Detroit again gets ready to embrace all that jazz

Detroit Jazz Festival brings local and international music stars downtown

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published August 21, 2013

 The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will perform a tribute to jazz legend Dave Brubeck during the 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival.

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet will perform a tribute to jazz legend Dave Brubeck during the 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival.

DETROIT — For jazz lovers, there’s no better place to be during the Labor Day weekend than right here.

The 34th annual Detroit Jazz Festival — which takes place Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 in downtown Detroit, in Hart Plaza and Campus Martius — is the largest free jazz festival in the world, and it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, more than a quarter of whom are from outside Michigan.

The headliners this year include the David Murray Big Band with ­R&B/pop vocalist Macy Gray; Joshua Redman Quartet; Ahmad Jamal; John Scofield Überjam; Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring Bill Frisell; the Saxophone Summit featuring Ravi Coltrane, David Liebman and Joe Lovano; McCoy Tyner with dancer Savion Glover; and a tribute to David Brubeck featuring the Brubeck Brothers Quartet and a rare performance of David Brubeck’s orchestral compositions.

“It’s going to be great,” said businesswoman and philanthropist Gretchen Valade, of Grosse Pointe Farms, chair of the DJF Endowment and DJF Foundation.

DJF Artistic Director Chris Collins, himself a musician, said one of the things that makes this festival so special is the unique performances and one-time-only pairings it has produced.

“You’ll see stuff you can’t see anywhere at any price,” he said.

One example is the upcoming David Murray/Macy Gray show, which audiences can see for themselves on opening night, from 8:45-10 p.m. Aug. 30, following a concert by 2013 Artist-in-Residence Danilo Pérez and Panama 500 from 7-8:15 p.m. that evening.

“Her approach to jazz will make people’s hair stand on end,” Collins said. “Macy is a powerful jazz vocalist.”

Another woman with a powerful voice is Detroit native Sheila Jordan, and Collins said she’ll be performing arrangements penned for her by Alan Broadbent, backed by a full string orchestra, during a show from 7:45-9 p.m. Sept. 1. Attendees can also take in sets by fusion greats the Yellowjackets — playing from 6:45-8 p.m. Sept. 1 — and up-and-coming musicians like Gregory Porter and the Robert Glasper Experiment, he said.

During a performance by Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway from 7-8:15 p.m. Aug. 31, Collins said Southwestern artist Doug Coffin — who is inspired by these musicians — will create an original oil painting on site.

“In that way, people will experience how art crosses over,” Collins said. “It’s this … mixing of the arts to celebrate how jazz accepts those collaborations.”

New this year is a series of acoustic performances by some of the artists on the lineup, to be conducted in the Jazz Talk Tent.

“It’ll be an intimate setting, where (audiences) can get up close and personal,” Collins said.

Many of the artists also participate in nightly jam sessions after the festival closes each evening, he said.

Through the Greening Program, festival organizers have again teamed up with DTE Energy to reduce the event’s carbon footprint. Last year, they recycled 85 percent of the 5.2 tons of waste collected over the weekend, up from 67 percent of the 5.1 tons of waste collected in 2011.

“We are honored to have the opportunity year after year to reduce the carbon footprint of this world-renowned festival, and we look forward to another promising year of greening Detroit,” said Joyce Hayes Giles, DTE Energy senior vice president, Public Affairs, and DTE Energy Foundation chair, in a press release. “The Detroit Jazz Festival is so influential in the community and on the city’s culture; we want to help take that one step further.”

Other green efforts include supplying festival volunteers and staff with reusable coolers instead of onetime-use water bottles, creating mobile apps and text messaging to allow fans to keep the festival schedule handy without using paper, and using compostable plates and cups for catered festival food and beverages.

Valade, who rescued the festival a number of years ago and continues to support it with time and finances, is proud of the efforts to reduce the festival’s potentially negative impact on the planet.

“We are thrilled with the difference the Greening Program has made over the years, and hope to see even more festival attendees helping us keep the great city of Detroit clean and environmentally friendly,” Valade said in a prepared statement. “We want to show the community that we’re not just here to bring great music and put on an amazing event. The festival is about making a positive impact on the city in any way we can, and the Greening Program is another way for us to give thanks.”

Festival fans can also show their support, and help to keep the event free in the future, by donating $5 to the event by texting the keyword KIF5 to 20222 from their cellphones, or by making contributions at DTE Energy Foundation Keep It Free kiosks throughout the festival.

For a complete schedule and more information, visit