Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Terri Pontremoli
Terri, I’ve been calling around trying to find out why the bigwigs at the Detroit Jazz Festival decided to let you go. So far, all I’ve come across are rumors. There’s one circulating the bigwigs are going to replace you with the man who runs Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I can picture it now A-list jazz musicians such as Regina Carter, Wayne Shorter, and Jason Moran arriving to the DJF opening night on a parade float dressed like pilgrims. Maybe the jazz fest bigwigs want to turn the number three jazz festival in the world—a distinction the DJF reached last year—into a spectacle.

Terri, under your watch the DJF was major. You brought in Regina Carter, Christian McBride, John Clayton, Mulgrew Miller and Jeff “Tain” Watts as artist in residence, making them an integral part of the jazz fest education programing. You made the festival world-class with outstanding programming year after year.

How many jazz fest directors could’ve pulled off booking Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, Dave Holland and the Sun Ra Arkestra on the same bill? Not many I bet.

Terri, another rumor I heard was you got canned because you got too big for your britches, and you were behaving as if the festival was your pet project.

Terri, I bet the real reason you were let go was you rubbed one of those bigwigs the wrong way. They had to teach you a lesson. That being the D JF can thrive without you. The jazz fest bigwigs will find out soon enough. 

The fest won’t be the same with you gone. I bet there’re others Detroit jazz fest fans who share my view.

You took hold of the DJF when it was on life-support. And you pumped new life into it. Once it got back on its feet the festival soared to international respectability. You should have received a key to the city. Instead, you got a pink slip. Shame on bigwigs for making that foolish decision.

I hate to see you go. You were world-class. I witnessed your predecessors in action. They did a fairly decent job of running the festival.  But, in my book, You were the best director the DJF ever had.

Before I sat down to write this, I received an electronic press release, announcing Wayne State University's professor of Jazz Studies Chris Collins as your replacement. 

Time will tell if Collins is the right person for the job. The jazz fest bigwigs are confident he will grow the festival. Maybe he will. In all fairness, he deserved the shot to prove he has the goods.

I don’t know if Collins has the vision to take the jazz fest to the next level. I hope he won’t be the bigwig's puppet in their quest to turn the DJF into a watered-down version of Arts, Beats &Eats where the emphasis will be on attendance. For now, I’ll assume Collins is a good man who has some big shoes to fill.

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