Detroit Jazz Festival 2016

Artist-in-residence Ron Carter, George Benson, Chris Potter and Roy Hargrove among early standouts

What do jazz-festival producers do when they receive weather like what we’re currently experiencing at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival? Do they give money to the church and promise never to drink or gamble again? Partake in some sort of ritual dance? To put it another way, it’s felt like L.A. this weekend in Motor City, maybe better, which allows Detroit’s annual admission-free jazz festival to carry on unfettered. On Friday, opening night, crowds surrounded all angles of the J.P. Morgan Main Stage to catch the Ron Carter Nonet, a winning demonstration of the leader’s interest in classical music and the bass as a primary melodic voice; the Soul Rebels, performing a brief, ingenious “preview set” between headliners; and George Benson, playing the quiet-storm guitar hero through a parade of fun, evocative hits.

Saturday simply overflowed with highlights, and here are a few: The Chris Potter Underground Orchestra saw the saxophonist entertain his ambitious ideas as a composer-arranger while leaving space for outstanding marathon solos by Steve Nelson, Craig Taborn, Adam Rogers and, of course, Potter; Roy Hargrove, aided by his quintet and the Detroit Jazz Festival String Orchestra, offered lush renditions of romantic standards on flugelhorn and a surprisingly effective large-scale take on Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof”; Alfredo Rodríguez earned a rare festival encore with his modernist-pop approach to the Cuban piano trio; and a swingingly poignant tribute to the late Kenn Cox, featuring area stalwarts, was one of many examples of the festival pointing up Detroit’s rich and powerful jazz history. More to come today and tomorrow.

Stanley Cowell performs at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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John Abercrombie performs at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Steve Nelson performs in Chris Potter's Underground Orchestra at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Roy Hargrove, backed by his quintet and a string orchestra, performs at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Roy Hargrove, backed by his quintet and a string orchestra, performs at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Luciana Souza performs at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Lionel Loueke (left) and Massimo Biolcati perform with vocalist Luciana Souza at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Artist-in-residence Ron Carter leads his nonet on opening night, Sept. 2, of the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Artist-in-residence Ron Carter and his nonet perform on opening night, Sept. 2, of the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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George Benson headlines opening night, Sept. 2, of the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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George Benson headlines opening night, Sept. 2, of the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Chris Potter leads his Underground Orchestra at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Craig Taborn performs in Chris Potter's Underground Orchestra at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Billy Harper performs with the Stanley Cowell Quintet at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Charles Tolliver performs with the Stanley Cowell Quintet at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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John Abercrombie, Adam Nussbaum and Jared Gold (from left) perform at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Carl Allen performs in the Stanley Cowell Quintet at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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Gil Goldstein conducts the Detroit Jazz Festival String Orchestra, to accompany the Roy Hargrove Quintet, at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival
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The Chris Potter Underground Quintet plays a late-night jam-session gig at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival. From left: Fima Ephron, Craig Taborn, Nate Smith, Potter and Adam Rogers
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The Chris Potter Underground Quintet plays a late-night jam-session gig at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival. From left: Craig Taborn, Potter, Fima Ephron, Nate Smith and Adam Rogers
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