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September 04, 2014 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-04

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T Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

the b-side

Thursday, September 4, 2014- 3B


From Page 1B
"For me, music and life are all
about style."- Miles Davis
The first night of the Detroit
Jazz Festival is graced with a
nearly cloudless evening sky; as
the sun sets behind the Ernst &
Young building, a light breeze
sweeps across Campus Martius,
resulting in a temperature that
can be described only, perhaps
fittingly, as cool. "Cool" is a
term that gets thrown around
quite often, but it is really best
associated with this style called
Jazz, a style noted for its freedom,
improvisation and discipline
coupled with an unwavering
finesse. Cool can be interpreted
in so many ways: attractive or
impressive, calm and composed
and controlled. This night, this
Labor Day weekend in Detroit, it's
about the music, it's about history,
and most importantly, it's about
The festival's setup is simple
enough: four stages, one at
Cadillac Square next to Campus
Martius,the other three scattered
throughout Hart Plaza with the
audience facing the waterfront.
Woodward Avenue is blocked 'off
for pedestrian use from Jefferson
Avenue to Monroe Street, the
roads filled with food trucks
selling Memphis-style barbecue
and grilled chicken and tents
selling albums, t-shirts, concert
merchandise - the works. As
the evening turns to night, the
streets become more packed and
more lively as the sounds of jazz
fill the Detroit night sky: a rolling
bass line here, a smooth piano lick
there and the sweet, sweet bellow
of a tenor sax cutting through
the air. The audience bops their
heads; they close their eyes and
feel the beat, applause, repeat.
There's a rhythm to it.
The festival spans four days,
Friday evening to Monday,
with Saturday and Sunday
being the most filled in terms of
performances. The artists span
from well-known musicians to
up-and-comers to University Big
Bands, the content ranges from
new material to tribute acts. The
lineup is composed through a
meticulous, year-round process
"We weave artists in a way that
makes sense. I don't believe in
putting a bunch of artists in the
room and going 'make something
happen!' Bands are not just off
the shelf," said Chris Collins, the
festival's artistic director for the
past three years and a professor
and director of jazz studies at
Wayne State University.
As artistic director, Collins
is responsible for compiling
the festival's lineup, which
includes a constant search for
both established and new talent,
nationally and local to Detroit.
He places an importance on an
artist's abilitytodonewinnovative
things in the community, whether
it's creatingnewsounds orhelping
with educational pursuits. Both
of these are cornerstones of
jazz: Innovation couples with
improvisation, and education pairs
with history and recognizing one's
"We allbeginby beinginspired,
sometimes by a single artist; it

might be John Coltrane or Lester
Young. Whoever it is, it started
at that point, but very soon you
realize you have to move forward
and you have to move back
equally," Collins said. "You have to
move in all directions to develop as
an artist, to fill inthe holes."
The result is a well-rounded
lineup, one that is especially
impressive given that the festival
is free for everyone. Mike Ross,
Atlanta native and self-described
jazz enthusiast, travels the country
to jazz festivals like this one.
He attended the Newport Jazz
Festival in Rhode Island three
weeks ago, but claims the Detroit
Jazz Festival tops it: "This is one
of the best lineups in the country
I've ever seen, and it's free," he
because of some woman, or
some man, or for some color, or
for some wealth, you can't be
And it's that emphasis on a
free show that is most prideful
to Collins. "It is the belief of the
festival that it needs to remain
free," he said. "It cannot exclude
any person. It's essential in
order to keep the bar level so
that everyone involved has an
experience with the art and the

