Highlights of the Detroit Jazz Festival 2016: Mark Stryker’s favorites



There is such a variety of promising music at the Detroit Jazz Festival that choosing the daily highlights is always a challenge. Ask me tomorrow, and I could come up with a different list. Still, here are picks for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday with an eye on a range of styles.


Luciana Souza: “Speaking in tongues”: Brazilian jazz singer Mercuriel’s 2015 CD “Speaking in Tongues” was a great showcase for her mute and scattered voice against the backdrop of the same dynamic and eclectic group of virtuosos who joined her here: Lionel Loueke on guitar, Grégoire Maret on harmonica, Massimo Biolcati on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums. 5:15 p.m. Carhartt Amphitheater Stage

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Stanley Cowell Quintet with Billy Harper and Charles Tolliver: The potential for intense magic is high as Cowell, an authoritative and criminally underrated pianist, reunites with two flamboyant post-bop partners from the late 60s and 70s, trumpeter Charles Tolliver and tenor saxophonist Billy Harper. Bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Carl Allen round out the group. It’s kind of like a homecoming, as Cowell performed on the Detroit stage as a graduate student at Ann Arbor in the mid-1960s. Additionally, Cowell and Tolliver co-founded the Strata-East label in 1971, inspired by the Detroit label Strata created by Kenn Cox and Charles Moore. 5:30 p.m. Wayne State University Pyramid Stage

Pianist Stanley Cowell's Quintet will perform at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Pyramid Stage.

Chris Potter Underground Orchestra: A sought-after tenor saxophonist whose dazzling technique and harmonic and rhythmic mastery have had a great impact on young saxophonists. Here he conducts his vast Underground Orchestra, a 10-piece ensemble (comprising an improvised string quartet and an acoustic and electric bass) which offers a wider sonic palette and compositional framework to the leader’s vision. The top group includes pianist Craig Taborn, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, guitarist Adam Rogers, acoustic bassist Scott Colley, electric bassist Fima Ephron, drummer Nate Smith, violinist Mark Feldman and others. 7.15 p.m. Carhartt Amphitheater stage

Ron Carter Quartet: The festival’s second artist-in-residence appearance finds the bassist alongside an invigorating quartet with pianist Renee Rosnes, a creative pianist who uplifts any band she appears in, as well as drummer Payton Crossley and the percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos. 7:30 p.m. Wayne State University Pyramid Stage

Chris Potter's Underground Orchestra performs at 7:15 p.m. Saturday on the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage.


The Homecoming Band: Kirk Lightsey & Louis Hayes Trio with Robert Hurst: Born in Detroit a few months apart in 1937, Lightsey and Hayes have taken different paths in the history books. Hayes, a defining drummer in the hard bop era, got there first by leading the groups of Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley in the 1950s and 1960s. Lightsey, whose marriage of grace and courage made he a prototypical pianist from Detroit, saw his reputation grow in the 1970s and 1980s after extensive work with Dexter Gordon and others. Detroit bassist Robert Hurst completes what should be a homecoming. 3:15 p.m. Carhartt Amphitheater

David Weiss and Point of Departure celebrate the music of Kenn Cox and Charles Moore: A trumpeter and conductor with a knack for organizing powerful groups delves into the music of Cox and Moore, two late Detroit-based members of the city’s Exploratory Contemporary Jazz Quintet in the late 1960s and 1970s. The CJQ reflected the weightless modal universe and shifting rhythms associated with the Miles Davis Quintet. Weiss’ sextet contains another link to Detroit in Motor City native JD Allen on tenor saxophone. A pair of guitarists, Ben Eunson and Travis Reuter, as well as bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Kush Abadey, complete the group. 4:45 p.m. Absopure Waterfront Stage

Trumpeter David Weiss and Point of Departure perform at 4:45 p.m. Sunday on the Absopure Waterfront Stage.

Avant-garde jazz orchestra: The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra made its debut on February 7, 1966 at the Village Vanguard in New York City. Fifty years – and 2,500 Mondays – later, the group lives as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Pontiac-born co-founder Thad Jones was an innovative composer-arranger and trumpeter. His classic scores – full of endless melodies, harmonic surprise, rhythmic spirit, warm vibes and sparks of genius – will be at the heart of this long-awaited appearance at the Detroit festival. 8 p.m. JP Morgan Chase Main Stage


Former Detroiter Charlie Gabriel performs at 2:45 p.m. Sunday at the Pyramid Stage.

Charlie Gabriel Quintet: Although he has spent over 60 years as a versatile clarinetist and saxophonist on the Detroit stage, the 84-year-old Gabriel was born in New Orleans and in recent years has been a tireless member of Preservation Hall Jazz. Crescent City Band. For this Motor City reunion, he will lead a band that promises to push him beyond primitive New Orleans jazz jazz and into a more modern kitchen. 2:45 p.m. Wayne State University Pyramid Scene

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra performs at 8 p.m. Sunday on the Chase Main Stage.

Jason Moran and the bandwagon: Still creative pianist, composer and conceptualist Moran has led this premier trio with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits for over 15 years. Moran filters the content and rhythm of contemporary life into a radical aesthetic that understands the jazz tradition as a century-long march of avant-garde ideas and attitudes. 4:15 p.m. Absopure Water Front Stage

Jason Moran (center) and The Bandwagon, including Tarus Mateen (right) and Nasheet Waits, perform on Monday at 4:15 p.m. on the Water Front stage.

Ron Carter Big Band: The artist in residence closes the 2016 festival at the head of his New York big band. The group is made up of seasoned pros, including great alto saxophonist Jerry Dodgion (who turned 84 this week), alto saxopohonist Antonio Hart, trombonist Steve Davis, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, drummer Dennis Mackrel and many more. others. Bob Freedman’s straightforward arrangements provide a nice balance of bespoke ensembles and leeway for soloists, and it should be fun to hear how Carter, who has been mostly associated with small groups, can guide 16 players towards the goal line. 5:15 p.m. Carhartt amphitheater stage.

37th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival

From Friday to Monday, with around 60 national and local acts

7-10.15pm Fri, 11.30am-10.30pm Sat, 11.30am-10.30pm Sun, 11 am-6.30pm Mon

Four stages at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius / Cadillac Square


Free entry


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