With live local music and a four-day holiday weekend, the Detroit Jazz Festival is taking over the city for a free celebration Sept. 1-4.
This year, the festival will focus on creating a community-friendly event for the roughly 300,000 anticipated festival goers.
According to the Detroit Jazz Foundation, it’s the largest free jazz festival in the country and highlights more than 100 artists from the area.
“Jazz has strong connectivity to Detroit,” Collins said. “It’s in the DNA of everyone here.”
Zen Zadravec is one example of an artist who will be playing at the festival. Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Zadravec started playing professionally when he moved to New York. Four years ago, he moved to Detroit to teach college and continue playing professionally.
“I moved to Detroit to get a little bit of a change,” Zadravec said. “I’m really excited to do the festival.”
Zadravec submitted some of his material to be reviewed by the Detroit Jazz Foundation. Then, he got an invitation to play on one of the main stages.
Zadravec will be playing with his band, the Zen Zadravec Trio, on the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage. Following the festival, he and his band plan to do a mini-European tour, gearing up to record new music.
Glenn Tucker is another jazz musician performing this year. Originally from the Metro Detroit area, Tucker has worked in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities across the nation, but returns each year because of his love for the genre.
“Jazz just kind of caught my ear,” Tucker said. “[Jazz is] sound, tradition, mentality, thought process and a form of communication.”
This year, he will be performing with three different groups, including McKinFolk, the Vincent Bowens Organ Quartet and Friday’s all-star group Dreamers: The George "Sax" Benson Songbook.
Tucker believes the Detroit Jazz Festival is especially appealing to audience members because of the visible camaraderie seen between musicians in the local area.
“There’s such a tangible sense of community at the festival,” Tucker said. “Everybody seems to enjoy themselves.”
Another artist in this year’s festival, and one of Tucker’s fellow group members, is Gayelynn McKinney. As a Detroit native, McKinney has been performing in and around the city since she was 18 years old.
This year, McKinney will lead the McKinFolk group. She and her band are introducing a new album to honor her late father, Detroit jazz icon Harold McKinney, including three never-before-heard arrangements of his songs.
“My first gig was with my father,” she explained. McKinney stated that her father was quite the figure in the Detroit jazz scene.
McKinney is thrilled to share such personal pieces in a city where her father is honored with a street named after him.
“My dad had a lot of respect in Detroit,” she said. “People still love him.”
With Wayne State so close to the action, it is no surprise that many artists and participants are getting involved, like Dave Vessella, VIP artist handler, musician and WSU alumnus.
When it comes to work, Vessella explained that WSU, as well as other institutions in the community, play a big role in the festival each year. While many people know about the hometown artists and vendors, there are also plenty of local volunteers. This heavy community involvement is just another piece of the Detroit Jazz Festival.
“I think the Detroit Jazz Festival is the best festival in the country, if not the world,” Vessella said.
For those who can’t make it all four days, or at all, there is still a chance to catch the entertainment.
The Detroit Jazz Foundation has a new way to experience the festival. Now, jazz enthusiasts can subscribe for full online access, including a live stream of all four days, maps, schedules and more for $10. Half the price goes toward keeping the festival free, while the other half goes to the artists.
With a variety of sets and plenty of talent to offer, the Detroit Jazz Festival will be one of the biggest events in the city this year.