Jazz Music in Detroit

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Check out the best Jazz Music in Detroit! From live performances to new albums, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest in Jazz

Origins of Jazz in Detroit

Jazz first came to Detroit in the early 1900s with the migration of southern blacks to the city. The first jazz band in Detroit was the Wolverine Orchestra, which was formed in 1914. The Wolverine Orchestra was led by fiddle player Gordon Stoker, who would later become famous as a member of country music’s Jordanaires. In the 1920s, jazz began to be played in white nightclubs on Detroit’s “black bottom” area. One of the most popular clubs was the Graystone Ballroom, which featured such jazz greats as Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong.

The Jazz Scene in Detroit Today

Jazz music has been a staple in Detroit for many years. The city has a rich history when it comes to the genre, and there are still plenty of places to enjoy jazz today. While the scene may not be as large as it once was, there are still plenty of talented musicians keeping the jazz tradition alive in Detroit.


There are a number of great places to enjoy Jazz music in Detroit. From intimate clubs to concert halls, there’s something for everyone.

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café is one of the most popular Jazz venues in the city. Located in the heart of downtown, the Dirty Dog features live music 7 nights a week. The club has a cozy, intimate atmosphere, and it’s a great place to catch up-and-coming talent.

Another great option is Cliff Bell’s. Also located in downtown Detroit, Cliff Bell’s is a historic venue that first opened its doors in 1935. The club was recently renovated and restored to its original art deco glory. Today, Cliff Bell’s is one of the premier live music venues in the city, and it features a wide variety of genres, including Jazz, Blues, and R&B.

For those looking for a more traditional Jazz experience, there’s always the Motor City Casino Jazz Café. The casino is located just outside of downtown Detroit, and the Jazz Café is one of its most popular attractions. The café features live music 7 nights a week, and it has a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for enjoying some great food and drinks while you take in some excellent jazz performances.


There are many great jazz festivals in Detroit that feature top musicians from all over the world. These festivals are a great way to experience the city’s vibrant jazz scene.

The Detroit Jazz Festival is the largest and most well-known jazz festival in the city. It takes place every year in downtown Detroit and features many different genres of jazz.

The Be-Bop Get Down is another great festival that takes place in Detroit every year. This festival focuses on the bebop style of jazz and features some of the best musicians in this genre.

The Detroit International Jazz Festival is another great option for those who want to experience the city’s jazz scene. This festival takes place every other year and features a wide variety of different styles of jazz.

Prominent Detroit Jazz Musicians

The city of Detroit has been home to many great jazz musicians over the years. From Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk, Detroit has been a hotbed for jazz music. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent Detroit jazz musicians.

Marcus Belgrave

Born in Chester, PA, in 1936, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave moved to Detroit in 1953. He quickly became an important part of the city’s musical landscape, playing with top local talent like Paul Chambers, Tommy Flanagan, and Hank Jones. He also played on numerous recordings by Motown artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson. In the 1960s, Belgrave toured with saxophonist Ray Charles and trumpeter Chet Baker. He returned to Detroit in the 1970s and continued to perform and teach extensively. He also led the jazz program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1980 to 1985. Belgrave passed away in 2015, but his legacy continues to influence jazz musicians in Detroit and around the world.

Ron Carter

Ron Carter is a Detroit-born jazz musician who is best known for his work as a bassist with the Miles Davis Quintet. Carter has also worked extensively as a sideman, on his own as a leader, and in a wide variety of other jazz groups. He is one of the most recorded bassists in jazz history, with over 2,000 recordings to his credit.

Born in 1937, Carter began playing cello at an early age before switching to bass. He studied at the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music before embarking on his professional career in the late 1950s. His first major gig was with the Miles Davis Quintet, which he joined in 1963. He remained with the group until 1968, appearing on such classic albums as E.S.P., Miles Smiles, and Sorcerer.

After leaving Davis, Carter established himself as one of the most sought-after sidemen in jazz, playing on several hundred recordings over the next two decades. He also released a series of highly acclaimed solo albums beginning in the 1970s, and continued to lead his own groups throughout his career. In addition to his work as a musician, Carter has also been active as a educator, serving on the faculty of several universities including Rutgers University and Michigan State University.

Carter has been honored with many of the top awards in jazz, including induction into the DownBeat Hall of Fame (1981) and the Jazz Journalists Association Hall of Fame (2013). He was also awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship in 2012.

Geri Allen

Geri Allen is a world-renowned jazz pianist, composer, and educator from Detroit. She has performed and recorded with some of the most prestigious names in music, including Paul Motian, Jackie McLean, Tony Williams, Ornette Coleman, and many others. A five-time GRAMMY nominee, Allen was recently named a NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor for jazz artists.

The Future of Jazz in Detroit

As the birthplace of jazz, it’s no surprise that Detroit has a long and rich history with the genre. The city has produced some of the most influential jazz artists of all time, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. Today, Detroit is home to a robust jazz scene, with a number of venues and festivals dedicated to the genre.

However, the future of jazz in Detroit is not guaranteed. The city has been facing economic hardship in recent years, and this has had an impact on the jazz scene. Venues have closed, and festivals have been cancelled. Some worry that Detroit is at risk of losing its status as a jazz hub.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of jazz in Detroit. The city’s musical heritage is deep-rooted and resilient, and there is a new generation of musicians who are passionate about keeping the genre alive. With support from the community, Detroit can continue to be a vibrant center for jazz music.

Similar Posts