Detroit Jazz Fest begins announcing Labor Day roster


No more the days when other jazz fests had their lineups long in advance of Detroit’s, when you’d pick up a national jazz mag’s festival roundup mid-spring and see Detroit listed as TBA.

The Detroit fest announced a bit ago that drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts — the longtime timekeeper of choice for Wynton then Branford Marsalis before going solo — would be the 2011 artist in residence.

On Thursday, the fest announced the 2011 theme as “We Bring You the World," and also some announced initial headliners: Brazilian vocalist Ivan Lins, Azerbaijan-born pianist Amina Figarova and a celebration of the music of singers including the late South African icon Miriam Makeba (“Sing the Truth!” also salutes the late Odetta Holmes and Abbey Lincoln, and features Benin-born Angélique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright).

Also on the roster, pianist Vijay Iyer (who taps into the music of Indian immigrant forebearers), bassist Dave Holland (English-born, though having been in the States since the late ’60s, we tend to forget) and former Tonight Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks.

As always, the free festival is held on Hart Plaza and nearby downtown Detroit locations, over the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-5 this year.

There’s a taste of things to come set for Feb. 11 when Watts appears in a free concert the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History with a program of music inspired by the civil rights movement. Along with compositions saluting such notables as James Brown and playwright August Wilson, Watts and Co. will perform an adaptation of Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. Featured musicians in the performance include pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst, saxophonist Wessell Anderson, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and vocalist Mavis SWAN Poole.

Admission to what’s being billed as Freedom 2011 is free, but reservations are a must. RSVP’s should be made by February 10 at


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