start at $50.
Callahan’s hosts shows with Joe Louis Walker (Feb. 27) and Commander Cody (Feb. 28) this week. Due to health issues, Jeremy Spencer’s show scheduled for March 1 has been canceled.
Another upcoming show at Callahan’s that is sure to be joyous is Jim McCarty & Friends featuring James Montgomery on Saturday, March 8.
Guitarist Jim McCarty’s resume includes stints with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Rockets, Cactus, the Detroit Blues Band, and his current group Mystery Train. He is a winner of the Detroit Blues Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Boston-based harmonica great James Montgomery has jammed with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells and many others, in addition to fronting his James Montgomery Band for over 30 years.
For ticket information, go to atcallahans.com.

To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com







Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pazman recalls Motor City Blues Project as 'magic time'

When Mark Pasman thinks back on his 26-plus year run as host of the Motor City Blues Project radio show on WCSX-FM (94.7), his thoughts go immediately to when he hosted live remote broadcasts from the now defunct Memphis Smoke nightclub in Royal Oak.
Mark "Pazman" Pasman
“The best musicians in Detroit were in the house band,” said Pasman, who’s more commonly recognized as “Pazman.”  I would have guest artists, and conduct interviews while jamming on my guitar.  And it was all live on the radio. Nobody does that anymore.
“It was magic time.”
Pasman’s long run at WCSX ended last week when the Greater Media station “decided to go in a different direction on the weekends,” according to a statement. His 7 p.m.-midnight shift Sunday will be filled by Pam Rossi (host of the Sunday morning “Over Easy” show).
Pasman thoroughly enjoyed his lengthy run on the air on Sunday evenings and is thankful  for the opportunity provided by Greater Media.
“I got to talk with with B.B. King, Taj Mahal, John Mayall and Tommy Castro, the blues stars of yesterday and today. I got to jam with some of my heroes, Kim Simmonds, Jimmy McCarty, etc.
“It’s been a great, long run and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to do it, but it’s their baby. They are in charge of what goes on the air. I’m not in their plans anymore and that’s OK.”
Pasman is disappointed that the Motor City Blues Project will no longer be a part of the Detroit music scene, providing fans with information and local blues artists an opportunity to showcase their music.
But, he really only has one regret.
“I would have loved to have had a chance to say goodbye properly. That last show would have been off the hook.  I would have talked to B.B. King on the telephone and had the Howling Diablos and Mitch Ryder in the studio.
“It would have been a good ratings booster, I assume, that Sunday night. … I would have loved to have had one final show to do it properly.”
Pasman, who is well known as a guitarist with his Pazman’s Supersession band, held many jobs at WRIF and then WCSX, including morning show producer and program director.
His Motor City Blues Project came to fruition a year or so after he started at WCSX.
“They wanted me to do a show that concentrated on the roots of classic rock: jazz, folk and blues. I told them that, even with three hours, that was a pretty wide swath and that my love and expertise was more in the blues realm.
“It took awhile to develop ‘anything blue will do.’ That was not only our slogan but my mantra. Anything that came from the blues was in our ballpark and important.”
Pasman has received lots of support from friends, fans and musicians as he and his wife Karen take a little time to mull over future possibilities.
“I have been really kind of astounded at the reactions I’ve gotten in the community and in the business,” said Pasman, a Southfield resident who grew up in Oak Park and graduated from Berkley High School. “My phone’s been ringing pretty good. I’ve gotten lots of beautiful phone calls. So it’s both a sad and happy time.

“The love I’ve gotten the last few days has just been remarkable,” he continued, choking back tears.  “It confirms that my Mom and Dad raised me right, that I have conducted myself in a professional manner, and that I’ve been good to people. l tried to do the very best I could at all the stations I’ve worked at.”

To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com