As the sounds of trumpets, keyboards and violins get louder and more melodious, the Detroit Jazz Festival is just weeks away from fruition. This is a chance to thank one of the jazz greats of Detroit, Christopher Harrington, for his contribution.
Harrington, a keyboard artist, managing director of the Paradise Jazz Series for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and former marketing manager of the Detroit Jazz Festival, came up with an idea for JazzPlanet.tv, an interactive web experience that streamed live and taped performances, interviews and commentary from the festival to 175 countries in 2011 and 2012.
Thanks to that pioneering effort, the Detroit Jazz Festival announced this year a mobile app that streams performances from downtown Detroit throughout the four-day festival weekend, September 2 – 5. You can find the app at http://www.detroitjazzfest.com/detroit-jazz-fest-live-streaming-app.html. It is available for $30 for full weekend.
For those who sign up early there’s a special fan appreciation initiative that lets you purchase the app at a 50 percent discount. That’s only $15 for the entire weekend, giving you access to more than 50 performances.
“I would say Detroit is a hotbed for jazz, its rich legacy and its continuing talent. It deserved a national stage,” Harrington says.
With any luck, festival organizers say, it will be an annual app, widely used by jazz lovers everywhere.
This year, the streaming app was made possible with a donation from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a New York City-based non-profit that gives grants to support the performing arts, among other activities.
The jazz fest is close to Harrington’s heart, having spent five years working closely with Gretchen Valade, chairwoman of the board, to make a go of it.
“I stood back stage and looked out at all the people from all walks of life, all socio-economic status, all colors,” he says. “Everyone was on the same page, brought together by the power of jazz. And I knew I had to keep working on this for the rest of my life.”
Harrington came to the Jazz Festival in 2007, bringing a combined degree in music and business from Wayne State University. He was tapped by Valade to reorganize the accounts after years of neglect. He worked hand-in- hand with his mentor, Terri Pontremoli, in shaping the rebranding initiative, marketing, public relations and new media to the masses on Labor Day. The festival – and Detroit jazz in general – continues and gets better.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra recruited Harrington in 2012 to work his magic on the orchestra as patron development and sales manager. He came up with the concept of Jazz, Family and summer programming, which last year exceed the revenue goal of $1 million. He also took leadership of the Paradise Jazz Series, paying homage to the 75th anniversary of Paradise Theatre, the name before it became Orchestra Hall.
“From 1941 to 1951 the Paradise Theatre hosted Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald. It was one of the premier jazz venues of America. We pay homage to that legacy,” Harrington says.
Among the Paradise Jazz concerts slated this fall are the Chick Corea Trio on October 7 and Dianne Reeves, Christmas Time Is Here on Thursday, December 1. Corea is a former DSO Erb jazz chair and National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) jazz master who thrives as a conversational piano improviser.
Since Harringon took charge of Paradise Jazz Series, the concerts have had tremendous growth for each of the five seasons, from 800 patrons to 1,600. All but two concerts were sell outs. He credits Erb chair, jazz guitarist and composer Terrence Blanchard for helping make the series a success on two counts, patronage and diversity. The series represents the most diverse attendance of any DSO event.
“Blanchard isn’t just talented. He is a world-class jazz musician whose composition, ‘A Tale of God’s Will,’ was part of Spike Lee’s film, ‘When the Levees Broke,'” Harrington says.
“We have world class jazz in Detroit, we have the very best, at the Detroit Jazz Festival, the Paradise Jazz Series and all year long.”
Among the stars at this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival are Ron Carter, the Ron Carter Trio and Ron Carter Great Big Band, Stanley Cowell Quintet, PUBLIQuartet, Charlie Gabriel Quartet and the David McMurray Trio/Detroit 3. Click here for a complete list.