“I'm a Motown baby, a jazz baby—a music baby,” Regina Carter told the crowd at the Detroit Jazz Festival last Sunday, a hometown hero in the midst of one of the most star-studded jazz line-ups of the festival season (Sept. 1 to 4).
The jazz violinist tapped into one of the prevailing themes of the annual gathering, during which hundreds of thousands of people replace the cars of Motor City’s downtown for four days of free musical healing: Jazz is just one name for the city’s native musical language, one that encompasses all corners of soul, blues, hip-hop, and electronic music. While the festival’s line-up featured some of jazz’s biggest names -- Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter, Kamasi Washington -- the resulting music still, somehow, felt uniquely Detroit.
Part of that, of course, was thanks to the local musicians who tapped into the city’s omnivorous taste in music. Carter paid tribute to Ella Fitzgerald during her set with a series of straightforward, yet invigorating takes on some of the legend’s B-sides -- she drew impressive crowd participation during a mash-up of the standard “Undecided” with “Don't Stop the Groove,” a cut from Detroit jazz-funk group The Lyman Woodard Organization, and offered one of the festival’s most generous, spiritual solos on “I’ll Never Be Free.”