The Detroit Jazz Festival, the world’s largest free jazz festival, was held this year on Friday, August 29th through Monday, September 2nd.

(c) Mark Shapiro - 1183

All weekend there was concern that the beloved outdoor festival might endure rain pouring down on the audiences (and even sideways across the stages onto the musicians). But not much rain came to town and only a few acts were interrupted. Then, near the very end of the festival on Monday evening,  as if by cue, thunder, lightning, and a kingly deluge came rolling in. As if for four days and nights, nature held itself and obeyed not ruining this great jazz in this great city, but then finally it could not hold itself a moment longer.

Four outdoor stages of music, running simultaneously. Joshua Redman was featured as the Artist in Residence, playing three sets – with the Bad Plus, with his quartet, and with special guests such as Sean Jones in tribute to the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act. I was able to catch the Bad Plus and the Civil Rights sets so I got a lot of pictures of Joshua Redman.

Some of the highlights for me include: Lou Donaldson pumping out beautiful bebop on tunes such as “Wee” and with Randy Johnston playing so choice and bluesy. The vibes “battle” at the Friday night jam with Ron Pipho and Warren Wolf trading choruses and fours. The fine, subtle, and complex drumming of David King with the Bad Plus. Barry Harris with his anecdotes between songs. Allison Miller’s exciting and melodic drumming with Elio Villafranca. The hip compositions played by Tom Harrell and his group with the ethereal singing of Esperanza Spalding. The entire Civil Rights set by Joshua Redman, including tunes by Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, and Charles Mingus – and with takedown simultaneous and furious improvising by Redman and Sean Jones. The jam sessions, especially Barbara Morrison shouting out such a mean, nasty blues, and Steve Turre coming in with a solo that was itself a panorama of the history of lowdown blues trombone. And the groovy horn section in the Dr. Lonnie Smith set, which was the final act of the festival but alas cut short by the rain that did finally come.

Click below to see all of the of the photographs I took of the concerts downtown and of the jam sessions in the Marriott Hotel after the concerts. I hope these pictures at least approach communicating my feelings and my love for jazz, the musicians, and the jazz fans in and of Detroit.


– Submitted by Mark Shapiro, Music Design