Vividly written, Everybody Dreams, by Michael Stratton, is filled with compelling prose and deep, complex characters who speak to the most human frailties in us all. This breakout novel leaves no stone unturned when it comes to delivering drama and a thought provoking message. Purchase your copy right now from Amazon.com!

News, Reviews & all that Jazz

Entry for Fall, 2009

Everybody Dreams

There will be a reading and a book signing at Schuler Books in Okemos on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 7:00p.m. Hope to see you there.

I’ll also be starting a NEW Dream Group. Some of the fans of the book have discussed when I’m starting a new dream group and this one will start in mid November. We’ll meet week on Thursday nights, 6-7:15p.m. for a total of 16 sessions (just like the novel!). The cost is $45 per group. Space is limited to six attendees. So call me at #336-7721 to sign up.

How I Spent My Summer

This has been a very full season for me and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this summer. There were speaking engagements in Traverse City (Motivational Enhancement & Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for the M.S.U. Summer Institute with Monkey Business Consulting), Montreal (The Solution Focused Process for the International Policy Governance group that services boards of directors around the world with Sue Stratton), and Detroit Ren Cen (MET/CBT again for the State of Michigan Substance Abuse Conference). Deborah Johnson Wood and I served as coordinators for this year’s annual Peninsula Writers Summer retreat at Glen Lake, with Guggenheim winning poet and novelist Laura Kasischke as our keynote speaker. I emceed at both the Lansing and Detroit Jazz Festivals. Cathie Blumer and I traveled to New York for a week of research on my new novel in August. In between it all I had book signings in Traverse City, Montreal and Grand Rapids. Again, I am eternally grateful for all of these wonderful chances to connect with such diverse groups of people over ideas and creativity.

Book Reviews
THE ALCOHOLISM AND ADDICTION CURE (A Holistic Approach to Total Recovery) by Chris Prentiss; Power Press

This past year I started to hear clients talking about this book, then saw it advertised on television, so I knew that I had to read it myself. The book asks the question: Is There A Cure For Alcoholism? and answers an emphatic YES! So, first as a clinician and secondly as a practitioner of a different approach to recovery, I was very interested in checking this out.
Chris Prentiss is the author of a dozen self help books. I haven’t read any of these but it is interesting, first of all, that this is his background. He isn’t a doctor or a therapist. He goes at great lengths to describe his upbringing by a sociopathic mother and his own problems that he experienced early in life. One of the best features of the book is a very extended chapter written by Chris’ son, Pax, who describes his own story of addiction and recovery.
I had a mixed reaction to the book. I felt that Mr. Prentiss makes some good points and I would like to expound a little of the positives and negatives about this book:

POSITIVES:

Mr. Prentiss stresses the need for an individualized treatment approach, something you don’t always find in the treatment of addictions. And I agree with this.
Mr. Prentiss takes some well deserved swipes at the field of addiction treatment, though he also offers a disclaimer in support of Alcoholics Anonymous. Much like Herb Trimpe does in his work with Rational Recovery. I DO think that there needs to be alternatives to A.A. Because A.A., in spite of having the best recovery rate of available programs, doesn’t work for everybody. And maybe nothing will work for everybody. But if there are several viable options for recovery, all the better. And they don’t need to be at war with one another.
I also liked the very strong focus on both the physical and psychological health of the client. Chris and Pax are founders of a treatment center in Malibu. He encourages everyone who can to attend his treatment center, naturally. However, if you can’t, he descibes how one can design their own treatment.
You see, Mr. Prentiss doesn’t believe that people use drugs or drink too much because they are alcoholics or addicts. He doesn’t like those terms. He believes that there is one or a variety of several reasons WHY people use. Here are those reasons:

Cause 1: Chemical imbalance
Cause 2: Unresolved events from the past
Cause 3: Beliefs you hold that are inconsistent with what is true
Cause 4: Inability to cope with current conditions

(It is interesting to contrast these causes with what research is telling us about who is likely to become addicted: a blend of genetic predetermination with either depression, anxiety, trauma, delinquency or truancy as key variables.)

So Mr. Prentiss believes that one must address the underlying cause to cure the addiction.
And then, and this is important, the individual can NEVER use drugs or alcohol again. I’m betting this is disappointing to most alcoholics and addicts, who usually go through an extensive search to find a way to continue to have drugs or alcohol in their lives successfully before surrendering to abstinence.
Mr. Prentiss encourages the use of a holistic team of healers to address the underlying issues: integrative medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, clinical psychology, marriage and/or family therapy, hypnotherapy, personal fitness, visualization and meditation and spiritual therapy. He also encourages the creation of a healing circle of friends that will support your new self.

