DETROIT – When you view a map of the Detroit Jazz Festival’s campus you see the trilogy of venues that circle Hart Plaza, between Jefferson and the Detroit River. Cross Jefferson and traverse up Woodward until you reach Campus Martius, home of the fourth stage, then turn right 75 degrees to find the fifth stage. Viewed from above, you see a musical note. An eighth note, appropriately enough. When all stages are active, the landscape burns.
I recommend starting your day at 12:45, catching drummer Sean Dobbins’ Organ Quartet at the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage. You may not catch the end of the set, because there’s a tribute to Detroit’s bari great Pepper Adams, featuring The Three Baritones. It’s always a treat to hear bop played by the deep, pendulous sounds of the baritone sax.
Detroit pianist Johnny O’Neal (at the Absopure Pyramid Stage) is always worth checking out, both for his virtuosity and his off-handed humor. But guitarist Bill Frisell begins his tribute to the music of John Lennon at the Carhartt Ampitheater Stage at 2:45. Do you leave at 3:30 to check out vibist’s Warren Wolf’s set at the Pyramid Stage? Or do you stay put for one of the several Dave Brubeck tributes that dot the festival?
Either way, make sure to catch at least some of drummer Karriem Riggins’ set at the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage at 5:15. Riggins has been the g-to drummer of late, recording with Sir Paul McCartney and touring with Diana Krall. He plays anything from be-bop to hip hop, and his set should be engaging.
And now the choices are even more difficult, because to see Riggins, you have to sacrifice vocalist Gregory Porter at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage, a sacrifice you really shouldn’t have to make. And can you fit in the artist-in-residence Danilo Perez’s piano duet with Detroit’s own Geri Allen at the Carhartt Ampitheater Stage at 6:15 and still make part of the 6:45 Don Byas tribute featuring the burning James Carter at the Absopure Pyramid Stage?
And what to do with the late night sets of The Cookers (8:30 at the Pyramid), John Scofield’s Uberjam Band (8:30 at the Main Stage), Ravi Coltrane (9:15 at the Waterfront), pianist Ahmad Jamal (9:30 at the Ampitheater)? You can’t be everywhere at once. And yet, I might try.
Mike Stratton is the author of Everybody Dreams. He hosts a jazz radio show, The Vinyl Side of Midnight, on LCC Radio, WLNZ. To learn more, email Stratton at email@example.com or go to mikestratton.com