• Postscripts from Detroit

    September 10, 2009. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    As recently as July, Detroit suffered 28.9% unemployment. That’s a disastrous figure, and makes the ambitions and success of the 2009 Fest all the more remarkable. Gratitude and respect to Terri Pontremoli, her dedicated team and swarm of volunteers. For the Monday night finale, the Festival commissioned a John Clayton concerto grosso for the Clayton Brothers quintet and the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, conjuring the spirits of Thad, Hank and Elvin Jones and entitled "T.H.E. Family, Detroit." Dorthaan Kirk and I were perched above and behind the stage, so we saw it as the musicians saw it – looking out at hundreds or maybe 1,000 die-hard fans who braved some rain and stayed to the end, just to hear a new composition! “T.H.E” opened with a fanfare for the flamboyant Guardian Building (see photos earlier in our blog), then became a dance between the composer and each of the Joneses – one movement per brother, the quintet and the orchestra. As Mark Stryker wrote in his detailed review in the Detroit FreePress, “Hearing the piece was like holding up a mirror and always seeing a reflection of Clayton and whichever brother he was channeling at the moment.” A double drum cadenza for Elvin led to the huge closing cadence that John conducted with every bit of his body, limbs fully extended. That’s a vision and sound I hope I never forget! Don’t you forget: the great Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra will perform at a gala benefit concert for WBGO in New York on November 3. Watch wbgo.org for more information.

    Bob Porter & Ashley Kahn, jazz talking
    Bob Porter & Ashley Kahn, jazz talking
    The festival is over but two points stay with me. One: Detroit Public Schools’ music education in the 1940s and 50s was strong enough to prepare talented students for lifelong jazz careers. Some of those students became our musical heroes. Two: Detroit became THE feeder city for the national labels. At a Jazz Talk on the Detroit-NY Connection, WBGO host Bob Porter and historian Ashley Kahn singled out trombonist Curtis Fuller and trumpeter Thad Jones. Here's an excerpt.
    Shanetta and her keepsake from Detroit
    Shanetta and her keepsake from Detroit

    When I said goodbye to Shanetta Dorsey, winner of the WBGO Vacation Package to Detroit, I told her she was the perfect winner! She took the opportunity and ran with it. Click on the link below to hear her impressions. Thanks for listening! To SEE all the photos, visit flickr.com/wbgo.

    Note: These comment boards are available to the general public. Statements expressed in the comment boards do not necessarily reflect WBGO's views. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them. For more information, please read our Terms of Service.