BACK TO SCHOOL
SEPTEMBER, SCHOOL AND THE FESTIVAL
Detroit, Michigan is a northern city with definite seasons. We have a long winter followed by a brief moment when we get warm weather interspersed with snow and chilly winds. We call this season spring. When we feel it is safe to turn the furnace off we are often treated to a pleasant summer, which on good years includes the month of September.
The first week of September brings with it new expectations and new challenges. We begin the month with Labor Day celebrations to unwind after our summer vacations as we enter into a brief period of transition.
This September we will have 22 days of summer left before we begin an expected beautiful Michigan autumn. We will send our children back to school where they can look out the window at the sun coming through fully leafed trees.
For the rest of us it means putting on our closeted hard shoes and going back to work. This is true for musicians who are asked to play at festivals throughout the Labor Day weekend.
The Detroit Jazz Festival it is both a great gig and for many it is also like returning to school. It offers a chance for us to become re-energized for our long indoor season. This year at the festival I kept running into jazz artists going from venue to venue, all the time chatting each other up on their way to hear the music. These working professionals were in a way going to school. They also thoughtfully took in all the music.. There is so much to be learned from listening to this carefully curated diverse mix of jazz. Few of those attending missed this opportunity.
The Detroit Jazz Festival deliberately throws diverse artists together with programs like the Untitled Series and the Hometown Legacy Series. Leading up to the festival the word diversity kept coming up in articles about the gathering. Sure enough, diversity was all over the place, both in the faces and in the music.
I had a chance to watch jazz photographers like Tak Tokiwa from Yokohama, Japan, Tony Graves from New Jersey and Detroiter Ara Howrani in action.
The festival is one of music’s greatest cauldrons of learning. It is the ultimate outdoor classroom.
Going back to school gives one a chance to renew friendships and catch up on news.
Every day we have things placed in our way that we can learn from. For jazz musicians it is essential to continue for them to learn and grow. To feed this growth artists need new exposures and experiences. The Detroit Jazz Festival gives artists a change to exchange ideas and develop new collaborations. At the festival we could see this happen all around us.
AFTER HOURS JAM SESSIONS
Following all the scheduled jazz in downtown Detroit the music doesn’t stop. For the dedicated student the music continues with planned and improvised jam sessions.
Here is what Detroit’s great jazz pianist and educator, Scott Gwinnell has written about these sessions.
“The jam session is integral in the history of jazz and jazz-education. For over a hundred years this has been the training ground for young musicians to share ideas. The jam session brings out the competitive nature in us but also serves as the social backdrop. Musicians understand that a key part of their development in jazz is to understand the jam session codes of conduct. If a jazz musician can survive the night, playing different tunes in strange keys, difficult tempos, interacting sometimes with virtual strangers, they belong to an elite club that speaks a language that only jazz musicians understand. This experience is impossible to replicate in the structure of a classroom; there are too many variables. It only works in a club, in front of an audience, in a respected jazz venue that serves as a musical beacon. In an ideal setting, both experienced musicians and young musicians mingle socially and musically. Detroit offers the combination of a thriving professional scene and many colleges and high schools. It is critical in a young jazz musician’s training to receive a “bandstand education”. People give Charlie Parker credit for creating bebop, but all of the insiders know that even though he had the initial seed, it was a group project, refined at jam sessions like Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. At Minton’s Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and others all experimented to create the music that jazz musicians revere.”
Part of the crowd on any day will be overly dressed young musicians milling about and sharing their youthful enthusiasm with the rest of us. These student artists from our universities and high schools continue to impress with early day performances on the big stages.
After their performances they generally don’t go home with their proud parents. They become part of the knowledgeable crowd and enjoy this festival of jazz,
MOST OF ALL,
THE DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL IS A GLORIOUS CELEBRATION
There is always more to be learned, so thanks to all whose who will now begin planning next year’s festival.
SCHOOL WILL REOPEN THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG
September 13, 14
Shahida has that warmth in her voice that puts all your troubles to rest. This will allow you to concentrate on the stories that she has selected to tell us this week.
September 15, 16
Emmett Cohen is a not to be missed talent. He is a jazz pianist and composer and has emerged as one of his generation’s pivotal figures in music. Downbeat observed that his “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary indicate he’s above any convoluted technical showmanship.” In the same spirit, Cohen himself has noted that playing jazz is “about communicating the deepest level of humanity and individuality; it’s essentially about connections,” both among musicians and with audiences. Possessing a fluid technique, an innovative tonal palette, and an expansive repertoire, Cohen plays with the command of a seasoned veteran and the passion of an artist fully devoted to his medium.His signature professional undertaking is the “Masters Legacy Series,” a celebratory set of recordings and interviews honoring legendary jazz musicians.