News Column

Drummer Peter Erskine due at Michigan Jazz Festival

July 17, 2013

YellowBrix

July 17--JAZZ

With the Detroit Jazz Festival around the corner on Labor Day weekend, the summer jazz festival season kicks into full swing on Sunday with the 19th annual Michigan Jazz Festival. An indispensable showcase for the everyday heroes of the Detroit jazz scene, the festival has become a summer tradition in metro Detroit. The free all-day event features 9 hours of music on six stages at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

Nearly 25 ensembles will be performing, plus six solo pianists and student groups. In all, the talents of more than 150 musicians will be on display, with styles ranging from ragtime and New Orleans-Chicago traditionalism to swing, bebop and contemporary mainstream currents. There are a number of unusual wrinkles this year. Most notably, drummer Peter Erskine -- who came to fame in the 1970s with Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and Weather Report -- will be on hand as a special guest with at least two bands during the day.

An important figure, Erskine remains a flexible drummer with quick reflexes, a creative imagination and a deep resume that includes everyone from Joni Mitchell to Kenny Wheeler, Marc Johnson, Mike and Randy Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Steps Ahead and countless others. His pairing with pianist Gary Schunk's high-energy, post-bop trio is especially promising (12:30 p.m.). He'll also join the Masters of Music Big Band (2 p.m.)

Among the other special attractions are two bands augmented by string ensembles: pianist Dennis Tini's Quartet and A Tribute to Don Palmer led by saxophonist (and artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival) Chris Collins.

Other leaders at this year's festival include Steve Wood, George Benson, Terry Lower, Charles Boles, Michele Ramo, Paul Keller and Toty Viola. Noon-9 p.m. Sunday, VisTaTech Center at Schoolcraft College, 18600 Haggerty (south of 7 Mile), Livonia. Admission is free. 734-462-4403. www.michiganjazzfestival.org

When versatile trumpeter and composer-arranger Walt Szymanski returns home to Detroit to perform, it's a special occasion. Szymanksi has covered the waterfront as a musician, from working in every setting imaginable on the New York scene to his current job teaching and performing in Ecuador. He'll be joined by pianist Phil Kelly, bassist Paul Keller and drummer Renell Gonsalves.

Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms. Reservations: 313-882-5299. www.dirtydogjazz.com. Open seating Thursday from 6-9 p.m. with no cover. Seatings at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $15, with a 10:30 p.m. set with no cover.

CLASSICAL

After stops earlier this month at Greenfield Village and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra continues motoring around metro Detroit this week. The itinerary includes Clarkston, Dearborn, Beverly Hills and Clinton Township. Conductor Christopher James Lees will be on the podium, with superb new principal trumpeter Hunter Eberly the soloist in Alexander Arutiunian's mid-20th Century concerto. Music by George Chadwick, Dvorak, Tchaikovksy, Irving Berlin and others completes the program.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Clarkston High School; 9 p.m. Friday, Seligman Performing Arts Center, Beverly Hills; 8 p.m. Saturday, Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, Clinton Twp.; 3 p.m. Sunday, Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, Dearborn.

$20, $10 ages 17 and younger and students (or free with every adult ticket). 313-576-5111. www.dso.org.

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(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press

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