Detroit Jazz Festival 2023

This year’s Detroit Jazz Festival was well attended with lots of great music, September 1–4 on three stages.

Some acts stood out as they were totally unique. Take Jason Moran’s presentation about James Reese Europe, probably the most prominent figure in Pre-Jazz History. Moran is not only an accomplished pianist but also a bandleader and composer. Moran had assembled a band with the same instrumentation as Europe’s band that took Europe by storm in early 1918. Their music is often described as Society Band music with ragtime syncopation and few solos. Moran’s group captured that sound as far as we can tell by comparing it to its existing recordings, but he deviated from the historical sound when he included solos by members of the group. Some of the solos were clearly from this century rather than the last as they veered into what we today call the avant-garde. I predict that Moran will have great success with this program (“From the Dance Hall to the Battlefield”) in colleges and universities across the land. A safe bet is that they will record their music in the near future, if they have not already done so.

There were several familiar artists this year, many of them Detroiters: violinist Regina Carter; altoist Kenny Garrett; drummer Louis Hayes and his all-star quintet; and, above all, native-son drummer/Artist in Residence Karriem Riggins; plus a cavalcade of piano players presented in various parts of the program. On Labor Day, for example, there was a neat celebration of Barry Harris — one of the leading lights of bebop pianists — with the Michael Weiss trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. The trio was exceptional in taste, execution, and spirit worthy of Mr. Harris’s influence in Detroit, New York, and the world. Danilo Perez and his all-star trio was similarly exceptional on Saturday afternoon.

Here are a few photos of some of the highlights.

ABOVE: Michael Weiss Trio on the Waterfront

BELOW: Steve Nelson and David Hazeltine were part of the Louis Hayes Quintet

BOTTOM: Street singer at the foot of Woodward