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Detroit Jazz Festival Soothes The Downtown Airwaves On Labor Day Weekend

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The  Jazz Festival underway in Detroit. (WWJ/Beth Fisher)

The Jazz Festival underway in Detroit. (WWJ/Beth Fisher)

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DETROIT (WWJ) — Jazz music has filled the air in downtown Detroit this Labor Day weekend as the 35th annual Jazz Festival continued another year as the largest free jazz event in the world.

The event’s artistic director Chris Collins said that very few cities besides Detroit can brag about the rich history it shares with the jazz music scene.

“Detroit is a jazz city,” Collins said. “So many of the great artists came from Detroit, went to school here, grew up here and brought the Detroit vibe — that creativity, that diversity, that inspiration of the city and gospel and blues and R&B mixed with jazz and bebop and avant-garde — in order to create what was known as the Detroit sound.”

Violin virtuoso and MacArthur Fellow, Regina Carter is among those on the stage this weekend. The Detroit native is considered to be the foremost Jazz violinist of her generation.

(Photo: Stephanie Davis/WWJ)

(Photo: Stephanie Davis/WWJ)

“It’s about combining those great performances by the living legends that we’re lucky enough to still have with us — like Ron Carter and Pharoah Sanders and Phil Woods and Ramsey Lewis — along with the high-energy artists that may appeal to a different generation of folks, like Mike Stern,” Collins said.

Christopher Cox has been visiting the Jazz Festival all the way from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania for the last five years and said that it is one of the premier jazz experiences in the country.

“I’m really praying for Detroit — I really want them to rebound and be the best city ever,” Cox said. “It’s one of the best jazz festivals in the country. I want to help bring Detroit back by coming up and supporting and staying in hotels here and eating food here.”

(Photo: Stephanie Davis/WWJ)

(Photo: Stephanie Davis/WWJ)

This year, there was a special tribute to Gretchen Valade, who created a $2 million endowment to keep the festival going. Jazz Festival board member Tom Robinson outlined one of the headlining events from Saturday night at the festival.

“We’ve got a unique performance on Saturday night with Freda Payne,” Robinson said. “She’s going to sing songs that Gretchen Valade wrote and those songs were the reason that she started Mack Avenue Records. So, it’s kind of exciting that 15 years after the record label was started, they’re actually going to be performed here at the Jazz Festival.”

More than 100 performances will take place over the course of the entire holiday weekend on four different stages from Hart Plaza to Campus Martius.

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