Labor Day at the Detroit Jazz Festival 2013

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Hart Plaza Fountain, Detroit, MI

The last day of the festival started out poorly for me. I,was about 20 minutes into the drive downtown when I realized I did not have my VIP wristband on my arm. I was in a rush to see the Aaron Diehl Trio. I made the decision to go back and get it. Or course , the wristband was not critical but there are some perks that mean a lot to me. So I raced back home and got the wristband and went on may way downtown again.

I walked very fast from the parking garage to the Absopure stage and got there in time to see the Aaron Diehl Trio. I was able to find a spot and sit down and just enjoy the music. The music I heard started slowly with a bluesy undertone. Aaron Diehl (piano) playing with Warren Wolf (vibes) is a dynamite combination. I didn’t get the names of the sidemen and can just say that even though I only got part of the set, rushing to see it was well worth it.

20130904-102736.jpgAaron Diehl Trio with Warren Wolf

I went over to the VIP desk to get my parking validated. I decided to get lunch since the next group I wanted to see was at the other end of the festival. The food I get with my pass is one of the parts that means a lot to me. I do not care for festival food and the food I get at the VIP tent Is so very good for food that is out in chafing dishes for a bit of time. This time the choices were cornbread, cole slaw, pinto bean salad, Itslian sausage with peppers, chicken with BBQ sauce, macaroni and cheese, a fruit plate, cookies and strawberry shortcake. I took the cornbread, cole slaw, Italian sausage, chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, fruit and strawberry shortcake. Even though the food is much better than the food offered at the food booths, each day there were some misses. Today, the mac ‘n’ cheese tasted like it was made with some cheap cheese product rather than real cheese and I gave it a pass after one bite. All the rest was edible. Even though the strawberry shortcake was edible, the biscuit was not real shortcake and the faux whip cream reminded me of styrofoam. I was ready to go on to the rest of the festival.

I headed up to the JP Morgan Chase stage to see the Robert Glasper Experiment. He was here last year and I heard from some how he “killed it”. I saw it again when he played at a jam session that evening. He was playing with Casey Benjamin(sax, keytar), Mark Colenburg(drums) and Derek Hodge(bass). Wallace Roney(tpt) sat in on one number. There was a long delay because the set up crew was having sound problems that took time to resolve. Glasper seemed to make the assumption that everyone who was there was already a fan of the group. So, none of the songs were announced. He did announce a release of a new album.

At one point, I heard the sax blaring, the drummer banging away, the bass thumping and Glasper bringing order to the chaos. The music is a convergence of jazz, hip hop and electronic. As usual I responded to the driving beat which was provided by the Derek Hodge, the bass player. I can say I really enjoyed some of the music. However, I was disappointed since I did not hear much of Elasper. He spent a lot of time at the back of the stage. Most of what I heard was Casey Benjamin. The last number was a tribute to J Dilla and on that number, they really performed.

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The next act was called Geri Allen(piano) Homecoming and featured Wallace Roney(tpt), Robert Hurst(bass), J.D. Allen(sax), Sheila Jordan(vox), Dave McMurray(sax), Karriem Riggans(drums) and George Bohanan(tbone). All these musicians call their home Detroit and are now living elsewhere. I have heard of all of them in discussions of music in Detroit and this was my opportunity to hear them. George Bohanan restored my belief that a trombone can play jazz. Tow of the number I liked were “Cedars Blues” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”. They are extraordinary musicians and when they come back for club dates, I would go out to see them any time. The two numbers Sheila Jordan did were “Farewell” and “A Place to Stay”. The second had really funny lyrics and was a great way for me to remember Sheila.

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The last act at the same stage was called Miles Smiles. The musicians were Wallace Roney(tpt), Larry Coryell(gtr), Rick Margitza(sax), Ralphe Armstrong(bass) and Alphonse Mouzon(drums). I was a little disappointed. I think I expected Wallace to be a imitation of Miles Davis. Logically, of course, that was not going to happen. He is a musician in his own right. The sun went down and the temperature dropped precipitously and suddenly I was too cold to enjoy the music especially when the warm bodies next to left due to the cold. After my original disappointment, I did enjoy the music.

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I went home and after dinner went to a jam at the Harbor House. I spent most of my time talking to a jazz fan friend from Toronto. A good end to the festival.