Funding for the festival
comes from numerous sponsors
including JPMorgan Chase,
Comcast and the various casinos
in Detroit. Noticeably absent
are any of the Detroit 3: Ford
Motor Co., General Motors
and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Ford pulled its sponsorship from
the festival back in 2005, while
Chrysler pulled out just this year
after serving as the presenting
sponsor for the past two years.
These withdrawals beg the
question of just how "Detroit"
a festival can be without the
support of the companies that
define the city, especially with GM
headquarters in the Renaissance
Center peering down directly over
the festival grounds. But Collins is
confident in the festival's ability to
recoup any losses.
"We rely on a lot of different
funding sources, including
businesses and personal donors.
The festival never relies on any
one single source," he said. "That
being said, it is the largest free
jazz festival in the world and
the programming and size of it
competes with many of the largest
jazz festivals in the world, so it is a
To encourage individuals to
give money to the festival, certain
rewards are offered for large
donations. Becoming a "Guardian
of Jazz" - requiring a donation
ranging from $500 to $5,000-plus
- resultsain such perks as reserved
seating sections directly in front of
the stage, an artist meet-and-greet
and an invitation to the opening
night VIP party. The party is
attended by many of jazz's current
great talents and features a menu
inspired by Memphis and New
Orleans cuisine - with a Detroit
twist - as well as a small, intimate
performance by a jazz band, all
setting thetone for the weekend.
Jazz Speaks for Life
This suggests a sort of
economic separation, but in
reality the festival is a melding of
characters, classes and cultures
- men and women dressed in
University of Michigan football
jerseys sit next to those clad in
the most expensive of suits. It's a
testament to the power of jazz.
"(Jazz is) emblematic of the
freedom, that we all yearn for in
our lives. It's about the ability to
be creative; it speaks to the need
for everybody to be free. Jazz is a
very democratic music,"said Ellen
Rowe, professor and chair of jazz
and contemporary improvisation
at the University, who also
performed in the festival with her
quintet this year. "Everybody has
an equal voice."
That voice, the voice of jazz,
is the theme of the festival: Jazz
speaks for life. It's a phrase
included in the opening address
of Martin Luther King, Jr., at the
1964 Berlin Jazz Festival in which
he declared, "(Jazz) is triumphant
music. Modern jazz has continued
in this tradition, singing the songs
of a more complicated urban
existence.When life itself offers no
order and meaning, the musician
the sounds of the earth which flow
through his instrument."
To Collins, "Jazz speaks for
life" connects the personal to the
communal. "The music of jazz
reflects the time, embraces the

moment and the culture. But "Jazz
speaks for life" is a suggestion of
how artists embrace their unique
individual existence and their
collective experiences. Their
individual life is represented
always at every club, gig or
recording session; it is a reflection
ofwho theyare andtheir particular
lifestyle," he said.
Much of that lifestyle is directly
impacted by the past; so much of
jazz requires looking to the past,
to the old masters. "I think it'svery
important to honor the legacy of
the music, to honor the artists to
come before us," Rowe said.
"When you're creating your
own shit, man, even the sky
ain't the limit."
To honor that past, Collins
assembled more tribute acts than
in years past, including Friday
night's "A Night at the Apollo," a
medley performance in the spirit
of the Apollo Theater in Harlem
that doubled as a jazz history'
lesson. The night also featured
tributes to Miles Davis and Nat
King Cole, among others. These
tributes were not impersonations,
however, but rather stepping
stones to achieving one's own
"The tribute is an homage as
recognizing the importance of

