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Many Heavy Hitters At 2005 Detroit Jazz Festival

The 26th Annual Detroit International Jazz Festival has an impressive list of jazz veterans in its lineup. These include pianists McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Les McCann, Joe Zawinul and Dave Brubeck, saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Charles McPherson, bandleader Gerald Wilson, and harmonica player Toots Thielemans. Somewhat later generations are represented by pianist Geri Allen, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and tenorist Bill Evans, to name just a few. The inside of this issue has the latest available complete schedule for Hart Plaza on Labor Day weekend, September 2-5. It is still considered the largest free jazz festival in the country. Thank this year's main sponsor, Mack Avenue Records of Grosse Pointe, for that.

There is something for most jazz fans at the 2005 festival. The bebop mainstream is as usual very well represented. Charles McPherson is not only the greatest alto player to come out of Detroit, but he is generally considered one of the greatest living exponents of the Charlie Parker tradition in modern jazz. Trumpeter and bandleader Gerald Wilson also spent some of his youth in the Motor City and went on to become a major figure on the West Coast jazz scene (Los Angeles). His appearance at last year's festival was sensational; in his mid-eighties he had more energy than many fifty years younger! His recent New York New Sound CD proves his astounding ability to coax the best from a big band. A rarer sight in Detroit is the unique pianist Randy Weston, who will present his African Rhythms group. Weston has roots in the late forties bebop scene, but has also visited Africa on a regular basis since 1961. Drummer T.S. Monk has obvious roots in bebop through his father. He has led his very interesting sextet since the early 90s. Post-bop jazz is given some room at the festival with the appearances of McCoy Tyner (Coltrane's pianist) and Geri Allen. Tyner will perform with his trio and Allen with vocalist Mary Stallings. The young mainstream generation is represented this year by saxophonist Ron Blake and trumpeter Sean Jones.

There is plenty of jazz in a soul-funk groove this year. Tenorist David "Fathead" Newman gives a tribute to his former employer Ray Charles. Newman was the main tenor sax soloist with Charles in the 50s and 60s and he is also an excellent flutist. Les McCann leads the Soul Survivors, among who are also guitarist Cornell Dupree and baritonist Ronnie Cuber. Organist Joey DeFrancesco returns this year, this time with a tribute to fellow Philadelphian and the father of all jazz organists, Jimmy Smith. Randy Brecker and Bill Evans' Soulbop band rounds out this part of the lineup. For those who like less jazz and more soul or blues in their musical mix the festival has added two stages up Woodward Avenue from Hart Plaza, one of them on the newly redesigned Campus Martius. These stages will feature local blues and R&B artists and a few national headliners. The latter include Dr John, Marcia Ball, The Regal Brass Band of New Orleans and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Campus Martius will also be the place for a kick-off concert featuring Newman's tribute to Ray Charles on Friday, September 2nd at 8:00pm.

The backbone of the festival is still the large number of local musicians who get a chance to play in front of larger audiences than they usually do. The festival is an excellent opportunity to hear musicians you might not have heard for a while. There is, of course, a lot more to enjoy at this festival: daily SEMJA Clinics for High School Students at the Jam Academy Stage, lots of food and refreshments, a wide cross-section of the jazz audience from near and far, and a fantastic view of the downtown skyline and the Detroit River. For Labor Day weekend fun you cannot beat jazz at Hart Plaza!

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Southeastern Michigan
Jazz Association


is published monthly. 
It is edited by Lars Björn and Piotr Michalowski
with additional assistance from Barton Polot (production editor and Webmaster), Judy Alcock, Margot Campos, Lynn Hobbs, and Marcel Niemiec.