Detroit Jazz Festival Brings Amazing Music, Fireworks to the Heart of Downtown Detroit

Detroit may be known for Motown, but each Labor Day weekend for the past 34 years the sounds of world-class jazz takes over Downtown Detroit. Today, Chris Collins, artistic director for the Detroit Jazz Festival fills us in on what’s in store for the four-day festival that starts Friday.

Q: Can you tell us more about the Detroit Jazz Festival and your role?

A: The Detroit Jazz Festival is a really a cultural tour-de-force for Detroit region and throughout the jazz world. It’s the world’s largest free jazz festival and was recently voted by JazzTimes magazine readers as the one of the top two festivals in North America. Every Labor Day for 34 years running, this festival has brought some of the greats of this true American art form to the heart of Detroit for four days of music on four stages, three in Hart Plaza and one in Campus Martius. The festival attracts more than 100,000 people over four days and nearly 25 percent are from out of state, and we have an economic impact in the tens of millions, so it’s a cultural and economic driver for Southeast Michigan

While the festival weekend is our most visible event, many people don’t realize that the Detroit Jazz Festival is a year-round happening. We have events throughout the year such as a Duke Ellington tribute with saxophonist James Carter, a Detroit native, at the Fillmore last March; our Detroit Divas Sing Sing Sing event annually at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe which is tonight, Aug. 23; and then our Nov. 2 event at Orchestra Hall featuring world-renown saxophonist Wayne Shorter, with Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding, and the DSO. These are events that are designed to keep the spirit of the festival prevalent throughout the year.

Q: What can visitors expect at this year’s festival?

A: So this year once again, we have a world-class lineup. Opening night is the Macy Gray with the David Murray Big Band and the Danilo Pérez Panama 500. On Sat., Sun. and Mon. we go from around noon until 11 p.m. Saturday headliners are McCoy Tyner and the Sax Summit with Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane; Sunday is Ahmad Jamal and John Scofield Überjam and Monday is “MILES SMILES“ featuring Wallace Roney, Larry Coryell, Rick Margitza, Ralphe Armstrong, and Alphonse Mouzon, and Joshua Redman Quartet. In addition we have 250-plus local musicians playing including high school and college bands. So, there’s a little something for everyone including late-night jam sessions at the Marriott at the Renaissance Center from 11 p.m. until the wee hours. Beyond the music, there’s great food and art and on Saturday and Sunday nights, we have fireworks on the Detroit River after the last performance. All in all, there are a slew of great activities.

Q: Are there any “can’t miss” performances this year?

A: Well, again, the headliners are out of this world. To put it in context, these are people you would pay hundreds of dollars to see at say, Lincoln Center in New York City. So these are must-dos. But, this year one of the focuses of the festival is one-of-a-kind tributes that you can’t see anywhere else like a Teddy Harris, Jr. tribute by the New Breed Be Bop Society, a tribute to Stan Kenton featuring The Four Freshmen and the Toledo Jazz Orchestra and the four-performance Detroit Jazz Festival Tribute to the late, great Dave Brubeck featuring the Brubeck Brothers.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for other things to see and do while visitors are in town for the festival?

A: Well, Detroit is really so alive right now. Opportunity Detroit is a new sponsor and we couldn’t be happier because our mission and theirs align – and that is to continue to make Detroit a city of promise. So, our festival has a full-days’ worth of wonderful music, but outside there are many other things to do. We often tell people that they can’t go wrong by spending a morning at Eastern Market, or heading over to the Motown Museum or the Detroit Institute of Arts. For those that want more flavor for the neighborhoods of Detroit, Corktown has a slew of interesting restaurants, refurbished houses and a funky vibe that resonates. And, of course because of my role as director of Jazz Studies at Wayne State University, I would be remiss not to mention all the Cultural Center and university areas have much to offer.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about the festival?

A: The best place is the web site at www.detroitjazzfest.com, where you can find complete schedules, maps and details on all the activities.

Learn more about the Detroit Jazz Festival and other happenings around the state on michigan.org. Let us know if you’ll be attending the festival in the comments below!

In addition to being the artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival, Chris Collins is a professional jazz woodwind player, and professor and director of jazz studies at Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit. Collins has been involved with the Detroit Jazz Festival, first as a student and then as a Detroit artist, for 30 years. Originally from Detroit, he began playing the saxophone and clarinet at the age of 10. In addition to his solo career, Collins has played professionally with artists including the Phil Collins Big Band, Doc Severinsen, Mel Torme, Michael Feinstein, Lou Rawls and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

From our Fans: Cars in Pure Michigan

In honor of the Pure Michigan 400 and the Woodward Dream Cruise we asked our fans to share photos of cars on the Pure Michigan Facebook wall. We had so many great photos we wanted to share more than just one. 

Take a look at the slide show below to see some great cars, both old and new, from around the state. Visit michigan.org for more information on car events going in Michigan. 

Do you have a favorite classic car? Share with us in the comments below. 

Family Fun at Cheeseburger in Caseville

Michigan is home to a ton of festivals year-round, but one of the most unique may just the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival! Held every August as a tribute to Jimmy Buffett and delicious cheeseburgers, the festival is all about having fun in the sun whether you’re 8 years old or 88! This year’s event is happening now through next Sunday, August 18.

Below, festival chairman Steve Lowers answers on our questions on the annual event.

Q. Can you tell us more about your role in Cheeseburger in Caseville?

A. I have been president of the Caseville Chamber of Commerce for 10 years and am also Chairman of the Cheeseburger Festival.  I am just one of the many volunteers that help to put the festival together and am involved in the overall planning of the event including scheduling the bands and details of events throughout the festival.

Q. The festival is now in its 15th year; are there any new additions?

A. Some of the new events this year include a larger kid’s day and a book signing by “Michigan Killers” author Jonathan Rand. Throughout the festival we have several new kids’ events. We also are bringing back the popular laser light show and have some new bands that will be taking the stages.

Q. Since the festival’s start, it has definitely grown throughout the years. Can you tell us more about the history of the festival?

A. The festival has grown a lot since it all started in 1999. The first year it was only a three day festival and now lasts 10 days. When I took over as Chairman 10 years ago we decided to expand and because three days just wasn’t enough time. The attendance has also jumped each year; the first year of the festival we sold 300 buttons for $3.00 and last year we sold over 10,000 buttons for $10 apiece. Each year thousands descend on our small town for 10 days of fun.

Q. Cheeseburger has won several “Michigan Fun Awards,” what makes the festival so deserving of these awards?

A. We are a really creative bunch! We really enjoy planning the festival and take a lot of pride in the community and the festival. I believe that a group of decision makers is better than one and it shows in the festival.

Q. What other activities can festivalgoers do in Caseville outside of the festival?

A. Caseville has beautiful beaches, great golf courses, lots of campgrounds and some really great shops.

Q. Just for fun, can you tell us what would be on your perfect burger?

A. I really like blue cheese so for me it would have to be one of the black and blue burgers that some of the vendors sell. A black and blue burger is a cajun seasoned burger loaded with blue cheese.

Q. What’s the most surprising thing you have learned or seen working in this event?

A. I’ve learned that there is a fine line between a festival and a party. A festival involves ages 1-100 and a party is for adults, through the years we have prided ourselves on remaining a great festival. Our festival is one of the best and biggest in Michigan because it is so family oriented. That’s why I do it!

Q. Where can you go to learn more about the festival?

A. Visit www.casevillechamber.net, the Caseville Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or take a listen to the radio show below!

Steve Lowers is the President and Chairman of Caseville Area Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival. For more information about events going on across Pure Michigan visit michigan.org/events.