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Detroit Jazz Festival 2023: A Tribute to a Great Jazz City

Detroit Jazz Festival 2023: A Tribute to a Great Jazz City

Courtesy Detroit Jazz Festival


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Detroit Jazz Festival 2023
Hart Plaza & Campus Martius
Detroit, MI
September 1-4, 2023

Opening night is always a gas. Whether it takes the form of the annual rite of spring in baseball, the long anticipated opening of a Broadway play, or for that matter, the opening salvo of a world class jazz festival in Detroit, it is an occasion of revival and hope. As thousands descended on the Carhartt Amphitheatre stage on a gorgeous summer Friday evening, that opening night vibe was present and accounted for. The next few hours would see a tribute to the festival's "Angel of Jazz," and a peek into the doings of festival Artist in Residence, Karriem Riggins. It was all Detroit, a theme continually renewed during this, the 44th annual edition of the largest free jazz festival in the world.

During the afternoon hours, finishing touches were put on the three festival stages, vendors readied their wares, and the surrounding neighborhood near the Campus Martius stage in downtown's Cadillac Square was abuzz with locals and out-of-towners alike. At Hart Plaza along the Detroit RiverWalk, music blared out of PA speakers in sound check, as vendors hurriedly set up and festival staff completed the finishing touches in preparation for the deluge of people who would arrive shortly.

Everything about the festival in 2023 spoke to Detroit pride, to the massive contributions the city has made to jazz history, and continues to provide in the present. The billing boasted Detroit natives Riggins and headlining NEA Jazz Masters Regina Carter, Louis Hayes and Kenny Garrett. The four day festival schedule was replete with veteran and on the rise stars from the city's resident jazz scene. With a forecast of hot and sunny, the stars were aligned for the annual Labor Day weekend bash.

Of all the major jazz festivals in America, the Detroit Jazz Festival possesses the most primal vibe of all. While events in Monterey and Newport may see more acclaim, they as well present the music in an idyllic environment far removed from the core of Black music in America—the urban environs of its major cities. In Detroit, the entire festival is presented downtown and along the Detroit RiverWalk, with all activities easily within walking distance of each other. As the festival has become an international concern, it has staunchly maintained a strong connection with its core values as a jazz city. Festival director Chris Collins in booking the event's three stages, has always had a taproot submerged into the broad based talent pool of the city's current scene, and its native artists practicing their craft abroad.

With a capacity crowd on the Hart Plaza grounds in tow, the festival began its annual journey with a traditional second line entrance by Dr. Valade's Brass Band, led by Detroit's true connection with New Orleans tradition—drummer and bandleader Shannon Powell. The band is a collection of musicians that crosses generational lines, annually providing a celebratory beginning to the festival. Unfortunately, the band's post—second line stage performance had to be canceled due to health concerns with Mr. Powell. Surely to the ebullient bandleader's delight, the evening proceeded as he rested comfortably at his hotel. His spirit filled the cool evening air and uplifted every note played thereafter.

"Gretchen C. Valade, Our Angel of Jazz," was a program dedicated to the memory and spirit of the festival's generous benefactor who passed away on December 30, 2022 at age ninety seven. Valade provided an endowment that will carry the festival many generations into the future. The businesswoman, philanthropist and patron of the arts was a true lover of jazz, personified by Mack Avenue Records, her many contributions to Detroit area jazz education, the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe in Grosse Pointe and the soon to be Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center at Wayne State University. Part of a 9.5 million dollar contribution to jazz studies and performance at the school, the venue will include a 350 seat concert hall, and a basement style club bearing the name of Detroit's own Dee Dee Bridgewater.

The evening's homage to Valade included music from some of the city's most prominent jazz stars, with a video tribute and narration from festival director Collins. The program included performances of a few pearls composed by Valade as well. Her spirit prevailed throughout the evening, upholding her credo of sorts, concerning the future of the festival—"Keep it free, and keep it jazz."

NEA Jazz Master Carter kicked things off with the original members of the all-female Detroit ensemble, Straight Ahead. Carter is herself the most prominent graduate of this band that was formed in 1987. Joined by pianist Eileen Orr, drummer GayeLynn McKinney and bassist Marion Hayden-Banfield, Carter employed a pure acoustic sound that was beatific in tone and resonance. The band also supported a three trumpet onslaught brought on by veteran Dwight Adams and young trumpet stars Allen Dennard and Trunino Lowe.

