The Kind of List...

Posted June 21, 2012 @ 1:49pm | by S. Cutshall

...that makes one's day.

Just received an email from a writer at The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) who has compiled a list of the greatest performances at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival (which was one of my final big performances).

Really illustrious company, very honored.


1981: Herbie Hancock Quartet
The innovative pianist played a heady, brilliant set at the Detroit Plaza Hotel at the Renaissance Center with bassist Buster Williams, drummer Tony Williams and a budding 19-year-old trumpeter named Wynton Marsalis.

1982: Miles Davis
A tenacious Prince of Darkness played high-powered jazz-rock but also "My Man's Gone Now" and the blues at Ford Auditorium with a lean sextet featuring saxophonist Bill Evans, guitarist Mike Stern, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Al Foster and percussionist Mino Cinelu.

1983: Hugh Lawson Trio
A lovely homecoming by the Detroit-born pianist who never attained the fame of better-known contemporaries like Barry Harris and Tommy Flanagan but whose playing offered a similar reconciliation of grace and guts.

1984: Dizzy Gillespie with the J.C. Heard Orchestra The legendary trumpeter teamed at Music Hall with an orchestra led by the Detroit drummer with whom Gillespie had recorded nearly 40 years earlier, and the results were as fresh as just-brewed coffee.

1985: Toshiko Akiyoshi Orchestra
The Japanese-born composer's glorious big band -- with veteran Frank Wess leading the sax section on alto -- delivered the goods at the Hotel Pontchartrain, remaking the bebop and Ellington traditions in her image.

1986: Betty Carter
The Detroit-bred singer reinvented such songs as "I Remember You" and "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" with her trademark force-of-nature improvisation at Deejay's Lounge at the Westin Hotel in the Renaissance Center.

1987: Group award
The first Montreux in which nearly every event was free is remembered by some as the finest of them all. Headliners included Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Stephane Grappelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and a trumpet summit featuring Gillespie, Jon Faddis, Donald Byrd, Louis Smith, Russell Green, Johnny Trudell and the unbilled Marcus Belgrave sitting in. Rollins' incandescent tenor saxophone ranked first among equals.

1988: Sun Ra Arkestra
Ra's heliocentric orchestra stomped the blues as if playing an intergalactic rent party, reconciling the far reaches of the avant-garde with pre-bop traditionalism, tribal ritual and Afrocentrism.

1989: Roy Brooks and the Aboriginal Percussion Choir The Detroit drummer fronted some 50 percussionists, instrumentalists and African drum-dancers decked in colorful regalia -- one of the festival's greatest spectacles.

1990: "Yardbird Suite"
Produced by Detroit saxophonist Donald Walden, this Charlie Parker tribute remains the most ambitious extravaganza in festival history, featuring a big band, 18 strings, a 30-voice choir, soloists Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris (who wrote the arrangements), Charles McPherson, Walden and conductor Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

1991: McCoy Tyner Big Band
The thunderous pianist translated his expansive concepts into a rabble-rousing post-bop orchestra that energized the crowd like no else that year.

1992: Freddie Hubbard
The dynamic post-bop trumpeter reclaimed his crown as King Fredrick with a balance of sophisticated ideas, electrifying chops, chest-thumping swagger and sensitive ballad work.

1993: Charlie Haden Quartet West
The heartfelt bassist's seductive quartet with saxophonist Ernie Watts created aural film noir: music as sensual as a siren and as hard-boiled as Sam Spade.

1994: Bill Doggett
The veteran R&Borganist made a career out of rent-party ebullience, but folks left Hart Plaza moved by the sweet sincerity of his soul.

1995: Louis Hayes-Charles McPherson Reunion
Hayes on drums and McPherson on alto sax -- two of the legendary heroes from Detroit's modern jazz explosion in the '50s -- lit off supercharged bebop fireworks.

1996: Orange Then Light Blue
An adventurous octet from Boston explored challenging repertoire and arrangements as intricate as snowflakes with personality-filled players as conversant with free jazz as bebop.

1997: Manny Oquendo & Libre
Oquendo, a timbales player and leading figure in Afro-Cuban music for 50 years, led a 10-piece band that served up the most concentrated grooves you've ever heard from a salsa band.

1998: Scott Cutshall Quartet
Free jazz from a drummer-led band (featuring the great David Liebman on tenor and soprano saxophones) that breathed fire but also showed how to paint this style with a lyrical brush on John Coltrane's "Dear Lord."

1999: Elvin Jones Jazz Machine
Perched high behind his drum set, Jones, the Pontiac-born revolutionary, presided over the music like an omnipotent deity, channeling all of what jazz can be artistically, creatively and emotionally.

2000: Abbey Lincoln
The veteran singer cast a bewitching spell, delivering her own lyric poetry with expressive pitch and syncopated time, laying so far behind the beat you swore the pulse would snap, which, of course, it never did.

2001: Wallace Roney Sextet
Straddling an acoustic-electric fault line, the trumpeter -- with saxophonists Gary Bartz and Bennie Maupin in tow -- offered a thrilling Miles Davis tribute, dense with harmony and quaking rhythm, that bridged the gap between the Fillmore East in 1970 and Hart Plaza in 2001.

2002: Sonny Fortune Quartet
Pulsating with raw intensity, the veteran alto saxophonist delivered a personal take on the modal extensions of John Coltrane with an authenticity lacking in many of his younger colleagues.

2003: James Moody Quartet
At 78, the irrepressible saxophonist revealed an astonishing life force, delighting the crowd with trademark clowning but backing it up with vibrant, non-nostalgic bebop.

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