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The Motor City, Motown and Jazz

Annual Detroit Jazz Fest revives links to an early era of musical -- and motoring -- innovation.

by on Aug.29, 2014

McCoy Tyner at the 2013 Detroit Jazz Fest

What has long been known as the Motor City has done more than just put America on wheels. It’s also helped create much of the music Americans have listened to on their car radios.

The Motown sound emerged from a small, run-down studio filled with eager young talents like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, many of whom grew up in tough inner-city neighborhoods where opportunity meant getting a job on the assembly line, getting a gig in a band, or struggling for each meal. But long before Berry Gordy launched his record label, Detroit was already a major force on the national music scene. And the sounds of jazz and blues that filled the city’s clubs and dance halls were fueled by the same force, the auto industry.

The Last Word!

The Labor Day weekend brings with it the annual Detroit Jazz Festival which, after three decades, has become the world’s largest free jazz gathering, and event that brings out some of the biggest names of that genre – more than a few with long ties to the Motor City, including the likes of bassist Ron Carter, violinist Regina Carter, and pianist Barry Harris.

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