The dog days of August may be bittersweet for some as the joys of summer come to an end, but jazz fans whet their appetite in anticipation of the big show that is the jewel in the crown of free jazz festivals. Cool club dates and concerts light up sultry nights as the summer wanes, and come Labor Day weekend the kaleidoscopic joys of the 32nd Detroit Jazz Festival provides a veritable cornucopia of audio delight! Whew! Is that florid enough for y'all? Let’s consider what's fast upon us…
Detroit Jazz Festival Features
This year’s festival takes place Friday, September 2 through Monday, September 5 at various stages downtown around Hart Plaza on the Detroit River. The overriding theme, “We Bring You the World,” is reflected by the international array of stars this year's lineup boasts. Brazilian stars Luciana Souza, Ivan Lins and Vinicius Cantuaria will bring tropical vibes. Clarinetist Anat Cohen swings in from Israel, and reed man Paquito D’Rivera is a legendary Cuban expatriate. Angelique Kidjo, Toots Thielemans and Amina Figarova are also part of the global contingent.
A strong straight-on jazz lineup includes British bassist Dave Holland fronting his octet, sax cat Joe Lovano’s Us 5, and the New Gary Burton Quartet! Vibes legend Burton will be joined by guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and dynamic drummer Antonio Sanchez. Saxophonist Steve Wilson leads a new band, and the fascinating pianist Helen Sung will be coming. Guitarist Anthony Wilson fronts a trio and the Sun Ra Arkestra will speak to us of myth-science jazz from Saturn and the outer planets!
Friday’s opening night features vocalists Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright honoring the legacies of Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta. Sing The Truth has this remarkable trio joined by a group that includes the amazing daughter of Detroit piano, Geri Allen, and Brazilian guitar groover Romero Lubambo.
As always, the Detroit jazz tradition is an important component. Violinist Regina Carter brings her West African Project. Native son trombonist Curtis Fuller returns to the roost. There will a Big Band Bash fronted by Walt Symanski, honoring Detroit Big Bands from the ’20s to the ’60s. And the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra plays the big band music of bassist Christian McBride.
The festival will “give the drummer some” as the dynamic Jeff “Tain” Watts’ opening night Drum Club hits hard! The group includes vibes star Joe Locke, Latin jazz drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and percussionist Pedro Martinez. Labor Day itself has a Come Monday Gospel program. Soul legend Chuck Jackson also hits, with a tip of the hat to Motown.
This is just the tip of this year's iceberg of jazz. The schedule of events can be found at https://www.detroitjazzfest.com
Concerts and club scenes
The University Musical Society swings into its fall season with one of the warmest and hippest piano players in modern jazz. The impeccably tasteful Ahmad Jamal plays Hill Auditorium Saturday, September 17 at 8 p.m. His working band features James Cammack on bass and New Orleans native Herlin Riley on drums, with percussionist Manolo Badrena.
Jazz fans will want to climb aboard as the Ark hosts big-hearted blues man Taj Mahal Wednesday, August 10 at 8 p.m. More Detroit roots here with John Lee Hooker, Jr. Monday, August 15 at 8 p.m.
The Kerrytown Concert House has typically eclectic offerings. Drummer Fred Knapp has a CD release concert with his trio featuring wunderkind pianist Glenn Tucker and able sax player Ben Jansson — this latter cat is a personal favorite, with a fabulous big old-school tone. Catch them on the run Tuesday, August 9 at 8 p.m. The New West Guitar Trio is slated for Friday, August 12 at 8 p.m. Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman brings a quintet with trumpeter Paul Finkbeiner sharing the front line and a killing rhythm team of Tad Weed, Paul Keller and Pete Siers. They do their dance of love at KCH Friday, August 26 at 8 p.m. And say, “Oh, man!” somebody! Native son guitarist Randy Napoleon returns to town supporting the quintessence of elegance, Freddy Cole. Freddy is the brother of the late Nat "King" Cole, a fine pianist and a grand romantic singer. Not to be missed! They hook up at KCH Friday, September 23 with two shows at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Down by the Creekside
Always like to close with a nudge towards the last Sunday of the month appearances of David Swain's II-V-I Orchestra at the Creekside Grill. Music for dancing and listening with ambitious tributes featured every month. In August they will work Miles Davis’ groundbreaking Birth of the Cool material. In September they break out charts from composer-arranger Benny Carter. The music starts at 6:30 p.m.
And thanks again
Many thanks to all who contributed to the "soft" summer fundraiser for WEMU 89.1 FM. You are the reason we are able to do what we do! You are WEMU! See you at the scene!