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Detroit International Jazz Festival

Sept. 4-7, 2009; Detroit, Mich.

Bennie Maupin
Hank Jones

As it was mentioned before nearly every set throughout Labor Day weekend, this year marked the 30th anniversary of the Detroit International Jazz Festival, which has become the largest free jazz festival in the United States. The country’s economic crisis has taken its toll on festivals this year, as a JazzTimes feature indicated in the September issue. To combat the problem, audiences here were encouraged to “Invest in the Fest” by dropping donations in the boxes around the festival. Larger donations bestowed contributors with titles like “Guardians of Jazz” ($600 and up), “House Band” ($300) or “Session Players” ($30-50).

While the Motor City’s event had one less stage than in previous years, that still left five stages, all in relatively close proximity to one another, with three just a quick jaunt across Hart Plaza, the spacious park along the Detroit River with two amphitheaters built into the ground. That gave diehard fans the chance to scurry between stages as one act finished a set and another got ready at a different stage. When performers include Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter or the Heath Brothers, the steady movement from stage to stage makes sense. In addition, the Detroit Marriott at the GM Renaissance Center adjacent to Hart housed nightly jam sessions and a media location, so the four-day event had a conveniently located homebase.

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