THE UNIVERSAL: "PSALM"
Performed October 22, 2017, at the Strand Theater in Pontiac, MI. The piece was commissioned for the event, "Ancient Beauty: The Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha'u'llah", and was dedicated to the theme of enduring peace.
THE UNIVERSAL: "AS WE USED TO SING"
Sonny Sharrock's great 1991 album "Ask the Ages" not only carried on the tradition of spiritual jazz, but also included such giants of the tradition as Pharoah Sanders and Elvin Jones. This recording is from Grosse Pointe Music on the Plaza 2019, and features Matt Dufresne on soprano saxophone.
THE UNIVERSAL: "OLINGA"
Olinga was written by Dizzy Gillespie and included in his 1970 album "Portrait of Jenny." The tune is dedicated to Enoch Olinga, a friend of Gillespie's and a true humanitarian. Born in Uganda, but traveling throughout Africa most of his life, Olinga returned after the fall of Idi Amin to help rebuild his country, but he and his family were executed in their home by an unknown military group. The power of his spirit lives on in the many who remember the courage, love, and perseverance he displayed in life. This clip features Bob Schneeweis on Piano.
MARK STONE - THE ARRAY MBIRA
One of the very few performers of the Array Mbira in the world (a full-range version of the traditional hand-held Mbira, or Kalimba), Mark Stone shows in this clip shows how well the beautiful, resonant and versatile Array Mbira fits with the spiritual jazz tradition.
Dedicated to a knowledge, a love, and a concept of humanity that is universal, The Universal brings together some of Detroit’s most powerful and active jazz musicians in an all-star project which recognizes music’s true power as a means to unite, move, and enlighten. Combining a truly dominant jazz rhythm section (Gayelynn McKinney or Sean Dobbins on drums, Marion Hayden or Pat Prouty on bass, Bob Schneeweis on Piano) with one of the top world percussionists in the region (Mark Stone), and tied together by the uncommon technical and artistic mastery of Matt Dufresne on saxophones, The Universal can promise an experience that is not only exceptionally high in musical quality, but also moving to a wide array of audiences.
The group takes as its spiritual forebears such music as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Spiritual, Pharaoh Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan, and Dizzy Gillespie’s many cross-cultural collaborations. Coltrane-esque melodies and rhythms combine with the traditional-modern world sound of the array Mbira; south Indian influences mirror the cross-cultural collaborations of 1970s jazz; themes of unity and positivity create performances that leave a lasting impression. The Universal prides itself on not only exciting and satisfying jazz connoisseurs, but also on reminding people of many musical tastes why Jazz is such an important and powerful part of American music.
The Universal began in 2017 as part of the Soul Food initiative in Pontiac, Michigan, itself born out of the earnest desire of many local musicians to offer powerful and meaningful music as an antidote to forces of negativity and dissolution present in society. We are musicians who believe that music only achieves its true purpose when it creates harmony, unity, and a deeper knowledge of who we are as human beings. The Universal’s early shows, so exciting and moving for both audiences and musicians, created the demand for further performances, merging the collective into an established group.
One of the most widely known and recognized drummers in the region, Gayelynn’s resume includes work with the grammy-nominated all-female jazz band Straight Ahead – which also received a 2004 Motor City Music Award – a 2014 Kresge fellowship, and work with many of the greatest names in the region and beyond, including Aretha Franklin, Benny Golson, Geri Allen, and many others. Her diverse musical range has given her the opportunity to travel extensively and perform at many renowned jazz festivals and venues including the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Marion Hayden is part of the great Detroit Jazz bass legacy. As a young protégé of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, she learned improvisation, ensemble performance, repertoire and a deep appreciation for jazz and its creators. Marion combines these influences in a unique jazz perspective, creating a swinging sound which is both authentic and fresh. Marion has been involved in countless ensembles throughout her career, including Straight Ahead and the all-female group Venus, as well as performing and recording with jazz legends while releasing her own work, including her solo album Visions.
Array Mbira/World Percussion/Vibraphone
Mark Stone is a musician-educator from Michigan with a passion for using music to bring diverse communities together. He is recognized internationally for his work in global percussion performance and education. He has performed with the foremost musicians of Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, India, Trinidad, Ecuador, and the United States. His highly original musical style results from innovative performance practice rooted in a deep knowledge of multiple world traditions. His international appearances include performances with the Bernard Woma ensemble in Ghana, gyil concerti with the world’s leading orchestras, the Bharat Sangeet Utsav Pan-Indian Music Festivals, where he was a featured artist, and many more.
Bob Schneeweis, originally from the Twin Cities, MN, has been an active pianist, composer/arranger, and teacher for the past two decades. Prior to moving to Detroit in 2009, Bob worked foremost as pianist, composer/arranger, and music director for the popular Minneapolis-based Latin orchestra Salsabrosa, as well as writing for and performing with the much-lauded Atlantis Quartet (then Quintet). In the Detroit area, in addition to performing regularly as a jazz pianist, he has developed and performed several collaborations with the More Dances dance ensemble, performed a series of concerts showcasing his original music in the classical genre, and was a winner of the 2017 Oakland Symphony Concerto Competition as well as a recipient of the 2017 Matilda Award.
Matt Dufresne is a woodwind specialist across many genres and cultures of music, including Jazz, World, and both Indian and Western Classical music. He has performed numerous times at The Detroit Jazz Festival, Flint Jazz Festival, and Cleveland’s Thyagaraja Festival. Dufresne currently studies saxophone and Nadaswaram with Tim Price of the Manhattan School of Music. Dufresne’s awards include the 2013 Matilda from Oakland University for Jazz and the University of Michigan-Flint’s highest distinction as recipient of the 2005 Maize and Blue Award for Distinguished Scholarship. Dufresne holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Michigan-Flint and a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Oakland University.
Patrick Prouty is a bassist/composer from Detroit. From 2000 until 2007, he was the bassist for soul legend Bettye Lavette. During his tenure with Lavette he toured throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Other side-man gigs have included playing with Bill Heid, Johnnie Bassett, Jan Krist, Al and Whit Hill, Alberta Adams and many other artists. In 2007, Patrick released The Charmed Life, his first recording as a leader, a jazz quartet recording of all original Prouty compositions with an all-star cast of Detroit musicians. Music from this album has been included in film and television, including Breaking Bad, the film The Joneses, starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore, AMC’s Rubicon, and the film A Gun to the Head by director Blaine Thurier.