National, local jazz artists fill lineup for series

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

Renowned jazz flutist Alexander Zonjic says the Jazz on the Avenue concert series he curates will feature this year the most diverse lineup in its eight-year history, offering something for every flavor of jazz fan.

“Jazz has developed a lot of hybrids throughout the years,” Zonjic says. “On our lineup there’s a lot of R&B influenced jazz, there’s a lot of bluesy jazz, a lot of what we’ve been referring to in recent years as smooth jazz, and you have some very traditional jazz with Rayse Biggs, and then you have folks like Nick Colionne, who is a classic Chicago jazz guy.”

The Jazz on the Avenue series kicks off Wednesday with free concerts at Dearborn City Hall Park featuring top local and national acts. The concerts are every Wednesday night through Aug. 17.

Zonjic says he will open and close the series performing with all-star ensembles. Each of the other concerts will focus on a single artist. The highlighted performers will include Grammy winning pianist Gregg Karukas, Chicago sax player Steve Cole and Detroit native keyboardist Demetrius Nabors.

In addition to the jazz offerings, the series will feature local food vendors such as Alcamo’s Market and Joe’s Hot Dogs, as well as art fairs showcasing the work of the residents of Dearborn’s City Hall Artspace Lofts.

Chicago-based jazz guitarist Nick Colionne says he looks forward to bringing his band to Dearborn on Aug. 3. Colionne, who has long been known for his energetic live performances that combine elements of jazz, funk, R&B, blues and soul, says he has a strong relationship with Detroit.

“We come to have fun,” he says. “I try to touch on a little bit of everything. Jazz, R&B, blues, and even a little touch of some funk. I try to keep a variety of stuff in my show. I’ll change it at any second while I’m on stage.”

Colionne says he enjoys Jazz on the Avenue’s unique format, which allows one artist to stretch out over an evening, as opposed to sharing a bill with several other performers.

“I can venture into a lot of different things and not have to worry about the time I have on stage,” he says. “If somebody’s coming on behind me, I have to be respectful and come off at my designated time. When it’s just me, I can just kind of go until people say, ‘Hey, you have to stop!’ ”

Nabors, a rising local pianist, arranger, composer-producer and two-time winner of the Detroit Music Award, performs July 20 with a full band, including talented newcomer Brandon Rose on guitar.

Nabors says the element of surprise is key to his performances.

“They’re very spontaneous,” he says. “I play my own compositions, but then I play some music I'm influenced by. They're going to dance on my music, but they're also going to dance to some Top 40, some old R&B classics.”

Nabors, who recently caught the attention of Motown recording artist KEM, who signed him as a producer in 2013 for Kemistry Records, says hometown gigs are a blessing he didn’t fully appreciate until he performed outside the Midwest.

“The thing about Detroit, no matter what genre of music you’re playing, this is a music city,” he says. “It’s Motown, no matter what. We’re set apart. And one thing about it, people support it.

The “people love music,” he says. “They come out, and we’re just known for the music. It’s just in the water.”

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Jazz on the Avenue

7-9 p.m. Weds., July 13-Aug. 17

Dearborn City Hall Park

13615 Michigan, Dearborn


(313) 943-3141