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.

An Annual Summer Getaway to Harbor Springs, More than a Family Tradition

Melanie Dawson currently lives in Minneapolis, but she’s been visiting Harbor Springs, Michigan for 15 summers now. Today, she shares with us what draws her family back to the area year after year.

Photo credit: Lou Peeples-Photography; www.pointephotography.net


I grew up in Phoenix, AZ, the desert landscape being infinitely different from northern Michigan. But I lucked into marrying a Midwestern man from Indiana, whose family comes to Harbor Springs every summer. I’ve been visiting Harbor Springs for 15 summers now, my husband for 39. His mother spent her summers there, as did his grandmother and her parents, making our daughter the fifth generation. It’s more than a family tradition, for them (and now for me) it’s a way of life. A summer not spent in Harbor Springs is a summer with something missing. Every year we look forward to revisiting old favorites and finding new gems.

Restaurants we love: Depot Club & Restaurant, serving gourmet food. Coat required indoors, more casual on the patio. New this year is Petoskey Brewing, housed in an old brewery from 1898. This family-friendly place serves delicious microbrews (try a flight of three or four 4 oz pours) and a solid pub menu and is located on the drive between Harbors Springs and Petoskey. We also thoroughly enjoy sitting outside at Dudley’s Deck, which provides covered dining on the patio or the open grass area across from the dock. On a gorgeous night it’s a pleasure to sip one of their famous Hummers and watch the sun go down. Don’t miss Turkeys Café & Pizzeria (serving pizza and sandwiches) and Gurneys Harbor Bottle Shop (a liquor store that makes amazing cold sandwiches to order at lunchtime). There’s nowhere to sit at Gurney’s so take your sandwiches down to the pier and watch the yachts come in and out.

For ice cream and treats, my daughter would tell you that Yummies is a must, serving her favorite flavor of ice cream: Superman. As a grown-up, I am loving the new Velvet, an ice cream shop with a more sophisticated interior and delicious flavors. Not a summer goes by where we don’t get a cookie from Tom’s Mom’s. Housed in the tiniest shop you may have ever seen, the cookies are fresh baked. If you love fudge, check out Kilwin’s and Howse’s.

Leaving the downtown area, Pond Hill Farm is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. The farm is home to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and geese. It features a café and winery with farm fresh ingredients.  There’s a trout pond to fish in, a squash rocket to experiment with, and a market that features pesticide and herbicide free produce hormone and antibiotic free organically raised beef, pork, and lamb, plus other organic products. My daughter’s grandparents enjoy taking the grandchildren to Thorne Swift Nature Preserve, featuring a boardwalk through dense woods and beach frontage and several stopping points with educational information on trees, flowers, animals, insects, and environmental topics. You can’t go wrong visiting the beach at Petoskey State Park where you can spend hours searching for the hard-to-find Petoskey Stone.

Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf in Petoskey is my daughter’s number one favorite activity to do when we visit Northern Michigan. With several locations around the country, it isn’t exclusive to Michigan, but it provides an hour or so of wicked fun. What kid (or kid at heart) doesn’t enjoy miniature golf with the family?

If you love being active on the water, visit The Outfitter. This comprehensive shop features all the gear you need (you can rent paddleboards and kayaks) plus a generous amount of activewear, shoes, and accessories for all of your active pursuits.

Melanie Dawson is an avid traveler who loves exploring the United States and abroad with her husband John and 8 year old daughter Reese. She lives in Minneapolis, MN where she pursues her passions of cooking, nutrition, and living an active lifestyle.

For more things to do and see in Harbor Springs, visit michigan.org.

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.