[JPL] Detroit-Philly Summit

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Sep 3 14:33:10 EDT 2008

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

      Detroit-Philly Summit

I returned yesterday from the Detroit International Jazz Festival 
<http://www.detroitjazzfest.com/>, billed this year as a "Detroit-Philly 
Summit," with artist-in-residence Christian McBride (Philly bassist 
extraordinaire). My business there was to speak about John Coltrane with 
fellow panelists Ashley Kahn, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson and local 
Detroit legend Faruq Z. Bey. It was a great time, though I was boxed 
into a pretty nerdy journalistic role, talking about Coltrane's 
lingering impact on the Philly scene while Heath and Golson stole the 
show with their repartee and personal reminiscences. Golson and I had a 
disagreement about Ornette Coleman's influence on Trane --- substantial, 
I said; not at all, Golson said. But we left it on a good note.

In all, Detroit reinforced what I've learned here in Philly about jazz 
regionalism, the vital musical universes that exist at a remove from the 
more celebrated centers of New York, Chicago, etc. Touring the Motown 
Museum on Saturday morning (the genius of Berry Gordy never ceases to 
amaze), I was strongly reminded of jazz's place in the continuum of 
black popular music. Most of the Motown session players were jazzers, 
chosen specifically for their ability to improvise without written 
parts. The Philly parallel is Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International 
Records. I happened to share a van ride from the airport with singer Dee 
Dee Sharp <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dee_Dee_Sharp>, the former wife 
of Kenny Gamble and one of Philly International's notable artists (along 
with Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, Laura Nyro, others).

Soon after landing I learned that Barack Obama was coming to speak on 
Labor Day at Hart Plaza, precisely where the jazz festival was taking 
place. My itinerary made it impossible for me to stay, but it turned out 
he spoke for only 11 minutes, and uncertainty about Gustav made it a 
less-than-celebratory occasion. Obama Fever was thick in the air the 
whole weekend, however, with gaudier and gaudier Obama t-shirts out in 
force among the African-American festival-goers. I had to laugh 
recalling the conventional wisdom from a year ago that black America 
wouldn't support him.

The weather was perfect on the beautiful Detroit waterfront --- yes, 
gritty Detroit has a really nice waterfront --- and some of the music I 
caught was fantastic. This year's theme made the Coltranes 
(Philadelphia-based John and Detroit native Alice) a natural focus, and 
so Ravi Coltrane's tribute to his late mother with Geri Allen, Charlie 
Haden and Jack DeJohnette (plus harp and tabla) made for a stirring 
Sunday late afternoon.

My preferred view at one of the smaller stages had me focused on 
rotating pianists over two days: first Frank Kimbrough with Ted Nash's 
Mancini Project; then Geri Allen again with a Detroit-Philly summit 
featuring Randy Brecker and Bootsie Barnes; then Rick Germanson with Pat 
Martino; then the dangerous Mike LeDonne with Benny Golson's quartet; 
and finally Gerald Clayton with Roy Hargrove's phenomenal quintet, which 
laid ruin to the place on Sunday night. I had to run back and forth 
between Hargrove's set and an equally fine one from Detroiter Gerald 
Cleaver's Violet Hour sextet, across the plaza on another stage. Too 
much music to keep up with: the story of my life, and the best reason to 
travel to friendly Michigan for one of the U.S.'s leading festivals.

[P.S. --- Another thing the Detroit Jazz Festival brought home was the 
lack of a comparable festival in downtown Philadelphia. The George 
Wein-produced Mellon Jazz Festival (formerly Kool Jazz Festival) petered 
out earlier this decade; the PECO Energy Jazz Festival took place in 
winter months during the '90s. Today we have the West Oak Lane Jazz & 
Arts Festival <http://www.westoaklanefestival.com/>, which is vibrant 
but fiercely local in its focus, and a 20-minute drive or so from 
downtown in Mt. Airy. So the truth remains that there is no big-draw, 
national-scope summer jazz fest in central Philly. How absurd for this 
historic jazz capital, former home of Coltrane, Gillespie, Tyner and 
countless others, to be unrepresented among major American cities in 
this way. By rectifying the situation, City Hall could boost 
Philadelphia's image in a hurry.]

Labels: Music <http://lerterland.blogspot.com/search/label/Music>, 
Philly <http://lerterland.blogspot.com/search/label/Philly>

/posted by David R. Adler @ 10:35 AM 

Dr. Jazz
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