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Get a preview of the 2022 Detroit Jazz Festival from its director, Chris Collins

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Detroit Jazz Festival
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Outside at the Detroit Jazz Festival

TRANSCRIPTION:

Michael Jewett: The Detroit Jazz Festival recently announced, basically, the lineup for the upcoming event, Labor Day weekend, September 2nd through the fifth. And to catch up with what's happening with the festival, hey, the festival director, Chris Collins. Hello. How are you doing? How's everything?

Chris Collins: I'm great, Michael. Great to hear your voice.

Michael Jewett: Indeed. Indeed, it really is. Chucho Valdez, artist-in-residence. And just within the last couple of weeks ago, the lineup for the festival announced those artists that are going to be coming to our area, not the complete schedule, but the various performers that will be performing the second through the fifth. So, the big news of the past couple of weeks and, you know, once again, floored by who is coming to the Detroit Jazz Festival. Bravo. Fantastic work.

Chris Collins: Great, great, great. Thank you, Michael.

Michael Jewett: Go ahead.

Chris Collins: We're really fortunate this year, you know, and I think for all of us, we're hopeful there will be no bumps in the road and will be, as is expected, outside of the beautiful end of summer weather in downtown Detroit, as you said, the second to September. And you're absolutely correct. We announced our artist-in-residence, Chucho Valdez, and our full lineup, which is at Detroit Jazz Fest dot org. And we're going to be really excited to do this in just a couple of weeks to be announcing the rest of the lineup, our incredible hometown artists, and some other artists that that are added to the lineup. So, it'll be complete at that point, and everybody will know what to do and how to plan and where to go.

Michael Jewett: There you go. Well, hey, we know where to go. Labor Day weekend, downtown Detroit, definitely the place to be. Coming off two years of what have been virtual presentations, digital presentations, and streaming presentations which have been really, really wildly successful. Millions--we're talking millions--of distinct streams over the past. Each of these years, each of the years when you presented this way are totally, you know, unprecedented for the festival and also just the reach of the festival. I mean, you're getting these streams from all over the country, all over the planet, and now transitioning back to the traditional presentation--the in-person presentation. Any lessons that you've learned at the festivals learn in terms of that you might, like, carry over from the from a couple of past years?

Chris Collins: Well, indeed. I mean, first and foremost, you know, we reaffirmed our commitment to health and safety for all of our attendants, all of our artists, all of the crew. I mean, that has got to be paramount, and it has been for 43 years. And, certainly, the COVID situation, you know, was very much a part of that thought process. So, you know, that's going to remain important for us no matter what, no matter what moves forward. But I will say that, yeah, in 2020, the first year we had to do it, we went to a situation where we really relied on the craftsmen and the staging and workers and all the amazing individuals in Detroit in the industry. Because, you know, we built for soundstages--custom soundstages built up in the Marriott--and had to do everything with all the protocols in place. And that year, we were pressed nearly a million unique viewers in 32 countries around the globe. And then, last year, because of, you know, COVID ramping back up in the fall and then we had some construction delays in the plaza, which was great. So, that led us back. And we already had the format down. But, you know, the lineup was set and fantastic. And, you know, everybody was willing to fly into Detroit at that point, which we did. And I had them checked three times. And by the end of the festival, our metric team, which has a whole room set up with screens and everything, they were at nearly two and a half million viewers in 48 countries around the world. And it just showed that there's a huge audience for Detroit, a huge audience for jazz and a hunger for this. This year, I can tell you the biggest lesson, and we're really taking it to heart, is how we might expand our mission or amplify, or, you know, extend it to the whole world. And what we've come up with is will be in-person as one of the typically 325,000 people that come down for the Detroit Jazz Festival. Great. You know, you're going to have that live in-person thing. That is really what jazz is about. But what we're going to be doing this year new is we've had Detroit Jazz Fest live for a number of years where people can get on the app.

Michael Jewett: Right.

Chris Collins: Select any of the four stages. Well, what we're doing this year is Detroit Jazz Fest Live will be on the web through our website, Detroit Jazz Festival dot org. And it will be delivered all four stages in real time, completely free to the world.

Michael Jewett: Whoa.

Chris Collins: It's kind of our gift to say how could we take the free experience that is so important to us. It's one of those barriers we remove and extend that to the world and the digital lessons we learned in the last two years and the audience we've gathered is the answer. So, we have that whole dimension, and it is available for free to anyone. I'm sure it'll be picked up by great public radio stations and public television and other places.

Michael Jewett: Indeed.

