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Local jazz musicians are playing for a good cause at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor District Library

A number of Ann Arbor's top jazz musicians are playing Friday night, October 22nd at The Blue LLama Jazz Club to raise funds and awareness for the National Kidney Foundation. Among those performing is club owner Don Hicks, who talks to WEMU's Lisa Barry about who and what to expect.


Lisa Barry: There's no question that music can move you for many different reasons. This is Lisa Barry, and there's a performance coming up at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor that not only will feature club owner Don Hicks, but is also for a really good cause, the National Kidney Foundation. And joining us now in 89-1 WEMU to talk about that is Don Hicks himself. Thanks for talking to us, Don. 

Don Hicks: Hi, Lisa. Thanks for having me. 

Lisa Barry: You're calling it "Don Hicks and Friends: Remembering Kenny Dorham." Tell us about that. 

Credit Francis Wolff / Mosaic Images
Mosaic Images
Kenny Dorham


Don Hicks: Well, my name is only in there because you have to say somebody who's playing. But the friends part is we have some of the most amazing Michigan musicians playing with me. And it really is kind of a group of friends to get together, and we're doing a concert called Remembering Kenny. And it's kind of got two things going on here, Lisa. First of all, Kenny Dorham is a monster of jazz. One of my personal favorite musicians of all time. Such a musical man. Such an incredible legend, a great performer, a great composer. And yet, so many people haven't really heard of him. He's sometimes described as, like, the underrated trumpet player. But the people who knew him, like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, they didn't think he was underrated. They thought he was up here and someone they looked up to and someone they learned from. The other part of this is that he passed away at a very untimely early age of 48, due to complications from chronic kidney disease. And kidney disease is something that affects 34 million people in the United States right now. It's underrated and underappreciated as a killer, and we thought, "Why don't we bring this together? And instead of paying some money that have to hear me play, how about you come on over, appreciate Kenny Dorham and his music, and we're going to take all of the musical charges and any fees and any donations, we're going to send them straight over to the Kidney Foundation." And furthermore, my family foundation's going to match any donations that show up in any music charges. Or whatever money we raise, we're going to double it, and we're going to send it all over there and make an impact. You get to listen to great music, appreciate this legend, and perhaps unknown legend for you. And at the same time, we're all going to raise some money for a really, really important disease that we need to address. 

Lisa Barry: Tell us, Don Hicks, about yourself as a musician. 

Don Hicks: I actually didn't just start doing this when I was growing up here in southeast Michigan. I was a trumpet player, and I used to hang out at Interlochen, and I started playing classical, and then I caught the jazz bug thanks to my friends up in Interlochen. And I got away from it for 20 years or so, and I had to go make a living, doing a bunch of other stuff. But I've always, always felt like a musician at heart. And with the return to the Blue LLama, it's been really kind of inspiring me to get back into the craft. And, you know, I'm so, so fortunate because there are so many great musicians that come through the Blue LLama every night. I get to meet these guys. And every now and then, they let me go play on stage with them. So, there's going to be some vocal tunes. There's going to be some super up-tempo Latin tunes. There's going to be some straight ahead swing--a little something for everybody. And I just love being a part of it and being on the ride. 

Lisa Barry: Let's do some name dropping. When you talk about Don Hicks and Friends playing, I'm seeing names like your artistic director Dave Sharp, Jesse Kramer on drums, Adam Mosley on piano. Who else is joining you? 

Don Hicks: Yeah, we've actually got an excellent group--a full horn section. It's going to be a wall of sound. We're going to be joined by the great Matt Martinez on trombone, Bobby Streng on tenor sax, and I'll be trying to do my best to keep in there and hang with everybody on trumpet. And I am told that we're going to have the great and mysterious Owl on congas joining us for the Latin side. So, it's going to get crazy. We're going to have--we'll have six, seven people for that, and there may be even a few special guests that show up just to shake some maracas. There could be dancing by the time we're done with this. It's going to get crazy. 

Lisa Barry: All this happening Friday night at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor, all for a good cause. And I know we're in and out of the pandemic, and people are still kind of concerned. What can you do to rest their minds that everything will be OK to be inside the club? 

Don Hicks: All of our staff has been vaccinated or naturally vaccinated. Our staff also masks up anyways. We are following every regulation, all the policies. We do have some great ventilation, by the way, as we made the club to afford that. We have had zero incidents. The state of Michigan has actually held us up as one of the exemplars of how we handle ourselves during COVID. Rest assured, we're going to be taking good care of you in every way. 

Lisa Barry: Don Hicks and Friends performing a night of music to raise fundsand awareness for the National Kidney Foundation. Where can we get tickets? 

Don Hicks: There are no prepaid tickets. You can book a table. You can just walk on in if there's seats available. You can get up. I recommend you hit up open table. You can head to our website, www dot blue llama club dot com, and we'll take you straight over there, so you can book a table. They may sell out, but, sometimes, we have openings that show up. We also have openings at the bar. So, come on out--Friday seven p.m. the show starts. Remember, we've got, I think, the best restaurant in town. I love our restaurants in Ann Arbor, but I think we may got them. So, come on out, come hungry, come thirsty, and come be prepared to learn. And, also, be loving on some great music and the art of Kenny Dorham. 

Credit Francis Wolff / Mosaic Images
Mosaic Images
Kenny Dorham


Lisa Barry: Don Hicks, owner and musician at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor. Thanks for talking to us here on 89-1 WEMU.

Don Hicks: Lisa, thanks so much. We'll see you soon.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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