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Straight Ahead at Hilberry Theatre, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2018

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We're not done celebrating Straight Ahead yet.

The most famous lineup of the pioneering all-female jazz group from Detroit -- violinist Regina Carter, bassist Marion Hayden, drummer Gayelynn McKinney and pianist Eileen Orr -- regrouped twice earlier this year, for the first time in 25 years, including rain-shortened performance at the Detroit Jazz Festival. It was a welcome return, and while no one is predicting the future, Straight Ahead is reuniting one more time for a free show on Monday, Dec. 10, at Wayne State University's Hilberry Theatre...

McKinney says she "didn't really have any expectations" for Straight Ahead's reunion this year but is more than happy with the way things have turned out. "I was just so happy to be hooking up with my friend Regina again in Straight Ahead. We've all played together in a lot of other situations, so I was waiting for this to happen and there was definitely a goal for it to happen. It's just great to be able to have that creative energy we had 25 years ago."

Elaborating on that energy, McKinney likens it to "that old friend you have where you haven't seen each other in years and years, and when you hook back up it's like you saw each other yesterday. When we were getting ready for the festival, it felt like we had still been playing together for that 25 years. We just naturally fell right back into what we were doing before."

McKinney is also happy that Straight Ahead is getting to play again after having weather impact on the festival performance. "I was like, 'Come on, man, creator, let us get a few songs out, please.' We actually did get through a lot of our show and that worked out well. But I would've liked to have been able to relax and just do the show the way we intended. At least the fans who wanted to see us got a chance to see something. But I'm glad we're getting to do it again."

There are no plans for Straight ahead to get together more in the future, however. "We haven't talked about it, no," McKinney says. "I think it's one of those things where if the opportunity presents itself, of course we'll do it. We have so many things going on individually, especially Regina's schedule, it's kind of hard to get thigs together -- plus we have a little Detroit crew here that we do a lot of work with as well. So it's an opportunity by opportunity situation, but we're all still good friends and are happy to play (together) when we can."

Straight Ahead's reunions this year have reminded the band members as well as the rest of the world about the impact it had on others. "Those years went by quickly and we were doing it so we didn't think much about it," McKinney notes. "So I often wonder if we did have an effect on other women who wanted to play music. We came out during a time there weren't a lot of women groups playing, if any. So I wonder if there were other ladies who decided to get into jazz because they saw us. I haven't had anybody come up and tell me that, but I hope we had a positive influence on young ladies who saw us."

Straight Ahead, Papo Vazquez and a Jazz Parrandas perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at the Hilberry Theatre, 4841 Cass Ave., Detroit. Admission is free with rsvp at djf-holiday-concert.eventbrite.com. A livestream of the show will be available for $10 at live.detroitjazzfest.org. 313-577-2972 or detroitjazzfest.org.

Web Site: www.detroitjazzfest.org

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