27th Detroit International Jazz Festival
Sunday night's festivities would conclude with two very strong performances. The 14-piece Jaco Pastorius Word of Mouth Big Band would cram into the small confines of the Waterfront stage for a particularly well-received tribute to the late bass master. Led by Peter Graves, who had actually worked with an incarnation of this big band under Jaco's aegis, this ensemble packed quite a collective punch as they romped through such favorites as "Reza and "Liberty City. Bassist Will Lee would sit in for most of the show, his playing offered in the spirit of Jaco, but never delving into copycat imitation. Highlights would include Lee's solo take on "Continuum and two numbers that provided the opportunity for guitarist Hiram Bullock to shake his money maker.
Wrapping up the evening, Ahmad Jamal fronted a trio with bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad on the Amphitheatre stage. Wowing the crowd with his tasteful use of dynamics and space, Jamal brought new life to signature tunes such as "Poinciana and the complex interaction between the pianist and his trio mates was nothing short of dramatic and riveting. At one point during the show, Jamal stood up, coaxing a note or two from the upper end of the keyboard before sitting back down, only to get back on a his feet a few more times before the piece's conclusion. Undeniably, this is a man who feels the music intensely and such sensitivity proves to be infectious for those who experience this music on a deep level.
As the festival wrapped up on Labor Day Monday, more great music was in the offing. Vibraphonist Joe Locke would make a return appearance to the fest with a tribute to Milt Jackson, leading the group heard on his recent Sharp Nine release Rev-elation. Pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker locked in tight for one of the best sets of the festival. Locke, who would work up quite a sweat, was a man in constant motion. "Off Minor, "Revelation, and "Opus De Funk contained ample passages of solo brilliance from Locke and LeDonne. Ballad features like "Young and Foolish and "Close Enough For Love also showed Locke to be a mature interpreter whose technical brilliance is balanced with an equally adept feeling of emotional depth.
Rounding out the afternoon would be strong sets from The Clayton Brothers Quintet with trumpeter Terrell Stafford strutting his stuff in a fervent manner and Donald Harrison's Quintet afforded the perfect showcase for the up-and-coming talents of trumpeter Christian Scott. The Detroit Jazz All Stars with Barry Harris, Curtis Fuller, Louis Hayes, Marcus Belgrave, Charles McPherson, and Rodney Whitaker would deliver some sunny bop strains in the tradition, serving as a potent reminder of just how vital Detroit has been in the development of this American art form.