Jazz Festival over Labor Day was a Resounding Success
Written by Julian Konwinski   
Tuesday, 02 October 2012

The Detroit International Jazz Festival over Labor Day was a resounding success both artistically and commercially.  Anyone associated with the four day extravaganza can walk tall and smile wide.  They deserve every accolade given for presenting one hell of a festival.  Three groups deserve special mention.


Chrysler Town & Country Van - Photo by Julian Konwinski

First, there would be no festival if not for Gretchen Valade and her Carhart Foundation.  Her profound love of jazz and complete support of artistic endeavor make her  the largest festival underwriter.  Her backing kept the annual event happening through the recent dark lean years.  Now, along with other corporate and individual support, the festival has blossomed into the “finest” jazz festival in the world.


Second, there is a virtual army of helpful friendly volunteers doing every job imaginable to facilitate this enormous undertaking.  Despite hot sticky weather they sported smiles and remained cool answering questions and guiding the eager audience to their destination.  They helped set the tone for the weekend which was loaded with smiles, sharing, and sincere appreciation of America’s most important gift to world culture, “JAZZ”.


Third, and no less important, corporate sponsorship of the festival.  It takes big bucks to run an event of this magnitude.  There are many important corporations who step up.  You can see their names on stages and splashed about on banners around the venue.  This year one in particular stands out, CHRYSLER CORPORATION.  When Fiat purchased a controlling interest in the Auburn Hills based manufacturer, many predicted it’s demise.  The doom days of bankruptcy and bailout have melted into sunny days of exciting product redesign and company rebirth.  The size of their underwriting allowed Chrysler to bring various new models in for consumer test rides.  On the day I chose a test ride they had slick new 200’s, 300’s, and the deluxe version of their mini van, the Town and Country.  Chrysler introduced the mini van to the auto market many years ago only to be copied by several followers.  Some industry analysts felt they had been surpassed over the years by newer brands.  This latest Town and Country offering clobbers the competition on many levels.  Removable rear seats, hidden storage compartments, dual CD and DVD capacity, specific vehicle designed sound systems, beautiful heated and cooled leather seats, even a heated leather steering wheel and GPS are among the creature comforts featured in the deluxe model.  It’s smooth, aerodynamic, and incredibly quiet, yet delivers a peppy plush ride.  People have noticed and sales are surging.  Chrysler has plans to release more new models this fall and add technological innovations on many current products.  More importantly for the festival, Chrysler is committed for years to come.  Detroit and Chrysler are on the rebound and it’s tremendous to be part of the rejuvenation.


Finally, the talent level at the festival is simply the best anywhere.  Every single performer made sure to thank the festival management and the audience for allowing them to perform at what they called “the best jazz festival in the world”.  They were thrilled with the lineup, the atmosphere, and amazed it was all “FREE”.  Imagine Sonny Rollins, Terrance Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Methany, Joe Lovano, Chic Corea, Gary Burton, Wayne Shorter, Kevin Ewbanks, and many many more all who felt honored to be part of the celebration.  Get it on your calendar next year for all four days of the Labor Day holiday.  It’s guaranteed to be another amazing celebration of America’s best

musical heritage, “JAZZ”.
Think Tank Photo: Sling Test Drive Program
Written by Brian Erwin   
Thursday, 19 July 2012

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have just announced that they are launching one of their popular Test Drive programs.  This one is for their revolutionary Sling-O-Matic sling bags.



With Think Tank Photo’s Sling-O-Matic ™ line-up of bags you have the photo industry's first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic's adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap "automatically" slides along a set of rails to change which shoulder the bag can be worn on.


You can try a Sling-O-Matic for free for 30 days!  If you don't want to keep it, ship it back to Think Tank, no problem.  If it meets your needs, on the 30th day your credit card will be charged.  (Offer limited to U.S. addresses.)   Check out the product video.


This innovation is the solution to the problem inherent with sling bags: they are designed to be to worn over one shoulder only. With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers.


The Sling-O-Matic series offers three unique bags to choose from, depending on the photo gear you carry. The Sling-O-Matic 10 can carry a DSLR and three to four lenses, including a 70-200 f2.8. The Sling-O-Matic 20 and Sling-O-Matic 30 can each carry a DSLR and four to six lenses, including a 70-200 f2.8. The Sling-O-Matic 30 also features a separate laptop compartment for carrying a 15.4" laptop


Key Features:

·         Industry's first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder.

·         Each bag fits a DSLR with up to a 70-200 f2.8 lens with lens hood in position.

·         All bags are flexible to fit pro size DSLRs with a lens attached.

·         Discreetly stylized to avoid obviously appearing like a camera bag.

·         Long side pocket for carrying a tripod, large water bottle, or other accessories.

·          Large handles on three sides.

·         Wide zippered pockets on front, back, and side.

·         Business card pocket for identification.

·         Removable/adjustable straps and waist belt for additional stability.

·         Small storage pocket for storing removable straps.

·         Fully padded compartments for protection.

·         Seam-sealed rain cover included.

Everybody's Talking about the Tedeschi Trucks Band
Written by Julian Konwinski   
Thursday, 19 July 2012

There was a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation bouncing around Ann Arbor Friday afternoon.  The cell phones were buzzing with plans.  It was after all Friday the 13th, another weekend of heat and humidity promised, and yes, the arrival of “The Tedeschi Trucks Band ” at Hill Auditorium.  How appropriate it 


was for them to open their show with a steaming cover of the Harry Niilson hit “Everybody’s Talkin”.


