Busy Drummer Clarence Penn Takes Time for JAMM!

Interview with Clarence Penn, Drummer for Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60!
By Lois Mummaw, President Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan (JAMM)

When Bob Hoffman, Wharton Center Public Relations Manager, contacted me in late February and asked if I would be willing to interview a member of the Newport Jazz Festival in anticipation of the concert coming to Wharton Center, I thought, “I’ve never really interviewed anybody!”

Then, when Bob suggested I speak with the drummer, Clarence Penn I agreed to do it, but not just because Clarence is from Detroit. I agreed because I have a soft spot in my heart for drummers. My son is a drummer. To me, drummers represent the beat of life…and of jazz. We spoke by phone and once I told him I was not a journalist, as such, he actually seemed a bit relieved. Here then is our wonderful conversation:

JazzBaltica 2007: Dave Douglas Quintet
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Video Footage of Tribute to Ron and Sunny Now Live!

The HillcatsDSC_5144 (1)

Videos of the performances from the Fifth Annual JAMM Tribute held on February 9th, 2014 are now available for your viewing pleasure! Please feel free to share these links on Facebook, via email or in any other ways you may wish.

All footage is the property of The Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan and may not be used for commercial purposes without written permission from JAMM, a 503-C non-profit organization.

Here are the links, in order of appearance. You may watch them here or go to our Youtube channel “Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan” and watch there. Here is that link:



JAMM’s Fourth Annual Tribute: Professor Randy “Uncle G” Gelispie

Last February, a full house of friends, family fans and students, over 200 in all, came together to honor MSU Jazz Studies Professor Randy “Uncle G” Gelispie. This was JAMM’s Fourth Annual Tribute Event and Randy was an easy choice when the time came to vote on who to celebrate. Some major swing, be-bop, funk and more, from people like Randy’s longtime collaborators Bill Heid and Perry Hughes , came pouring from The Avenue Cafe that day. The laughter and love were in abundance as well, all because Mr. Randy Gelispie allowed us to honor him with this much deserved tribute party.

2014 JAMM Tribute Honorees

Sunny & Ron

Ron & Sunny

Mark your calendar for the 2014 JAMM Tribute Concert featuring this years honorees Ron and Sunny! This 5th Annual JAMM Tribute Concert is sure to be a sellout. Don’t be left out–get your tickets today! Day of or at-the-door tickets are $10 more (that’s if there are any left)

Check out this photo montage video, with Sunny singing with only Ed Fedewa accompaniment on double bass.

As a couple, they have set very high standards for students studying jazz and are well worth the attention of listeners. As individuals, they have influenced the lives of many in the jazz world.  Ron Newman, a graduate of N. Texas State with a doctorate from MSU, has been on the faculty since the middle 70′s and has been a strong force in the Michigan jazz scene.  He developed Jazz Bands I & II from struggling ensembles into award winners and has been a successful instructor of jazz improvisation, arranging, pedagogy, history and a professor of music theory. Continue reading