Sunday, September 11, 2016

Detroit Jazz Festival photo highlights

Artist in Residence Ron Carter

Last weekend I attended the Detroit Jazz Festival, the world's largest free jazz festival. The event is held each year over Labor Day Weekend at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park in Detroit, Michigan and spans four days, Friday to Monday.

Downtown Detroit

I wanted to share photo highlights from my time in Detroit in order to show the depth and beauty of the event. All photos are by Paul Burega.

George Benson

Roy Hargrove

The Detroit Jazz Festival brings amazing local, national and international acts to four different stages. Local Detroit Public School students are able to perform amongst Detroit jazz professionals, Mack Avenue Record label artists, jazz legends, international talent and the Artist in Residence.

(Left to Right): Jimmy Heath and Roberta Gambarini

The United States Airmen of Note

This year bassist Ron Carter was the featured Artist in Residence. Carter's career has spanned over 50 years, and he has played on many of the most important jazz recordings with greats such as Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter. In addition to this, he holds the Guinness World Record for most recorded bassist: he has appeared on more than 2,000 albums. A native of Michigan, Carter went to Cass Tech high school in Detroit, and was greeted with a heartwarming homecoming. My favorite show of the festival, among many highlights, was the Ron Carter Quartet because of the energy and inspired solos from the group.

Ron Carter Nonet

The many themes of the festival included education, mentors and disciples, the artist in residence program, living legends, and beyond category groups. It was amazing to see the local Wayne State college jazz band have pianist Randy Weston as their special guest as part of the mentors and disciples program.

Randy Weston in the Jazz Talk Tent

Randy Weston

Also included among the music is a Jazz Talk Tent, which hosts daily interviews with festival artists and historians. A special highlight amongst the interviews was the rare chance to hear pianist Randy Weston and saxophonist Jimmy Heath, both around ninety years old, speak about their lives. Randy Weston spoke about his time living in Morocco for some years, while Jimmy Heath spoke about his relationship with Dizzy Gillespie.

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

There was also numerous jams, both in the daily schedule and as a nightly jam session. At night, the jams were packed to see the house band play with many of the talented artists that came to sit in from the festival. The jam photo below is from a special collaboration between Detroit local artists and Japanese guests. 

Japan meets Detroit: a global jam

Freddy Cole

In addition to this, there was a nightly movie screening that featured episodes of the Nat King Cole television show that were fully restored. Nat King Cole's brother, Freddy Cole, performed at the festival and came to the television show screening to speak about his brother. I was able to see restored episodes with Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Jr. as guests. I was amazed by the tap dancing and comedy of Sammy Davis Jr., who even mimicked Charlie Chaplin in a skit.

Cyrille Aimée

Stanley Cowell

Final Thoughts: 
The Detroit Jazz Festival was the highlight of 2016 for me. There is nothing that compares to the experience of being immersed within inspiring, jubilant music while in a city as warm and kind as Detroit. I met and talked to many wonderful people, that shared their stories with me and encouraged me to play and write about jazz.

I hope these pictures showed you the color, liveliness, joy and diversity of the festival. Any of these acts could be a great springboard to learning about and listening to this music.

Jason Moran

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Ron Carter Quartet

Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

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