Virtual Detroit Jazz Festival to kick off with tribute to civil rights

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

It's no surprise that local talent will dominate the musical lineup for the virtual Detroit Jazz Festival this Labor Day weekend, including a opening number that pays tribute to the fight for equality.

Some of the city's top jazz talent, including Sean Dobbins, Joan Belgrave and Marion Hayden, plus national artists like Robert Glasper, are scheduled to be part of this year's streaming event. 

Organizers released details of the audience-less performances in early July. 

Bassist Marion Hayden performing at the Jazz Festival in 2018 with the Alvin Waddles 100th tribute to composer Leonard Bernstein on the WSU Pyramid Stage at Hart Plaza.

Sets will be streamed and broadcast live from indoor sound stages that will be built at the Detroit Marriott at the GM Renaissance Center. The performances are closed to the public, and jazz fans can view in real time, with no replays or on-demand viewing. 

Artists can be heard on public radio and television stations and via the city's new arts and entertainment outlet, Channel 22. The festival can be viewed worldwide at and through the festival's smartphone app. 

The Detroit Jazz Festival begins the evening of Sept 4 with an ensemble performance of "Justice." It is a tribute to "the quest for equal rights" and an homage to civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. 

“As the country continues to struggle with its commitment to racial equality during a global pandemic, we found it befitting to produce a tribute to this pivotal time in American history and hopefully, allow the power of music to inspire change for better,” said festival president and artistic director Chris Collins. 

Here is the schedule for the virtual event. 

6:15-11:45 p.m. Sept. 4

"Justice" with Sister Strings: Roots, Voice & Drums, Detroit Jazz Fest All Stars Generations Band, Michael Jellick Sextet and Robert Hurst presents the Black Current Jam Band

Lulu Fall and the Kris Johnson Group

Pharoah Sanders: Icon

Legacy Artists: Ursula Walker and Buddy Budson

11:20 a.m.-Midnight Sept. 5

Tartarsauce Traditional Jazz Band

Alex Harding: Afro Horn

Ron Di Salvo Trio

Dr. Prof. Leonard King Orchestra

Gayelynn McKinney & McKinney Zone

Sabbatical Bob


Rodney Whitaker Septet w/ Vocalist Rockelle Fortin featuring the Music of Count Basie and Billie Holiday

Steve Turre Quintet

Something to Live For – Music of Billy Strayhorn

11:20 a.m.-Midnight Sept. 6

Sunday, Sept. 6 (11:20 a.m. – Midnight)

Collegiate Combo Competition Winner

Sven Anderson – Doc’s Holiday

The Rayse Biggs Collective

The Dave Bennett Quartet


Sean Dobbins Trio

Sister Strings:  Roots, Voice & Drums

Robert Hurst presents the Black Current Jam Band 

Walter White Big Band 

Michael Jellick Sextet

11:20 a.m.-11 p.m. Sept. 7

Marion Hayden: Detroit Legacy

David McMurray

Joan Belgrave presents:  The Marcus Belgrave Legacy Ensemble

Joey Alexander Trio

The Curtis Taylor Quartet

Call Al

Henry Conerway III

Rene Marie & Experiment in Truth

Robert Glasper