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Soaring sounds 

An 'if you like' jazz fest sampler

A festival as big and broad as the Detroit International Jazz Festival can seem intimidating and off-putting. That's especially true when the term jazz covers more terrain than ever, yet gets less media than at many times past — and in a festival that has, over the years, expanded beyond the confines of jazz. With that in mind, a few (hardly exhaustive) taste-based suggestions ...


If you like 

hip hop, soul

Then we probably don't need to tell you Common appears Monday (4:45-6 p.m., Chase Main Stage near Campus Martius) with the ensemble of former Detroiter Karriem Riggins. But the influence of hip hop is sure to show up elsewhere, perhaps in surprising forms. You might hear it with Jason Moran & the Bandwagon (Saturday, 8-9:15 p.m., Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage) or the Vijay Iyer Trio (Sunday, 9:15-10:30 p.m., Waterfront Stage). They're led by two of the most lauded 40-and-under pianists, both daring experimenters, who've covered the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and M.I.A., respectively. Meanwhile the soul-to-R&B spectrum ranges from old school (Chuck Jackson, better known for his Bacharach-penned hit, "Any Day Now," than the Motown connection touted now, Saturday, 6:15-7:30 p.m., Main Stage) to new (Rahsaan Patterson, Sunday, 3:45-5 p.m., Main Stage).  


If you like 'The Girl from Ipanema'

A fest promo line this year is "We bring you the world," which includes lots of Brazil. There's vocalist Luciana Souza and guitarist Romero Lubambo (Saturday, 1:45-3 p.m., Absopure Pyramid Stage) a team that knows its Jobim (who co-wrote "The Girl") and delves deeply and into the bossa-samba repertoire, and connects it to the Great American Songbook and Souza's originals. In a similar vein Sunday: singer Vinicius Cantuária (6:30-7:30 p.m., Pyramid Stage) and Ivan Lins (9:30-10:45 p.m., Main Stage). Lins' "Love Dance" and "The Island" rank close behind "The Girl" in the bossa hall of fame. But Brazilian sounds suffuse jazz. For instance, Israeli clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen (Sunday, 4:45-6 p.m., Pyramid Stage) is known for her sambas, and makes a medley of the Black Orpheus theme and Louis Armstrong's "Struttin' With Some Barbecue."


If you like blues and B-3s

Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents team up with Detroit's No. 1 beltin' mama, Thornetta Davis (Sunday, 2:15-3:15 p.m., Main Stage). And does the funky organ trio tradition belong more to jazz or to R&B? Back-to-back Saturday Pyramid performances are set for Gerard Gibbs & (the return of) ORGANized Crime (7:15-8:15 p.m.) and the Tony Monaco Trio (9-10:30 p.m.). Overlapping on Saturday 8-9 p.m. at the Main Stage, there's the B-3-driven Deacon Jones Blues Revue, featuring 11-year-old Detroit guitar prodigy "Guitar Ray" Goren. 


If you like to bop

Former Detroiter Curtis Fuller, on trombone, leads his sextet at the Pyramid on Saturday (3:15-4:45 p.m.), followed by Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner (5:45-7 p.m.); not to pigeonhole anyone, but you'd expect some bop roots to show strongly. Your best bet for Charlie Parkeresque shows of chromatic velocity may be Cuban saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera and his quintet (Sunday, 7:30-8:45 p.m., Waterfront Stage), even if the trappings are heavily Afro-Cuban. (In that vein of Latin jazz, don't miss Sunday's shows by Los Gatos, at 6-7 p.m., and Sammy Figueroa & the Latin Jazz Explosion, at 7:30-9 p.m., both on the Main Stage.)


If you like outer space ...

Then the must-see is the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen, swinging and caterwauling, simultaneously saluting Fletcher Henderson and the ionosphere (Saturday, 7-8:15 p.m., Carhartt Amphitheater Stage). But there's more between hard bop and the space place, including the Grammy-laden octet of bassist Dave Holland, which follows the Arkestra at the Amphitheater at 9:15 p.m. Also in their own orbits, you'll find the Jeff "Tain" Watts 4 and the Joe Lovano Us Five (back-to-back, Amphitheater Stage on Sunday (7:45 and 9:30 p.m.).


If you like World Music

You can barely throw a dart at the schedule without hitting some foreign connection, whether birth (Azerbaijanian pianist Amina Figarova or the Brit bassist Dave Holland) or aesthetic inspiration (Vijay Iyer and the Dave Sharp Seven taking cues from the music of India). In the vital African-connection category don't miss Beninise Angelique Kidjo (saluting South African Miriam Makeba in the "Sing the Truth" program, Friday, 8:45-10 p.m., Main Stage) and homecoming violinist Regina Carter & Reverse Thread (Sunday, 4-5:15 p.m., Waterfront Stage). 


If you want to give the drummer some 

Artist-in-residence Jeff "Tain" Watts (longtime Marsalis clan collaborator) drums with his own group and with the Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra. But he's part of a bang-up opening night (Friday, 7-8:15 p.m., Main Stage) with his drum club: vibesman Joe Locke, bassist Robert Hurst and fellow percussionists Susie Ibarra, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Tony Pedro Martinez and (biggest surprise) Tony (longtime Fela Kuti trapsman) Allen.



See full festival schedule at

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April 8, 2020


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