NEGATIVES:

As I mentioned above, Mr. Prentiss is not a physician, nor a PhD nor a therapist. But he does believe in change as a reality which is a positive. At the end of the day, the addict still has to remain abstinent, so where’s the cure? And the swipes he takes at A.A. are, I think, unnecessary.

Bottom line: in the A.A. literature they relate that “We know but a little…” and I’m glad people are out there researching and finding new avenues to recovery. A.A. says that those who complete the program are ‘recovered’ or cured from their alcoholism. But in the end, they say that the most an alcoholic can hope for is a ‘daily reprieve’ from their condition. It doesn’t sound like Mr. Prentiss offers much more than that.

OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout; Random House

This book won the pulitzer prize in literature last year and it’s sure easy to see why. What wonderful writing and what a great character we have in Olive Kitteridge.
The book is actually less a novel than it is a collection of short stories, all set in the small town of Crosby, Maine. But all of the stories feature Olive. Sometimes her appearance seems more like a cameo. Few of the baker’s dozen focus squarely on her. This really doesn’t seem like a device, but a fascinating way to reveal aspects of a character through the eyes of a spouse, a son, a neighbor, an acquaintance. Such triangulation brings out aspects of personality that are often overlooked in fiction.
There is an old adage in psychology. There is the person we know ourselves to be, then the person we reveal to those closest to us. And yet another person who we are known by in public. Few stories delve into each of these facets of character, but Elizabeth Strout just nails it in this book.
We are treated first to a loving and bittersweet portrait of Henry, Olive’s faithful but wistful husband in the very first chapter. Subsequent chapters take us to a piano bar, a wedding reception, a donut shop, the reception following a funeral. I don’t want to reveal any thing else of consequence, because the reader will be delighted and in despair by the discovery of the events of Olive’s life. This is a book I spent hours reading aloud to my girl friend, and I don’t know which of us had a better time at it. This is a book that will make you laugh out loud (which is what began to reading out loud) and it will make you cry. And for all the vinegar that runs in Olive’s veins, you will come to love her. Do yourself a favor and get this book. And if you can, read it out loud to someone you love.

Detroit JazzFest 2009

Speaking of the Detroit Jazz Festival, Meegan Holland and I posted daily blog entries for MLIVE and Cathie Blumer contributed photos for this year’s event. I wanted to post my diary for the festival. I understand now that 700,000 people attended this festival, which has got to be the largest FREE jazz festival in the U.S.A., maybe the world. It is the best thing Detroit has to offer.
The Festival is always held on the weekend of Labor Day, but this event felt like it started for me the Sunday before, when I interviewed Festival & Artistic Director Terri Pontremoli. Terri is such a great interview, so bubbly and effervescent, a great ball of kinetic energy and a smile you can see over the phone. When it looked like the Detroit Jazz Festival was about to fold, Gretchen Valade (the owner of Carhartt clothing, Mack Avenue Records and the Dirty Dog restaurant) stepped in as a benefactor. One of the best things she did was to bring on board Terri Pontremoli, who has done such an amazing job of booking great talent and keeping a blend of new and old, local and international. But also keeping the emphasis on jazz. So many jazz festivals these days put jazz off to the side while their headliners are pop musicians.
On Friday, we (Holland, Blumer & Stratton) checked into the Ren Cen and headed towards that evening’s event: two headliners to open the festival, Hank Jones and Chick Corea/Stanley Clarke/Lenny White. After proclamations and awards had been deservedly doled out, Hank Jones took the stage. He was dapperly dressed in an elegant dark pin striped suit. He was joined on stage by bass stalwart George Mraz and drummer Carl Allen.
The trio opened with an easy stride performing at first Horace Silver’s Nica’s Dream, then a Wes Montgomery tune. I noticed that the 92 year old Jones would at times vocalize along with his piano solos, something I remember his brother Elvin doing when I saw him perform years ago. Hank’s playing was the epitome of grace and taste.
At one point Jones’ music blew off the stage, just as the band had kicked into J.J. Johnson’s Lament, which lead to an extended bass solo by George Mraz (what a beautiful tone he has!). They did a Charlie Parker tune (Jones is one of the last surviving musicians to have actually played with Bird), a tune by Hank’s other brother Thad (A Child Is Born) and some other classics. The trio encored by performed Thelonious Monk’s Round About Midnight.
The second piano trio of the evening also stuck to the acoustic format. Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White began by playing the Return To Forever tune 500 Miles High. Their playing was dynamic and blazingly fast but always tasteful. They next played a Monk tune, I Mean You and I thought about the evening being a Tale of Two Pianos, contrasting styles and generations. Lenny White’s drumming was more propulsive than swinging, a reflection of the rock influence on jazz in the 1970s. Stanley Clarke is such a virtuoso! I’d forgotten how much I liked his playing.
This trio then performed I Love You Porgy, followed by a dissonant interlude the morphed from a passage that sounded influenced by Bartok to Monk’s Straight No Chaser, before Clarke started a walking bass line and Lenny White started swinging underneath. The band’s encore was a medley of the Concerto de Aranjuez (via Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain) and the Chick Corea original Spain. Chick lead a kind of a sing along with the Detroit audience, which was clearly enraptured with the music. Everyone went home happy.
Meegan and I stayed up too late blogging at the Ren Cen lounge, while listening to a jam session that got progressively more interesting as the night progressed. Orrin Evans, Sean Jones, etc. etc. One table away a woman was holding forth with her pet dog, every musician in the place coming by to visit and chat. Turns out it was Dee Dee Bridgewater.
The next morning I wrote this poem while sitting in the Starbucks at the Ren Cen:

