With artists from all over the world, Detroit still reigns as an important jazz hub and honors its own.
Voted one of the top three jazz festivals in North America in national jazz publications this year, the 32nd Detroit Jazz Festival continues to demonstrate how much jazz shines as a symbol of freedom and democracy all over the world this Labor Day weekend, Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5.
Subtitled “We Bring You the World,” artists from Benin, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, Japan and the Netherlands will convene in Detroit at the world’s largest free jazz festival. Performers include: Toots Thielemans, Dave Holland, Luciana Souza, Gary Burton, Ivan Lins, Paquito D’Rivera, Angélique Kidjo, Kevin Eubanks, Vijay Iyer, Vinicius Cantuária, Joe Lovano, Mandrill, Chuck Jackson, Deacon Jones Blues Revue, Steve Wilson, U.S. Airforce Airmen of Note with Joe Locke, Anthony Wilson, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sammy Figueroa, Tony Monaco, Richie Goods, Rahsaan Patterson, Sean Jones, and Christian McBride with Ernie Andrews and the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, this year presented by MotorCity Casino Hotel.
While artists are visiting from across the globe, some of Detroit’s own jazz artists will be coming home. The Detroit-born Dianne Reeves, Geri Allen, Regina Carter, Curtis Fuller, Robert Hurst and Karriem Riggins will prove once again that, based on the talent that comes from southeast Michigan, there must be something in the water. The festival will also recognize Detroit’s big band tradition with a J.C. Heard tribute band led by Walt Szymanski, and the music of Detroit’s Jean Goldkette played by Josh Duffee & his Orchestra.
With the drum being the most universal instrument, 2011 artist in residence Jeff “Tain” Watts will beat the drum on the JPMorgan Chase Main Stage opening night. He will be joined by his newly created project “The Drum Club,” featuring percussionists Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Tony Allen, Pedro Martinez and, Susie Ibarra, along with vibraphonist Joe Locke and bassist Robert Hurst. The freedom theme will be further celebrated opening night with “Sing The Truth!” featuring Dianne Reeves, Angélique Kidjo and Lizz Wright performing the songs of the legendary Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta. The festival’s closing concert on the same stage aptly features another important drummer, Karriem Riggins, collaborating on a special jazz-based performance with hip hop artist COMMON. His ensemble will feature Robert Hurst, Perry Hughes, Mike Jellick, Roger Jones, Mic Holden and DJ dez.

While the veteran jazz musicians throughout the weekend are many, a cadre of young and spirited 20-somethings will be exposed to the ever-hip Detroit audience: 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition runner up vocalist Cyrille Aimee will join the Hot Club of Detroit, American Pianists Association’s 2011 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz winner Aaron Diehl, vocalist Champian Fulton, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Vertical Engine, a fusion band from Japan and, last but not least, 11-year-old blues guitarist Ray Goren. The festival is also presenting several women-led bands including Amina Figarova, Anat Cohen, Regina Carter, Champian Fulton, Terri Lyne Carrington and Helen Sung.

In addition to the world premiere performance of “The Drum Club,” Jeff “Tain” Watts will be seen on several stages throughout the weekend. “Tain” will be powering his band Jeff “Tain” Watts 4, and guest with the Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra and the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble. He will participate in the Jazz Talk Tent and star on the Jazz Planet, a streaming news magazine and music channel covering the Detroit Jazz Festival, in the first-ever live video stream of the infamous Downbeat Blindfold Test.

Showcasing Detroit’s own great pool of musical talent is an important mission of the festival. Through an electronic submission process and vetting by a local committee, a great assortment of ensembles, running the gamut from jazz to blues, Latin and gypsy music, will perform in 2011.

Detroit Jazz Festival will present its popular Come Monday gospel programming on Labor Day, Monday Sept. 6, with Detroit’s own Lowell Pye, Second Ebenezer Majestic Voices and Larry Callahan and S.O.G. in addition to The Steeles, a family gospel group from Minneapolis, MN.

With a focus on building the future of the art form, Detroit Jazz Festival showcases young talent not only by inviting college and high school ensembles to perform, but also by having them play with jazz greats. Click here to view the list of big band performances, presented by Quicken Loans and Fathead and to see the outstanding Michigan high school jazz ensembles. 

Nightly after-hour jam sessions led by exceptional college ensembles will be held at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, the official festival hotel. This year Jazz Planet After Hourswill be streaming the festivities live, with interviews of artists relaxing after their performances. 

The Jazz Talk Tent, presented by St. John Providence Health System, continues to be one of the festival hot spots for musicians, writers, historians and fans. This year, they will hear samples from the Savory Collection - rare recordings of live jazz performances from the 30s and 40s - that were recently bequeathed to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Guests at the Talk Tent include Maxine Gordon (widow of saxophonist Dexter Gordon), Norman Granz biographer Tad Herschorn, Russ Davis of Voice of America, Afrobeat originator, Tony Allen, Dave Holland and more. The final round of the festival’s poetry slam, presented by Pepsi, also will take place in the tent on Saturday night.