Chris Collins: So, there'll be a number of ways to check it out. But it's all about being here for sure, but it's also about introducing, being ambassadorship, all those wonderful things to the entire world for free. And I think it's one of a kind, quite frankly, as so many other things are in Detroit.

Michael Jewett: Indeed. Fantastic. I think the festival just represents the city, the culture of the city, and the culture at large, you know, jazz culture at large, internationally, in such fantastic fashion. It's great news to hear that this is going to be embraced and viewed by fans and folks all over the planet. I want to talk about some of the talent and kind of, like, you mentioned the word mission. Is it me or just maybe just looking at it this year? This is a very young lineup, fresh, a lot of emerging artists who, I guess you could say emerging or maybe, you know, only maybe three or four records or, you know, a handful of solo records into their career, alongside, of course, you know, some great, you know, veteran artists like your artist-in-residence, Chucho Valdez, Grammy winner--multi-Grammy winner--Dianne Reeves. But you've also got, you know, well, John Scofield will be making a very welcome...I can't remember the last time Scofield played here. You've also got, you know, emerging artists like Emmet Cohen, Nubya Garcia, Jose James, artists who would be, you know, 30 something, maybe, you know, early forties or whatnot. So, was this conscious, or is it me just reading it as being a very young festival, or was there a conscious effort to kind of have, like, that new generation of artists in the mix?

Chris Collins: Well, you know...

Michael Jewett: Maybe both?

Chris Collins: You're picking up on something. You know, every year, I work really hard to seek out artists. I go around the world either playing with cats that I hear and say, "Well, what have you got going on?" Or I make it known that around different communities. We also have the Open Artists edition, which is still running up until June 1st on Detroit Jazz Fest dot org. So, I can hear this amazing stuff. And, you know, when you're a real jazz festival and you're not going to turn to pop or instrumental pop or that kind of stuff, but you're really going to stay in the jazz vein, you've really got to be proactive about reaching out and understanding who are the cats that are beyond just the people you might see on the cover of Downbeat, or those great, great people, you know, the great legends we have. Now, the legends are always going to be part of our festival because we're just so fortunate to have them. You know, I wish I would have been able to see John Coltrane live. You know, that's where that stems from in my mind. So, that's always going to be important. But, this year, coming out of COVID into a new way of living, really, I thought it was a great year to seek out and feature some of the really important projects that are being done by emerging artists and combinations of legends and emerging artists and so on, which we'll have throughout the festival. And putting, you know, emphasis on them not only multicultural, but multi-generational underpinnings of this music we call jazz. And I think it's a great way to come back in-person, a great way to come out of COVID, this sense of there's something really interesting and fresh and different. And it speaks again to our mission, which is about diversity, inclusion, and, you know, all those things people talk about. But actually being proactive about getting that stuff to happen and breaking down the barriers for participation, so the whole world can partake in that. That goes for the artists as well.

Michael Jewett: I love it. I love it. You know, and I'm on record, I finally told you a few times the lift that I get Labor Day weekend. Being part of the audience, and you know, I work professionally as emcee or whatever, but just being part of the community for the Detroit Jazz Fest and the audience, you know, diverse by age, background, whatnot, and you really get to that in the programing and the schedule this year. The performers' complete information is at Detroit Jazz Festival dot org. Keep up on it. And, hey, you know, if you have not blocked off Labor Day weekend yet, make sure that you do as we're heading into Memorial Day weekend, you know, talk about the beginning of summer at summer's end, Labor Day weekend, second through the fifth downtown Detroit. And, of course, via the Detroit Jazz Festival app to follow up on the latest on that. Festival director Chris Collins, thank you for your time. Thank you for being so gracious. Congratulations, and thank you for all you're doing. And we look forward to more. We'll probably touch base with you again as we move closer to the festival, and we'll definitely be there. Labor Day weekend, downtown Detroit for this year's Detroit Jazz Festival.

Chris Collins: Thanks for all you do, Michael. And thanks to the great WEMU, who's been an important piece of all this for a very, very long time. You're the cats. Thank you.

Michael Jewett: All right.

RESOURCES:

Detroit Jazz Festival

2022 Detroit Jazz Festival Lineup

Detroit Jazz Festival Open Artist Submission (DEADLINE IS JUNE 1, 2022)

Detroit Jazz Festival on Facebook

Detroit Jazz Festival on Twitter

Detroit Jazz Festival on Instagram

Detroit Jazz Festival on YouTube

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Michael Jewett is the long-time host of 89.1 Jazz every weekday afternoon. Besides his on-air work; Michael is WEMU’s Operations Manager. Mr. Jewett started working for WEMU in 1983. He’s been on the air longer than any other current WEMU music host.
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