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2005 Detroit Jazz Fest Bigger Than Ever


Attendance at this year's Detroit Jazz Fest is rumored to have reached 900,000 for Labor Day weekend, which bodes well for the continuation of the largest free jazz festival anywhere. The expansion up Woodward Avenue gave the festival more breathing room and a grand architectural backdrop. The stage and setting at Campus Martius Park was magnificent. It was also one of the better festivals from an artistic point of view. It showcased some of the top mainstream jazz talents around at their best. I was able to catch some of them.

Gerald Wilson was as successful as last year in inspiring a local big band (this one with a lot of top talent from MSU) to reach their potential. The 60-year age gap between Wilson and most of his players was totally irrelevant. Harmonica giant Toots Thielemans displayed his indomitable spirit and musicality in a wonderful set with pianist Kenny Werner, drummer Airto Moreira, and guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves. David Fathead Newman, Marcus Belgrave, and Howard Johnson (on baritone) showed what soulful bebop is all about in their tribute to Ray Charles, as did The Soul Survivors (particularly guitarist Cornell Dupree and tenorist Ronnie Cuber).

SEMJA's clinics by master musicians Steve Wood, Vincent York, and Marion Hayden reached more high school musicians than ever, thanks to improved scheduling.

TOP: The Regal Brass Band is introduced by Festival director Frank Malfitano at the Hard Rock Café. The New Orleans band was short four members who were still missing at the time of the concert.

ABOVE, RIGHT: Barbara Ware delighted her audience with a well-executed program at the Pyramid Stage on Labor Day.

ABOVE, LEFT: Toots Thielemans on the main stage.

BELOW: Marcus Belgrave, David Fathead Newman and Howard Johnson on the Campus Martius Stage on Friday night.

ABOVE, LEFT: Pianist Les McCann told great stories to Jim Gallert in the Jazz Talk Tent.

ABOVE, RIGHT: John Sinclair in front of the City County Building.

BELOW: Marion Hayden instructs some youngsters from Northville High School in her SEMJA clinic on Labor Day.

photographs by Lars Bjorn

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Southeastern Michigan
Jazz Association


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