Lansing JazzFest Artist Feature: Those Delta Rhythm Kings

CREATED Jul 30, 2013

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  • Image by Photo Courtesy of Lansing JazzFest; Photographer: Jessica Cowles

For 25 years, the Lansing-based Those Delta Rhythm Kings have been bringing lots of swing, jump, and bluesy flavor to mid-Michigan and around the country.

After headlining the opening night of Old Town BluesFest last summer, Those Delta Rhythm Kings will be performing the opening night of Lansing JazzFest this Friday, August 2nd on the North Stage, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Members of the band include: Ray Aleshire on vocals and harmonica, Rod Aleshire on bass, John Davidson on guitar, George Hirai on baritone sax, Chad Bement on tenor sax, Janell Christie on alto sax, Andy Wilson on trumpet and harmonica, and Jeff Shoup on drums.

We spoke with founding member and lead singer Ray Aleshire about TDRK's sound, its influences, and the connection to the Lansing music scene.


Stefanie Pohl: You headlined at BluesFest last year, and this year you're headlining JazzFest. What do you think this says about the style of your music?

Ray Aleshire: The music we play isn't squarely in the middle of anything. We sit at the intersection of blues, and jazz, and even some very early R&B. The thing that binds our music together is the instrumentation, not the specific genre. We tend to migrate to different styles that the horns are a major part of. We touch on that mid-century [music] where the lines weren't so clearly drawn between the styles. [For JazzFest], it'll be more instrumentals, and tunes will be by jazz-leaning artists. 

SP: What is it about this genre of music that seems to endure decades later?

RA: It invites creativity. It invites spontaneity. Jazz is a very free-flowing music often. Yes, there are rigid portions of it, but a lot of it is based on improvisation. And that keeps everything fresh. You can hear the same song by four different artists on the same night, and it will be different. 

SP: What were TDRK's influences when the band was founded, and have they changed over the last 25 years?

RA: Early on our main influences were a lot of Chicago and Texas blues artists. From that we moved on to some of the post-war California music, and the contemporary jump blues artists. That big band jazz definitely had an influence on us as we added more horns to the band. Artists today that we listen to tend to be more influences because of the horn players. Their influences, like Coltrane, have influenced the rest of us in a big way. 

SP: You've played around the country, but home base is the Lansing area. What is it like playing for the Lansing audiences and being such a part of the local music scene?

RA: The Old Town festivals are just fantastic. The crowds are great, the setting is great. Everything about the Old Town events is really wonderful. Well staged, well managed, and the fans are terrific. BluesFest last year was rainy, but there was still a good turnout. We expect the same this year. From the very first Jazz festival that Old Town put on, ever since then it's been all uphill and really an impressive festival. In Lansing in general, I think the Lansing area has a widely-diverse group of talented artists. I don't know if that has to do with our location between Chicago and Detroit, or because of its proximity to MSU - certainly that has a big impact on the local jazz scene. We feel lucky to be in this area with so many great people to play with and play for. We're happy to call Lansing home.


Click here for more information on Lansing JazzFest, including bands and performance schedules, and click here for more information on Those Delta Rhythm Kings.

See them perform "Let's Do It Like Monkeys" on WKAR's Backstage Pass.