Detroit Jazz Festival:
Virtual and Mainly Local

This year’s Detroit Jazz Festival is a virtual event with an unusual twist. Stages are set up inside the Renaissance Center for performances that will be broadcast and streamed, but without a live audience. At least three acts are from out of town: pianist Robert Glasper, trombonist Steve Turre, and tenorist Pharoah Sanders; the rest are from the Detroit area. As readers of this newsletter know well, “local” is not a negative term in as rich a musical city as Detroit is.

Opening night is Friday night, September 4 and features a long line of performers from 6:15 until 11:45 p.m. The Festival will kick off with an ensemble piece named JUSTICE, which pays tribute to the fight to end racism, the quest for equal rights, and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died of pancreatic cancer on July 17 at the age of 80. Participants include Sister Strings, the Detroit Jazz Festival All-Stars Generations Band, the Michael Jellick Sextet and Robert Hurst’s Black Current Jam Band. Headlining is Pharoah Sanders’ Icon ensemble, and we will also hear from Lulu Fall and the Kris Johnson Group and this year’s legacy artists: vocalist Ursula Walker and pianist Buddy Budson. Saturday features the Steve Turre Quintet, bassist Rodney Whitaker’s Septet, drummer Leonard King and his Orchestra, and baritone saxophonist Alex Harding starting at 11:20 a.m. and ending at midnight.

Sunday gives us a chance to take a closer look at Sister Strings: Roots, Voice and Drums and Hurst’s Black Current Jam Band from opening night starting at 11:20. The ever-popular clarinetist Dave Bennett and his quartet, trumpeter Walter White’s big band, and Mike Jellick’s Sextet are some of the other highlights. Labor Day features pianist Joey Alexander’s Trio, vocalist Rene Marie, and pianist Robert Glasper. The last day will also feature Detroit top notch artists like tenorist David McMurray, bassist Marion Hayden, Joan Belgrave and the Marcus Belgrave Legacy Ensemble. The hours of performance are from 11:20 to11 p.m. Please see the inside of this newsletter and the Jazz Festival website for more details.

You can access the live performances for free on the Festival social media channels (Facebook Live, Instagram) and on Channel 22, the city’s new Arts and Entertainment Channel. Live performances will also be carried by Detroit Public Television, and FM stations WRCJ 90.9, WEMU 89.1 and WDET 101.9. In addition, the entire festival programming will be available on the proprietary Detroit Jazz Fest LIVE! app available on the App Store and Google Play. So while we cannot be there in person, there are multiple opportunities to hear great jazz. Please visit for more details.

Friday, September 4

  • 7:15 p.m. JUSTICE: Sister Strings: Roots, Voice & Drums, Detroit Jazz Fest All-Stars Generations Band, Michael Jellick Sextet, Robert Hurst presents the Black Current Jam Band
  • 8:20 p.m. Lulu Fall and the Kris Johnson Group
  • 9:30 p.m. Pharoah Sanders: Icon
  • 10:50 p.m. Legacy Artists: Ursula Walker and Buddy Budson

Saturday, September 5

  • 11:25 a.m. Tartarsauce Traditional Jazz Band
  • 12:30 p.m. Alex Harding: Afro Horn
  • 1:45 p.m. Ron Di Salvo Trio
  • 3:10 p.m. Dr. Prof. Leonard King Orchestra
  • 4:25 p.m. Gayelynn McKinney & McKinney Zone
  • 5:40 p.m. Sabbatical Bob
  • 7:05 p.m. Aguanko
  • 8:20 p.m. Rodney Whitaker Septet with vocalist Rockelle Fortin
    featuring the music of Count Basie and Billie Holiday
  • 9:45 p.m. Steve Turre Quintet
  • 11:00 p.m. Something to Live For – Music of Billy Strayhorn

Sunday, September 6

  • 11:25 a.m. Collegiate Combo Competition Winner
  • 12:30 p.m. Sven Anderson – Doc’s Holiday
  • 1:45 p.m. The Rayse Biggs Collective
  • 3:10 p.m. The Dave Bennett Quartet
  • 4:25 p.m. Beartrap
  • 5:40 p.m. Sean Dobbins Trio
  • 7:05 p.m. Naima Shamborguer, Sister Strings: Roots, Voice & Drums
  • 8:20 p.m. Robert Hurst presents The Black Current Jam Band
  • 9:45 p.m. Walter White Big Band
  • 11:00 p.m. Michael Jellick Sextet
  • 12:05 a.m. Detroit Jazz Festival Founddation International Exchange: Japan (pre-recorded)

Monday, September 7

  • 11:25 a.m. Marion Hayden: Detroit Legacy
  • 12:30 p.m. David McMurray & Black Light Collective
  • 1:40 p.m. Joan Belgrave presents: The Marcus Belgrave Legacy Ensemble
  • 2:55 p.m. Joey Alexander Trio
  • 4:05 p.m. The Curtis Taylor Quartet
  • 5:15 p.m. James Carter Organ Trio
  • 6:40 p.m. Call AL
  • 7:45 p.m. Henry Conerway III
  • 8:50 p.m. René Marie & Experiment in Truth
  • 10:15 p.m. Robert Glasper