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2009 Detroit Jazz Festival

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Detroit Jazz Festival
Detroit, MI
September 4-7, 2009
A short distance from Hitsville USA, where Berry Gordy created the Motown sound, shaping the history of American music and culture, and the Diego Rivera Court, where the artist's murals pay tribute to the workers whose hands made the auto industry a reality, sits Hart Plaza, Detroit's waterfront public space, where for 30 years, Detroiters and jazz enthusiasts from around the world have convened on Labor Day weekend for the Detroit Jazz festival. The history of jazz has a deep debt to the city and the festival has always celebrated its native sons and daughters. Detroiters featured this year included pianist Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
, reedmen Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
b.1940
clarinet
and Charles McPherson
Charles McPherson
Charles McPherson
b.1939
sax, alto
, bandleader Gerald Wilson
Gerald Wilson
Gerald Wilson
b.1918
composer/conductor
, bassist Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker
Rodney Whitaker
b.1968
bass, acoustic
, esteemed veterans Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
and Marcus Belgrave
Marcus Belgrave
Marcus Belgrave
b.1936
trumpet
and drummers Karriem Riggins
Karriem Riggins
Karriem Riggins
b.1975
drums
, Carl Allen
Carl Allen
Carl Allen
b.1961
drums
and Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes
b.1937
drums
.

Much eager anticipation surrounded the Chase Mainstage appearance of Riggins. Equally notable for his work with jazz artists like Mulgrew Miller and hiphop groups like The Roots, Riggins presented a varied set, starting with burning post-bop originals and one Tony Williams Lifetime tune, in a group with pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst and vibraphonist Warren Wolf. The ensemble then expanded to include New York DJ Pete Rock, along with a guest appearance by Slum Village. Riggins and Rock played an intense and inspired duo, with rhythms and textures colliding furiously, then locking together for a huge backbeat, only to break off again, continuously exploring new territory and refining their deep rapport.

Mack Avenue Records, from nearby Harper Woods, were well-represented at the festival, with inspired sets from Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
b.1972
bass
, The Carl Allen-Rodney Whitaker Project, Sachal Vasandani
Sachal Vasandani
Sachal Vasandani

vocalist
, Gerald Wilson and trumpeter Sean Jones
Sean Jones
Sean Jones
b.1978
trumpet
. Wilson's Orchestra performed works from its fourth record for Mack Avenue, Detroit. "Blues on Belle Isle," "Cass Tech" (named for the high school where many of Detroit's most famous musicians, including Mr. Wilson, all studied) and "Before Motown" all created a deeply moving portrait of the city, its storied history embedded in the music's lush harmonies, evocative melodies and splendid solos.

A recurring theme for the festival was mentorship and the fostering of young talent. Eclectic vibraphonist Stefon Harris
Stefon Harris
Stefon Harris
b.1973
vibraphone
, himself not so long ago a very noteworthy up-and-coming sideman, brought his band Blackout, featuring pianist Marc Cary
Marc Cary
Marc Cary

piano
and bassist Ben Williams, both of whom are still at college in New York. Saxophonist Casey Benjamin brought both intensity and lush shading to the band, occasionally switching to digital vocoder. Young, emerging talent cropped up in many other bands, including those of McBride, Jones and drummer TS Monk's Tentet, which performed the original arrangements from his father's well-known Town Hall tentet performance 50 years earlier. "Off Minor" featured a blistering trombone solo from Andy Hunter and pianist Helen Sung also shined, channeling Monk's idiosyncratic phrasing. The leader had plenty of fond remembrances of his father to share, both onstage during his set and hours earlier at the Jazz Talk Tent.

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
's quartet appearance captivated all in attendance, a 90-minute succession of Shorter originals, seamlessly woven together through the improvisational virtuosity of pianist Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
b.1966
piano
, bassist John Patitucci
John Patitucci
John Patitucci
b.1959
bass
and drummer Brian Blade
Brian Blade
Brian Blade
b.1970
drums
. Geri Allen's set also turned ears, with her unprecedented blend of abstraction and introspective beauty supported by not only bass and drums, but also another surprise star of the festival, tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, who interacted with the ensemble with enthusiasm and skill, often executing complex unison rhythms with drummer Kassa Overall. Saxophonist Bennie Maupin's Dolphyana brought a coolness and lucid calm, capturing the iconoclastic Eric Dolphy's penchant for challenging orthodoxy while remaining accessible for those less familiar with the more adventurous side of jazz. Drummer Billy Hart
Billy Hart
Billy Hart
b.1940
drums
and vibraphonist Jay Hoggard
Jay Hoggard
Jay Hoggard
b.1954
vibraphone
walked a careful balance between subtlety and intensity while bassist Derek Oles used thoughtful restraint even when featured for solos. Maupin shined with charismatic brilliance, remaining uncompromising in his ideals, but still conjuring an inviting sonic environment.

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