history and the legacy of what
the music is about, but also a
departure point for creating
something new based on an
existing model," Collins said.
"Jazz musicians have always
embraced the history; that doesn't
mean you have to learn every solo
and transcribe every piece, but
everything you study, everything
you break down becomes your
own voice. The hope is through
that exploration the artist can find
his own voice, his own unique
statement and through that can
contribute to the history."
To contribute to history is to
create something eternal, resilient
to time. Perhaps that's why it's so
fitting - or rather, so important -
that Detroit hosts and continues
to host this festival.
"Few cities can boast a
historic connection to jazz and
the jazz vocabulary as a whole.
We have something very special
here," Collins said. "We in this
community understand the
importance of that connection
to that legacy. All that is very
important to the Detroit sound
now and in the past. I think that's
why this yearI chose to havea few
more nods to the past, as asway of
making a strong statement."
Detroit boasts a rich musical
history, and despite the times,-
it continues to crank out new
artists. "Detroit is one of the
most important hotbeds,
most important spots for the
development of music, right there
with New York and Kansas City
and Chicago," Rowe said.
"In Detroit we keep turning
[artists] out," Collins said. "The
environment and the DNA of
the culture encourage artists
to pursue the art as voraciously
as they did 50 years ago. The
difference is we don't hear about
it. I'm a believer that we keep
One of the goals of the Detroit
Jazz Festival, then, is to find
those artists, to give them the
tools - whether it's education,
instruments or a stage - to have
their musical voices heard. That's
how Collins sees the future of the
"You have to look at it as a
year-round project to understand
the breadth of what we're doing:
different ways of enhancing
the community, supporting our
clubs and schools and the festival
proper, continuing to hone the
flow from stage to stage, from day
today, continuing to enhance the
festival with our projects."
The remainder of that
responsibility to the music, to
the culture of jazz, rests with the
listeners, the self-proclaimed jazz
enthusiasts and newly affiliated
alike, to go out and find the music.
"Many are doing it at the
university level which is get out
and play," Collinsasaid. "There are
plenty of clubs and jam sessions.
Get out and play: Let yourself
be heard, start bands, play at
that coffee house. Practice your
art and always make sure you're
integrating with the mentors in
your community."
And when the outside search
for the music is combined with
the festival itself, Collins believes,
the result is something incredible:
"There's something emotionally
and spiritually powerful about
that. I want people to realize that
they are a part of the functioning

organism that is the Detroit Jazz
"You have to play a long time to
be able to play like yourself."
Anne Ross of Detroit sits
quietly in the back of the VIP
seating area, dressed elegantly yet
unassumingly. She's asked if she's
ever seen Miles Davis. She grins,
as though she knows a great secret,
and nodsher head, "I've seen them
all basically." "VIP" is a bit of an
understatement to describe Ross.
A native of Chicago, she not only
has been listening to jazz since
the 1950s; she fed and housed
some of the greats before they
became great.She doesn't learn the
history, she lived it -she's seen the
evolutionof Jazz.
"It's changed. Definitely
changed. But it's so good to see the
young listeners getinvolved."
As the first act of the festival,
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman
closes their set, the audience
gives a standing ovation. Her age
making it more difficult to rise,
Ross remains seated, but claps as
enthusiastically, perhaps more so,
than the rest. A wide smile now
rests on her face as she looks up
at the stage with passion and
"I couldn't ask for abetter night
for this."

RevelIing in-.horror

Daily Literary Columnist
Putting another book on top
was never enough. I built veritable
fortresses, arranging towers of.
chapter books on all sides of the
hideous thing to block it from'
my view. Even after I would set-
tle safely on the other side of the
room with my Barbies in tow,
there was always a prickle of
awareness, as if the buried book
pulsated with malevolence.
Some days it proved too
much for my cowardly heart to
stand, and with a deep breath
I would pick up the book, close
my eyes, run the few steps to
my older sister's room and toss
it through her door. The book
I'm referring to was, of course,
Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories
to Tell in The Dark," aka the
nightmarish "children's" book
that caused many a millennial a
sleepless night.
While most of the book's
power to disturb lies in its
ghoulish, surrealistic illustra-
-tions by Stephen Gammell, it
also served as the first introduc-
tion for many readers, myself
included, to what I consider to
be the most satisfying type of
short story: the horror/suspense
This type of short story is
rooted in the format and sensi-
bilities of earlier oral storytell-
ing traditions, traditions that
continue today when we tell
ghost stories around a camp-
fire or swap urban legends at
a slumber party. In general, a
short story uses the conven-
tional dramatic structure to
examine a singular event, which
thus encourages a specific mood
within the reader. In the case of
the horror/suspense tale, this
mood is fear.
Fear is an innate emotion.
Fear is also by its very nature
fleeting. Asa reaction to a per-
ceived threat, fear forces us
into a fight-or-flight response,
essentially making us choose
between confronting the per-
ceived threat or running away
from it.
Conflict is thus not only the
essence of drama, but also of
fear. The horror/suspense tale is
doubly bolstered by this intrin-
sic struggle towards some sort