Pianist Danilo Pérez, who has a connection with Valade through his work for Mack Avenue Records, was next. He created a beautiful homage to her memory by performing her composition, "When I Need to Smile." He announced he didn't know the piece at all, and would be playing it, much less performing it, for the very first time. He steered the wandering melody fluidly, accentuating it brilliantly with vivid, image conjuring phrases that added light and open space—enough space as to open the mind and spirit of the music itself.

Collins then introduced the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, a collection of Detroit's finest, first performing the music of jazz legend and Valade friend, Gerald Wilson. The Los Angeles based trumpeter/composer/arranger who had written arrangements for the likes of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, composed a piece personally for Valade entitled, "Miss Gretchen." The band did well with the swinging tribute, featuring soloists Adams on trumpet and brilliant Detroit tenor saxophonist, Marcus Elliott.

NEA Jazz Master Bridgewater is a favorite daughter of Detroit, and was a close friend of Valade. She was raised in Flint, MI, and has maintained a close relationship with the festival. After performing an inspired rendition of Nina Simone's anthemic "Feeling Good," and a soulful interpretation of the James Brown classic "I Got You (I Feel Good)," she lit up the festival crowd with a John Clayton arrangement of Valade's, "Lights of Detroit." Her set featured her current touring trio led by Seattle born pianist and musical director, Carmen Staaf. Drummer Shirazette Tinnin brought her innovative athletic style to the stage, and New Orleans born bassist/composer Amina Scott caught the groove of the band perfectly. The overall vibe of the three song contribution uplifted an audience ready for the taking, and prepared them for something entirely different to come from resident artist Riggins.

Riggins took the stage just as darkness was creeping into the night sky, the first of three residency sets at the festival. Titled "Interplay," the set was built around Riggins' equal ties with jazz and hip hop, and featured DJ, producer and rapper Otis Jackson, Jr., known professionally as Madlib. Los Angeles based DJ J.Rocc and Detroit guitarist Sasha Kashperko completed this convergence of sound. The set was a free ride through several genres, with stops along the way in jazz and hip hop. The music employed a lot more low end and volume than festival goers are accustomed to, but the crowd clearly enjoyed the rhythmic variations and whimsical interplay between the players. The crowd itself had a different vibe as well, with Madlib and other hip hop artists performing with Riggins at the festival. It gave the festival and the jazz community in Detroit the opportunity to embrace and interact creatively with a new direction in the music that is important and naturally occurring. Just as it has always done with different amalgams of Black American music, jazz leaves open its musical canvas and allows new innovation to occur. Underneath it all, Riggins' unhinged talents took hold and pushed the music into a dynamic lightning strike that ignited the 2023 edition of the Detroit Jazz Festival.

Saturday, September 2-Day Two: Cool to be Cool

Saturday morning along the Detroit River was cool, with a breeze drawing a swath around the grounds at Hart Plaza. It would be a harbinger of things to come in terms of weather, as Sunday and Monday would prove to be sweltering hot, with temps well into the nineties. After Saturday, there would be no cool down, whether speaking of the hot and humid conditions, or the music emanating from the festival's three stages.

With the festival spotlight on Detroit artists, stop one for the day was a performance led by young Detroit trumpeter Trunino Lowe. As is common with young, talented artists, Lowe was full of energy and humility, with a stage presence that was honest, joyous and revealing of his professional inexperience. That inexperience however, stripped down the performance emotionally for the audience. Lowe, who recently relocated to New York was clearly overwhelmed with performing on this large a stage, at this festival, in his hometown. Lowe is a product of Detroit's public school music programs, and this was a coming home of sorts for him. At one point, his physical self housing a current almost too strong to be grounded, he remarked, "This is really happening." On the cusp of his first album release, Lowe channeled all of that energy into a hard driving set, leading his quartet into a collection of his original compositions. The trumpeter worked off two microphones, one allowing him to utilize electronics, the other for his straight, acoustic sound. Lowe played more of the latter, using electronics occasionally and tastefully. Surrounded by the tall buildings at Campus Martius, this set was emblematic of the entire festival in 2023. While the festival itself projected Detroit pride, Lowe himself played like it really meant something to him, something rooted in his personal pride in the city that calls him its own.

