Jazz Fest Finds New Sponsor

The Detroit International Jazz Festival is expected see its 26th anniversary this Labor Day weekend after all, with a new sponsor injecting $250,000 into the event.

Ford Motor Co. said in February it would not renew its $250k title sponsorship, leaving the festival producer, the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, in a scramble to find a new sponsor. Independent label Mack Avenue Records, which has ties to Detroit, said it would cover the sponsorship costs with the stipulation the festival remain on Labor Day weekend.

The event, named Detroit International Jazz Festival Produced by Music Hall, is expected to be anchored at Hart Plaza with performances expanding into the new Campus Martius park September 3-5.

Label president Tom Robinson told the Detroit Free Press that Mack Avenue does not want its name in the festival title because the commercial implications would be distasteful.

Mack Avenue CEO Gretchen Valade is member of the Music Hall board as well as chairwoman of the Carhartt clothing company. The label’s roster includes jazz artists Terry Gibbs, Gerald Wilson and Sean Jones.

Six Mack Avenue acts played at last year’s jazz fest, but the label reportedly did not stipulate its artists be on this year’s lineup. In fact, there will probably be fewer Mack artists because the festival and label prefer not to repeat the performances of the previous year.

The Music Hall board approved the plan March 24th. Mack helped sponsor the event the last two years, spending $90,000 on the last festival.

Organizers considered moving the jazz fest to August 5-7 so it would not compete with Pontiac’s popular Arts, Beats & Eats street festival, which outdraws the jazz fest two-to-one, and had a reported 1.2 million visitors last year.