of resolution or at least change
in state. The length of a short
story also works to the advan-
tage of this type of tale as it
sustains in totality the reader's
sense of fear longer than pos-
sible in a novel, but with a
deeper intensity than can be
accomplished through a simple
The horror/suspense tale also
provides the joy of emotional
release for feelings we may not
otherwise be able to alleviate
in our daily lives. Ina perverse
way, we like to be scared, but
only if it's on our own terms.
Things like horror movies and
scary stories present us a safe,
distant experience in which to
work through our emotions of
If, dear reader, you doubt my
evolutionary and structural
arguments as to why the best
short stories are also the scari-
est, the proof is most assuredly
in the pudding.,
We start with the undisputed
master of mystery and maca-
bre, Edgar Allan Poe. Though I
could reiterate praise for Poe's
most famous short stories such
as "The Cask of Amontillado"
and "The Tell-Tale Heart," and
truly wax poetic on the intense-
ly disturbing "Bernice," my
favorite short story of his would
have to be "The Masque of the
Red Death." The title in and of
itself is rather chilling.
"The Masque-of the Red
Death" tells the tale of Prince
Prospero who, when the illness
known as the "Red Death" rav-
ages his country, holes up in his
castle with other nobles in an
attempt to escape the disease.
In an effort to entertain them-
selves, a masquerade is held. All
is well until a mysterious party-
goer arrives dressed as a victim
of the "Red Death."
The story is incredibly paced,
and filled with haunting imag-
ery that is unmistakably Poe.
The "Red Death" is described in
terrifying detail, making it steem
alarmingly grounded in real-
ity. The story's end, along with
its message in general about
death's ultimate dominion over
all, doesn't leave the reader
breathless from anxiety, but
rather disconcertingly pensive.
Another American master-

piece, William Faulkner's "A
Rose for Emily," is a bit of a slow
burner. The story centers on the
eccentric and reclusive Emily
Grierson, who serves as the last
vestiges of the tradition and
grandeur of the antebellum era
for a small southern communi-
ty. Upon her death, the curious
townspeople enter her previ-
ously isolated home and make a
shockingly morbid discovery.
"A Rose for Emily" attests
to Faulkner's mastery of the
Southern Gothic, complete with
decrepit mansion and twisted
psyche. While the story doesn't
have quite the same opulence
as "The Masque of the Red
Death," "A Rose for Emily" is
filled with poignant observa-
tions on a society in transition
and those who are left behind
because of such transforma-
Lastly, we come to what I
consider to be one of, if not
the greatest, American short
story of the last century: Joyce
Carol Oates' "Where Are You
Going, Where Have You Been?"
There's a reason-this is one of
the most highly anthologized
short stories, and if you haven't
read it before, I beg you, go
read it now.
"Where Are You Going,
Where Have You Been?" cen-
ters around a vain but typical
teenager named Connie. Left
alone at home one afternoon,
Connie is accosted by Arnold
Friend, a mysterious man, with
only a screen door as protec-
tion. If your breath doesn't
quicken and your palms don't
start to sweat when reading
this story, you have steelier
nerves than I.
It's a disturbing representa-
tion of the dangers girls face
when transitioning into adult
sexuality. And while the devil-
like Arnold Friend may serve
as an extreme example of these
dangers, the truth behind the
hyperbole ringstrue.
So whether you're looking
for-a good read or a good scare,
you'll find the best of both worlds
in tales of horror/suspense. Just
makes sure to leave the light on.
Prosniewski is reading Poe
by candlelight. Tojoin her,
e-mail gpros@umich.edu.

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