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.

Electronic Music Returns to Detroit at Movement 2012

This weekend, thousands upon thousands of electronic music fans will flock to Hart Plaza in Detroit for Movement (the Detroit Electronic Music Festival). Today, Jason Huvaere, President at Paxahau – the production company behind the festival – answers some of our questions.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar with the event, can you provide a brief overview of what Movement is?

A: Movement has become a niche festival that respects the historical aspects of electronic music. It is 3 days of non-stop good music in the heart of Detroit. The festival takes place May 26-28 in Detroit and features: five technologically-rich outdoor stages; more than 100 artists; free Wi-Fi access on the grounds; a posh VIP setting located behind the main stage; dozens of official afterparties; an interactive technology center featuring the hottest gear in the industry; and several art displays to stimulate the senses. People come to Detroit every year to catch artists they love from today and yesterday and also discover new, emerging stars. 

Q: How many people attend Movement each year, and how far do people travel for it?

A: Every year, thousands upon thousands of Movement fans from all over the world flock to Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.  Last year, we nearly reached 100,000 attendees during a 3-day weekend.  We have people come all across the State of Michigan and the Midwest.  People from the east coast and west coast visit Detroit for the weekend; and we have attendees who travel from various parts of Canada, Asia, Europe, New Zealand. 

Q: What makes Detroit the right city to host this music fest?

A: Detroit is where Techno Music was founded.  Detroit has served as such a musical inspiration to so many electronic dance music artists across the world; so it makes us the perfect city to host this event.  It’s the role of Detroit and Movement to celebrate the history and talents of local, Detroit-based artists who had gained international notoriety and success for their music.  Since we (Paxahau) became the producers in 2006 we have maintained that unique Detroit flavor; but also broadened the artist offerings to include artists from abroad who have looked to Detroit’s music scene for inspiration.   

Q: What is the lineup like this year?

A: It is an amazing lineup for music fans.  We have pretty much every form of electronic music represented at this year’s festival. There are more than 100 artists performing across five stages.  With our headliners this year, we wanted to present fans with music from some of the originators of the genres of Techno, House, and Hip Hop.  From Lil’ Louis to The Wizard aka Jeff Mills to Public Enemy; these are true artists.  We expect their performances will be memorable and leave the crowd wanting more.  To see the entire lineup, visit movement.us.   

Q: Can attendees expect anything new at Movement this year?

A: Every year we seek to improve upon the previous year and provide a more complete experience.  Some of the latest additions we have made to the festival are the inclusion of art installations by Detroit artists; a partnership with Wheelhouse Detroit who is offering tours of the city; a new biergarten that will feature Michigan and Detroit craft beers along with local food vendors;  an interactive technology area where the fans can interact with the latest industry gear from Allen & Heath, Vestax, Kurzweil, Moog, Propellerheads and Dubspot just to name a few; free Wi-Fi access; and a free smart phone app for both iPhone and Android operating systems, courtesy of our friends at vitaminwater.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about Movement?

A: For lineup, ticket purchase and general information, please visit movement.us. Also, we encourage everyone to “Like” us on Facebook for all up to the minute information and contests, http://www.facebook.com/movementdetroit.

Jason Huvaere is President of Paxahau, the production company for Movement. For more information on Movement, please visit michigan.org.