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Detroit Jazz Festival Day One: A Red Hot Blast of Peace

MOJA’s Russ Davis reports from first day of Detroit Jazz Festival

Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright (with James Genus on bass) at the 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival

When I got my first sense of Friday’s weather in Detroit I felt like I had just landed in Jamaica instead of Michigan. The day may have been hot, hazy and humid, the temperatures were closer to 100 than 90, but I just forgot all that as my focus was on hitting the ground running to get the most out of my fourth straight visit to “The World’s Biggest Free Jazz Festival.” After visiting a bit with a number of my old friends from the jazz media and record company community at the annual opening night gathering hosted by the festival’s executive director, Terri Pontremoli, I was off to hear the two, major opening night performances.

This year’s artist in residence is the master drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts who was chosen as this year’s featured artist to complement the theme of the 2011 festival “We Bring You The World.” The theme investigates the integration of the music of various parts of the world with jazz and vice versa, and there are dozens of artists from all over the world performing. It also makes the statement that music began with the drum, so “Citizen Tain” is the man in the middle of it all for the weekend and his performance with what he called his “Drum Club” was the appropriate way to kick things off!

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