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Presentation Thursday night on the Jazz Giants of Michigan, 1920s - 1960s

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GVSU History Professor Craig Benjamin will speak about the Jazz Giants of Michigan, 1920s - 1960s

GVSU History Professor Craig Benjamin will speak about the Jazz Giants of Michigan, 1920s - 1960s

By Sharon Hanks - The Grand Rapids Historical Society

Get ready for a night of toe tappin' and head bobbin'. Jazz lovers can enjoy a fabulous evening of great recorded jazz music and images from the past, especially those from Detroit clubs, when a Grand Valley State University history professor presents "Another Kind of World: Jazz Giants of Michigan, 1920s - 1960s" Thursday night in downtown Grand Rapids. 

Craig Benjamin, GVSU associate professor of history and president elect of the West Michigan Jazz Society, will explore how the jazz scene in Michigan, particularly the city of Detroit, played an extraordinary impact on the evolution of modern jazz.

His presentation will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 303 Pearl St. NW. It is free to the public; parking is free, too.

Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Historical Society and the Ford Museum, Professor Benjamin's presentation will examine the critical role Michigan-born musicians and Detroit clubs played in creating and reinforcing the hard-bop sound that dominated jazz in the 1950s and 1960s.

Using text, images and recorded music, Professor Benjamin will help bring a different era alive by sharing his love for jazz with a look back at the lives and careers of some of the finest jazz artists in the past three generations that were either born or raised in Michigan.

Among them are guitarist Kenny Burrell, drummers Roy Brooks, Louis Hayes and Elvin Jones, bassist Ron Carter, Major Holley and Doug Watkins, pianists Tommy Flanagan, Roland Hanna, Barry Harris, Hank Jones and Alice Coltrane, and vocalists Betty Carter and Diane Reeves. 

Joining this impressive list of jazz giants are the great vibraphonist Milt Jackson and a host of brilliant woodwind and brass players like Kenny Garrett, Curtis Fuller, Yusef Lateef, Julius Watkins, Frank Rosolino and Thad Jones.

Professor Benjamin has been a professional musician and jazz educator for 25 years in Australia before moving into his academic career. He'll conclude his fascinating program with his observations of the jazz scene in Grand Rapids and the remarkable history of the West Michigan Jazz Society.



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