HOME SOUNDcheck GOhear GOview GOread GOplaces DOmore


  » Contact Us
  » Advertise With Us

  » Classifieds
  » Newspaper Ads

Concert Reviews:
Detroit Jazz Fest opens with diverse offerings

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- It didn't take the 35th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival long to show off the diversity that's the event's hallmark.

The two acts playing opening night on Friday, Aug. 29, on the JP Morgan Chase Mainstage near Campus Martius Park -- the Bad Plus with festival Artists in Residence Joshua Redman and the David Berger Jazz Orchestra's "A Night at the Apollo" presentation -- hit divergent extremes of the jazz spectrum, demonstrating just how big an umbrella the DJF casts. The common, and most poplar, perception of jazz may be somewhere in the middle, but the two acts combined for a strong opening night that, as Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson noted, set a strong tone for the rest of the weekend.

The Minneapolis trio, with or without Redman, would have taken things even further afield than the quartet did during its hour on stage. The six-songs set was even admirably accessible by its standards, although there was still plenty of flashy musicianship and a sense that, in lesser hands, the wheels would have quickly come off these intricate and instinctual improvisations. But Anderson and drummer David King held the center for Redman and pianist Ethan Iverson solos, with the former spotlighted during the gentle "People Like You" and the more dynamic "Big Eater."

Only the set-closing "Silence Is the Question" drew the ensemble into truly avant terrain via a spiraling arrangement that built to furious, wailing conclusion.

Things were a bit more peaceable but equally energetic during "A Night at the Apollo," however. Custom-built for this year's DJF, the 100-minute-plus revue paid tribute to Harlem's venerable Apollo Theatre with a spirited selection of instrumental, vocal and dance numbers that hearkened back to a time when jazz was indeed a mainstream concern.

The Apollo set succeeded with its own kind of variety, simply throwing a lot of entertainment at the DJF crowd. Emcee Ted Louis Levy took on a multi-faceted Sammy Davis, Jr. role, right down to the tap dancing and singing Davis' signature "The Birth of the Blues," while the Wonder Twins, in their silver glitter suits, shades and sneakers, offered a classic/contemporary dance hybrid. Margot Bingham from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" channeled divas past with her renditions of the Cotton Club classic "Stormy Weather," Dinah Washington's "What a Difference a Day Makes" and Billie Holiday's "Back In Your Old Backyard."

Bingham also dueted with Kevin Mahogany on "Baby It's Cold Outside" after the syrup-voiced singer made his mark on the night with Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky," Billy Eckstine's "Lost in Loneliness" and Big Joe Williams' "Every Day I Have the Blues." Berger's 15-piece orchestra showed plenty of range, too -- and was even happy to engage in a little schtick, as when three of the musicians came down front to sing a bit of the standard "Exactly Like You," which saxophonist Matt Hahn finished with some tongue-in-cheek soft shoe.

The DFJO could breathe fire when it needed to as well, including a brassy arrangement of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and a particularly hot jam on Count Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside," while a tribute to the late Horace Silver with his "Peace" showcased pianist Isaac ben Ayala. It may not have felt exactly like the Apollo (especially with the chilly night temperatures) but the show certainly captured the kind of spirit the festival is built on.

The DJF moves to four stages in Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Saturday through Sunday. Admission is free. Visit www.detroitjazzfest.com for the schedule and other information.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


GO & DO Michigan, an Entertainment Portal
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the written permission of the copyright holder.

© Copyright MediaNews Group, Inc. | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | Arbitration