A number of Ann Arbor’s top jazz musicians perform Friday night October 22 at the Blue LLama Jazz Club to raise funds and raise awareness for the National Kidney Foundation. Among those performing is club owner Don Hicks, who talks to Lisa Barry from WEMU about who and what to expect.
Lisa Barry: There is no doubt that music can move you for many different reasons. This is Lisa Barry, and there’s an upcoming show at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor that will not only feature club owner Don Hicks, but is also for a really great cause, the National Kidney Foundation. And Don Hicks himself is joining us now at 89-1 WEMU in talking about it. Thanks for talking to us, Don.
Don Hicks: Hi Lisa. Thank you for.
Lisa Barry: You call him “Don Hicks and Friends: Remembering Kenny Dorham.” Tell us about it.
Don Hicks: Well my name is only there because you have to say someone playing. But the friends part is we have some of the most amazing musicians in Michigan playing with me. And it’s really kind of a bunch of friends to get together, and we do a concert called Remembering Kenny. And sort of two things are going on here, Lisa. First of all, Kenny Dorham is a jazz freak. One of my favorite musicians of all time. Such a musical man. An incredible legend, a great performer, a great composer. And yet, so many people haven’t really heard of him. He is sometimes described as the underrated trumpeter. But people who knew him, like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, didn’t think he was underrated. They thought he was here and someone they admired and someone they learned from. The other part of this is that he died at a very early age of 48, due to complications from chronic kidney disease. And kidney disease is something affecting 34 million people in the United States right now. It’s underrated and underrated as a killer, and we thought, “Why don’t you put this together? And instead of paying money to hear me play, why not come and enjoy Kenny Dorham? and his music, and we’re going to take all the music fees and all the fees and all the donations, we’re going to send them right to the Kidney Foundation. ” And on top of that, my family foundation will match all the donations that appear in music fees. Or whatever money we raise, we’re going to double it, and we’re going to send it everywhere and make an impact. You can listen to great music, enjoy this legend and maybe a legend unknown to you. And at the same time, we’re all going to be fundraising for a really, really important disease that we need to fight.
Lisa Barry: Tell us, Don Hicks, about yourself as a musician.
Don Hicks: I actually didn’t start doing this when I was growing up here in Southeast Michigan. I was a trumpeter, I hung out at Interlochen and started playing classical, then I caught the jazz bug thanks to my friends in Interlochen. And I got away from it for twenty years, and I had to make a living doing a lot of other stuff. But I always, always felt like a musician at heart. And with the return to Blue LLama, it really inspired me to get back to work. And, you know, I’m so, so lucky because there are so many great musicians that come by the Blue LLama every night. I meet these guys. And every now and then, they let me go on stage with them. So there are going to be some vocal tunes. There are going to be some super up-tempo Latin tunes. There is going to be a direct swing, a little something for everyone. And I just like being a part of it and being on the ride.
Lisa Barry: Let’s do some name. When you talk about playing Don Hicks and Friends, I see names like your art director Dave Sharp, Jesse Kramer on drums, Adam Mosley on piano. Who else is joining you?
Don Hicks: Yes, we actually have a great band – a full brass section. It will be a wall of sound. We’re going to be joined by the great Matt Martinez on trombone, Bobby Streng on tenor saxophone, and I’ll try my best to stay there and hang out with everyone on the trumpet. And I am told that we are going to have the big and mysterious Owl in congas who will join us for the Latin side. So it’s going to get crazy. We’ll have – we’ll have six, seven people for it, and there might even be some special guests that show up just to shake some maracas. There might be some dancing by the time we’re done with this. It’s going to get crazy.
Lisa Barry: It’s all 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 a little worried. What can you do to assure them that everything will be fine to be inside the club?
Don Hicks: All our staff have been vaccinated or naturally vaccinated. Our staff are also masquerading anyway. We follow all the regulations, all the policies. By the way, we have great ventilation because we made sure the club allows itself. We had no incidents. The state of Michigan has actually presented us as one of the examples of how we deal with during COVID. Rest assured, we will take good care of you in every way.
Lisa Barry: Don Hicks and his friends performing an evening of music to raise funds and raise awareness for the National Kidney Foundation. Where can we get tickets?
Don Hicks: There are no prepaid tickets. You can reserve a table. You can just enter if there are places available. You can get up. I recommend that you strike at the open table. You can go to our website, www dot blue llama club dot com, and we will take you there directly so you can reserve a table. They can sell, but sometimes we have openings that arise. We also have openings at the bar. So come outside – Friday 7 p.m. the show begins. Remember, we have, I think, the best restaurant in town. I love our restaurants in Ann Arbor, but I think maybe we have them. So go out, come hungry, come thirsty, and get ready to learn. And also, love good music and the art of Kenny Dorham.
Lisa Barry: Don Hicks, owner and musician of the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor. Thanks for talking to us here on 89-1 WEMU.
Don Hicks: Lisa, thank you very much. We will see you soon.
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