Detroit Jazz Festival once again brings music giants to Motor City

I woke up this morning to some amazing news that would make almost any jazz fan jump for joy. During my routine music column reading session, I discovered that tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins will be one of the leading performers at the 33rd Annual Detroit Jazz Festival during Labor Day Weekend.

Rollins has been one of the leading figures in jazz since the 1950s, and at 81 year-old, he continues to soar to new heights with his superb musical ability, enduring power, and creative insight on the historical music tradition. He was a master and pioneer of thematic improvisation, which is evident in his landmark albums like Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West, The Bridge, as well as his work with jazz giants such as Miles Davis, Max Roach and Thelonius Monk.  Rollins has received a multitude of honors, including the National Medal of Arts, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art and a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Please excuse my extended boasting over Rollins, but in just listening to his music and knowing how much of an influence he has had on jazz , I could not help but get excited over his upcoming performance at DJF. And as music writer Mark Stryker stated in his Free Press column today, I can breathe a sigh of relief after hearing that Rollins will be present at the festival.

There has been some tension and doubtfulness about the outcome of this year’s event ever since it was announced that Terri Pontremoli would no longer be the artistic director of DJF. Chris Collins,  who is professor and director of jazz studies at Wayne State University  took over as artistic director this year, so it may have been a surprise to some that he could land leading jazz figures such as Rollins, as well as maintain the high quality jazz experience that Pontremoli maintained for so long.

Rollins will be joined by other leading jazz figures such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Chick Corea, trumpeter Christian Scott, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and trumpeter Terrance Blanchard, who is also the artist-in-residence for the jazz fest. There will also be a special tribute to saxophonist Wayne Shorter and artists will pay homage to the rich jazz history in Detroit.

For the past three years, the highlight of my summer has been attending the Detroit Jazz Festival. The first year, I witnessed the amazing sounds of Trombone Shorty, who brought the house down with his unique fusion of jazz, rock, soul, and funk music.

Every year since then, I have looked forward to discovering new artists as well as listening in awe to the legends who perform in the Motor City. 

Attending this year’s festival will certainly be a highlight for me as well as those who may have thought last year’s festival was the conclusion of great jazz entertainment in the city.

For more updates about the upcoming Detroit Jazz Festival, visit their website.


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