Power, conviction, and spontaneity all come to a head in Russ Macklem’s new recording, The South Detroit Connection. Recently released via TQM Recording Co., this is the debut recording from Macklem. It was recorded live at Phog Lounge in Windsor, Ontario, on January 4th of this year. Originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, the Windsor-Detroit area is where Macklem now resides. He is a seasonal lecturer at the University of Windsor and is highly respected amongst the jazz community. He has performed with artists as diverse as Cecil McBee, the Marley Brothers, Amp Fiddler, Royce da 5’9”, and more.
The South Detroit Connection features Macklem on horns, saxophonist Kasan Belgrave (son of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave), Sam Dickinson on guitars, Jonathan Muir-Cotton on bass, and drummer Adam Arruda. Despite the chemistry evident throughout the album, shockingly, this ensemble had never played together previously. As longtime friends, Macklem and Arruda decided to set up a live date to play together after not seeing each other for some time. It didn’t take long for chemistry to take hold, and the album was done in only a month. The South Detroit Connection is five enormously talented musicians pushing the boundary of what they thought, and what they knew they were capable of.
Today, Macklem joins us for a track-by-track rundown of The South Detroit Connection, in which he discusses the background and motivation behind each track.
1. “Mr. Fantastic”
“‘Mr. Fantastic’ is what I aspire to be, but fall short of. Tall, dark, and handsome, this song presents the most harmonic and rhythmic challenges of the songs on the album. The angst is apparent from the very first notes of the song, the one-bar-solo-trumpet-introduction in 7/4 bringing the heat. Really, it’s just my fucked-up version of ‘Rhythm Changes’ with a tag.”
“‘Kelowna’ is a lamenting tribute to my hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia. I loved growing up there, but can never return; there’s nothing for me there anymore. No family, no music, and I could never afford to live there again. Its beautiful lake views and mountain vistas still haunt my dreams, make me yearn for simpler times, and the innocence of my first love.”
3. “Who is Genuine?”
“‘Who is Genuine?’ The hopeless romantic in me gets me into a lot of trouble. Often, I have been too trusting of people. This song chronicles my search for authenticity in people, and my ambition to aim higher, and stop falling in love too easily. Each soloist has a chance to explore this idea, and then take it as far as they can before returning to the beginning of the question.”
“‘1176’ is the address of a creative music space in Miami, and where this song first came to life. It’s the first thing I wrote after a painful divorce that set my life on its head. This song was written for a young, beautiful redhead that appeared in my life too soon after my failed marriage. Now both her, and that space in Miami are just a memory.”
5. “Elegy for My Lost Loves”
“‘Elegy for My Lost Loves’ is a ballad originally written years ago in a dark, lonely dining room on an underused grand piano on a cruise ship traversing the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere in between Galveston, Texas and Cozumel, Mexico. It was played on the altar at my wedding in tribute to someone who didn’t deserve it. I have reclaimed and recalibrated this song to eulogize all my previous loves, with an eye to the future.”