Imagine getting in a car and traveling to a series of interconnected jazz festivals up and down the coasts of Michigan.
From Traverse City to Bay City to Detroit – and a plethora of cities in between and beyond. National headliners sharing stages with regional jazz musicians as well as high school and college students. Outdoor venues and historic theaters. Blues, Dixieland, soul mixed in. Workshops and after-hours jam sessions.
There is, of course, each fall’s massive Detroit International Jazz Festival. Also home to blues and jazz festivals are Alpena, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Mackinac Island, Marshall and Petoskey.
But there is little coordination and cross marketing between them — such as exists with the Mississippi Blues Trail and the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky.
Enter Midlander Molly McFadden and the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival. For 5 years running, the Michigan Jazz Trail of the Great Lakes Bay Region has provided a place for fans and performers of jazz music to come together to celebrate the work they love. While music is the focus, artists come together to create music, poems, and paintings inspired by historical figures in jazz. They’ve attracted world-renowned performers like Wynton Marsalis, Ramsey Lewis, and John Pizzarelli to grace local stages.
McFadden envisions the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival partnering with all the others in the state and adopting the signature name Michigan Jazz Trail.
“We eventually want a continuous jazz circuit that winds through the state during the summer and ends on Labor Day in Detroit,” says McFadden.
“In addition to celebrating our musical heritage, the eventual all-encompassing Michigan Jazz Trail partnership will promote cultural tourism and economic development throughout the state.”
McFadden is a 2001 transplant from New York City, a jazz singer who sang and performed in cabarets. She and her husband owned and operated Molly’s Bistro in downtown Midland for eight years, which presented jazz music every weekend — ranging from jazz trios, guitar soloists and jazz horns to the Harlem String Quartet.