The celebration won't be official, but rest assured this year's Detroit Jazz Festival will be showing plenty of R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the late Aretha Franklin.
This year's edition of the free event in downtown Detroit, which Franklin performed at for its 25th anniversary in 2004, begins on Aug. 31, the day of her funeral at Greater Grace Temple. Chris Collins, president and artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation says that while the festival itself isn't planning any special program dedicated to Franklin, several of the artists -- including the reunited Straight Ahead, Joan Belgrave and Ralphe Armstrong's Fusion Reunion -- have told him they'll be paying tribute to Franklin during their performances, with others expected to follow suite.
"I fully expect that many artists will be doing their own personal celebration/tribute of Aretha, and her influence within their sets will be peppered throughout the festival," Collins said on Monday. "Aretha is such a towering figure in the global tradition of music and her influence is on every Detroit artist and certainly globally, as an instrumentalist and a vocalist, is immense. Given the festival's hundreds of performers and the format of continuous music, I think she will be omnipresent throughout the festival."
Collins added that the Detroit Jazz Festival organization will likely stage some sort of tribute to Franklin the future but felt that the timing of this year's event was too close to her death and her funeral for that to be appropriate.
"We really look at it as a very personal time for family, friends and musicians given how close her passing is," Collins said. "When we don't want to do an artist tribute just to do it; We want it to be specific and real and bring together the pieces in a very particular way and make sure those who are particularly close to her are innately involved.
"We think the best thing this year is to let those honest, personal expressions from the artists who are playing carry the day. Her presence will definitely be felt throughout (the festival)."
The Detroit Jazz Festival takes place Aug. 31-Sept. 3 at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park. Visit detroitjazzfest.com for more information.
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