September 6, 2009. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.
We’ve had another beautiful day at the Detroit Jazz Festival. I caught an early afternoon set by the Julliard Jazz Quartet. Even before I reached the stage, I was impressed by what I heard. I thought, “That pianist is very strong.” It turned out to be Donald Vega, a gifted player and composer from Nicaragua. The band began the set with two of his compositions, the energetic “Wake Up” followed by the lilting “Butterfly Waltz”. Then they segued into Monk’s “I Mean You.” Jeremy Biner’s tenor saxophone had shades of Joe Henderson and George Coleman. Bassist Yasushi Nakamura was solid as was drummer, Brian Carter
Hear for yourself on Monday’s Detroit Jazz Festival Special at 2pm on 88.3FM and online at wbgo.org
My next stop was the Mack Avenue Pyramid Stage where pianist Alfredo Rodriguez was giving a solo recital. There was a buzz about Alfredo at the festival, so I was anxious to hear him perform. Playing with the fire and passion of his Cuban homeland, Rodriguez elicited whoops and hollers from his new found fans. Just as handily, he laid a hush over the crowd with an introspective rendition of “Body and Soul.” Rodriguez has been championed by producer Quincy Jones so you can expect to hear a lot more from him in the near future. Alfredo Rodriguez is also featured on our Labor Day Special.
One of the memories of the 2009 Detroit International Jazz Festival that I will cherish forever is Gerald Wilson leading his orchestra in the premiere of his suite “Detroit.” The festival commissioned this work to commemorate its 30th anniversary. Gerald Wilson grew up in Detroit and attended Cass Tech High School. He said, “They taught me all I know. I wouldn’t be here today without them.” The suite includes a movement for his alma mater along with tributes to the Detroit River, Belle Isle and Gretchen Valade who is the major benefactor of the festival and the owner of Wilson’s label Mack Avenue Records.
Wilson clearly has great affection for Detroit. As the orchestra played the soaring melody of the suite’s main theme, he recited these words:
It’s beautiful… Detroit
Love is here
Freedom is here
In this great city of Detroit
© 2009 WBGO
September 5, 2009. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.
It’s late Friday night, well, early Saturday morning and I’ve just returned from the opening concerts of the Detroit International Jazz Festival! When I first arrived in the Motor City on Monday there was no indication of the grand event that was soon to overtake the downtown area save for a small flashing marquee near our hotel. Within 24 hours the hard working crews began the process of putting up tents and vendor booths, laying cables, barricading streets, erecting stages and testing sound equipment.
When I interviewed Festival Executive Director Terri Pontremoli yesterday, I asked her what distinguishes the Detroit Fest from other jazz festivals, and she told me it was the special vibe and the people. The fans who come to the Detroit Jazz Festival know and really appreciate the music. As Terri said, “They come to listen.” This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed several times by long time DJF devotees. In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the festival is showcasing Detroit’s rich jazz legacy and lineage…welcoming home such area natives as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Geri Allen, Bennie Maupin, Louis Hayes and Sheila Jordan.
Keep reading for the details on the rest of the day and a concert photo of Hank Jones. Read more
© 2009 WBGO
August 28, 2009. Posted by David Tallacksen.
Roberta Gambarini performed live in our studio, the first of two groups to fill the space today! Check out the photos above, and take a listen below:
© 2009 WBGO