Story and Photos by James Walker
Musicians Network Mecca, an organization of Chicago musicians and founded by
guitarist Bernard Crump, presented a very special jam session on December 21st
at the Wild Hare Reggae Club that featured renowned bassist Darryl Jones. "The
Munch", as he is affectionately known, has been performing with the Rolling
Stones for the past 17 years and once held the same position with legendary
Miles Davis during the 80s.
For over four hours, he orchestrated an array of Chicago's finest jazz and R&B
performers while only taking one short break. Not only did Jones display his
skill as a bassist, he also showed off his little known talent as a vocalist.
Before Maestro Jones took his position on stage, the Musicians Network Mecca
(MNM) house band consisting of bassist Mike Sterling, guitarist Keith Henderson,
percussionist Toco Carpenter, keyboardist Jasper Stone and drummer Tony Banks
warmed up the capacity crowd with a few crowd pleasing numbers, including Earth
Wind and Fire's "Way of the World"
Back stage, groups of musicians waited anxiously to perform while gleefully
interacting with one another. Many hadn't seen each other in years. A couple
quipped that they hadn't seen this many musicians together unless it was at a
funeral, and this set tonight was far from that.
As The Munch approached the stage to begin his "rein," he was accompanied by
guitarist Alan Burroughs, drummer Percy Wilson, saxophonist Al Smith,
percussionist Toco Carpenter, trumpeter Corey Wilkes and fellow Miles Davis
"Alum " Robert "Baabe" Irving on the keyboard. They appropriately began the
first segment with Miles' "Decoy" and "What It Is". Al Smith's extended solos on
the soprano sax excited this joyous crowd. Keyboardist Bethany Pickens joined in
on Marcus Millers' "Jean Pierre".
The next group included vocalists Diane Madison, Mae Koen and Nanette Frank,
The Chicago Horns, guitarist Sandy Torano and drummer Vince Wilburn. The
segment was highlighted by their version of Average White Band's "Work To Do".
Nanette and the ladies were on "fire".
There were so many highlights during the evening with guitarist Curtis Robinson
and saxophonist Al Smith dueling on "Revelation". Curtis also fared well on his
original "Pat and Wes".
Other features included vocalist Joan Collaso with drummer Vern Allison,
keyboardist Larry Hanks and trumpeter Corey Wilkes on "My Favorite Things" and
"People Make The World Go Round". Wilkes accompanied Joan on "Coltrane's
classic, "My Favorite Things".
Chicago is blessed with outstanding female vocalists and Nanette Frank brought
the house down with a beautiful version of '"Round Midnight." She gave it her all
as the crowd was very appreciative..
What a pleasure to see one of Chicago's all time R&B favorites, Otis Clay join
in on the fun with "Precious, Precious". Mr. Clay waited patiently from the
wings enjoying the performances of his younger colleagues. It was a beautiful
sight for this writer to see as he remembers Mr. Clay from the days of the "High
Chaparral", and "Bonanza" back in the early 70s. He still has that charisma and
vocal chords. What a true professional!!!
The night came to an end with The Munch vocalizing on "Change", "Here is My
Song", and "In The Blood", with Keli Briggs Allison.
What a special moment when organizer Bernard Crump recognized all musicians and
invited them to the stage as he closed the very successful "jam session". The
stage could not hold those assembled as 50 plus gathered on and in front of the
stage for a farewell sing a long. Crump promises to make this a regular
happening and lets hope that becomes a reality.
For information about future MNM events refer to their website at