Sunday Afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Festival 2013

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Carhartt Amphitheater, Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI

I wandered over to the Absopure Pyramid stage to expand my jazz listening. One of the things I can do at this festival is sample all sorts of music other than what I normally hear.

After lunch I went to the Absopure Pyramid stage to see Dave Liebman( sax, flute) and Richie Beirach(piano). I got a seat with no problem. The music was dissonant, abrasive and edgy. If I had never heard jazz before I would say that I don’t like jazz. As I listened, I began to hear different things. I relaxed and began to enjoy the music. I could hear how closely the musicians played against each other weaving in and out moving the emphasis from one instrument to the other. By the time they played “Pendulum” which they recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City in the late 1970s, my original opinion had changed. Both of the musicians had incredible expertise. The music engaged and stimulated my mind. I was hearing the meshed, cohesive music as they worked together to create sound to remember. In fact,I got so engrossed that I forgot to take a picture.

The next act at the stage was a group I had seen and enjoyed before so I decided to stay for part of the performance. This was a tribute to Don Byas who was a legendary bebop jazz saxophone player. This tribute similar to the Teddy Harris, Jr. Tribute on Saturday which also focused on bebop. The tribute was performed by James Carter(sax), Gerard Gibbs(piano), Dr. Leonard Moon(drums), Theo Croker(tpt) and Ralphe Armstrong( bass). James Carter was playing a restored Don Byas saxophone probably played from 1950 to 1962 by Don Byas. James Carter called Don Byas the harmonic link between swing and bebop.

20130903-180207.jpgJames Carter

I stayed to listen to “1944 Stomp”, “Free and Easy” and “Stardust”. As I listened, I could hear both the elements of swing and bebop which was true of all the songs I heard. When they started the “1944 Stomp”, chills went down my back. That is how well this particular set of musicians has an emotional connection with me. My favorite of the group is James Carter who has an emotionally charged saxophone. It can be mournful, energetic, engaging, intellectual or adventurous. So for the time I was there, I was on a wonderful emotional roller coaster.

20130903-182345.jpgGerard Gibbs, Ralphe Armstrong, James Carter, Leonard Moon and Theo Croker

I headed over to the Carhartt Amphitheater with a dual purpose. The act just coming up was good and the next acte after that one was Ahmad Jamal. Although there are reserved seats for VIP (those who pay), there are never enough seats if all of them show up at the main stage. I got a seat near the middle of the third row. I was overjoyed.

The next act was called the Alan Broadbent Trio featuring Sheila Jordan. The trio was Alan Broadbent(piano), Cameron Brown(bass) and Sean Dobbins(drums). There was also a string orchestra behind the trio. The music was for the most part both soothing and enjoyable without n edge. I had seen Sheila Jordan before and really did want to see her again. All the edge in th performance came from her lyrics. She will be 85 in November.

Sheila was not hitting the notes at the beginning of the performance but as the performance went on, she was sounding very good. When her voice warmed up and she began to scat, it was all there and magnificent. Before she did ” Seek Your Hearts Desire”, she mentioned that she did not sing professionally until she was 58. She is an inspiration.

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Alan Broadbent, Sheila Jordan, Cameron Brown and Sean Dobbins

And finally, Amad Jamal alone his quartet. The quartet was Amad Jamal(piano), Reginald Veal(bass), Manolo Badrena(percussion) and Herman Riley (drums). The last time I heard Ahmad Jamal, I was watch from behind the stage way up on the hill. All I heard was his playing. This time, sitting in front, it was a very different listening experience. All the music depended on the wonderful driving beat behind the keys. It was amazing as were all the musicians. There were times when the bass was the forefront of the beat. Other times when it was the drums or percussion. For the most part, the bass was main driver and the bass playing was wondrous.

On both “Voodoo”and “Saturday Morning”, there was the familiar Jamal soft piano touch with the driving beat behind it. They did “Poinciana” and a few other numbers. As the encore they did “This is the Life”. It was, for me, one of those transcendent musical experiences leaving me with a quiet happy mind.

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I decided to go to an after the festival jam. I did not go to the DJF sponsored jam at the Marriott since last year it was overcrowded, couldn’t hear the music and got no service. A friend was at the Harbor House and I went. When I arrived, it was crowded and noisy. The music was not to my liking. I told my friend that I had to go. And go I did to Bert’s where the music was good. And finally home and happy.