There is no shortage of music events in traditional art institution settings, from the GRAM's classical music series to the many performance halls around the city. We have even become accustomed to pop-up venues, with events from Hugo Claudin's Mexicains Sans Frontieres to the neighborhood house-based festival LampLight to the too-many-to-list individual house concerts hosted in our region.
What has been missing is a place that I recall from my time in cities like New York and Washington – a place where musicians perform in the intimate setting of a tiny art gallery.
Our region's venue desert ended earlier this year when LaFontsee Galleries of Grand Rapids (and Douglas) committed to a new Sunday Jazz concert series at their 833 Lake Drive SE gallery location.
The Underground Series harkens back to a nostalgic time period when they were known as The Underground Studio (and before the name change to LaFontsee Gallery). This new Sunday concert series seeks to strengthen our region's ties to the up-and-coming jazz acts passing through our region. It also helps to educate locals who are showing no let up in their desire for live jazz music, as venues all over the city continue to see more and more programming added to their offerings.
When Charlie Kohlhase's Chicago Explorer’s Club arrives in Grand Rapids for Sunday's concert, they will have just finished a two-day (and sure to be sold out event) at Chicago’s infamous Green Mill. What makes this visit special and perfect for the gallery setting is that, just like many of the works here are one of a kind, Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club acts as a kind of doorman; he welcomes in guest artists via a revolving door on this ever-changing (thus never the same act twice) band. It is what others have come to love and enjoy from the bandleader. He simply brings out the best in the musicians as well as in venues where they perform.
Charlie Kohlhase, who plays the alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, will be joined at this special concert by East Coast musician Aaron Darrell, bass; two premier Chicago improvisers, James Falzone, clarinet, and Tim Daisy, drums; plus the former New York trumpeter Russ Johnson, who now teaches at the University of Wisconsin Parkside in Kenosha.
Looking ahead, be sure to save the date of Sunday, May 3rd at 3 p.m., when The Underground Series welcomes Chicago bassist Harrison Bankhead’s Quartet featuring saxophonists Mars Williams and Edward Wilkerson, Jr., and drummer Avreeayl Ra.
Admission: $20 in advance, $10 for students with a student I.D. and $25 at the door.