Turn it Down! Loud dispatches from Lansing’s music scene

Jazz master Rodney Whitaker, folkies Evie and Kevan Browne perform soon

New music in Old Town: What’s happening at UrbanBeat


Despite the pandemic taking out The Loft, Lansing, fortunately, still has a number of music venues for locals to perform at. One of the newer ones on the block, UrbanBeat, is in the heart of Old Town and consistently offers music beyond the pop genre. It hosts jazz, folk, blues, funk and everything in between. It’s also a restaurant and “customizable” event space, unlike your standard venue. Situated in a historic 150-year-old brick building, it’s an intimate listening environment. 

Beyond music, from Tuesday through Saturday, UrbanBeat also serves a limited menu, specialty drinks, draft beer and fine wines. So, if you’re thirsty and seeking some first-rate shows, here’s just a couple on the horizon. 

For tickets to any of these upcoming shows, visit urbanbeatevents.com.


Kevan Brown
Kevan Brown
Evie w/ Kevan Browne
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Dinner at 5 p.m., music at 6 p.m. 
$10, $8 advance

This double bill features sets from both Evie, a newly formed Nashville duo, and Kevan Browne a Michigan native now based in Nashville.

Browne, a singer-songwriter, has spent the past few years exploring the craft of songwriting in the Music City. Known for penning earnest tunes echoing the sentimental moments of life, that genuine style was documented on 2021’s “Passing Hues” EP, his latest record. 

Meanwhile, Evie is the project of Nashville-based artists Emily Amber and i.am.james. The two alt-pop focused and melody driven artists joined forces creating what they call a “feminine, powerful, and sultry mood.” Fans of the Indigo Girls, Maggie Rogers or The Staves might dig Evie’s entrancing, intricately woven harmonies.

To add another local connection to this Nashville-heavy night, i.am.james (real name Sierra Cassidy), was born and raised on the coast of Lake Michigan before heading to Tennessee four years ago. The often-touring troubadour not only graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy, but also attended Berklee College of Music in both Boston and Valencia, Spain. During her time on the road, she’s honed a pitch-perfect sound that both nods to her folk upbringing, while also incorporating some poppy, danceable hooks. 

In 2017, amidst her relocation to Nashville, Cassidy (who splits her time between there and Northern Michigan) took on the “i.am.james” moniker, stating that it “allows for escapism.” To get a taste of her left-of-center folk-pop, catch her with her duo at UrbanBeat.   

Advance Notice: Tell Yo Mama, the Lansing-based soul-funk outfit, is also set to perform Saturday, Nov. 13, at UrbanBeat. Dinner is at 5 p.m., live music starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door, $10 advance.

Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker Quintet with vocalist Rockelle Fortin
Wednesday, Oct. 27
Dinner at 5 p.m., music at 7:30 p.m.
$20 door, $10 student, $15 advance
Dinner not included

Internationally renowned bassist Rodney Whitaker, a Detroit native who is now based out of East Lansing, is not only a performer, but a professor of jazz bass and director of jazz studies at Michigan State University. There, he has built one of the leading jazz degree programs and performing faculty in the world. Some of his former students are performing with jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Pat Matheny, the Count Basie Orchestra and Stephon Harris, to name a few.

Whitaker, a Mack Avenue recording artist, is widely considered one of the leading performers and teachers of the jazz double bass in the United States. His resume includes being the past artistic adviser of Jazz at the Wharton Center, director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Jazz Orchestra and a former member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. 

During his career touring the world, spanning over 25 years, he completed a seven-year tenure as bassist with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. There are dozens of other legends he’s performed or recorded with, including Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Donald Byrd, and the late great Dizzy Gillespie. 

In 2011, he was even nominated for an Emmy Award in the “Original Music” category for “Malawi and Malaria: Fighting to Save the Children,” which was produced by Robert Gould and Sue Carter.

Outside of his educational work at MSU, he has also presented numerous master classes at Duke University and Howard University, among others. His show tonight at UrbanBeat allows locals a chance to see the master at work. At this gig, Whitaker (contra bass) will be joined by Terell Stafford (trumpet), Tim Warfield (tenor sax), Bruce Barth (piano), Dana Hall (drums) and vocalist Rockelle Fortin. 

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