Lowe's set also spotlighted young, rising Detroit stars in bassist Jeremiah Edwards and drummer Louis Jones III. The duo was not only a rock solid rhythm team, but an innovative wave of energy that grounded and carried the music forward. They were what allowed Lowe to find his way into his central focus as a musician and leader. Pianist Sequoia Snyder, currently a student at Michigan State, was a story in herself, combining a strong left hand and beautifully melodic and articulate right. The Washington DC native and now Lansing resident gave us something special to consider moving forward—she is a notable talent that comps aside, possesses a McCoy-like inspired sound that dwells within her very original space.

Saturday sported temperatures in the eighties, a Detroit high sky and a gentle breeze that added a layer of repose to the entire day. Of course, the challenge before a festival goer at an event of this magnitude is choosing which sets to attend, which to push aside, and which to subdivide in the effort to see and hear nearly everything.

The Melissa Aldana Quartet followed Lowe at Campus Martius. The music was lithe and lively, with the tenorist displaying her remarkable full range mastery of her instrument. Seldom does a band take on the personality of its leader as does this quartet. Pianist Glenn Zaleski showed why he is one of the most in demand pianists on the New York scene, orchestrally carrying this band seemingly as the perfect compliment to Aldana in terms of group mind.

Without ever venturing over to Hart Plaza, the stage at Campus Martius was providing enough punch all by its lonesome. The vibe of the surrounding Cadillac Square, replete with street vendors, food trucks and an engaged, diverse audience, was intoxicating. The large gathering was then blessed with a trio performance from pianist Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Performing music from "Children of the Light," the trio bore the marks of their collective musical spirit touched so deeply from their tenure as three fourths of the legendary Wayne Shorter Quartet. The group mind from which they draw transcends the extensive time they have spent together musically, something rare, beautiful and difficult to express verbally. It suspends intellectual analysis in time, and proves that the most important quality of music is the feeling, or more specifically, how it makes you the listener feel. You leave the performance, but it never in effect, leaves you. Simply marvelous.

While admittedly hypnotized by the goings-on at Campus Martius, the artistic excellence there acted as a barrier from experiencing another great source of Detroit pride at the festival. The two stages at Hart Plaza hosted three phenomenal jazz bands from Northview, Monroe and Rockford High Schools, a powerful statement as to the future of jazz music in Detroit. Youth Vocal Competition winner, Phoebe King, performed with the support of the Wayne State University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Russ Miller. Tokyo born composer Miho Hazama led a large ensemble through the labyrinth of her expansive, unfolding works, and iconic vibraphonist Stefon Harris drew high praise for his performance with his band Blackout. It reinforced why one returns year after year to Detroit—the almost impossible quest to see and experience everything this world class affair has to offer in its very Detroit way.

As the afternoon continued, and evening drew near, another Detroit tradition came to mind. After the music ends at 11 PM on festival stages, the jam continues at Cliff Bell's, a jazz club just a short ride on the Detroit People Mover away. Tonight would be Detroit night, a wide spectrum of Detroiters both young and older that would include the festival's artist in residence.

NEA Jazz Master Garrett's entrance onto the stage at Campus Martius brought a vibe of familiarity and colorful resonance to the air. The native Detroit son typically arrives with a highly skilled ensemble featuring the likes of bassist Corcoran Holt, pianist Keith Brown, vocalist Melvis Santa and the relentless rhythm combination of Ronald Bruner and Rudy Bird. As the band evoked a radiant positivity, Garrett himself played with unbridled energy and preached his narrative with passion. In the back of this writer's mind, was the relentless fear and understanding that something special was happening on the other side of Jefferson at Hart Plaza and one can only be in one place at a time dimensionally. Literally, that something special would become relevant later in the evening.

In the meantime, who in their jazz infused right mind could miss a Scofield set on a perfect evening to end a long festival day?

The John Scofield Trio in its current form includes the great drummer Bill Stewart and innovative bassist Vincente Archer. The guitarist has always been at the forefront of innovation in jazz and has teamed with a virtual vanguard of jazz artists from the beginning of his career. From Miles Davis to Hal Galper, he has been blessed with associations with some of the great minds in jazz history. Then there is the fact that he is always just darn good fun. In trio mode he can deal from the hip, putting together solos with angular melodies delivered in a unique almost against the grain rhythmic sense. His solo lines include a chordal genius that is remarkable considering he seldom comps with chords or comps at all. The trio is a conversation between friends of sorts, in delivery mode. It was a fitting rush for the end of the day, a time to rejoice in the cool of the evening grass along the river, then head down to Cliff Bell's for the session.

