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Live Reviews

2003 Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival

By Published: October 15, 2003

Hoping that the weather would clear up overnight, I nonetheless awoke Monday morning to a soggy start. Still, considering that this was first time I could remember such a prolonged dose of rain in the six some years I’ve been covering the festival, I guess the odds have been pretty good over the long haul. The crowds were minimal at best when The National Jazz Orchestra of Detroit took to the main stage for a tribute to the late Teddy Edwards, who had provided charts for the band and had appeared with them the previous two years. Teddy Harris, Jr. directed this gifted group through some wonderful Edwards charts like “Lennox Lady.” Furthermore, Mulgrew Miller was on hand for some stirring solos, as was the legendary trombone man George Bohanon, who has made the scene for everything from Blue Note sessions to Earth, Wind & Fire productions.

A salute to Lionel Hampton was then in store from the effervescent vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Fronting an unusual collective that featured organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist David ‘Fathead’ Newman, guitarist Howard Alden, and Terry’s son Gerry on drums, Gibbs stole the show with his comedic monologues and his effortless vibe playing, not to mention a few numbers where he sat down at the piano. “Moonglow” and “Ring Dem Bells” were just a few of the old chestnuts that found this cross-generational ensemble in top form, even if the rains were still coming down and the winds were sending pools of water from the rooftop onto the gathering throng below.

There was even less cover from the drizzle over at the Pyramid stage for my last set of the day before heading back to Cleveland. I have been a huge fan of guitarist Ed Cherry for several years now, but have not had the opportunity to see him play live and was anxiously awaiting his set with a line-up that sounded very intriguing. With Kyle Kohler on organ, Jay Collins on horns, and Slyvia Cuenca on drums, Cherry wasted no time in getting things smoldering. “Little Girl, Big Girl” was typical of the kind of lines that Cherry likes to write. They somehow sound logical and familiar, but have their own thing to say as well. Collins was a real asset throughout, his soprano sax work particularly fluid and his flute playing dark and romantic. Kohler surprised too, leashing some flashy solos that demonstrated a good deal of originality along with the influence of such contemporary thinkers as Larry Young.

So despite a sunny start, this year’s festivities ended on a rainy note. Even with some commercial concessions, there was still enough music to enjoy over the course of the weekend. Improvements would have to include a better job at spacing things out to avoid stage hopping all day, not to mention booking more of the Latin and Brazilian artists that have liberally graced the festival in previous years. Here’s hoping that when all is said and done the future of this valuable event will remain solid with more opportunities to build on past successes.

View Chris Hovan's Motor City Jazz 2003 Photo Exhibit .

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