For the wee-boppers and their families, the KidBop Stage will feature jazz, drumming and choirs with performances by Bambuti Drum & Dance Group, Michelle McKinney & her Hip Cats, Mosaic Singers and tap dancing with MADD Rhythms with Rod Ferrone. Arts & Scraps will be on hand with art projects and, new this year, there will be a special “Story Time” with national jazz artists.

The 2011 audience will notice the festival’s new logo, brightly colored stage signage and archways designed by Skidmore Studio. The traditional Saturday night fireworks at 11 p.m. are among the best shown in the area.
The festival also is pleased to announce the launch of its “KEEP IT FREE” mobile giving campaign. This year festival goers will be able donate $5 to the Detroit Jazz Festival by texting the keyword KIF5 to 20222 from their mobile phones. A one-time donation of $5.00 will be added to their mobile phone bill or deducted from their prepaid balance. Messaging & Data Rates May Apply.

Currently in Phase III of a greening program funded by the DTE Energy Foundation, the festival and Recycle Detroit will divert plastic, aluminum and other materials from landfills with collection stations throughout the festival in addition to a sorting station on site to make recycling even more efficient.
In an effort to further reduce the festival carbon footprint, the festival will be providing paperless alternatives such an iPhone app and mobile web pages which allows fans to view the festival lineup, stage schedules and artist bios, navigate the festival footprint and optimize their Jazz Festival experience. The 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival iPhone app, developed by Jacobs Media, is now available for free download at the iTunes store.

The Jazz Planet, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is in its second year of streaming performances, interviews and backstage happenings to the world via Livestream in partnership with Joseph Productions Inc. The Jazz Planet stage will be located on Hart Plaza with seating for a studio audience, accessible to all. 

The Detroit Jazz Festival has partnered with several established local businesses to help elevate and expand the profile of the already internationally recognized festival. Paxahau Event Productions, Skidmore Studio, Eisbrenner Public Relations and JR Turnbull Communications all have proven expertise in their areas of focus, which will contribute to the festival’s commitment to progress and excellence.
“This is simply part of the evolution of running a world-class event. The collaboration of these companies will continue to take the festival to a whole new level,” said Gretchen Valade, chair, Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation Board of Directors.
Eisbrenner PR, a leading Michigan-based firm founded in 1985 and committed to helping good organizations communicate, has developed a targeted media relations campaign to help raise awareness of the festival’s year-round activities and impact on the region.
Paxahau Event Productions, one of metro-Detroit’s premier event production and promotion organizations, has assumed all responsibilities associated with the operation and non-music production of the festival including sponsorship activation; managing vending and recycling programs; planning and executing the food and beverage program, and; bringing high profile food and dry good vendors to the event. Confirmed vendors include: Jackson Five Star Catering, Andiamo, RoJo Mexican Bistro, Slow’s To Go BBQ and Byblos Café & Grille.
JR Turnbull Communications is a full service event and marketing company combining experience, knowledge and vision to design custom sales, incentive and marketing programs that accelerate sales, enhance value, and maximize relationships with community organizations to enhance brand awareness. Major stage sponsors include JP Morgan Chase, Carhartt, Mack Avenue Records and Absopure. 2011 sponsor activations, secured by JR Turnbull Communications, include the festival’s first Ride and Drive exclusively sponsored by Fiat, as well as activations by American Express/Delta Sky Miles, McDonalds and Sabra Hummus. Other Detroit Jazz Festival partners include PNC Foundation, St. John Providence Hospital, Greektown Casino, MotorCity Casino Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit, Quicken Loans, FatHead and Pepsi (Poetry Slam).


The Detroit Jazz Festival is an independent, non-profit organization that presents jazz and educational workshops throughout the year. Recently voted one of the top three jazz festivals in North America in a Jazz Times Critics’ Poll, the Detroit Jazz Festival is the largest free jazz festival in the world and a major tourist attraction for the City of Detroit, with 23 percent of its audience coming from out of state. The festival receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Erb Family Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. Major corporate partners include Carhartt, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Fiat, and Mack Avenue Records. Additional partners include Absopure Water Company, Ambassador Magazine, AmTech International, Budweiser, Charter One, CJAM 99.1, Comcast Corp., Compuware Corp., Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Dirty Dog Jazz Café, Downbeat Magazine, Fathead®, Fox 2, Great Lakes Fireworks, Hour Detroit Magazine, JazzTimes Magazine, Jazziz Magazine, Metro Times, MGM Grand Detroit, Motor City Casino, Pepsi, Plante & Moran, PNC Foundation, Quicken Loans Inc., St. John Providence Health System, Telemus Capital Partners, WDET 101.9, WEMU 89.1, WRCJ 90.9 and Yelp. The festival is entering Phase III of its Greening Program made possible by a generous grant from the DTE Energy Foundation. In addition, there is a growing base of individual support. Fans are encouraged to become Rhythm Section members by making donations of any size online in support of the festival’s “KEEP IT FREE” campaign. For more information visit