Monday, September 2, 2013


Jazz Vocalist Gregory Porter
Sunday, was the most exciting day of concerts at the Detroit Jazz Festival so far. At the J.P. Morgan Chase Main Stage, jazz vocalist Gregory Porter kicked the crowd's ass with some of the music from his 2012 album “Be Good” and his upcoming debut for Blue Note Records “Liquid Soul”. Porter is the hottest male jazz vocalist on earth right now with a mighty and a gorgeous baritone voice. On top of that, Porter has the stage presence of a hypnotist.

During his set, Porter put the men on the spot that have been in long relationships.“It times for you guys to lock it down,” Porter joked. Then he sang a version of “Good Hands” that would have melted a bear’s heart. One memorable moment was the protest song Porter belted about the Detroit riot that featured Detroit saxophonists Vincent Bowen and Kamau Kenyatta, Porter’s mentor. It was Porter’s debut at the Detroit Jazz Festival. It would be an injustice if he were not invited back.

At the Absopure Pyramid Stage, popular Detroit saxophonist James Carter paid tribute to the swing era saxophonist Don Byas. Last year, Carter purchased and reconditioned the tenor sax Don Byas played from 1950 to 1962. It was the same sax Byas used, according to Carter, to mop the floor with Coleman Hawkins and Stan Getz in a tenor sax battle in Europe.Carter is a master at pulling off tribute projects. 

His tributes to guitarist Django Reinhardt “Chasin' the Gypsy” and Billie Holidays “Gardenias for Lady Day” are two of his finest works. Carter played the Byas set with his longstanding band veteran hell-raisers pianist Gerard Gibbs, drummer Leonard King and bassist Ralphe Armstrong.

After Carter explained his fondness for Don Byas, the band jumped into two of Byas’ well-known tunes “1944 Stomp” and “Free and Easy”. Carter blew until he ran out of ideas on the latter tune. The winner of the Detroit Jazz Festival Trumpet Competition, Theo Croker was a special guest. On the standard “Star Dust,” the veterans put the zoom lens on him, and he did not choke.  

Later Sunday evening drummer Karriem Riggins, another popular Detroiter had  bodies sweaty at the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage. The style of music Riggins is into currently is hard to classify. The past three festivals Riggins—who has worked with Mulgrew Miller, Ray Brown, Diana Krall, and who moonlights as a hip hop  DJ and producer—has presented some experimental projects.

The projects included some of Riggins' Detroit peers plus featured known hip-hop acts like Slum Village, Pete Rock and Common. This time out, Riggins’ shipped in musicians from New York, California, and Philadelphia. The music they performed was a mix of hip-hop, techno and bits and pieces of jazz. Nothing resembling the pure jazz that Riggins was raised on. But the music was danceable and sure as hell sounded good.

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