restricted access Strata Records
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39 ı n the fall of 1964, cornetist Charles Moore; photographer Magdalene Arndt; artists Larry Weiner, Howard Weingarden, and Ellen Phelan; poets George Tysh, Robin Eichele, Jim Semark, and myself;andseveralofourfriendsintheneighborhood around Wayne State University founded an artists’ collective called the Detroit Artists Workshop. The Artists Workshop served as an important meeting ground for resident artists, like musicians Charles Moore and saxophonist Larry Nozero, with outstate natives like Lyman Woodard from the Flint area, John Dana from Mt. Pleasant, and Ron English and Danny Spencer from Lansing. Charles Moore had formed a cooperative ensemble called the Detroit Contemporary 5 with Nozero,Dana,English,and Spencer that performed on Sunday afternoons at the Artists Workshop and soon began to appear on the WSU campus and at college venues in other parts of Michigan. In the creative cauldron that was the Detroit Artists Workshop,we learned to develop cooperative ensembles and cross-cultural collectives, manage our own gallery and performance facility, produce our own concerts and cultural events, design and print our own books and magazines, publicize our products and productions, and keep our creative activity firmly rooted in the immediate community. It was the DIY ethic in action. Another prominent Detroit contemporary musician was pianist and composer Kenny Cox, a member of a cooperative quintet with trombonist George Bohanon, tenor saxophonist Ronnie Fields, bassist Will Austin, and drummer Bert Myrick. Cox teamed up with Charles Moore to form the Contemporary Jazz Quintet and, subsequently, the Strata Corporation. “First of all, Strata was a group,”Charles Moore explained to Cary Loren in a 2004 interview. It was a five-piece group called the Contemporary Jazz Quintet. The group formed when Kenny Cox came off the road with jazz singer Etta Jones and took a gig with Danny Spencer and Ron Brooks at the Town Bar in Ann Arbor. Joe Henderson’s brother Leon, a tenor saxophonist, and I used to commute up there from Detroit to play with these guys. It was going so well sitting in with them, we thought why not put a group together. This was in 1967.We started rehearsing every day, and we did a d.b.a. as a partnership—a collective: a five-way, equal-split partnership. The CJQ achieved local and regional jazz success through the excellence of its performances and gained recognition on the national scene when a leading jazz label, Blue Note Records, signed the Contemporary Jazz Quintet to a recording contract and issued a pair of well-reviewed albums. “Then we started to produce concerts, and we rented the small auditorium in the Detroit Institute Strata Records John Sinclair 40 deTroıT jazz of Arts,” Charles Moore remembers. “We started the Synergy concert series for a couple of years. WDET was in on that, and Bud Spangler would produce and record the concerts.” Cox and Moore were involved in public radio station WDET-FM, where Spangler was employed as a staff producer. Guitarist Ron English, a close friend of Spangler’s at Michigan State University,was working around Detroit with Lyman Woodard and others.The four of them bonded around the concept of an artist-controlled production and recording collective through which the artists themselves could deal with all the exigencies of the music business that affected their lives and professional careers. Cox brought to the new collective a finely honed business sense and professional experience in banking and the construction industry, while Moore was deeply rooted in cultural activism, collective action, and the community arts. Charles Moore recalls: So we decided to get incorporated. Kenny Cox pulled in another partner, Harold Gardner, who was working for Ford Motor Credit, because we were going to go public with this. We rented a space on Michigan Avenue,a small warehouse,built a stage,got it fixed up, and called it Strata. The name Strata came from a musicologist by the name of Joseph Schillinger [who] talked about layers of sound. He gives you endless variations of everything, including orchestration, theory, form, all layers of sound—that we call the strata thing.That’s his terminology. At some point we switched from Michigan Avenue and got into George Kalamoto ’s photography studio at 46 Selden, just west of Woodward, which held about two hundred people, and we decided to have a concert/gallery. It just kept going. We broadcasted every concert live to WDET on the phone lines. Bud Spangler taped everything , he took care of that. That enabled us to make deals with...


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