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Detroit Jazz Festival announces national jazz competitions

As part of its mission to foster and support jazz throughout the country, the Detroit Jazz Festival is now accepting submissions for two national competitions – saxophone performance and jazz arrangement – that will be judged by prominent jazz artists and educators, with prize money totaling $5,000 and the chance to perform at the Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day Weekend, August 31 through September 3.
The Detroit Jazz Festival’s JC Heard Jazz Big Band Arranging Competition and Jazz Saxophone Competition are the first of the annual competitions designed to highlight a specific jazz composer and celebrate the artistry of the saxophonist and arranger by encouraging new works from young talent throughout the U.S.
“The inaugural jazz saxophonist and arrangement competitions help seek out talented artists that deserve recognition,” said Chris Collins, artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival, in a recent news release. “It is important to help new and emerging artists establish a presence in the jazz world and continue developing their talents to hopefully become a permanent fixture. One of the definitive goals of jazz artists is to develop a highly individualized voice, and a goal of the festival is to positively contribute to jazz music and culture. This is one way we can merge these goals and make a difference.”
Arrangers will be asked to choose a composition from a significant jazz composer’s body of work, determined by the festival, and create an original arrangement for a designated ensemble. For the 2012 competition, individuals – 35 years and younger – are invited to arrange a Wayne Shorter composition of their choice for big band instrumentation with a featured soloist. Judges will include Collins; Terence Blanchard, 2012 Artist in Residence; Ellen Rowe, director of jazz studies, University of Michigan; and Russ Miller, department of jazz studies, Wayne State University. One grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and have the opportunity to see their arrangement performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival by the Detroit All-Star Big Band and a guest soloist. Two finalists will also be awarded with $500 each.
The jazz saxophonist competition seeks to recognize and provide performance opportunities to outstanding jazz saxophonists 32 years of age or younger. Applicants are asked to provide three tracks featuring a saxophonist with a rhythm section. Three finalists will be selected and scheduled to appear in Detroit to perform at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café on August 9, 2012, and at Cliff Bell’s Jazz Club on August 10, 2012. A panel of judges, including Blanchard, Collins and acclaimed Detroit saxophonist George Benson, will select the grand-prize winner and finalists. The winner will be awarded $2,000 and will be scheduled to perform a set at the Detroit Jazz Festival with the Detroit Jazz Festival All-Star Quartet. In addition, two finalists will be awarded $500 each.
“We are continually looking for the best ways to celebrate the jazz culture and its artists,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation board of directors. “The launch of these competitions, combined with the festival’s other efforts, provide a great foundation for developing future jazz talent. The festival has always been dedicated to acknowledging the importance of jazz within our communities.”
In addition to the events on Labor Day weekend, the Detroit Jazz Festival organizes year-round cultural and educational efforts, like the JC Heard Jazz Week@Wayne and the poetry slam series, to cultivate jazz in the community.
Artists can submit their applications online or by mail. 
To apply for the Jazz Saxophonist Competition, visit–submission deadline is July 15.
To apply for the Arranging Competition, visit–submission deadline is August 1.
To mail an entry, download an application at and send the completed form and score to: Detroit Jazz Festival, ­
19900 Harper Ave.,
Harper Woods, Mich. 48225
(Attn: Sax Competition or Arranging Competition, respectively).
Finalists must submit copied parts by August 15.
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Detroit Jazz Festival announces addition of Karriem Riggins, Common to 2011 festival lineup


In a recent news release, organizers of the Detroit Jazz Festival are pleased to announce an exciting addition to the festival lineup-a special collaboration with Detroit native drummer Karriem Riggins and hip hop artist Common on Monday, Sept. 5, 2011.

“This extraordinary presentation of jazz and hip hop gives the festival an opportunity to step out of the box and attract a new audience while maintaining the connection to the festival’s artistic core – jazz,” said Terri Pontremoli, festival artistic director. “The connections and gaps between the two genres will be celebrated on Labor Day on the JPMorgan Chase Stage.”
This kind of project is not unusual for Riggins, who has spent the better part of his career successfully straddling the two worlds of jazz and hip-hop. The Detroit native established his jazz chops under the tutelage of Betty Carter, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Burrell. In addition to being a mainstay in Diana Krall’s quartet, he has made a name for himself in hip hop circles as a producer and collaborator with the likes of Common, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Slum Village and Kanye West.
Common rose to prominence as one of hip hop’s most poetic and respected lyricists, having recorded over eight albums and garnering multiple Grammy Awards. The album Be with Kanye West garnered four Grammy nominations, and the Grammy award-winning Finding Forever debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. His ninth album, The Believer, The Dreamer, will be released in November 2011.
Other special guests joining Common and Riggins will be announced at a later date. For more information on Karriem Riggins, go to
For the full 2011 Detroit Jazz Festival artist roster, visit