Detroit Jazz Festival Calls for Strategic Listener Planning
Attendees of the 34th annual Detroit Jazz Festival, which runs Aug. 30–Sept. 2, are advised to do some strategic planning to fully appreciate the proceedings.
It’s exhilarating and exhausting to contemplate the entire festival program, chock-a-block with world-class performers spanning four generations and various streams of jazz expression. A primary inspiration for many of them, pianist Ahmad Jamal, who at 83 continues to move on from the musical production that inspired Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and countless others, plays 9:30–10:45 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Carhart Amphitheater Stage in Hart Plaza. As Jamal begins his set, the Cookers will be heading into the homestretch of theirs over at the Absopure Pyramid Stage. So will guitarist John Scofield and his Überjam Band, up the road at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage. At the Mack Avenue Records Waterfront Stage, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and his quartet will just have completed their first few numbers.
Or, consider the options available after 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 31, when a choice must be made between a McCoy Tyner Trio encounter with dancer Savion Glover (Carhart, 7:45–9); an opportunity to see the Charles Lloyd Quartet with guitarist Bill Frisell (JP Morgan Chase, 6:45–8); ’70s avatars Azar Lawrence and George Bohanon in a quintet (Mack Avenue, 8–9:15); or the Eddie Daniels-Roger Kellaway Duo (Absopure Pyramid, 7–8:15).
Such decisions will define your personal festival experience.
Pianist Danilo Pérez, this year’s Artistic Director, has a full schedule. He opens the proceedings Aug. 30 at the JP Morgan Chase stage with a performance of his opus Panama 500, and he performs his Panama Suite on Sept. 2 with the Wayne State University Big Band. On Aug. 31, Pérez will participate in a “Mack Avenue Superband Concert” directed by Detroit-born bassist Rodney Whitaker (it includes Gary Burton, Kirk Whalum, Sean Jones and Aaron Diehl), and on Sept. 1 he’ll perform a duo concert with Detroit pianist Geri Allen a few hours after they sit together for a live DownBeat Blindfold Test.
On Sept. 2, Allen will host one of several Detroit-themed concerts—a “Homecoming Band” consisting of Bohanon, JD Allen, David McMurray, Robert Hurst, Karriem Riggins and Sheila Jordan. On Sept. 1, Detroit-bred saxophonist James Carter will be featured in a tribute to Don Byas (it overlaps with a Riggins-led set); on Sept. 2, he’ll play Duke Ellington repertoire with the Detroit Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Ellington specialist David Berger.
Detroit pianist Johnny O’Neal will lead a trio on Sept. 1; saxophonist JD Allen plays Aug. 31 with his trio; and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, an inspirational figure to almost every Detroit jazz musician who came of age after 1970, will conclude the festival Sept. 2 with a Trumpet Call.
Saxophonist Dave Liebman will be a major presence, playing with Coltrane and Joe Lovano in the Billy Hart-propelled Saxophone Summit on Aug. 31, in duo with Richie Beirach on Sept. 1 and with Quest (Beirach, Hart and bassist Ron McClure) on Sept. 2. Saxophonist Lee Konitz plays with the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble on Sept. 2, to be followed six hours later by a performance by his quartet.
Husband-and-wife team Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes play a piano duo on Aug. 31. On Sept. 1, Charlap participates in a 60th Anniversary Jazz at Massey Hall tribute with Jon Faddis and Jesse Davis on the front line. Also in the fest lineup are Freddy Cole, Michael Weiss, Warren Wolf, Terell Stafford, Trio De Paz with Joe Locke and Harry Allen, and the Robert Glasper Experiment. For fans, many difficult choices must be made.
For more information, including a map and a complete schedule, visit the Detroit Jazz Festival website.