Detroit's Smooth Jazzfest

Mike Dilorenzo - Urbanized

June 25, 2005

When the mercury flirts with 100 degrees, you know it’s going to sizzle, but it was confirmed without a doubt at V98.7’s annual Smooth Jazzfest.  With 3 days of music and a line-up that had something for everyone, Southfield, Michigan was on fire!  It was literally and musically the introduction to summer!

Dawning plenty of sunscreen and sipping cool refreshments, fans were pleased with local singing sensation and independent artist, Marissa Rose.  She opened Day #2 with songs from her debut album, Introducing Marissa Rose.  Wowing the crowd with her composition, Forget AboutYou, as well as a soulful rendition of Christopher Cross’ Sailing, her performance was the perfect answer for what Mother Nature proposed that day.  Even more surprising was her confession that the backup musicians were not members of her band.  We wouldn’t have known the difference ‘cause they jammed beautifully!  The show must go on and it did with two teenage phenoms in the mix (including her 16 yr old nephew on keys).  Let me tell you, the future sounds great and so does Marissa Rose!  Check out her website at

Other local artists BlackmanArnold took to the stage and kept it simmering with their rhythmic fusion of world music and Flamenco/Latin grooves.  Their interpretation of the jazz standard, Caravan was off the charts and featured Sean Blackman & John Arnold on guitars, as well as percussionist Larry Fratangelo of P’Funk fame (One Nation Under A Groove) and drummer Danny Cox (who also performs with Alexander Zonjic & Friends).  With great rapport and stirring song selections they boasted dramatic improvisations on Heat of the Sun and the Brazilian classic Batucada.  BlackmanArnold can be heard on Saturday nights at the Agave Restaurant in downtown Detroit and you can find more info at

You could feel the pride swell from the audience as another one of their very own, Tim Bowman took to the stage.  Clearly at ease and having fun, it was evident that he enjoyed entertaining his hometown crowd (which included his Gr. 1 teacher Mrs. Triplet).  Bowman performed several songs including the tracks Dance and Summer Groove from his latest CD, This Is What I Hear.  Brother Bryan Bowman played keys, while Randy Scott performed on the sax and EWI.   Fans’ reactions to two untitled tracks were so positive that Bowman gave them the impromptu titles of “Back to Southfield” and “Back to Southfield 2”.

Mike Dilorenzo - Urbanized

Then when you thought it just couldn’t get any hotter…flautist, Heads Up recording artist and Latin Grammy Award winner, NestorTorres unleashed Gypsy Dancer, one of several cuts from his record Sin Palabras (Without Words).  He followed up with the romantic Alejandro Sanz hit, Regalame La Silla Donde Te Espere, giving the translation “Give Me The Chair Where I Waited For You” to a charmed crowdHe thrilled one and all with a traditional Latin number learned from his father called Miami Beach Rumba and the changing tempos captivated everyone!  Torres also invited fans to sing on the “hip-hop, salsa, charanga” tune, Labios Dulzes (Sweet Lips), a song produced by Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets.  A well-earned standing ovation emerged for Torres as he concluded his set poignantly with the classic tune, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 

Speaking of the Yellowjackets, their latest release Altered State is a must for your record collection and audience members could hardly contain themselves as Bob Mintzer (saxophone), Russell Ferrante (piano/keys), Jimmy Haslip (electric bass) and Marcus Baylor (drums), offered exciting and extended samples!  They completed their set with Evening News, a perfect ensemble piece showing off riveting drum/bass lines, progressive piano work and staccatoed sax licks.  They brought the house down! 

As the sun and the temperatures went down, headliner DavidSanborn revved it up!  He performed a few Marcus Miller tunes, from the bluesy-edged Full House and Benny to the contemporary jazz classic Maputo (from the quintessential Sanborn/Bob James album, Double Vision).  This latter number featured the screamin’ sax we all know and love.  It also highlighted some very impressive keyboard work by Ricky Peterson.  Sanborn delighted everyone with Chicago Song, and Richard Patterson broke it down on bass.  Big, big music!  Sanborn then changed the mood with the eternal Charlie Chaplin song, Smile and listeners wanting more can get it from his new CD, Closer.  He finished the evening as I hoped he would, with The Dream and I found myself in front of a large speaker waiting for that extended note…you know the one.  And what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said, except that it melts me… every time!

Drenched from the hot/hazy/humid day, and quenched from an unbelievable day of music, I left this park completely satisfied.  And lucky enough to experience it with friends who are new to jazz, it occurred to me…there’s just nothing like the first time.


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-D.J. Fazio