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Keeping the beat in Old Town

Three shows to check out at UrbanBeat


There’s a long history of music reverberating through the streets of Old Town, thanks to annual celebrations like Michigan JazzFest and BluesFest. But you don’t have to wait around for those festivals to pop up. The historic neighborhood has a sonic staple that hosts top-of-the-line performers year-round: UrbanBeat, 1213 Turner St. 

Depending on the night, the venue seamlessly swings from jazz to soul, rock to pop and techno to open mics. Aside from craft beers and specialty cocktails, the club also boasts a diverse seasonal menu. For those looking for a special night on the town, here’s a quick sample of the shows happening this week at UrbanBeat. 


Sunny Wilkinson Quartet 
Thursday, Feb. 16, doors 5 p.m., music 7:30-9:30 p.m.
$25, $20 advance, $15 students

Guesting with the likes of the Count Basie Band and Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, Sunny Wilkinson has long been a prized member of Lansing’s jazz scene. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Don Mizell, co-producer of Ray Charles’ “Genius Loves Company” LP, once said, “Sunny Wilkinson is at the top of her game here. She has spent a lot of time refining her craft in the trenches and now emerges as a master songstress able to get inside of a song and find its essential, emotional core.”

Since releasing her 1990 debut record, “Alegria,” she has issued three other solo albums, including her most recent, “Into the Light.” The 2018 disc is a collection of highly personal originals and contemporary standards that showcase her crystalline voice.


Black Rock 101: The Black Rock Sextet featuring Benjamin Hall

Friday, Feb. 17,  doors 5 p.m., music 7:30-11 p.m.
$20, $15 advance, $5 students 

Take away the revolutionary contributions from countless Black musicians, and rock ‘n’ roll music wouldn’t exist. With that in mind, The Black Rock Sextet, a local supergroup, presents an auditory journey through just some of that iconic, trailblazing music. The live show is meant to be an introductory course, a swift history spotlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Black musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Tina Turner, Little Richard, Prince, Sly Stone and Chuck Berry, to only name a few. 

The stacked band comprises Benjamin Hall (The Further Adventures of FatBoy and JiveTurkey vocalist), Bill Malone (former Root Doctor guitarist), Eric Hamilton (The Rotations bassist), Clarence “Boonie” Dottery (Global Village drummer), Mocha Man (Mixed Flavors saxophonist) and Alan Sloan (vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for Sloan and the Filthy Animals). 


Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet with Elden Kelly
Saturday, Feb. 18,  doors 5 p.m., music 8-11 p.m.
$25, $20 advance, $15 students

Following Thursday’s Sunny Wilkinson show, UrbanBeat serves up another round of jazz with the Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet. Recognized by critics in JazzTimes magazine, Sharp mines the globe for rhythms and textures. The result? A dynamic batch of world-music-inspired, original compositions. The progressive jazz sounds are accomplished with instruments like the oud (a fretless, stringed instrument), violin, electric bass, synthesizer and world percussion. 

Led by bassist and composer Dave Sharp, the Worlds Quartet explores music traditions from Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, India, Bulgaria and Greece. Luckily, locals only have to drive to Old Town to witness it live. 

For more information on the shows listed above, visit urbanbeatevents.com or call 517-331-8440.


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