The 33rd annual Detroit Jazz Festival, the world’s largest free jazz festival, will feature the most celebrated names in jazz including: Sonny Rollins; Wynton Marsalis Quintet; Pat Metheny Unity Band featuring Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, and Ben Williams; Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet; and the Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring Danilo PÃ©rez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.
“This year, we wanted to focus on going back to traditional jazz roots. Bringing together these world-class jazz artists gives festival-goers the opportunity to experience jazz at its finest – a collaboration between artists with history, experience and a style all their own,” said Chris Collins, artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival. “Many of the artists joining us at the festival have worked together before and we’re reuniting them, as well as introducing unique first-time collaborations, to celebrate the culture of jazz and really show how jazz has made an impact in our region and across the nation.”
Rollins and Marsalis return to the festival for the first time since 1987, and Metheny will make his festival debut with his new ensemble. Additionally, New Orleans-native and trumpeter Terence Blanchard will serve as the 2012 Artist-in-Residence, performing with his quartet as well as curating a special Art Blakey Tribute, featuring Peter Washington, Lewis Nash, Geoffrey Keezer and Curtis Fuller, among other appearances.
Other headliners include: Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet: Sound Prints featuring Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh and Joey Baron; Lew Tabackin Quartet featuring Randy Brecker; Jerry Bergonzi Quintet; Donny McCaslin Group featuring Jason Lindner, Tim Lefebvre and Mark Guiliana; David Binney Quartet; Brian Lynch and Unsung Heroes; CÃ©cile McLorin Salvant; and GrÃ©goire Maret Quartet, among others.
The festival will continue its longstanding tradition of presenting and recognizing Detroit‘s rich jazz legacy. Of note, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave will return home with a special all-star Homecoming Band, spotlighting fellow Michigan natives, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Garrett, Geri Allen, Marion Hayden and Louis Hayes. Garrett, Hayes, and tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza will also perform with their respective quartets. The Wayne State University Big Band will perform new works by distinguished pianist Michael Abene and feature guests Joe Lovano and vocalist Judi Silvano. Other homecoming performances include saxophonist Charles McPherson in a co-lead quintet with trumpeter Tom Harrell, multi-reedman Charlie Gabriel, who will celebrate his 80th birthday with special guests, and drummer Gerald Cleaver performing with his working band, Uncle June.
A wide array of special concept projects will also be showcased in the upcoming festival. Conductor David Berger will lead “The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington,” a program focusing on music from Ellington’s three landmark Sacred Concerts written during the last decade of his life. The program will feature a 100-voice Detroit choir and a big band, as well as vocal soloists. The Mack Avenue Records Super-Band will make its worldwide debut, featuring select artists from their roster: Kevin Eubanks, Sean Jones, Tia Fuller, and Alfredo RodrÃguez, among others. Saxophonist Steve Wilson will be featured in a special “Bird with Strings Revisited” project, paying homage to the saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker’s landmark album, Charlie Parker with Strings (Verve, 1955).
Festival-goers will be treated to an assortment of trios, ranging from organ-centric groups such as Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart; Bernard Purdie, Reuben Wilson, Grant Green Jr. (formerly known as The God Fathers of Groove); plus one with special guest Donald Harrison Jr., and Ellery Eskelin’s trio (each lending its own unique organ trio sound, spanning post bop, jazz blues/soul, and free jazz respectively); to the pure acoustic sounds of piano virtuoso Fred Hersch’s trio and Detroit-based Gary Schunk’s Electric Fusion Trio. The groups collectively demonstrate the wide musical possibilities for the sacred configuration.
In addition to Terence Blanchard’s presence, New Orleans‘ influence will be felt with the special program, “A Night in Treme (The Musical Majesty of New Orleans)” – based on the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, Treme. The show will feature the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Charlie Gabriel, Christian Scott, Donald Harrison, Jr., and James “12″ Andrews. Harrison will also appear with his quintet during the festival.
As is tradition, the festival will highlight some of the most engaging artists in Latin jazz, including: Quincy Jones protÃ©gÃ© and Cuban piano sensation Alfredo RodrÃguez, celebrated percussionist Poncho Sanchez’s Chano y Dizzy (with Terence Blanchard), pianist/composer/educator Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban influenced Septet with special guest Donald Harrison Jr., storied trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez y Los Comandos de la Clave, and trombonist Papo Vazquez’ Pirates Troubadours.
“My focus has always been on continually improving the festival,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation board of directors. “Chris Collins has done a fantastic job securing this all-star lineup for the 2012 festival. All of these incredible performers coming together at the Detroit Jazz Festival means a lot, not only to our city, but to all jazz enthusiasts. It is a chance to see so many favorites in one arena. I could not be more thrilled with how this year’s festival continues to develop and, as always, it’s free to the public.”
The Detroit Jazz Festival is largest free jazz festival in North America. Attendees, in addition to artists, come from all over the world, with 23 percent of the festival audience coming from outside of Michigan. The festival has an economic impact of tens of millions of dollars, contributing greatly to the city of Detroit. The festival also was recently voted the number two jazz festival in North America in a reader’s poll by JazzTimes, the world’s leading jazz publication.