Sociologist Lars Bjorn and veteran Michigan jazz commentator Jim Gallert presented a multi-media presentation on the contributions of Detroit artists to the development of jazz in America preceeding a performance by the George Benson Quintet, with vocals by Shahida Nurullah. Jan. 29, 2002 at the Bird of Paradise Club, Ann Arbor, in celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
U-M-Dearborn sociologist Lars Bjorn and veteran Michigan jazz commentator Jim Gallert opened the event with a brief multi-media presentation on the contributions of Detroit artists to the development of jazz in America. Bjorn and Gallert co-authored "Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-1960," published by U-M Press in 2001.
The George Benson Quintet, with George Benson on tenor saxophone, Dwight Adams on trumpet, Tad Weed on piano, Will Austin on bass, and George Davidson on drums, along with vocalist Shahida Nurullah, performed two sets that illustrated some of the jazz styles originating in Detroit - styles that exerted a considerable influence on the Motown sounds of the Temptations, the Supremes, and the Four Tops.
"Before Motown is the first book about the history of jazz in Detroit. It shows the significant impact Detroit has had on the development of jazz in America, with its own sound, distinct from that of the other jazz centers of Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, or Kansas City. Starting with the big bands in the 1920s,with groups like the McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Jean Goldkette's Orchestra, and continuing into the 1950s, Detroit experienced a golden age of modern jazz centered around clubs like the Blue Bird Inn. That jazz scene comes alive in interviews with musicians and club owners, combined with unique period photographs and advertisements. In addition, Detroit's vital jazz scene is placed in its social context, particularly within the changing relations between blacks and whites at the time." -from the UM Press Catalog.