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Bennie Maupin And Dolphyana On JazzSet

"I'm all alone in this big city of Detroit / Won't somebody please have pity?" sings host Dee Dee Bridgewater with the Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra.

Bridgewater comes out on stage at the 2009 Detroit Jazz Festival and declares, "I'm a Flintstone." Growing up in Flint, Mich., she auditioned for Motown but was too young for a contract. That's okay; she wanted to be on Capitol like Nancy Wilson. Bridgewater is one of the last jazz singers to get her start in a big band, and at the 2009 Detroit Jazz Festival, she reciprocates. She pulls the Michigan State University Jazz Orchestra to a new level on the Slide Hampton arrangement of "If You Can't Sing It, You'll Have to Swing It/Mr. Paganini." You can hear her take charge, and hear the student group rise to the challenge.

Our highlights of the 2009 Detroit Jazz Festival feature multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin, who credits the Detroit Public Schools for a musical education that was so good, it prepared him for a lifelong career in jazz. It's a diverse career, strongly influenced by a single flute lesson with Eric Dolphy (1928-64). In 2008, working with flutist James Newton, who had received a stash of newly discovered compositions by Dolphy, Maupin put together a West Coast quintet to play them. Newton was unable to come to Detroit, so Latin flutist Nestor Torres took his place; as always, Torres is in command of his music. The rhythm section has a magical quality and stirs the humid summer air. If you are unfamiliar, this is a fine reprise of two of Dolphy's best-known compositions from Out to Lunch -- off-center and intriguing, then and now.

The Juilliard Jazz Ensemble balances an original by pianist Donald Vega with a familiar piece by Thelonious Monk. Engineer Mike Konopka, who spent three solid days recording the music on the Waterfront Stage, says these back-to-back pieces from the JJE were two of the best he'd heard all weekend, and WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton selected them as favorites, too.

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Becca Pulliam