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Labor Day weekend's can't-miss music acts

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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Cloning developments are, unfortunately, not keeping pace with the Detroit area's Labor Day weekend activities.

Between them, the four annual festivals -- Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak, the Detroit Jazz Festival downtown, the Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair in Novi and the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival -- will host north of 350 concerts on their multiple stages, ranging from international superstars to local up-and-comers. More music, in other words, than any one person can hope to hear.

It's like this every year, and it never gets easier.

To help out, here's a quick guide the festivals' truly can't-miss shows -- and, yes, there are some conflicts among them. But catch an assortment of any of these during the weekend and you'll feel like the summer came to a fulfilling close...

* Jazz Fest Opening Night: The Detroit Jazz Festival's opening night is always one of the weekend's highlights, and it delivers again this year with Artist in Residence Danilo Perez's Spanish odyssey Panama 500 followed by Macy Gray showing her jazz side with the Dave Murray Big Band, starting at 7 p.m. on the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage

* Mack Avenue Superband: If you're curious about what's going on at the happening lil' jazz label out of Detroit, check out this all-star troupe led by Rodney Whitaker and featuring the likes of Gary Burton, Sean Jones, Kirk Whalum, Warren Wolf, Hot Club of Detroit's Evan Perri, Danilo Perez and more at 4:15 p.m. Saturday on the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage.

* Delfeayo Marsalis Octet: Can you really skip anyone named Marsalis at a jazz festival? The trombone-playing brother of Wynton, Branford and Jason tackles Duke Elligton's ambitious Shakespeare tribute "Such Sweet Thunder" at 6 p.m. Saturday on the Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage at Hart Plaza.

* Warren Wolf unplugged: There will be few chances to hear the Mack Avenue saxophonist during the Jazz Festival weekend, but one of the more interesting will be his appearance as part of the weekend's Unplugged Series, at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Jazz Talk Tent, during which he also be interviewed by WEMU's Jessica Webster Sendra.

* Marshall Crenshaw: No stranger to his home town, Crenshaw has plenty of past hits ("Someday, Someway," "Cynical Girl") as well as new material from his current vinyl subscription series when he plays at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Michigan State Fair in Novi.

* Dennis Coffey: The guitarist's six-string magic has graced plenty of Motown hits as well as his own releases such as "Scorpio" and his self-titled 2011 album. And, less we forget, he co-produced Rodriguez's 1970 debut album "Cold Fact." Catch him at 8 p.m. Saturday on the South Stage at Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.

* Montgomery Gentry: There's not a great deal of country in the Labor Day weekend mix, but this duo will bring the rowdy, rockin' side of the genre to Arts, Beats & Eats at 10 p.m. Saturday on the National Stage. Fellow Nashvillians Bush Hawg, in the 8:45 p.m. opening slot, will likely do the same.

* Sunday Jazz Fest Tributes: The jazz festival is always filled with unique tribute performances, but this year's Sunday lineup is brimming with salutes, including: guitarist Bill Frisell's "All We Are Saying" exploration of John Lennon's music; a set of newly commissioned Dave Brubeck arrangements by the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra; a recreation of Brubeck's 1959 jazz musical "The Real Ambassadors" by Bill Meyer and the Detroit New Orleans Band; Jon Faddis, Jesse Davis and the Bill Charlap Trio joining forces to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Jazz at Massey Hall concert in Toronto that featured Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and other luminaries; Detroit saxophonist James Carter's Tribute to Don Byas; and a Tribute to Pepper Adams by the Three Baris saxophone trio of Gary Smulyan, Howard Johnson and Frank Basile.

* Soul Asylum and Guster: Two generations of alternative rock play back to back at 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday on the Arts, Beats & Eats' Michigan Lottery National Stage. Soul Asylum represents the late 80s and early 90s with hits such as "Runaway Train," "Black Gold" and "Misery," while Guster will get a chance to show a little more than it did during its truncated set opening for Barenaked Ladies during July at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

* Miles Smiles: Miles Davis is no longer with us, but the Jazz Fest hosts a collection of his band members -- including his trumpet prodigy Wallace Roney, guitarist Larry Coryell, force of nature drummer Alphonse Mouzon, saxophonist Rick Margitza and Detroit bassist Ralphe [cq[ Armstrong -- to keep the music alive at 7 p.m. Monday on the Main Stage.

* Robert Glasper Experiment: Fusing jazz with hip-hop and R&B, Glasper has been one of the most exciting arrivals in music, period, during the past few years. Expect to hear a sample or two from the pianist's upcoming "Black Radio 2" when his quartet plays at 3:30 p.m. Monday on the Main Stage.

* Marcus Belgrave: The Jazz Fest is always better when the Detroit master is part of the lineup. His Trumpet Call will close the Absopure Pyramid Stage at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Hart Plaza.

* M.C. Hammer: Maybe he hasn't done much for us lately (save for a halftime show at a Detroit Pistons game last season), but the "Can't Touch This" rapper did enough back in the late 80s and early 90s to rekindle some warm memories -- like when the Pistons actually won championships. He caps Arts, Beats & Eats at 8:30 p.m. Monday on the Michigan Lottery National Stage.

* George Bedard & the Kingpins: The always-hot Ann Arbor rockabilly group is prepping for a big CD release show next month at Callahan's in Auburn Hills, but you might get a sneak peak at some of the songs at the troupe's 8:45 p.m. set on Sunday at the Michigan State Fair.

* Melvin Davis: The self-proclaimed Detroit Soul Ambassador has a resume that stretches to 8 Mile Road and back -- a couple of times -- working with the likes of Smokey Robinson, the Temptations' David Ruffin, the MC5's Wayne Kramer, Dennis Coffey and many others. He plays at 8:45 p.m. Sunday on the South Stage in Hamtramck with Tradition featuring Pat Lewis and McKinley.

If You're Going:

* Arts, Beats & Eats
takes place Friday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, in downtown Royal Oak. Admission is $3 before 5 p.m., $5 afterwards, with proceeds going to area charities. Call 248-541-7550 or visit www.artsbeatseats.com for hours, schedules and other information.

* The 34th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival goes on Friday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. Visit www.detroitjazzfest.com for complete information.

* The Fifth Third Bank Michigan State Fair runs Friday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, at the Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Boulevard, Novi. Admission is $6 for those 12 and older in advance, $8 at the door, $5 for children 11 and under in advance, $6 at the door. Call 248-348-6942 or visit www.michiganstatefairllc.com.

*The Hamtramck Labor Day Festival runs Saturday-Monday, Aug. 31- Sept. 2 in downtown Hamtramck between Caniff and Commor streets. Admission is free. Visit www.hamtownfest.com.

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