Detroit Jazz Festival 2013
Sunday kicked off with a variety of programs. The most exciting was the highly anticipated homecoming of multi-percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett and his Afro-Horn Ensemble. Mora had a frontline which featured Detroiters JD Allen on tenor, the always exciting Al Harding and saxophonist Sam Newsome. The bonus was the Motown debut of the dynamic Cuban duo of pianist Aruan Ortiz along with Roman Diaz . The set kicked off with an invocation to the Yoruba orishas (spirits) which segued into a fiery performance of "Afra-Jum" from the group's second release, Rare Metal. Other highlights were a masterful display of drumming by Mora on "5x Max," which paid homage to Mora's mentor, Max Roach. Mora closed the set with Diaz doing an invocation to the Yoruba deity Shango and a fiery turn by Allen on"125th and Lenox."
Other great sets included a heartfelt tribute to Don Byas by James Carter, which featured a performance on one of Byas' tenor saxophones which Carter had lovingly restored. Playing with Carter was young trumpeter (and Doc Cheatham's grandson) Theo Croaker, who had won the Marcus Belgrave Trumpet Competition. Then there was a turn by drummer/producer Karriem Riggins, who put on a showcase of sound and rhythm along with the great Philly pianist Orrin Evans. Ravi Coltrane closed out Sunday with a set featuring his quartet, which included another great Cuban pianist David Virelles, versatile bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Coltrane showed that he has stepped out of his father's shadow, with muscular solos on both tenor and soprano.
The Labor Day programs were again the most exciting at the Chase Main Stage. That program started with a moving performance of the rarely performed Dave Brubeck work "Mass: To Hope." The ensemble included the Brubeck Brothers, a choir led by Detroiter Norah Duncan, a string orchestra as well as a guest turn by Detroit tenor man Rick Margitza. Then it was "Electro Funk" time for the rest of the day. Houston's own Robert Glasper performed a high-energy set of his electic jazz/funk/hip-hop mix. The prodigious pianist Geri Allen led a Detroit Homecoming Band, which featured a high-powered Motown lineup of JD Allen, trombonist George Bohanon, saxman David MacMurray (not Murray), Robert Hurst, and Karriem Riggins. Legendary vocalist Sheila Jordan even stepped out on a couple of tunes. The highlights were a rousing version of "Cedar's Blues," featuring the trombone skills of Bohannon and a moving version of "Everytime We Say Goodbye," with Jordan offering her haunting vocals.
The DJF ended on a high note with a blazing set by the Miles Smiles band, comprised of Wallace Roney, Rick Margitza, guitar legend Larry Coryell, Ralphe Armstrong and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. Since everyone onstage had played with "The Dark One," the presentation went well beyond that of mere tribute. The group treated the crowd to great Davis tunes which, for the most part, are not performed too often. Roney started off with Joe Zawinul's "In A Silent Way," which in true Milesian form segued into the dark funk of "Jack Johnson." The band went into fifth gear with a nice take on "Footprints," which featured some sizzling interplay between old Eleventh House mates Coryell and Mouzon.