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2020 Detroit Jazz Festival Lineup Is Announced, in Spite of Coronavirus

At least as of now, Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter, Abdullah Ibrahim, and artist-in-residence Dee Dee Bridgewater are all set to perform in the Motor City on Labor Day weekend

Dee Dee Bridgewater Newport 2019
Dee Dee Bridgewater at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: Marek Lazarski)

In the midst of a wave of coronavirus-related event cancellations and postponements, the Detroit Jazz Festival is moving ahead, at least for the moment. As its president and artistic director Chris Collins said this afternoon (March 23)—online rather than at the traditional announcement luncheon due to COVID-19 restrictions—the festival will take place on Labor Day weekend as usual, starting on Friday, Sept. 4 and ending on Monday, Sept. 7. This year’s artist-in-residence, Dee Dee Bridgewater, will perform all four days, joined by (respectively) the Woodshed Network Ladies, singer Kurt Elling, pianist Bill Charlap, and her own all-female big band. Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gregory Porter, and Robert Glasper will be among the other headliners. (A complete 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival lineup is below.)

“Nothing is more welcome after some challenging information than some joyous information,” Collins said in his announcement—the challenging information being, of course, the kind that we seem to have been steeped in for the past several weeks.

Many jazz fans will undoubtedly welcome the festival organizers’ optimism in moving forward, just as many jazz musicians will appreciate the offer of work at an uncertain moment. However, it could easily be argued that the timing of this announcement, coming as it does when the pandemic still shows no obvious signs of reaching a peak in the near future, is at best a grandiose exercise in wishful thinking and at worst deeply inappropriate and inconsiderate. As cities grow silent, unemployment claims skyrocket, and people across the globe fear for their lives, is this really the time for business as usual?

Perhaps it is. In any case, we at JazzTimes sincerely hope that the Detroit Jazz Festival has no cause to revise its plans.


Here is the complete 28-set lineup announced today.

Friday, Sept. 4

  • 2020 Artist-in-Residence Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Woodshed Network Ladies
  • Herbie Hancock

 Saturday, Sept. 5

  • Matthew Whitaker Quartet
  • Kenny Barron Trio
  • Alicia Olatuja
  • Etienne Charles
  • David Binney Angeleno Quartet
  • Keyon Harrold presents “Jazz and the Birth of Hip-Hop” with special guests Elzi, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Chris “Daddy” Dave
  • Pharoah Sanders
  • The Summit: The Manhattan Transfer Meets Take 6
  • Kurt Elling’s Big Blind, featuring Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ben Vereen, and others

Sunday, Sept. 6

  • Michael Mayo Quartet
  • Roberto Fonseca
  • Alfredo Rodriguez & Richard Bona Sextet
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bill Charlap
  • Abdullah Ibrahim and the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra
  • Anat Cohen Tentet, directed by Oded Lev-Ari
  • Sean Jones: “Dizzy Spellz”
  • The Dave Brubeck 100th Anniversary Tribute; featuring the Brubeck Brothers, Jerry Bergonzi, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra and Choir, and others
  • Fly Higher: Charlie [email protected], co-directed by Rudresh Mahanthappa and Terri Lyne Carrington
  • Gregory Porter

Monday, Sept. 7

  • Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekoya
  • Joey Alexander Trio
  • Jimmy Greene Quintet
  • Eddie Daniels and Bob James: Exploring New Worlds
  • Omar Sosa & Marialy Pacheco Piano Duo
  • Robert Glasper
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater Big Band

For more information on the 2020 Detroit Jazz Festival, visit its website.

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall served a the editor of JazzTimes from May 2018 through January 2023. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.