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Detroit Jazz Festival 2012 Day One: A Real Jazz & Heritage Festival

Russ Davis reports from the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival

I have a friend from Louisiana who is a major music fan and an active consumer who puts out the effort to support live jazz quite often. I asked him this past spring if he was going to attend this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. His answer was a little surprising. He said the festival was too crowded, too expensive and that there was little jazz and not much heritage to be enjoyed there. Though I’ve been to over 10 editions of the NOLA festival I have not been there since 2005 so I can’t confirm my friend’s assertion. I do remember there being lots of locals playing Zydeco and Cajun music on certain small stages, plenty of rocking blues and New Orleans beat all over the place and gospel under the gospel tent. Certainly after hours the famous Big Easy clubs were filled with New Orleans’s finest until dawn and maybe some of those things have changed, but again, this is something I can’t confirm. As I prepare to take in the events of the 33rd Detroit Jazz Festival I CAN confirm that there will be plenty of jazz to be heard and as always the jazz heritage of Detroit is prominently displayed with great pride.

Friday, 31 August 2012 is the kickoff date and two great shows begin the Labor Day holiday weekend of activities that take place on four stages on the riverside Hart Plaza and across the street among the beautiful, old downtown buildings of old Detroit. Those first show features the great trumpeter from New Orleans Terence Blanchard, who is serving as this year’s “artist-in-residence” with appearances at various shows and other events including a panel of Grammy-winners for which I will serve as moderator. The second show features the great “saxophone colossus” himself, the legendary octogenarian Sonny Rollins who turns 82 on September 7th. It’s a triumphant start to what should be a celebration of mostly traditional or mainstream jazz. There won’t be a lot of electric or experimental music performed over the four-day event and that seems to be the intent of the proceedings this year maybe a little more than in previous years.

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