Saturday, June 02, 2007


Detroit International Jazz Festival (DJF) officials unveiled details for its 28th annual Labor Day Weekend extravaganza, which will honor the jazz roots of Detroit and Chicago through a friendly challenge between artists from each city. The '07 festival, billed as "The Rumble in the Great Lakes," will kick off Friday, August 31st, and feature Detroit's internationally-renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter and Chicago's Grammy-award winning jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock.

"Detroit and Chicago have produced some of the most prolific and influential jazz artists in the world," said Terri Pontremoli, DJF executive director. "We decided it was high time to highlight the musical contributions of both cities. For years, Chicago and Detroit have hosted competing jazz festivals on the same weekend, so why not have an out-and-out rumble?" Pontremoli added.

DJF officials revealed the full lineup of artists, many of whom have Chicago or Detroit ties such as Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling (performing with the Wayne State Big Band), Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Bettye Lavette, The Miracles, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Garrett, Ron Carter and Gerald Wilson.

"The Detroit/Chicago theme also gave us the inspiration to pull together some exciting musical projects like the 50th anniversary celebration of the great Johnny Griffin record, A Blowin' Session," Pontremoli added.

Mack Avenue artists Carl Allen and Rodney Whitaker will present a set with three tenors representing Chicago and Detroit. Nods to Motown include a performance by the Miracles, also celebrating their 50th anniversary, and a tribute to Marvin Gaye by the Michigan State University Big Band through a suite entitled "What's Goin' On?" Don Byron's performance will be centered on the music of Junior Walker.

Officials say fans can also look forward to interesting pairings such as Maria Muldauer with Jim Dapogny's Chicago Ensemble, Wendell Harrison's Chicago Connection and Steve Wood's tribute to Yusef Lateef. There will be a heavy dose of "outsiders" as well, including Dave Brubeck, Patti Austin (who will perform her Avant Gershwin material with the Gerald Wilson Big Band), Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Poncho Sanchez, Charles Tolliver, the Brubeck Brothers, Russell Malone, Bill Charlap, Stanley Jordan, Conrad Herwig and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

Pontremoli also introduced two new initiatives -- an annual visiting artist residency and a stage dedicated to emerging artists. "It's a thrill to begin the artist-in-residence program with a native Detroiter who also just happens to be a MacArthur prize winner," Pontremoli says of violinist Regina Carter. In addition to teaching at a jazz camp for middle school students under the auspices of Arts League of Michigan this summer, Ms. Carter will play in several different settings on Labor Day weekend: With her quintet, in a duo with Kenny Barron, and as a special guest with the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. She'll also perform with students and participate in discussions in the festival's Jazz Talk Tent.

The Here and Now Stage will feature regional musicians and emerging national artists such as vocalist Sachal Vasandani, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, 14 year-old saxophonist Grace Kelly, and vocalists Chiara Civello and Jennifer Sannon.

Based on the success of '06, the festival will again present a gospel Monday -- this year featuring Mavis Staples and Kim Burrell with Sean Jones, in addition to local gospel groups yet to be announced. Local jazz historians Jim Gallert and Lars Bjorn, buoyed by capacity attendance in the azz Talk Tent last year, are planning a full schedule of panels and meet-the-artist sessions. Herb Boyd, Tony Mowod and Ira Gitler will engage in discussions with national and local artists as well as other radio personalities and jazz writers.

DJF officials also announced other festival features which will include:
-- A family picnic area with daily performances of Hayes Greenfield's
"Jazz-a-ma-tazz," in addition to story tellers and puppets.
-- A hip jazz garden in Campus Martius complete with tables, bars and
large video screens. The video screens will play selections from the
award-winning Jazz Icons series, produced by Reelin' In the Years
Productions. Detroit Jazz Fest is the exclusive site for the world
premiere of the second series of vintage jazz concerts (the first set
premiered at the annual International Association for Jazz Educators
conference). Quincy Jones has called the series "an audio-visual
treasure trove of the music that changed the world."
-- An art gallery tent will feature the Arts League of Michigan's
exhibit Rock My Soul.

In addition to revealing the power-packed artist lineup and new festival features, DJF officials also unveiled one of its longstanding traditions -- the annual festival poster, this year created by Detroit rising artist Darcel Deneau. "Darcel's beautiful piece truly captures the essence of our festival against the beautiful backdrop of Detroit," said Pontremoli. "The poster will definitely add to our promotional efforts and is sure to become a must-have as part of the wonderful collection of posters from years past."

Festival organizers also announced the renewing of an old friendship with the Hotel Pontchartrain, the location of the revered P-Jazz series and Rapa House jam sessions of the past. Fans can look for nightly "after-hours" jam sessions, and a salsa party on Sunday night at the Pontch -- which was announced as the official hotel of the DJF.

As evidence of its commitment to strengthen the educational component of the festival, the DJF has forged partnerships with Wayne State University and Jazz @ Juilliard. The festival is sponsoring visiting artists Conrad Herwig and Sean Jones for Jazz Week at Wayne (July 23-28), and will feature a mini- residency with Juilliard jazz students on Labor Day Weekend. The Michigan School Band and Orchestra and the International Association for Jazz Education will be involved in the high school invitational.

In order to sustain the high quality of the festival and to maintain it as a free event, sponsorships are extremely important to the newly formed non- profit organization. The festival welcomed back significant '06 sponsors such as Chase (Cadillac Square Stage), Carhartt (Pyramid Stage), Ford (Here and Now Stage) and Absopure (Waterfront Stage). Other major sponsors include MGM Casino, MotorCity Casino, Mack Avenue Records, Comcast, DTE Energy, and Big Boy. Budweiser Select is the sponsor of a pre-fest series which will take place Fridays in August at Bert's, Baker's, Cliff Bells and Memphis Smoke and feature some of Detroit's best musicians.

Wayne State University, Art Van, Aqua Fresh and Starbucks will also be sponsoring the festival this year. Both new and returning sponsors understand the value of getting their products and services before Detroit's premier Labor Day Weekend audience, as well as supporting the 28-year tradition that creates cultural tourism for Michigan. "It is great to see organizations step up and support one of the best free jazz festivals in the world," said Gretchen Valade, owner of Mack Avenue Records and main benefactor of the DJF.

Media sponsors in '07 include FOX 2, Detroit Newspaper Partnership, Hour Detroit Magazine, WEMU, WDET, WRCJ and Detroit Public Television. "Detroit Jazz Fest is one of the most dynamic free jazz festivals in the world," Pontremoli added. "We plan to build on that reputation each year and are confident that this season will impress both new and old DJF attendees -- who are among the most informed and enthusiastic jazz audiences anywhere."

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