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Detroit Jazz Festival 2013

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Detroit Jazz Festival
Detroit, MI
August 30-September 2, 2013
You have read the news and heard the stories on radio and TV. Detroit is bankrupt and going into ruin. However, Gretchen Valade definitely doesn't appear to believe the hype, as she managed to fashion the Detroit Jazz Festival (DJF) into one of the largest, most star-studded musical parties in North America, with four stages scattered all over downtown Detroit over the Labor Day weekend.

In 2012, newly-appointed artistic director Chris Collins kicked off his rookie year with an extravaganza which featured the likes of Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
, and Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
. There was bound to be a letdown for the 2013 edition of DJF, however director Collins made a decision to feature the great musicians who comprise the Detroit jazz community, as well as to honor some well-known and not-so-well-known masters of the music. This year's artist in residence was the great Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
b.1966
piano
, who not only kicked off the festival but was featured in a variety of settings. Collins also brought in some other star power, which included McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
backing up dancer Savion Glover, Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
, and Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
b.1969
saxophone
. In addition, the fest featured works by the late great Dave Brubeck performed in part by the Brubeck Brothers.

Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
b.1966
piano
started things off with a performance by his new ensemble Panama 500, which included violinist Alex Hargreaves, bassist John Patitucci
John Patitucci
John Patitucci
b.1959
bass
, drummer Adam Cruz
Adam Cruz
Adam Cruz
b.1970
drums
, and probably the first ever Detroit appearance by master Afro-Cuban drummer Roman Diaz . The music played by Perez and company paid homage to the discovery of Panama during the 1500s, and was quite reminiscent of the music on his debut LP, The Journey. Perez experimented with different variations on the clave, as well as an impressionistic piano style. It took a little while for the group to warm up, but once the group kicked into gear, the music was transcendent.

The highlight of this set was a fiery performance of "Colombia," which featured a jaw-dropping alto solo by Patricia Zarate, with fiery drumming by Diaz. Tenor saxophonist David Murray
David Murray
David Murray
b.1955
sax, tenor
and his Big Band followed with performances of his recent CD Be My Monster Love (Motema Music, 2013), which featured Macy Gray. Murray's music followed in the footsteps of his mentor, the late great Butch Morris
Butch Morris
Butch Morris
1947 - 2013
cornet
, with driving charts and expansive horn breaks. Surprisingly, Gray's unorthodox style fit in with Murray's charts. Unfortunately, the set got rained out just as they were kicking into gear.

Saturday's program had the more creative sets featured at the Chase Main Stage instead of the tradition Hart Plaza Amphitheater. The day jumped off with a heartfelt tribute to the late, great Detroit bandleader Teddy Harris, whose New Breed Bebop Society was the training ground for many of Detroit's young players, a lot of whom are not internationally known. The more notable soloists were saxophonist James Carter
James Carter
James Carter
b.1969
sax, tenor
, baritone player Al Harding, trumpeter Rayse Biggs
Rayse Biggs

trumpet
, and the great bassist Ralphe Armstrong. Even though the group could rehearse only once, Director Al McKenzie was able to harness the energy and turned it into a crowd-pleasing set. Altoist Vincent York showed his acumen with a rousing solo on Harris' "Stella," while Carter let loose with a fiery soprano turn on "My Shining Hour."

The Bebop Society was followed with a set by bassist Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
b.1964
bass
, who besides being one of the best bottom men on the scene, now teaches at the University of Michigan. Hurst had a group of young cats with him, which was distinguished by up-and-coming tenor man Rafael Statin
Rafael Statin
Rafael Statin
b.1990
saxophone
, and Cuban percussionist Pepe Espinosa. Hurst led his group through a swinging set of tunes from his new CD, Bob: A Palindrome (Bebob, 2013). Watch out for Statin, he is a comer.

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