Music Hall’s 90th season opens with Franklin tribute at Aretha's Jazz Cafe

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The 2018-19 season of the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts has a lot to celebrate this year. 

Besides it being 90 years since its 1928 debut – then known as the Wilson Theater – Music Hall Center for the Arts is opening this season with a free renaming ceremony of “Aretha’s Jazz Café,” renamed after Aretha Franklin, who died last month. 

The gala reopening event is 7 p.m. Oct. 11 with the Aretha’s Jazz Café house band, Kingdom, which includes several of the city’s top vocalists and musicians, many who shared the stage with Franklin. Hear Kern Brantley, Rainman, Philip Bates and Nick Behnan perform with several vocalists including Kimmie Horne, Gwen Foxx, Cherri Black, Steffanie Christi’an, Kiko, Angela Davis and others. 

Music Hall announced the name change for the intimate, 86-seat Jazz Cafe last month after the death of the Queen of Soul, who performed at the Music Hall several times and gave her last local concert just outside the venue during the 2017 Detroit Music Weekend. 

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to create such a fitting tribute to Miss Franklin," said Music Hall president and artistic director Vince Paul in a statement Tuesday. "We honor her wish to establish a downtown venue that would carry on her legacy, and will continue to bring audiences into the incredible world of music that she created, in particular opening musical worlds to each generation that comes along.”

Singer Aretha Franklin and her son, Kecalf Cunningham, stand under Aretha Franklin Way, a street renamed in her honor, in Detroit, June 8, 2017. A portion of Madison Street near Comerica Park will have both names.

Other events scheduled for Aretha’s Jazz Café that week are American group Bumper Jacksons at  7p.m. Oct. 12 and Scott Gwinnell at 6 p.m. Oct. 14. Jazz mainstays Incognito with special guest Maysa and Down to the Bone are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 13 at Music Hall. 

Tickets are on sale for the Bumper Jackson show ($30) at the Incognito concert ($55 and up) via 

Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and Aretha's Jazz Cafe are at 350 Madison in Detroit. Call (313) 887-8501 or visit

Twitter: @melodybaetens