Arriving at the venerable club at 11:30 and being greeted by the welcoming Michael Brockway at the door, a table awaited at the edge of the stage, as well as some finely crafted tequila on ice. Clumsily, in tripping over a foot en route from the bar to the table, I am introduced to saxophonist and bandleader Isaiah Collier in the moment of apology—that something special missed when under the spell of the Garrett band at Campus Martius. Now the opportunity to see him play at the session was revealed, and he did so in fine fashion, joined by pianist Snyder, bassist Edwards, and drummer Riggins. Throughout the two and a half hour long jam, brilliant young Detroiters mingled socially and musically with festival headliners. The talent displayed was inspiring and brought a keen and positive image of the music traveling headlong into the twenty first century. With Riggins on hand and another established star in Tinnin on drums, a younger disciple arrived behind the kit, and played with beautiful time and feeling, donning a relaxed, confident air about her. As it turns out, the young percussionist was Sarah Whitaker, daughter of the great bassist, Rodney Whitaker. Other young notables included trumpeter Jauron Perry, alto saxophonist Houston Patton, bassist Jeremiah Edwards and of course, Collier. The two hours spent at the Cliff Bell's session may be the most memorable of all. It encapsulated emotionally, what the 2023 edition of the festival was all about in common and heartfelt terms.

Sunday, September 3-Day Three: Bring the Heat

Sunday morning, there was a press and artist meet and greet in the Governor's suite at the Detroit Marriott at Renaissance Center, where all festival artists and press, as well as a large contingent of out of town fans were lodged. With a stunning view from the top of the hotel's west tower, press members and artists were able to comfortably mingle and enjoy food and drink. With such notables as NEA Jazzmasters Hayes and Carter in attendance, the affair was a reflection of how the festival sees the media in relation to getting the word out on the year round work being done by DJF to propagate the music in the present and far into the future. Festival Artistic director Collins was effusive in his praise for the media and its role in the success of the festival, his praise reflecting how accommodating and welcoming the festival and city is to its invited guests in the press.

"I grew up with Downbeat, Jazz Times, our local Free Press and News, filling us in on what's happening and where things are going. We can't thank you enough for being at the Detroit Jazz Festival, supporting what we do and carrying it forward to the public. Being a no admission festival in the United States at this time is rare and a real challenge. Real art that we value at the center of our mission demands philanthropy, it always has. It's not a profit making business in the long run," explained Collins.

He went on to explain the reasons they may seem like NPR in constantly seeking and accommodating support, a must to perpetuate the success the festival has enjoyed for forty four years. It is the nature of the beast, and a continual righteous mission to keep America's truly original art form alive and well in challenging times. Collins sees musicians, producers, journalists, photographers and radio hosts in the same light—all as caretakers of the music, working to remove barriers to access. Bottom line, the Detroit Jazz Festival brings more than thirty million dollars into the local Detroit economy each year. The investment of local and national donors, including the extremely generous endowment granted the festival by Valade, in the end, is a worthy investment in the community at large, and a catalyst for great art to be gifted to its people.

With ninety degree temperatures being slightly alleviated by storm clouds and a strong wind off the water, Sunday began as it ended—with a performance lended by bassist/educator and Detroit legend, Rodney Whitaker. At Campus Martius, he opened the day with his Michigan State Jazz Ensemble, or more appropriately, "The Bebop Spartans." At the end of the day, he led an all-star tribute to the spiritual music of John Coltrane. With the former, Whitaker led the band through compositions from Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Duke Pearson, and Whitaker's own poignant composition, "A Mother's Crying." On the River stage, he joined with saxophonists Walter Blanding and Tim Warfield, and rhythm mates Eric Reed on piano and drummer Michael Reed. With the focus on the spiritual aspects of Coltrane's genius, one would come to the conclusion by this performance that the entire Coltrane legacy is in a sense, spiritual. Finding their way through "Bessie's Blues," and "Wise One" out of the gate, the band blew open the proceedings with segments of "A Love Supreme," with noted grace and fire. Whitaker mused that he had to bring in two great tenors to be one Coltrane, and he did so by hiring two distinctly different voices. Warfield has a biting sound that can be both lyrically romantic and caustic. Blanding has a large, round sound that impacts the language of a melody with strength and elegance. Warfield doubled on soprano, giving the band a give and take on Coltrane's revolution of sound.