DETROIT
sitting in the coffee shop
Saturday, Detroit
a cylinder of glass, concrete & steel,
motown gives ‘the finger’
to the midwest
just as Joe Louis’ fist
is in your face
so is Detroit
attitude, swagger
not a sneer, but hip,
hipper than you, and tough
and music

from where i sit there
is music, a big band
practicing in a ballroom
the sound bleeding
into the core of the ren cen

detroit bleeds music
marvin & stevie & smokey
diana & gordy & aretha
iggy & eminem & grand funk

and jazz….
this weekend is about jazz
the players are the painters
the city is the canvas
the canvas Joe Louis
danced on to kick ass
the canvas Diego Rivera
used to sketch his great mural
the canvas of pollsters who
found out what’s happening
the canvas of a city
the music is the
paint of culture
and people, pain and laughter
work, effort, blood funk & attitude
swagger
“Hey Baby!”
that’s Detroit

I reflected on that very specific swagger that is so uniquely Detroit, a vibe that is so different than the New York vibe I was still feeling from a week before.
Ate a king’s breakfast at the Coney Island on Woodward (eggs, grits, sausage and pancakes) with Meegan and Cathie and slipped down to the ‘Talk Tent’ and heard a group of drummer (including Carl Allen, Karriem Riggins, Gayelynn McKinney and Michael Nastos) discuss Elvin Jones. This is such an interesting aspect of the festival, the chance to hear musicians meet and talk music. The consensus seemed that it was a journey to ‘get’ Elvin. The most entertaining story and insights were provided by Carl Allen, who talked about Elvin playing the drum kit at Bradley’s in New York on a tiny stand (“I like these drums but they won’t stay still.”) Carl also pointed out, and vocally displayed, how when most drummers play triplets they accent the first beat, but Elvin accented the second. Interesting.
Checked out a ripping set by Dee Dee Bridgewater and the MSU Big Band, conducted by Rodney Whitaker. Then slipped down to the Pyramid Stage to catch Jose James in his skinny grey suit. I heard two concert goers behind me describe him as a cross between Big Joe Williams and Al Jarreau. I am always impressed by how hip and knowledgeable the audience is at the Detroit Jazz Fest. I agreed with the guys in the audience, though I would add the ingredient of Gil Scott Heron. How is it that Jose James isn’t signed by a major record label? Somebody should snatch this guy up. He treated the audience to versions of Equinox and Stolen Moments, using a technique I’ve heard practiced by Eddie Jefferson and Kurt Elling to sing a solo using poetry instead of scatting. The keyboard player (who?) was great.
The big problem with the Detroit Jazz Festival is that there is NO WAY to catch everything. I left Jose James before his set was over in order to catch part of Sean Jones’ set at the Water Stage. I heard him play a soulful version of Mama with some gospel overtones.
We withdrew to try and blog midday and ended up missing too much music. So all of our blogs were entered very late p.m. or early a.m. after that. Live and learn.
In the early evening I caught part of Louis Hayes hard bop unit, featuring a great front line of Jeremy Pelt and Vincent Herring.
One of the highlights of the festival was Benny Maupin’s Dolphyana. Maupin was on sax but also clarinet and (my favorite) bass clarinet. Nestor Torres was filling in for James Newton on flute, with Jay Hoggard on vibes and Billy Hart on drums. The band performed Dolphy tunes, The Panther, Something Sweet Something Tender and Out To Lunch. They also performed a Maupin original, Message to Prez, which Benny dedicated to Lester Young. This was performed as a trio, with a series of existential queries, many phrases sounding like questions to the open skies of Detroit. No answers. The most avant garde event I caught all weekend.
Meanwhile, on the Main Stage Christian McBride’s Inside Straight was swinging away like crazy. They used a combination of originals and standards of the mainstream. A mix of muscle and finesse. I thought of Lionel Hampton while I listened to relative new comer Warren Wolf on the vibraphone. The band performed Brother Mister, which somehow seemed that the title track for the festival this year.
