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Detroit Jazz Festival 2012 Day Four: Saxophones Reign Supreme

Russ Davis reports from the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival

Monday, September 3rd, was Labor Day and Day Four of the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival. Another hot, sunny day greeted the crowds as they filed into Hart Plaza and Campus Martius for the final day of “The World’s Biggest Free Jazz Festival.” The program would end a few hours earlier than other days, tomorrow being a work and school day of course, but the schedule was fully packed with another incredible list of world famous artists and lots of Detroit’s finest to complement the roster of international stars. With the shows I’d chosen to take in I found myself sampling the talents of a number of the greats of modern jazz saxophone, as well as a few of the best trumpeters too. Then there were those saints from New Orleans who would bring the NOLA heat to help bring the proceedings to a close.

My first stop was the Chase Main Stage to witness the Donald Harrison Quintet turned into a sextet with the addition of his trumpet playing nephew Christian Scott. Donald was as dapper as ever with a dark suit while Christian took the modern approach in dress and playing style as he was arrayed in a long-sleeved black and white polka dotted t-shirt with a huge gold necklace and a trumpet with a space-age design to match his hair style. Two more different figures from one family I can’t remember. It was a match made in jazz heaven though as the two lead instruments lifted the music to a fine, grooving, swinging, funky place enjoyed by all. Donald explained how he came about his unique style that’s been called “Nouveau Swing,” a combination of all the music he grew up with including straight ahead, funk, pop, r&b and of course New Orleans music. He used the first song of the set titled Free To Be as a perfect example. He had the band break down the song instrument by instrument to show how a James Brown groove gave the song its basis and then jazz was added to the mix to make it Donald Harrison music. Professor Harrison, who actually looked more like a preacher man delivering the word to the willing congregation, had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

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