Paradise Valley Series

published August 08, 2013 | posted by detroit

The Detroit Jazz Festival is just around the corner at the end of the month, but there’s a lot of swinging still to do before the Labor Day weekend explosion.

For the next couple of weeks, downtown will be popping between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays with free performances at Paradise Valley/Beatrice Buck Park along Randolph Street between Gratiot and Madison. The concerts are under the umbrella of the ongoing Quicken Loans Summer in the Park 2013, which has been bringing music and other activities to a variety of parks in downtown Detroit.

The Tuesday and Thursday series each have a different focus. Tuesday, Aug. 13, is about celebrating the work of Michigan jazz masters. The Paradise Valley Orchestra will perform music by local heroes, including the late Donald Walden and Roy Brooks, and two who continue to walk among us, Wendell Harrison and Marcus Belgrave. On Aug. 20, the same band tackles the music of Teddy Edwards and Gerald Wilson.

Meanwhile, Thursdays are being sponsored by the locally owned Mack Avenue Records to draw attention to its new subsidiary label, Detroit Music Factory, which is devoted to homegrown jazz. The initial batch of recordings includes those of groups led by drummer Sean Dobbins, pianist-composer Scott Gwinnell and the Planet D Nonet. Two of those bands are on the Paradise Valley docket, starting with an appearance Thursday by Dobbins, followed by bassist Ralphe Armstrong on Aug. 15 and the Planet D Nonet on Aug. 22.

Dobbins is a powerhouse drummer in the Art Blakey mode. Armstrong is an eclectic, with a deep résumé ranging from the fusion god John McLaughlin to exploratory jazzer Geri Allen. Powered by drummer RJ Spangler, the Planet D Nonet is a neo-swing band with a repertoire ranging from obscure Ellington to Sun Ra.

Complete list of Quicken Loans Summer in the Park 2013 programming is

Detroit trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave and his wife, singer Joan Belgrave, have taken up the cause of a young cousin, Julian, who was the victim of severe child abuse last year when he was a 3-year-old. The Belgraves have been drawing attention to his plight through benefit events such as Jazz for Julian on Aug. 14. The concert is free. Donations are encouraged but not required. 5:30 p.m. outdoors at Grand Circus Park. For more background on Julian’s story, go to

Jazz fans — as opposed to those interested in fusion and contemporary R&B — don’t typically find much to get them excited in the summer programming at Chene Park. But here’s a double bill that should please everyone, no matter where you fall on the spectrum: The soulful crossover pianist Ramsey Lewis and the incomparable jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. What’s that line often credited to Duke Ellington? Oh, yeah: There’s only two kinds of music, good and bad. Lewis and Bridgewater make the good kind.

Detroit Free Press.....Mark Stryker



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