Don Was Announces New Band ‘Don Was and The Pan-Detroit Ensemble’

Six Time GRAMMY-Winning Musician, Producer, Composer, and Blue Note Records President Announces New Ensemble

Don Was Announces New Band ‘Don Was and The Pan-Detroit Ensemble’

Six Time GRAMMY-Winning Musician, Producer, Composer, and Blue Note Records President Announces New Ensemble

Photo Credit: Miryam Ramos

sSx-time GRAMMY-winning musician, producer, composer, and Blue Note Records President Don Was announced his new group Don Was and The Pan-Detroit Ensemble. Made up of stellar jazz musicians from his hometown, the band features longtime collaborators including Blue Note Records artist Dave McMurray on sax and Eminem’s Oscar-winning collaborator keyboardist Luis Resto. The band’s first US tour kicks off this May (full tour routing below).

“When the opportunity came to put together a new band, the message was clear to me: go back to Detroit where I came from, be who I am, play like who I am and team up with some like-minded individuals,” says Was. In addition to McMurray and Resto, band members include trombonist Vincent Chandler, trumpeter John Douglas, drummer Jeff Canaday, percussionist Mahindi Masai, guitarist Wayne Gerard, and vocalist Steffanie Christi’an. “There’s a unique sound and feel to Detroit that permeates the music in a way that resonates all over the globe,” Was continues. “There is a rawness, a lack of pretension and an unmistakable, underlying groove that reflects the people and culture of the entire city.” 

Inspired by the music of John Lee Hooker, Donald Byrd, Joe Henderson, George Clinton, Mitch Ryder, The Stooges, Electrifying Mojo, and more, The Pan-Detroit Ensemble will perform a mix of new originals, interpretations of songs written by artists like Yusef Lateef, Olu Dara, and Henry Threadgill, and of course updated cuts from albums that Don recorded with his Orquestra Was and Was (Not Was). 

“I’ve been chasing a sound in my head for the last 30 years,” explains Was. “It’s jazzy and improvisational, but also glued together with a sinewy R&B groove. It’s not slick or smooth — it’s a very raw, honest, Detroit kind of thing. The experiences I’ve had touring with Bobby Weir over the last six years, along with what I’ve learned from the artists on the Blue Note roster have pointed the way towards realizing that sound; The Pan Detroit Ensemble finally manifests that ‘thing’ I’ve been pursuing. The intention is to make communicative music that gets under the listener’s skin and brings them some joy, comfort and understanding in deeply troubled times. It’s all connected.”

“This tour is just the start,” Was asserts. “I know we’ve got some special chemistry going on in this band, and I can’t wait to see what it evolves into. The plan is to keep learning and growing until we drop… It’s too late to turn back now!”

Tour Dates:

5/21 – Minneapolis, MN – Dakota

5/22 – Evanston, IL – SPACE

5/24 – Detroit, MI – Orchestra Hall

5/25 – Cincinnati, OH – Memorial Hall

5/26 – Cumberland, MD – Delfest

5/28 – Red Bank, NJ – The Vogel at Count Basie Center

5/30 – Washington, DC – The Hamilton Live

5/31 – New York, NY – City Winery

6/2 – Ardmore, PA – Ardmore Music Hall

About Don Was

Music has always loomed large in the life of Don Was. Born in Detroit in 1952, he has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a musician, record producer, music director, film composer, documentary filmmaker and radio host. Since 2011, he has also served as President of the venerated jazz label, Blue Note Records.

For his work as a record producer, he has won six Grammy Awards – including Album of the Year in 1989 for Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time and Producer of the Year in 1994. Records produced by Was have sold nearly 100 million albums for artists ranging from The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson to The B-52’s, Wayne Shorter, John Mayer and Charles Lloyd. In 1995 he produced and directed a documentary about the life of Brian Wilson, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, that won the San Francisco Film Festival’s Golden Gate Award. As a film composer, he won the 1994 British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Original Score in recognition of his work on the film Backbeat. He won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction for his work on the CBS TV special The Beatles: The Night That Changed America. In 2018 Don was invited to join Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir to form the Wolf Brothers. They continue to consistently tour the US.

In 2011 Was became President of the iconic jazz label Blue Note Records. He fiercely protects the company’s 85 year-old legacy, meticulously caretaking this revered catalog of Black American Music. This includes maintaining the availability and quality of vinyl reissues in the Tone Poet and Classic Jazz audiophile release series. He also signs and produces many of the label’s recent roster of artists including, Robert Glasper, Charles Lloyd, Wayne Shorter, Dr Lonnie Smith, Gregory Porter and Jason Moran.

Don’s deep Detroit roots keep him anchored to the city; for the last 15 years he has music directed and played bass in the Don Was Detroit All Star Revue concerts, part of Detroit’s annual diversity festival, The Concert of Colors. From 2009-2012 Don hosted a weekly Sirius XM radio show on the Outlaw Country channel called The Motor City Hayride. Since 2021, he co-hosts a weekly, live radio show on Detroit’s NPR station, WDET-FM called The Don Was Motor City Playlist. Don is also the voice of Neville the Dog in the hit Amazon Prime Video children’s show, Pete the Cat.

Bass Magazine   By: Bass Magazine