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Concert Reviews:
Rain shortens but doesn't dampen first night of Detroit Jazz Fest

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Saturday, August 31, 2013

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DETROIT -- Some of the first words Macy Gray sang at the Detroit Jazz Festival's opening night on Friday, Aug. 30 -- "Take the weather man and blow him away" -- proved prophetic.

All was going smoothly at the 34th edition of the annual Labor Day weekend event until just before 10 p.m., when the skies opened, chasing fans away from the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage near Campus Martius Park and shortening the set by Gray and the David Murray Big Band by about 15 minutes. It was certainly a thunderous start to the four days of music, although not the manner Jazz Fest organizers would have liked.

But even with a truncated headline show, most fans fleeing the site still felt satisfied they'd gotten a satisfying sample of high-grade -- and free -- music.

Saxophonist Murray and his 14-piece ensemble were certainly cooking, starting with the lengthy instrumental "Stressology" that showed off his 10-member horn section before bringing Gray on stage for a brassy take on the Grammy Award-winning R&B singer's own "Relating to a Psychopath." "We're gonna party now!" Gray, sporting a purple gown with matching gloves and a red boa, told the Jazz Fest crowd, though she chided that, "You sure are quiet for a whole bunch of people, sexy people, who live in Detroit city."

The troupe followed with a new Murray original called "Naturally" and then the jazzier "Be My Monster Love" before Gray left the stage for what was supposed to be the first time. But after a hot "Let's Talk About Jesus" and just before the group lit into "French Kiss For Valerie," the rains came and put a premature end to a strong performance.

The crowd did get a full taste of Jazz Fest Artist in Residence and the debut of his Panama 500, a three-part musical concept incorporating Latin, Spanish and Asian influences, as well as other pieces. The 55-minute set featured sterling musicianship from the septet -- particularly bassist John Patitucci -- but a tentative attack and a some meandering arrangements resulted in an underwhelming first salvo for the festival.

The Detroit Jazz Festival continues through Monday, Sept. 2, expanding to Hart Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 31. For information and schedules, visit www.detroitjazzfest.com.

Web Site: www.detroitjazzfest.com

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