Following the Bebop Spartans at Campus Martius was a quartet led by highly skilled Jazz at Lincoln Center and Artemis alto saxophonist, Alexa Tarantino. Tarantino's playing was on point and well articulated, possessing a purity of sound that is uncommon, to say the least. At times, there is a lack of soul and honesty in her playing, something not rare in young, talented musicians. In this case, she showed her abilities as a bandleader by bringing in Whitaker on bass, along with the fine pianist Steven Feifke and sensational drummer, Mark Whitfield. The results were fiery, quietly aggressive and intense at times, with Tarantino directing the flow to match her trademark sound.

By the time vibraphonist Joel Ross hit at Campus Martius, intense heat ravaged the stage, and VIP seating area. Somehow, this young musician with a stunning original sound, worked his way through a brilliant, hour-long set. Accompanied by pianist Jeremy Horn, drummer Jeremy Dutton and bassist Kanoa Mendenhall, Ross displayed a style that lacks a workable comp. While one may imagine hearing the two mallet creativity of Bobby Hutcherson, or the sullen blues drop of Milt Jackson, Ross is uncommon in that his approach for someone so young is remarkably cut from a unique stone. His employ of Horn allowed him to stray away from any sort of comping, adding fills and harmonic function to the finely crafted solos of Mendenhall. Ross' sound has elements of the hard edges and soft touches of a given community and is highly relatable to a large cross-section of the jazz audience.

While Whitaker led his Coltrane revival on the riverfront, the amphitheater stage housed a unique performance by pianist Jason Moran. His program, "From The Dancehall To The Battlefield," is a tribute to James Reese Europe, who brought an early incarnation of jazz to Carnegie Hall in 1912, leading an ensemble of Black musicians in symphonic mode. With the onset of the Great War, he took the music to the battlefields of Europe, leading a Black regimental band. Moran's ten piece band played the music, narrated the story verbally, and brought to light an important part of the history of Black music in America and the roots of jazz, its quintessential art form. Being in attendance for either of these Sunday finales, or taking in some of both, was a musical blessing for festival patrons, though in the end, only part of the Sunday night festivities. The final set at Campus Martius was the second installment of the Riggins residency, a tribute to the late Detroit hip hop legend, J Dilla. Joining Riggins was Common, someone he had met and worked with in the late nineties through their associations with the late trumpeter, Roy Hargrove. Riggins and Dilla approached percussion from opposite sides, with Riggins being a jazz drummer, and Dilla utilizing drum machines, but they collaborated and exchanged notes until Dilla's untimely passing in 2006, from a rare blood disease at age thirty two. The performance drew a large crowd, filling the seated area and overflowing into the square and surrounding streets. It once again represented a joyous union of two connected musical communities.

Monday, September 4-Day 4: Leaving With a Sense of Joy

While strong westerly winds and scattered storm clouds kept Sunday's ninety degree temperatures mostly in check, Monday brought heat and high humidity without the cooling breeze to festival goers, on this the final day of the event. It was at times almost unbearable to be in the direct sun, with patrons flocking to shady areas and grassy knolls along the Detroit River. The enthusiasm of the crowd however, went unabated all the way to the last set, under slightly cooler conditions, with vocalist Samara Joy.

The early hours were occupied by still more examples of the outstanding jazz education community surrounding the city of Detroit. While previous days had seen performances by ensembles representing local high schools, Wayne State University and Whitaker's outstanding group from Michigan State, Monday had a big blue vibe, with the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble under the baton of Ellen Rowe giving a fine seventy minute set at Campus Martius. In Hart Plaza, more Detroit high schoolers performed, representing the Duke Ellington Conservatory of Music and Art as well as Renaissance and Cas Tech high schools. Cuban born drummer/composer Dafnis Prieto joined and led an all-star collegiate ensemble, as the sweltering heat began to hit the Campus Martius stage directly.

In the shade of the locust grove along the Detroit RiverWalk, bassist Linda May Han Oh hit the Riverfront stage, leading a quartet that well matched her penchant for precision, artistry and spontaneous composition. Oh uses her instrument as a vehicle for explorative and space ornamented solo work, with a tidal sense of time. As a source of harmony and rhythm, she worked seamlessly within the polyrhythms of drummer Christian X.M. McGhee. The space they created seemed to activate and enliven the collective mind of the band, in particular alto saxophonist Greg Ward, and rising star pianist Fabian Almazan. Oh's use of voice provided a wash of sound that sealed the spatial cracks in the music. Her wispy, atmospheric playing was certainly the vibrational undercurrent of the performance. Her ability as a bandleader shined in terms of inspiring the band to occupy and decorate her sound.

