It seems they’re everywhere throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods and parks in the summertime hawking their sweet, drippy treats. Like the pied piper, they can be heard a few streets away before they’re spotted, beckoning kids from the surrounding area. Most, if not all of the ice cream trucks I’ve seen and heard while bicycling, are playing the same, traditional ice cream selling song – “Turkey in the Straw” – at close to ear shattering levels. Not only are they blasting that attention-grabbing tune, some occasionally break into the looping music to throw out a pre-recorded, high-pitched “Hello, Hello” as they slow to a crawl during dinner hour. I also heard a truck use a piercing “Quack, Quack” duck call in his music stream to draw attention to his cool offerings. That unique selling technique brought a smile to my face when I heard it.
As the kids swarm to the trucks that are crawling along the street, they pull over and stop but usually don’t turn off, or turn down the music. Mix in the chatter of happy kids screaming with excitement and the loud humming noise of the refrigeration units found on the vehicles, and you end up with a mini “carnival midway” in the middle of the street.
The slow-moving trucks are colorful, eye-catching vehicles, and many appear to be converted delivery trucks or mobile homes. I also saw a motorcycle with a refrigerated sidecar making the rounds. The trucks feature complete, busy, multicolored menus or soft cream images showing all they sell; cones, cups, sundaes, sandwiches, milkshakes, frozen popsicles plus other sweet treats. In looking closely at the many mobile ice cream stands cruising the streets of Detroit, it sure looks to me as if the same art is used to create many of the mouth-watering images. The only difference seems to be slight color changes to the toppings or the order of appearance: cones then ice cream cups or ice cream cups then cones.
I like the cool company names found on these trucks. Names like “King Softy”, “Mr. Softy”, “Mr. 3000”, “Lovely Ice Cream”, “Mr. King”, “Mr. Soft Serve” and my favorite “Mr. Obama Ice Cream”.
Take a look at some of the kid magnets I’ve spotted on my two-wheeled travels in Detroit.
Detroit Jazz Fest
Labor Day is Detroit Jazz Fest weekend, and like past Festivals, this year’s schedule is jammed pack with talent. So much in fact, that it would be impossible to see all the great acts in this year’s lineup. After reviewing the 70 plus performers on this year’s schedule, I’ve listed the top bands that I hope to catch over the four-day event. This is not an “end-all” list by any means, but a starting point to the variety of music that will be offered at this year’s Festival.
Friday – September 3rd –
- 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. – Take 6 with Mulgrew Miller Trio – Great combination of a cappella vocals and extraordinary piano playing from one of the best.
- 9:15 – 10:45 p.m. – Tower of Power – I love this band’s soulful, funky sound. Their 1974 album “Back to Oakland” is one of their best.
Saturday – September 4th –
- 6:30 – 7:45 p.m. -‘Hot Pepper’ with Barry Harris & Gary Smulyan – If you’ve never seen or heard Detroit’s own Barry Harris, check him out. You won’t be disappointed. Art Pepper heavily influenced sax player Smulyan; this set could be a festival highlight.
- 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. – The Fabulous Thunderbirds – A surprise when I saw this Texas blues/rock band on the schedule. Should be a rockin’ show.
- 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Terence Blanchard Quintet – I’d hate to miss this renowned trumpeter from New Orleans. Like many of his generation, he made a name while playing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
- 9:45 – 11:00 p.m. – Mulgrew Miller & Wingspan – If you missed Miller on Friday, check him out as he leads what appears to be a great sextet.
Sunday – September 5th –
- 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. – Kenny Barron & Mulgrew Miller – Two of the best pianists pair up for what should be an amazing hour of music.
- 9:15 – 10:45 p.m. – Brownie Speaks: The Music of Clifford Brown featuring Dominick Farinacci and Jonathan Batiste – I don’t know these musicians, but I do love the music of the late trumpeter Clifford Brown.
- 9:45 – 11:15 p.m. – Mambo Legends Orchestra – Former members of the Tito Puente Orchestra, these guys should have people dancing in their seats.
Monday – September 6th –
- 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. Branford Marsalis – This saxophone player comes from one of Louisiana’s (and America’s) most musical families. He too made a name for himself while playing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
- 4:30 – 5:45 p.m. Finger Poppin’: A Tribute to Horace Silver – Randy Brecker played with Horace Silver and he joins the Michael Weiss Quintet for what should be a soulful, hard bob set of Silver tunes.
- 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. Allen Toussaint – A singer/songwriter legend, not to be missed! Toussaint wrote “Fortune Teller, “Southern Nights”, “Working in the Coalmine” and many others that have been covered by The Band, Three Dog Night, The Doors and many others.
- 5:30 – 7:30 Manhattan Transfer & Gerald Wilson – The jazz vocal group will be backed by the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, led by composer/arranger Gerald Wilson. Should be an exciting, uplifting evening of great music.