Detroit Jazz Festival: highlights from Friday performances



A few minor and early technical issues did not hold back the Friday night launch of the Detroit Jazz Festival 2021. The annual Labor Day weekend event, which runs through Monday night, has been converted from a in-person format to a fully virtual format two weeks ago due to the rising number of COVID-19, and the performers were broadcast live from sound stages built in downtown Detroit Marriott.

Impeccable sound and crisp video, along with concert-quality staging and lighting, proved festival artistic director Chris Collins’ assurance that “no expense has been spared” to deliver the best experience. possible for spectators around the world.

The evening started with artist-in-residence Dee Dee Bridgewater, who devotes a significant portion of her time on stage this weekend raising young women in the art form. Wearing stiletto heels and a sun hat – a lovely nod to the typically outdoor setting of the event – she presented The Woodshed Network, a quintet joined by two singers, and the connection between the ladies was evident throughout. . Bridgewater beamed with pride as she introduced every player and song, and the band members affectionately called her “Mama Dee Dee”.

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Alto saxophonist Sarah Hanahan and drummer Shirazette Tinnin made a strong impression from the start with Hanahan’s original “We Bop”, playing as if their lives depended on it. Pianist Sequoia Synder’s “Red’s Blues” shone with the elegance of a tune by Oliver Nelson or Mulgrew Miller, with beautiful work by Erinn Alexis on baritone saxophone. Snyder also lent a well-developed solo to Hanahan’s “Mel-O-Dee”, with vocalist Darynn Dean.

Dean and a singer simply called Kennedy brought a cheerful and melodic presence to their sunny acts, Kennedy conjuring up a young Betty Carter on “Don’t Forget to Smile” and Dean channeling a bit of Esperanza Spalding on his “Evan’s” Way “. “The two ladies have a bright future ahead of them.

Bassist Amina Scott delivered one of the highlights of the evening with a moving, dark ballad titled “What Goes”, which the band dedicated to the victims and survivors of Hurricane Ida. The ensemble ended on a high note with the fun and funky “Firework” of bari player Alexis, inspired by her bassist father; in a pleasant surprise, Scott traded in an electric bass for this one.

Viewers were treated to great news for Detroit jazz fans via a pre-shot segment on location where Collins showed Bridgewater to an underground jazz bar soon to open in town and told him that Gretchen Valade, President of the Festival Board Foundation, was so impressed with the singer’s dedication to education, advocacy and empowering women in jazz that the bar will be called Dee Dee Bridgewater’s.

The Matthew Whitaker Quartet tore up their first song with such energy that for a few minutes it was quite possible to forget that it was being seen on a screen and not in person. The band threw the gauntlet on their second track with an arrangement of Chick Corea’s immortal “Spain”, which played with dynamics and meter.

Headliner Herbie Hancock also paid tribute to her recently deceased comrade on Friday night with a rendition of one of Corea’s most popular songs, “Windows.”

Pianist Hancock’s famous youthful smile was the star of his set; at 81, his love for the game is still contagious.

With a band of killers made up of crisp Justin Tyson on drums, multi-talented Elena Pinderhughes on flute and vocals, prodigy Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, and hellish James Genus on bass, the band took viewers on a journey through songs both old and new, including a heart-wrenching version of “Actual Proof” by 1974, a stopover on “Cantaloupe Island”, and a majestic interpretation of “Come Running to Me” by Hancock from 1978, which was a pure bliss of relaxation for adults.

Hancock spent the years 1963-1968 as one of the mainstays of Miles Davis’ second quintet, a hugely productive period that put a strain on the abilities of both performers. It was amazing to think, watching Hancock perform on Friday night, that we were witnessing the living legacy of Miles Davis’ genius contributions to this music.

There are still three full days of over 12-hour music left, and they can all be enjoyed for free from your home or wherever you choose to be. Enjoy.

Detroit Jazz Festival

When: Keep going until monday

How to watch: The shows will be broadcast live on the festival’s Facebook and YouTube pages, Detroit Jazz Fest LIVE! app and at They will be broadcast live on Detroit A&E Channel 22, WDET-FM (101.9), WEMU-FM (89.1) and WRCJ-FM (90.9).

Cost: To free

Saturday performances: The festival will start broadcasting at 11:35 am on Saturday.


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