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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin


The 2018 Detroit Jazz Festival revealed again the resilience of our jazz music and showed us what it takes to keep the music alive and strong.


Detroit was shining bright even when the sky was dark and threatening. The Detroit Jazz Festival always seems like it needs to be tested to see if it can still handle adversity. Again it proved that Detroit’s most joyous annual event can’t be put down by some dark clouds filled with lightning.

Detroit continues to show the power of our diverse community. It helps us through the adversity that we manage to face together. This year the weather caused delays and cancellations, and yet the crowd hung around and filled the venues once the all clear was given. Civility reigned and the musicians appreciated and responded to this town’s enthusiasm for jazz.

We have always known how important jazz is to Detroit and how fragile the health of jazz in Detroit can be. Without vigilant action this free wheeling form of music could easily be lost in the latest musical moment. Once a year we get proof that there are Detroiters who don’t want to see this happen, and there are many of us who benefit from all their work.

Many of those who show up at this purest of all jazz festivals come in from out of town. I was in the Mack Avenue Records talk tent where I had a chat with a visitor from New York City. Yvonne Cummings, like many who travel to the festival, makes a circle around the festival dates on her calendar. I asked her why she keeps making the effort to return to this jazz festival. What she said made me proud of our city. I asked her to stay in touch and  write to me her impressions of the festival.

Here is her reply.

Good Day John:

This was the 4th year in a row that I attended Detroit’s Jazz Festival.  It is by far the greatest festival I’ve ever attended.  What impresses me most is not only the cross section of music artists; both local and world renowned, especially Detroit’s own, but the commitment of this festival to youth through providing high school and college students with a opportunity to present to a wider audience as well as giving them intimate exposure to the professionals and where they can grow as musicians by participating in jam sessions.  As a native New Yorker I am jealous that we do not have anything as big, organized and cohesive as  Detroit’s Jazz Festival.  My other observation has to do with the wide spread support of jazz by local people; I haven’t witnessed such support in NYC at any venue whether free or for charge.  As an African-American I’ve been concerned that knowledge and legacy of  jazz may be lost to NYC youth.  In NYC it is very rare to see more than a hand full of  younger African-Americans at jazz events; usually they feel like AARP gatherings.  It is wonderful to see kids in attendance, without their parents, at times with younger siblings in tow.  This festival gives me confidence in the future of jazz because of it’s commitment: to providing a venue for young musicians to improve, to support local artists and to expose everyone to the music.  Jazz is alive and well in Detroit.


Yvonne Cummings

There is a lot to think about and to be thankful for in what Yvonne has told us. She has seen the results of having music and the arts in our schools. In the past we have had excellent teachers in neighborhood classrooms who have sent well equipped students into advanced music programs with the skills and passion necessary to succeed.

Yvonne’s image of our musical vitality is reassuring but is in danger of fading away.  Funding for the arts is drying up and fewer and fewer young students are familiar with America’s gift to the world, jazz. 


Wednesday afternoon I received Yvonne’s email and that very night her thoughts were brought to life by an event that I caught at the Dirty Dog. Sean Dobbins Sextet was scheduled to come on stage. But for the first half hour we had an unannounced treat as a quartet of young jazz artists started the evening. They showed us that the music is still being passed from one generation to the next. This was done at one of the premier jazz clubs. It is however a Detroit jazz club and proves Yvonne’s point. We care about our youth.

Following an excellent set we heard appreciation showered on the club for the opportunity given to these young players. The quality of the music showed the presence of some good mentoring. All six of Sean’s band turned out to be teachers and professors.

Thank you Yvonne for reminding us that we are pretty lucky to have those who continue to support jazz in our community. Thanks to all who keep the music alive.

John Osler


September 12 – September 15


It is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible. Kimmie Horne is fast becoming a Detroit legend.  Other singers are starting to try to sing like Kimmie Horne

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