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Labor Day storms sound sour note for Detroit Jazz Fest

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- The 35th Detroit Jazz Festival ended on a soggy and somewhat sour note Monday night, Sept. 1.

Early evening storms, including nearby lightning strikes, brought the four-day affair to a close prematurely, canceling scheduled performances by Stanley Clarke on the J.P. Morgan Chase Main Stage near Campus Martius Park and Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage in Hart Plaza. Both areas were cleared by festival organizers around 6:20 p.m., though the final decision to cancel the concerts wasn't made until an hour later.

Had things gone according to plan, however, Clarke should have at least been able to play some of his set. The bassist was scheduled to play from 5:15-6:30 p.m. but was delayed when Diane Schuur, who preceded him, started and finished late, pushing Clarke's set time back at least a half hour. But technical problems with his amplifiers caused further delays, and the show still seemed unlikely to start any time soon when fans, who had begun chanting for Clarke to start after already waiting an hour, were asked to disperse.

Clarke and Smith weren't the only jazz fest acts hampered by the elements; Wallace Roney's "To Miles, From Wayne" program on Sunday night, Aug. 31, was also shortened by rain, though Roney did his best to soldier through the storm.

Schuur, at least, provided an exceptional if unintended finale. Fronting an all-star band and a 20-piece string section conducted by pianist Alan Broadbent, Schuur focused on the Great American Songbook material form her latest album, "I Remember You (With Love to Stan and Frank)" -- celebrating Kenton and Sinatra, respectively -- lending her sublime, untouched by age vocals and limber scatting skills to standards such as Atonio Carlos Jobim's "So Insensitive," Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We," "The Second Time Around," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "For Once in My Life," which featured a drum break by Willie Jones III.

Schuur spelled Broadbent on piano for a pair of songs, including a solo rendition of "The Very Thought of You." With the afternoon sun beating down, she also delivered a solo rendition of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" that Schuur said was "just for a little encouragement for Mother Nature," and she finished, ironically, with an encore of "Here's That Rainy Day," which proved an unwitting harbinger to what lay ahead.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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