Detroit gets a bad rap. There’s no Diamond Head, salsa nightlife, Southern hospitality, Hollywood bright lights, not even a decent New York style pizza. It’s not exactly a prime tourist destination – except for the music.
This Labor Day Weekend, the embattled city will open up its downtown doors to some of the greatest jazz minds in the world. Headliners the likes of Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Arturo O’Farrill, Kevin Eubanks, artist-in-residence Terence Blanchard, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, and so many more will take the stage and perform for a jam-packed crowd, free of charge.
Sharing in the fun are returning hometown heroes (Charlie Gabriel, Charles McPherson, Curtis Fuller) and the best local acts (Rodney Whitaker, Marion Hayden, Marcus Belgrave), as well as jazz students from the J.C. Heard Jazz Week at the Wayne State University program and winners of the festival-launched sax and arranging competitions.
The 33rd annual Detroit Jazz Festival is ready to change some minds. With the considerable help and attraction (try out the 2012 line-up in a ride-and-drive) of its new sponsor Chrysler, the festival seeks to give the music-hungry public plenty of opportunities to watch magic happen in scheduled concert performances and after-hours jam sessions.
Four main stages – three in Hart Plaza and one in Campus Martius – enable audiences to check out the best of the best continuously from noon through 10:45 p.m. Afterwards, the night owls can stroll over to the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center’s Volt Bar & Lounge for more, as quite often, the stars love to wind down with some schmoozing and after-hours jam sessions. Definitely a festival bonus, especially this one. You never know who’s gonna pop in and mix it up.
“We have an amazing collection of musicians performing this year and there will be a lot of energy downtown over the weekend. We want to bring some of the greatest jazz music out there to the festival, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” enthused BOD festival chair Gretchen Valade. “This year really is the culmination of our mission to bring world-class jazz to the heart of Detroit and keep it free for the public.”
Throughout the year, organizers of the Detroit Jazz Festival keep the flame alive with various partnerships and ventures, including workshops, free concerts, and competitions. Their partnership with Wayne State University results in the successful J.C. Heard Jazz Week at Wayne program, where students flourish and get to show off what they’ve learned. “With Detroit’s roots in jazz, we’re really investing in our community by helping young, talented musicians open their eyes to the jazz culture. We have some outstanding youth joining us in concert this year – not only in the J.C. Heard All-Star Youth Ensemble. The high school bands that will be attending are also phenomenal,” explained Chris Collins, Detroit Jazz Festival’s artistic director.
The festival also supports and puts on competitions to spotlight undiscovered talent. Two such competitions netted outstanding finds – in sax and arrangement – for a festival debut. Sax winners Danny Janklow (L.A.) and Geoff Vidal (Brooklyn) not only received mucho dinero but entrée onto the festival stage as their prize. The winner of the musical arrangement competition will be unveiled at the festival.