“TTB” is a unique musical power pack.  They feature 2 drummers, 2 backing vocalists, 3 horns, bass and keyboards, all fronted by the amazing vocals and guitar work of Susan Tedeschi and her husband, the almighty Derek Trucks.  This band at full throttle is a musical hurricane capable of shaking the heavens.  The band is “blues” based but that’s only a piece of their melodic pie.  They gave us funk, R & B, rock and roll, gospel, jazz fusion, and world music.  Every member was featured during the show with good reason.  Those who thought Susan would let Derek’s guitar steal her thunder were treated to a blistering guitar solo of her own that earned her a rousing standing ovation.  She must also possess titanium vocal chords. She has always been a fine vocalist but to see and hear her singing live with such range, power, and clarity is outrageous.


Then there is Derek Trucks and his guitar.  It’s tough to accurately describe something so singularly rare and musically monstrous.  It was so refreshing to not see a guitar tech racing in and out after every song to exchange guitars or to see a suitcase full of effects switches being stepped on all night.  He used only two guitars and no switches, and the sounds he plucked from those strings were mesmerizing.  Just watch those incredible hands as he plays direct from and to the cosmos.


If you don’t have their Grammy winning CD “Revelator” or their latest double CD “Live”, treat yourself.  Music from both were featured Friday night.  It was massively good.  With this effort they surely will be “Bound For Glory”.



Think Tank Photo to Release Three Travel-Specific Backpacks
Written by Brian Erwin   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012

Think Tank Photo  announced today that in May it will release the Airport™ series, a new line of travel-specific, high-capacity camera backpacks designed with maneuvering through airports quickly in mind. The three backpacks – the Airport Accelerator, Airport Commuter, and Airport Essentials --  integrate quick access pockets for both laptops and iPad, a top pocket for boarding passes, and 

Airport Essentials - Think Tank Camera Bags

three robust handles to ensure easy placement and retrieval from overhead bins.


The Airport™ series makes life easier for the traveling photographer. All meet international carry on size requirements.  The two smaller bags, the Airport Commuter and the Airport Essentials, are designed to fit under-seat in regional commuter planes.


Their light, adjustable, contoured harness provides comfort along with lumbar support.  The air mesh paneling keeps backs cool. The height-adjustable sternum strap allows for the perfect fit.  A removable waist belt, side water bottle pocket, tripod/ monopod mounting system and seam sealed rain cover extend their versatility.


Adding even more functionality, these backpacks can be used with Think Tank’s Pro Speed Belts for additional support and capacity by adding component pouches and cases from the company’s Modular Rotation Component System.


For photographers who travel by air, these bags deliver on the three “C’s”:  Carry-on size, Comfort, Capacity,” said Doug Murdoch, Think Tank’s co-founder and lead designer.  “Their design, build quality and functionality are second to none.


The three sizes allow photographers to select the best fit for their needs.  Click here  to get a better look at the bags and what they'll hold

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 May 2012 )
Bela Fleck and The Flecktones at The Michigan Theater
Written by Julian Konwinski   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012

A near capacity crowd at The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor were treated to one of the finest musical journeys ever performed there.  The providers for the incredible sonic ride were “Bela Fleck and The Flecktones ”.


The show was billed as a banjo quartet featuring the peerless virtuoso Bela Fleck.  Those new to Fleck will delight in knowing he hails from that bastion for banjo, New York City.  The music ranged from traditional to 20’s and 30’s ragtime, to jazz, blues, funk, electronic new age, and beautifully perceptive 

The Bela Fleck Band - Photo by Julian Konwinski

futuristic grooves that were enticing and energetic.  At times I felt as if we were musical ions darting about a sonic oscilloscope ricocheting off clever chord inversions, lush harmonic tapestrys, and ever changing rhythms and time signatures.  The past, present, and future all merged into a single vortex they seamlessly traversed.


“The Flecktones” are an amazing collection of session stalwarts.  On bass, Victor Wooten is the beast of the bottom.  His lush phat tones and tempos are a blessing to behold.  He has more rhythms than Carter has liver pills.  His partner in time keeping is his uncle, Roy Wooten, known as “Future Man”.  He plays drums and percussion sometimes, but mostly plays his own invention, the “drumitar”.  It resembles a cross between a guitar and a short hockey stick with keypads all over the place and a large electric plug in.  It’s completely unique and you have to see it to believe it.  And yes, it fits the group perfectly.The last member of this gifted group is Howard Levy.  He’s a piano powerhouse and a harp player from hell!  His piano playinf is so astonishing that I could have sworn Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock had taken over the bench.  His harp work defies description as he somehow simultaneously played three parts in the most scorching rendition of “Amazing Grace” ever done.  He deserved and got a standing ovation.  This band was explosively hot and they completely cooked their appreciative audience.


At the end of the regular show Victor Wooten announced that they had recently gotten a call regarding the passing of the old banjo master, Earl Scruggs.  Bela Fleck grabbed a chair and an acoustic banjo and came to the front of the stage to a single microphone.  He proceeded to play his interpretation of a medley of hits from Scruggs.  It was beautifully tender and loaded with dignity and reverence befitting the old master.  It also left no doubt who the new “master” is.


Bela Fleck - Photo by Julian Konwinski 



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