In Detroit, perhaps we get a little too focused on the wild side of our music. We trumpet the virtues of such regional hard-rockers as Iggy Pop, the MC5, Negative Approach, Mitch Ryder, early Seger and Grand Funk Railroad, the newly rediscovered Death, and even Ted Nugent's more lucid moments. In the jazz world, we celebrate our more unusual musicians, such as outside multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, or hard bopper Roy Brooks. We get it; we're a gritty place and we love that all that heart and struggle can produce good art.
But what about the softer side of our fair city? Take smooth jazzman Earl Klugh, who's closer to a pop guy these days than the jazzer who played with Lateef back in the day. But there's a kind of sweetness to Klugh: the soft-spoken manner, the gentle guitar phrasing, the loose V-neck sweater. Sure, we tease, we tease. But Klugh made it big, and that's why we single him out to wish him a happy birthday. Earl Klugh turns 61 this Sept. 16.