WBGO at Detroit
  • What's ahead at the Detroit Jazz Festival? Terri Pontremoli has The Plan

    August 25, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Terri Pontremoli and Rhonda Hamilton
    Terri Pontremoli and Rhonda Hamilton, Sept 2009

    This woman has the big picture and all the  details in her head, just like last year and the year before, when WBGO made our first trip to the Detroit Jazz Festival. Now Artistic Director Terri Pontremoli and the rest of us are about to see the vision get real. And it's only a week away.

    The first sounds might be thunder, as Artist-in-Residence Jeff Tain Watts gathers his Drum Club. They're Tony Allen (Afrobeat), Susie Ibarra (avant garde), Horacio Hernandez (Cuba) , Joe Locke (vibes),  and Pedrito Martinez (Cuba).  "I can't believe we have enough drum kits and percussion instruments in Detroit" for this spectacular, says Terri. "It will be creative and spirited." I imagine that the Detroit audience will listen with open ears. That's what they're known for -- their love of the groove and willingness to stretch.

    "You have to feel out the audience. But at the end of the day," Tain says in a Q&A with Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press, "people are ready for a lot of stuff. It's about how you present it to them."

    The arm of Joe Louis near Hart Plaza, site of stages
    Joe Louis's fist near Hart Plaza, site of DJF stages

    "Tain is of the age where he needs to be heralded, asked to do things with a bigger organization," says Terri. And that's why she called him up and asked him to come to Detroit. He has already performed in the city several times this year, building toward these FREE festival shows. Yes, thanks to philanthropist Gretchen Valade, the  Detroit International Jazz Festival Foundation, and others, it is still free. "It's the most miraculous thing," says Pontremoli.

    Saturday, you can zigzag from Warren Wolf to Luciana Souza, have a bite, see Detroit's own Curtis Fuller with Eric Alexander and Mike LeDonne, catch the last half of Sean Jones, then go between two stages for this uninterrupted sequence: Toots Thielemans, Sun Ra Arkestra, Jason Moran & Bandwagon, Dave Holland Octet. Sunday on the Waterfront Stage alone, see Amina Figarova; Paquito D'Rivera; Aaron Diehl, winner of the 2011 Cole Porter Fellowship, with Dominick Farinacci, Yasushi Nakamura and Lawrence Leathers; Regina Carter & Reverse Thread (opposite Tain in the Amphitheater!); Vijar Iyer Trio (opposite Joe Lovano's Us Five). Decisions, decisions. Sometimes where you land is dictated by where you can find a seat. Away from Hart Plaza, toward the end of the evening, hike up Woodward Ave to the Chase Stage for Ivan Lins .

    "Detroit is known for bebop and small groups," says Terri. "This year we bring in the world. Not so much world music as recognizing and celebrating how our music has influenced people all over the world." One example from the Jazz Talk Tent (check for day and time): WBGO's Bob Porter and Paquito explore "Cubano Be, Cubano Bop - Dizzy Gillspie's Cuban Connection." The Talk Tent runs every day, takes you to school, with some delicious food vendors nearby, I've discovered.

    The city from the top of a skyscraper, images by David Tallacksen
    The city from the top of a skyscraper, images by David Tallacksen

    Monday: Helen Sung and, later, Anthony Wilson play on the Waterfront. Gary Burton and, later, Kevin Eubanks play in the Amphitheater. In the evening on the Chase, hiphop artist COMMON and Detroit-born drummer Karriem Riggins create an original set of spoken word and jazz. (Last year at this time and location, I saw Allen Toussaint do a one-man, talk-and-music show. I like the continuity.) With COMMON and Karriem, Terri says the festival is taking a "step out of the box [to] attract a new audience while maintaining the connection to the festival’s artistic core.”

    Monday's finale is hard core. The Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra plays new music by Christian McBride (soon to release his big band CD from Mack Avenue) with Ernie Andrews singing. If you came to the WBGO Gala in 2009, you saw Ernie Andrews with an orchestra and it was so swinging, you probably want more, so we'll see you in Detroit!

  • WBGO is Going to Detroit for Sing The Truth!

    August 19, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Come join WBGO on Labor Day at noon for our special broadcast of Sing the Truth! with Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and Dianne Reeves, live from the free, outdoors, downtown Detroit Jazz Festival.


    The three women knocked us dead when they performed in June at the Freihofer's Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs. After that they toured Europe, and have only three more performances this year after Detroit.

    So catch them while you can as Rhonda Hamilton hosts our Labor Day special, Sing the Truth! from the Detroit Jazz Festival, on the Detroit Jazz Festival Radio Network -- WBGO, KUVO in Denver, WCBE in Columbus and more.

    Here's a clip from the trio's performance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 2010, followed by the FIJM program description:

    It's a fantastic assemblage of major women of the stage, in a massive Montreal premiere. Raising high the torch inherited from firebrand singers Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta, this trio of superb vocalists intends to loudly proclaiming their support for the civil rights cause. The program will certainly feature originals, but also melodies descended from the jazz, folk and blues legacy that inspired Dylan, Springsteen and Joplin, bequeathed by three recently-departed grandes dames, as well as flourishes of Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye and... Erikah Badu! Around these three women who unite art and a great cause, find five musicians, including magnificently versatile pianist Geri Allen and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. It's gonna be a wonderful, memorable evening!

    On the Sing the Truth! web page, the copy  promises songs of Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Joan Armatrading and Lauryn Hill. And when I saw the show, they sang at least two by Tracy Chapman.

    WBGO's Josh Jackson will also be in Detroit, preparing his special Detroit edition of The Checkout in September. Later in the season, you hear more on JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. And watch this blog for more previews, coverage during the Festival weekend, and follow-up.

    Are you coming to Detroit? It would be great to see you there, If not, come join us on the web!