Among Monday sets at the Carhartt Amphitheater stage, the homecoming of eighty six year old Detroit born and raised NEA Jazzmaster Hayes stood out front and center. Leading a quintet that featured pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Dezron Douglas, tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, and legendary vibraphonist Steve Nelson, Hayes led the band through music from his latest release, Exactly Right! (Savant, 2023). With the intense afternoon sun dipping behind tall buildings to the west, Hayes himself was in fine form, playing in and out of changes with his trademark style that has put him at the forefront of the music since his arrival in the mid—fifties. At the other end of the career spectrum, what followed Hayes' set was perhaps the diametric opposite. Twenty three year old, Grammy winning vocalist Samara Joy has seen her life become a whirlwind over the past two years, including now manning the final set of the 2023 Detroit Jazz Festival. Her set drew the loudest applause from the crowd all weekend, with the possible exception of Bridgewater's dynamic set on the same stage the evening before. With an outstanding trio behind her, Joy snapped off such pearls as "No Blues," and "Linger Awhile," but blew the doors off the gig with an interpretation of Charles Mingus' "Reincarnation of a Lovebird." Singing lyrics she penned herself, the dynamic interpretation was ornamented brilliantly by bassist Mike Migliore and pianist Luther Allison's interplay, utilizing in full the subtle and orchestral washes of sound emanating from drummer Evan Sherman. Joy's approach was introspective and free flowing, anything but the straight ahead musings of so many jazz vocalists. With Joy still dwelling in the house of Sarah and Ella at this point of her career, her interpretation of the Mingus classic pointed her career towards more wide ranging ideas and emotions. Shrouded in red, Joy's set was a perfect ending to the festival, drawing a long, standing ovation from the appreciative Detroit crowd.

Female representation in the festival's programming continues to improve, as is the case in the genre in general, but still has a ways to go. From what we see talent-wise in Detroit area high school and college programs, these numbers are bound to improve. But the 44th edition of this festival featured eleven female headliners, in addition to a groundswell of sidewomen in male led ensembles. Six of these were vocalists, highlighting the need for a larger instrumental contingent of female bandleaders at this point in time in the jazz community as a whole. One of the vocalists in Ms. Bridgewater is a beloved mentor for female instrumentalists, as one sees in her band with Tinin, Scott and Staaf. In Aldana, Carter, Tarantino, Oh and Hazama, we see a counterbalance to singers Bridgewater, Joy, Joan Belgrave, Lizz Wright, Jesse Palter and Veronica Swift. Pianist Snyder, who performed with both the Bebop Spartans and Trunino Lowe Quartet, was a pleasant surprise and major highlight as well. Bassist Whitaker's daughter, the vocalist Rockelle Whitaker, was brilliant during the Coltrane homage and sister Sarah Whitaker shined at the Cliff Bell's session on Saturday night, swinging behind the drum kit. Hopefully we will see these numbers rise as the years pass, to the point of complete gender justice in the jazz community worldwide.

After Joy's set, the massive crowd that had gathered for day four departed for points too numerous to imagine. Many of the musicians and production workers left late Monday night, but many others spent that extra night at the Marriott, and departed early the next morning. Car service began to transport musicians to the airport as early as three in the morning. Upon leaving, many thoughts accompanied the forty five minute ride to the airport. As a journalist, there was the great feeling of welcoming and appreciation felt from beginning to end of the festival itself, but genuinely throughout the city as well. With the city now out of the pandemic mindset in full blown fashion, visitors can once again feel the full energy of this great jazz city. Two years prior in 2021, the festival was pulled inside due to the breakout of the Delta variant. The ballrooms at the Detroit Marriott became soundstages, live performances became video presentations. Audiences were imagined, as only a few journalists witnessed the sets live directly. While 2022 brought the music back to the live stages at Campus Martius and Hart Plaza, 2023 brought them back in force, for what should prove to be record crowds. The applause was louder and more vibrant. The soul of this great music city was bared in full, revealing on no uncertain terms the qualities of the community we have grown to love over the past four decades.

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