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Conversations with creators and organizers of the arts scene in West Michigan, hosted by Cara Lieurance

Live Latin jazz headed by Michigan mainstays comes to JungleBird

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Robert Mulligan, Steve Talaga and Tom Knific

The themed restaurant and cocktail lounge JungleBird has just made the the fantasy of a Caribbean escape a little more real: Starting Jan 8, the Kalamazoo venue will offer live Latin Jazz music every Sunday from 6-9 pm. Managing partner Mark Sellers and professional bassist Tom Knific joined Cara Lieurance to talk about the free series, in which Knific, pianist Steve Talaga, and percussionist Robert Mulligan will play tunes from Brazil to Cuba with guest artists every week. Reservations are recommended.

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Interior of JungleBird

Tom Knific has been performing and appreciating Latin jazz since he had a life-changing residency at age 20 in Rio de Janeiro while on tour. Later as a professor at Western Michigan University, he mentored student groups who played Latin jazz and has a lifetime of musician contacts to call upon when inviting guests to play on the new series.

Mark Sellers has a musical background himself. Trained at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, he lived life on the road as a keyboardist for years before becoming a restaurant entrepreneur. His first big success was the craft beer-oriented HopCat. His travels to Cuba and other tropical spots were the inspiration for JungleBird, and the Grand Rapids-based Max's South Seas Hideaway.

Cara Lieurance covers local music with live morning interviews, and produces WMUK's Let's Hear It weekday mornings at 10 am Mon-Fri, showcasing local interviews and performances. She also produces The Pure Drop, an hour of Celtic music, with musician Dave Marlatt.