On Sunday, after blogging and another Coney Island breakfast with Meegan and Cathie, I picked up my emcee credentials and headed to the Pyramid Stage to introduce Jesse Palter. She is a great young singer via Detroit and Chicago and we will hear more of her. Jesse played several originals and made it clear that she’s a good developing writer as well as a song bird.
I introduced the Waterford Kettering high school band at the Meijer Education stage in the afternoon. These young kids were set up behind me and I was reminded of Beevis and Butthead when I said “Here is a group of up and comers…” only to hear a voice a few feet behind me snicker “He said ‘come’…” It was really all I could do not to laugh.
I caught up with my nephew, now Detroiter Ron Stratton for awhile in the afternoon and ate too much Greek food. Then headed to the Water Stage to introduce Geri Allen and quartet. Allen was having a dispute with the sound man, who was doing everything to address her concerns. Interesting to have a back stage perspective on how things get set up.
Geri Allen’s quartet featured a tap dancer on several of the tunes, whom she used as an instrumentalist. One of the highlights of the set was a ‘duet’ between the drummer and the dancer, which brought the huge audience to a standing ovation, just 20 minutes into the music. Geri continued to be highly creative by using a poet (Sandra Turner Barnes) and playing a great mix of originals and standards (McCoy Tyner’s Blues By 5).
Finished the day by listening to the Wayne Shorter Quartet play an uninterrupted 80 minute set of improv based music that was Herculean. I recognized Sanctuary and Myrrh in the mix, but I think most of the music wasn’t just the first time I’d heard it, it was the first time the band had heard it. I blogged at length about this show and if you want more, hunt down the MLIVE blog from the Detroit Jazz Fest. As impressed as I was with the music, I was JUST as impressed with the Detroit audience, who gave a roaring standing ovation at the end of the show.
Monday was short. We were exhausted and needed to return home to get ready for another busy week of work, but not before catching Rodney Whitaker’s salute to Donald Byrd’s A New Perspective. His wife, Cookie, was leading a gospel choir that offset the terrific line up of Mack Avenue talent. A wonderful way to end a perfect weekend of music.

Here is the line up for the end of the 2009’s Vinyl Side of Midnight

10/18/09 = DECADES: 1960s
1025/09 = New Stuff
11/01/09 = DECADES: 1970s
11/08/09 = New Stuff
11/15/09 = DECADES: 1980s
11/22/09 = DECADES: 1990s
11/29/09 = New Stuff
12/06/09 = Best of 2009 Pt. 1
12/13/09 = DECADES: 2000s
12/20/09 = Holiday Show
12/27/09 = Best of 2009

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2 Responses to “News, Reviews & all that Jazz”

  • Interested in tools for recovery says:

    I agree completely with your review of Chris Prentiss’ book. I don’t understand why he (and Rational Recovery) feel that there’s an “either/or” decision vis a vis AA. AA’s sole requirement for membership is “a desire to stop drinking”. AA can easily accomodate Chris’ program into its own. I am agnostic about the “disease” theory of alcoholism (I’ve read books like “Heavy Drinking” that go to great lengths to disprove the disease theory). But it seems clear that SOMETHING distinguishes the out-of-control drinker/alcoholic from teetotallers or social drinkers. No matter what you call it, it needs a program to recover from it. I incorporate virtually all of the Passages’ program into my own progam (meditation, exercise, acupuncture, therapy) and add daily AA meetings, which I love. Also giving of your self (the 12th step) is perhaps the best part of AA’s program and I do that as much as I can.

  • Mike says:

    Louis,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response on this post. I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t checked into my website and was delighted to see you response.