ALL THAT JAZZ: Renowned Plymouth musician to perform at Penn Theatre

 ALL THAT JAZZ: Renowned Plymouth musician to perform at Penn Theatre

Local musician Chris Plum will be performing a ground-breaking concert at downtown Plymouth’s iconic Penn Theatre on Nov. 18.

When touring with his rock-and-roll band Mood Elevator in Amsterdam close to 20 years ago, Chris Plum crossed paths with comedic actor Jack Black, whom Plum had met previously in Los Angeles.

“Jack was there with his two-man comedy band Tenacious D,” recalled Plum, a native of Detroit and 20-year resident of Plymouth. “We all hit some clubs that night and had a great time.”

Not long after the encounter, Plum was watching Black’s hit movie “School of Rock” when he noticed something that nearly knocked him out of his chair.

“One of (Mood Elevator’s) posters was hanging on a wall in the movie,” Plum said. “We had no idea Jack was going to do that. Very cool experience.”

That is just one beyond-amazing anecdote Plum shared recently during a recent interview on the patio of downtown Plymouth’s Coffee Bean.

Shift in genres

A popular entertainer internationally and throughout metro-Detroit for decades, Plum (who sings, writes songs and excels at playing multiple instruments) has gradually shifted his musical focus from rock and roll to jazz.

Chris Plum stands outside the iconic Penn Theatre to promote his upcoming concert
Chris Plum stands outside the iconic Penn Theatre to promote his upcoming concert

Plum, whose current full-time job is as an operator of a business that supports private and public schools, has performed in several iconic worldwide venues throughout his musical career, including The Royal Albert Hall and Ronnie Scott’s in London

Smiling, Plum recalled how, when performing at gritty jazz clubs in Detroit’s yet-to-be-renovated Cass Corridor several years ago, he and his fellow musicians would have to take turns checking on their vehicles in the parking lot to make sure they weren’t being broken into.

“A year or two after we were performing in clubs along the Cass Corridor, I saw an article in one of the big music magazines — it may have been Spin — that had the headline, ‘It’s happening in Detroit’ and it had a bunch of photos of the Cass Corridor clubs. People who appreciate jazz and related music around this area know how amazing the scene was there.”

Debut vinyl album

In December of 2022, Plum released his debut jazz album The Small Hours, which he recorded in his home studio and had pressed at Detroit’s Third Man Records, which is co-owned by White Stripes singer Jack White (with whom Plum formerly toured).

Chris Plum performs live approximately once a month in venues across metro Detroit
Chris Plum performs live approximately once a month in venues across metro Detroit

Plum revealed that among the musicians who accompanied him on The Small Hours were local students whose talents he observed at the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC).

“The young talent in this area (Plymouth and Canton) is amazing,” said Plum. “I’ve been blown away by how good these kids are — well, they’re 20-somethings but kids to me (he smiled).”

Plum will be a pioneer, of sorts, on Nov. 18, when he and up to 10 or 11 other local musicians are excited to perform songs from The Small Hours (and other popular jazz covers) inside Plymouth’s iconic Penn Theatre, which has been exclusively a place to watch movies since it opened on Dec. 4, 1941.

To purchase tickets for the ground-breaking concert (which will also feature local bands DICHI and Cabaret Boreale) visit

When Friends of the Penn renovated Penn Theatre in the early 2000s, they built a stage in front of the movie screen. Plum will be working with Friends of the Penn Executive Director Ellen Elliott to discover young, up-and-coming musical talent to perform on that stage every six months.

“I’m stoked to be able to give aspiring jazz artists the opportunity to play at a venue like this,” said Plum.

Cool idea

The idea to host concerts at The Penn was sparked when Elliott heard Plum perform at a downtown-Plymouth benefit earlier this summer.

“I was trying to figure out something unique to bring to the Penn, and, when I heard Chris play, I had an epiphany,” Elliott said. “I knew he would be the perfect fit to kick off this program. The music Chris writes is new and fresh, but also has a historical vibe to it. And that’s what the Penn is.”

The theater served as an escape for residents during World War II and beyond — until 2003, when it was forced to close its doors.

Plymouth residents didn’t accept the closure of what had become a fixture in their community.

So, a group of advocates joined together to form Friends of the Penn, and, thanks to them, the theater was able to reopen in September 2006.

Popular venue

Since then, the group has welcomed more than 720,000 patrons to the theater, and they’ve fully renovated the building while maintaining its historical accuracy.

“You see how many theaters are closing in other small towns like this,” Elliott said. “This new music program is just another way we’re making sure that doesn’t happen here — with each ticket purchased going towards the preservation of this historic gem.

“The community has really come together to support this project, and it’s a testament to what the city of Plymouth values.”

With a 400-seat capacity, Plum said this will be his largest show since launching his solo career.

“I’m really excited to be playing in a theater atmosphere,” Plum said. “That’s definitely the kind of environment my music was made for– where people can sit down and really enjoy the music, instead of at a noisy bar.

“We’ve been playing about once a month at clubs around metro-Detroit. At first, we thought we’d just be background music people could enjoy, but before we knew it, people were up dancing and really getting into what we were doing.”

With the addition of these concerts to the Penn Theatre, Elliott wants to remind community members that films will still be their main focus.

Movies remain focus

The theater is open four nights a week – Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and they play indie, classic and second-run films.

“What really makes us different than a multiplex is the people,” she said. “If you’re a regular patron, we get to know you. We know your name and what you like to drink and if you want butter on your popcorn. It’s a more personal experience.”

She added that, because of the nonprofit’s fundraising activities, they are able to keep ticket prices low.

“We are conscious about being affordable, which really sets us apart,” Elliott assured. “It makes it easier for our patrons from an economic standpoint – and then they still have money to go out to dinner in the city too.”

The iconic Penn Theatre marquee
The iconic Penn Theatre marquee

For Plum, he said that the theater, its old-fashioned marquee out front, and the neon “PENN” lighting up the night sky – it’s all become synonymous with the city of Plymouth to its residents.

“It’s the cornerstone of our community. It’s a place where we can gather at the center of town, be entertained and build memories,” he said.

“It’s really important to me to support the Penn Theatre and celebrate the arts in its many forms. I argue that music is best listened to on vinyl – and I think movies are best enjoyed at venues like this. In a way, Penn Theatre is like the vinyl of movie theaters.”

And who knows? If you attend the Nov. 18 concert, you. may run into Jack Black, Jack White — or some other colorful entertainers Plum has befriended over the years.

Penn Theatre is located at 760 Penniman Ave. in Plymouth. On the night of the concert, doors will open at 6 p.m., and attendees can enjoy a cash bar.

For more information about Plum and his music, visit and follow him on Instagram and Facebook at

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or

Ed Wright

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