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30th Annual Detroit International Jazz Festival

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Hank Jones / Corea, Clarke & White
Sean Jones / Dave Brubeck Quartet / Brian Auger's Oblivion Express
Alfredo Rodriguez / Dennis Coffey / Wayne Shorter Quartet
Chuchito Valdes / Stefon Harris & Blackout
30th Annual Detroit International Jazz Festival
Detroit, Michigan
September 4-7, 2009

The Detroit International Jazz Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary over Labor Day Weekend 2009, using the occasion to honor one of Motown's greatest jazz families. Adopting a "Keepin' Up With the Joneses" theme, the festival shone a light on the legacy of Hank Jones

Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
and Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
, while taking a look at jazz families in general.

Pianist Hank Jones, the only surviving brother of the three, kicked off the festival with his trio on Friday night, and music and talks throughout the weekend focused on the impact of each Jones brother. Additionally, there was a host of "family reunions" scheduled: Dave Brubeck

Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
with his sons Brubeck Brothers Quartet
Brubeck Brothers Quartet
Brubeck Brothers Quartet

band/orchestra
, The Heath Brothers, Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
and Albert "Tootie" Heath
Albert
Albert "Tootie" Heath
b.1935
drums
, John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli
b.1960
guitar
and Bucky Pizzarelli
Bucky Pizzarelli
Bucky Pizzarelli
b.1926
guitar
, Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
b.1943
guitar
and Julian Coryell, Pete Escovedo
Pete Escovedo
Pete Escovedo
b.1935
percussion
and Juan Escovedo, The Clayton Brothers
The Clayton Brothers
The Clayton Brothers

band/orchestra
and Brian Auger
Brian Auger
Brian Auger
b.1939
organ, Hammond B3
's Oblivion Express, which currently features his daughter Savannah and son Karma. It felt an appropriate way to celebrate the festival's rich history as one of the largest free music festivals in the world, where the door is wide open and everyone is welcome.

September 4: Hank Jones

In getting the festival underway, 91-year-old pianist Hank Jones

Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
and his trio ran through 13 easy-swing and bop numbers that were mostly of a piece: technically proficient, graceful, charming, but also rather programmed and rarely helping the blood to race.

Some exceptions to this formula were the trio's take on Ben Tucker

Ben Tucker
Ben Tucker
b.1930
bass, acoustic
and Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough
b.1923
piano
's "Comin' Home Baby" and the Ned Washington-Victor Youngstandard, "Stella by Starlight." Jones opened the former with a repetitive chord figure that emphatically handled the rhythm on its own. To this he added some skipping right-hand lines that, like a world-class sprinter, were swift without ever showing their effort. With Jones tight on the rhythm, bassist George Mraz
George Mraz
George Mraz
b.1944
bass
was free to explore the upper reaches of his instrument, an exercise he later took to melodic heights on "Stella." Drummer Carl Allen
Carl Allen
Carl Allen
b.1961
drums
, whose solo work in this setting rarely broke from a marching-corps routine, also turned in his most diverse and expressive statement on "Stella," whisking his brushes over the trap set to create a hushed starlight mood.

Jones, nimble throughout the set, fashioned an especially tender interpretation of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born," and cut from tender to a keep-the-party-going Latin beat on the encore, Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight." Would that we could all be so defiant as the nonagenarian and push aside time at last call.

September 4: Corea, Clarke & White

The headline act for the evening was introduced as "Chick Corea

Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
," with the indication that the pianist could introduce the others in the trio. But once the music started, there was no question that this was a three-name act, with all players on equal footing.



Bassist Stanley Clarke

Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
b.1951
bass
especially impressed (and was, after all, positioned at center stage). His extra-worldly skill ran roughshod over the length of his strings, his right hand resorting at times to palm smacks, thumb swats and other—unknowable—manners of attack to augment his bright, fluid lines with percussive snap and guitar-like strumming. Drummer Lenny White
Lenny White
Lenny White
b.1949
drums
shown on Monk's "Straight No Chaser," in which his left-hand stick rocked steady on the cymbal throughout, refusing to flinch even on the solo, where White's right hand simply went to work. More than just an astounding feat of control and stamina, it created a distinct, layered effect of dual drumming—the visual and sonic spectacle meshing to elicit a powerful response.

All this is not to say that Corea sat idly by, resting on Steinway laurels. His solo piano opened many of the tunes, as he worked from soft melodies or cutting block chords into jumping, articulate statements that traded his famous electric keyboard hum for the more bracing tones of the acoustic ivories. During even his most forceful attacks, Corea's hands would float up from the keys, hover for the slightest instant, then lovingly descend, like pollinating bees—it was difficult at times to reckon the soft motion with the rash of sounds it produced. And his interplay with Clarke, especially on "Straight No Chaser," was chest-expanding, the two musicians looping in completion of or engendering one another's thoughts.


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