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Jazz

Jazz fest highlights

Some high notes among fest offerings

 

Published 9/2/2009

SEE ALSO
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Praise for the elders: At 93, Hank Jones (Friday, 7:15 p.m.) is the sole surviving and eldest of three jazz greats from one extraordinary Pontiac family. Fittingly, a grand master among jazz pianists of any style, Jones is the first major performer of the festival. He'll be featured in a meet-the-artist session at 4:15 p.m. Friday, and his late drumming brother Elvin will be subject of a panel discussion at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Veterans who hit the scene during the bebop era include Detroiters Sheila Jordan (sure to sing crafted lyrics about her boppin' Detroit youth; Monday, 3 p.m.), Charles McPherson (whose playing shouts "Bird Lives"; Sunday, 3 p.m.) and the Heath Brothers (as in saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert "Tootie"; Sunday, 8 p.m.).

Hometown heroes: Partners in the seminal Detroit group Tribe in the '70s and the all-star Michigan Jazz Masters in the '90s, Marcus Belgrave hits with an all-star ensemble (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.) and Wendell Harrison goes it with his swing group (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.). Among the others of note: Bassist Rodney Whitaker's spots include a super-bass trio (Bottoms Up with Christian McBride and John Clayton; Monday, 6 p.m.) and his current recording combo (Carl Allen/Rodney Whitaker Project; Saturday 5:45 p.m.). Geri Allen has a quartet with the wild card of a tap-dancer (Sunday, 6 p.m.).

Anniversaries: There are no Miles Davis tributes, but notably the fest lineup includes a number of his associates from Bitches Brew, the record that heralded the arrival of jazz-rock. Sessions for that disc began 40 years ago this August. Fans and critics seem to agree that saxophonist's Wayne Shorter's acoustic quartet (Sunday, 7:15 p.m.) of the last nine years is the best he's ever led. Drummer Lenny White and pianist Chick Corea both recorded on Bitches Brew before working in the likewise pioneering fusion outfit Return to Forever, which included bassist Stanley Clarke (their trio caps off opening night, Friday, 9 p.m.) Benny Maupin (Sunday, 9 p.m.) is also a Bitches Brew vet. Another major anniversary this year is the 50th anniversary of the release of David Brubeck's Time Out, which yielded "Take Five," one of the great jazz-pop crossovers of all time. Look for performances by Brubeck (Saturday, 4:45 p.m.) and his sons, the Brubeck Brothers (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.).

Tributaries: The late rock-'em-sock-'em Detroit organist Lyman Woodard gets his due with a band led by longtime collaborators drummer Leonard King and guitarist Ron English (Sunday, 8 p.m.). The late brothers Harold and Ray McKinney are saluted by surviving members of their musical family, under the banner of McKinfolks (Monday 1:30 p.m.). In addition to Detroiters Jahra Michelle and GayeLynn McKinney, the event is a homecoming for brass man Kiane Zawadi (formerly Bernard McKinney) and pianist Carlos McKinney. Among other tributes: Tribute to BG (as in Benny Goodman, featuring the jazz clarinet great Eddie Daniels; Monday, 4:15 p.m.); Donald Byrd: A New Perspective (young trumpeter Sean Jones re-creates former Detroiter Byrd's classic jazz-meets-gospel Blue Note disc; Monday, 2:30 p.m.) and Louis Hayes' Cannonball Legacy Project (in which the Adderly brothers' longtime drummer is sure to play "Mercy, Mercy" among their many hits; Saturday, 7:30 p.m.). T.S. (son of Thelonious Monk) leads an all-star (as always) edition of his Monk on Monk group as one of the fest closers (Monday, 7:30 p.m.)

Sing it: There's been buzz around Gretchen Parlato (Saturday, 5 p.m.) for at least five years, sparked by winning the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and self-releasing a beguiling disc that suggested why: an effortless singer out of the sexy-breathy Astrud Gilberto school, but also a daring (if subtle) improviser. In a Dream (Obliq Sound) just came out, delivering on the promise. Other vocal newcomers to checkout include Detroiter Jesse Palter (Sunday, 12:45 p.m.) and Sachai Vasanda (Monday, 7:30 p.m.). Also of note, Dee Dee Bridgewater — who claims some of the most impressive vocal discs in the last 15 years of jazz — sings with the jazz big band of her alma mater, Michigan State (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.). And Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer performs with the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra (Sunday, 9:15)


A closer look at some of this year's festival performers:

One to watch: Warren Wolf
Karriem Riggin's vibraphonist has learned from the masters

Serious Bell
How a trumpeter from Chester, Pa., became the face of Detroit jazz.

Bass line
From the great Ray Brown to the Grammy-winner John Clayton and beyond

Big dreams have led him to a big band
How Scott Gwinnell got his orchestra

A bass supreme
How Christian McBride rose to the top

Waxing Wayne
A jazz icon gazes back at a freedom-defining career

Behind the swing
How a Seattle dinner led to a label and saved the Detroit jazz fest

The bass and I
How local jazz giant Rodney Whitaker turned an obsession into a career

Monkin' around
T.S. Monk on Monk, self-fulfillment and life improvisations

The Detroit International Jazz Fest circa 1999
Detroit jazz legend Yusef Lateef, a jazz museum of the mind, and an archive of jazz festival photos

For full schedule and stage information see detroitjazzfest.com.

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