On the Rebound: Jazz in Detroit

Letter From the Editor
1929

I’ve often admired pithy quotes by the late, great Frank Zappa. Here’s a favorite:

“Jazz is not dead. It just smells funny.”

Now don’t get me (or Frank) wrong. The sarcastic line was part of his banter with an early ’70s audience during the extremely complicated “Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen’s Church).”

Zappa actually helped introduce some of the world’s best jazz players to a new audience — including me. The first time I saw a national act (at Cobo Arena!) Zappa’s opening band was the Mahavishnu Orchestra — smoking-hot guitarist John McLaughlin’s jazz-fusion quintet. He blew my usually rock ’n’ roll-geared mind! How, I wondered, would Zappa be able to top this? With a roster that included jazz violin virtuoso, Jean-Luc Ponty, and ace keyboard player, George Duke, that’s how.

Jazz wasn’t dead then, and it’s most decidedly not dead in Detroit today. But for a time, it was on life support.

As reported in Hour and elsewhere, in 2005, the Detroit Jazz Festival was rescued largely through the efforts (and checkbook) of Gretchen Valade, who personally plunked down $15 million. A permanent endowment now supports our world-renowned festival.

But a busy Labor Day weekend is only part of the story. As Jim McFarlin reports on page 102, there’s a whole lot of improvising going on around town. He takes us on a tour of some of the personalities and venues that are thriving today.

As shown by Valade’s efforts, one person can make a huge impact on a cultural institution. Some 45 years after his death, art collector Robert Hudson Tannahill’s bequest continues to influence the Detroit Institute of Arts. George Bulanda paints a portrait of this major donor whose gifts keep on giving (page 110).

Speaking of legacies, we take a look at the fur industry’s long and sometimes-controversial tenure in Detroit (founded, in part, to protect the fur trade more than 300 years ago). Josie Schneider — who got started in the industry after attending a “Night with a Furrier” adult education course sponsored by Ceresnie & Offen — reports on the current state of the trade (see page 50).

On another fashion front, check out our annual “Best Dressed” list, starting on page 76. Chuck Bennett talks to our selections to see what they have to say — and wear. We also look at children’s fashion (page 92) to see what some future best-dressed candidates are wearing.

P.S. Another ‘Comeback’

Christopher Cook’s review of Slurping Turtle on page 57 marks the return of super-chef Takashi Yagihashi — the culinary spirit of the long-gone Tribute. He’ll also be making a kitchen encore at our next “Savor Detroit” series of dinners in October. Visit hourdetroit.com for a list of chef pairings. (But you may want to hurry. The first Savor Detroit events sold out quickly.)

Facebook Comments