The bittersweet feelings I always have as the days shorten and summer wanes are always balanced by the excitement of the cornucopia of jazz delights that is the Detroit Jazz Festival. There is always more talent than can be adequately promoted in this short column and the 33rd season is no exception to that rule. So before we consider our local club options, let me outline some of the most exciting opportunities that greet us on a multiplicity of stages on and about Hart Plaza in the Motor City this Labor Day weekend.
You got to have Hart
The party starts Friday, August 31 with a pair of great artists from two generations. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard was schooled in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He has recorded a wide range of projects from straight-ahead jazz to film soundtracks to his recent collaboration with Poncho Sanchez in tribute to Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. The Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins, returns with his thrilling — and we hope, never-ending — ribbons of invention. He is adventurous, romantic, funny and effusive — a real jazz legend!
The scene kicks in on Saturday, September 1 with headliners including pianist Chick Corea and long time partner vibraphonist Gary Burton teaming up with the Harlem String Quartet. Saxophonist Steve Wilson also hits with a string ensemble in tribute to "Bird with Strings." Muy romantico! Wynton Marsalis brings his quintet and that necessary New Orleans vibe. Directed by bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Mack Ave. Superband includes fellow Detroiter and saxophonist Kenny Garrett. Giving the drummer some is always a good thing: Detroiter Louis Hayes hits with the Jazz Communicators, and Bernard Purdie hooks up with B3 maestro Reuben Wilson, guitarist Grant Green, Jr. and guest saxophonist Donald Harrison (another Blakey alumnus). Bassist Chuck Israels' Jazz Orchestra reveals the range of a cat who worked with Bill Evans and Cecil Taylor! Detroit saxophonist Charles McPherson brings a quintet with the remarkable trumpeter Tom Harrell. And the Afro-Latin root is well represented by trombonist Papo Vazquez' Mighty Pirates Troubadours. Another great B3 trio will be led by Larry Goldings, with in-demand NYC talents Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart.
Sunday, September 2 has headliners like the Pat Metheny Unity Band with Chris Potter. Modern saxophonist and acclaimed composer Wayne Shorter's Quartet has Danilo Perez on piano. Second-generation Afro-Latin pianist Arturo O'Farrill's Septet also features Donald Harrison. Big rhythm fun! And left-coast conguero Poncho Sanchez leads a band reuniting with Terence Blanchard. Another great collaboration has saxophonist Joe Lovano in a quintet with leading-edge trumpeter Dave Douglas. And we enjoy the rhythmic and reflective piano styling of Alfredo Rodriguez and Fred Hersch.
The event wraps in strong fashion Monday, September 3 with "A Night in Treme (The Musical Majesty of New Orleans)," featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Donald Harrison and trumpeter Christian Scott. Saxophone-led bands are on the march Monday: Lew Tabackin hits with trumpet brother Randy Brecker, Kenny Garrett and Donald Harrison front small groups, and Donny McCaslin's group has pianist Jason Lindner. Big jazz ideas meet powerful Afro-Cuban rhythms as coguero trumpeter Jerry González y los Comandos de Clave roar in from Madrid!
And folks, this is just a few acts in the line-up.