2014-09-06 / News

Audiences, Musicians Find Common Ground at Jazz Weekend


Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham (pictured), hotel jazz musicians, and Nashville vocalist Rachael Davis opened for Tito Puenti, Jr. in the Tea Garden Sunday. Rain Saturday forced the Delfeayo and Ellis Marsalis concert indoors. Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham (pictured), hotel jazz musicians, and Nashville vocalist Rachael Davis opened for Tito Puenti, Jr. in the Tea Garden Sunday. Rain Saturday forced the Delfeayo and Ellis Marsalis concert indoors. This year’s sold-out Labor Day Jazz Weekend at Grand Hotel proved that good musicians who enjoy where they are playing and who resonate with the audience can overcome the most dreary fall days. It really didn’t matter much that heavy rains swept the streets outside, as Delfeayo and Ellis Marsalis played to a packed room inside the hotel on Saturday. The hard work was done by the hotel managers, servers and maintenance staff, Larry Palmer’s sound crew, and organizer Karla Rice, who moved the venue between the Tea Garden and the Theater as quickly as the weather forecasters changed their mind. Predictions of the weather in the Straits of Mackinac are never very accurate, but the heavy concert piano and complicated sound equipment have to be set up just right.


Mark Braun, the boogie woogie pianist from Ann Arbor, known as Mr. B, opened Saturday for Delfeayo Marsalis. He has since loaded his piano on a bicycle and is riding the Joybox Express on a Mississippi River Road Ride from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to New Orleans, promoting music education and athletics along the way. The 2,000-mile journey can be followed at joyboxexpress.com. Mr. B hopes to reach the Louisiana port by mid-November. Mark Braun, the boogie woogie pianist from Ann Arbor, known as Mr. B, opened Saturday for Delfeayo Marsalis. He has since loaded his piano on a bicycle and is riding the Joybox Express on a Mississippi River Road Ride from Lake Itasca, Minnesota, to New Orleans, promoting music education and athletics along the way. The 2,000-mile journey can be followed at joyboxexpress.com. Mr. B hopes to reach the Louisiana port by mid-November. “It was a particularly fun weekend,” said Grand Hotel Music Director Alex Graham, “and I’m really impressed with how the hotel staff responded to that and made it happen, pulled things together Saturday morning when we went inside, how they were able to go the extra mile to move grand pianos, which is not easy to do.”

To the guests, he noted, all the changes seemed seamless.


Headliner Delfeayo Marsalis, on trombone, brought his father, famous pianist Ellis Marsalis, to the Grand Hotel Jazz Weekend and the two performed the Saturday afternoon concert in the Theatre and Sunday morning gospel program on the front porch. Headliner Delfeayo Marsalis, on trombone, brought his father, famous pianist Ellis Marsalis, to the Grand Hotel Jazz Weekend and the two performed the Saturday afternoon concert in the Theatre and Sunday morning gospel program on the front porch. “I don’t think anyone was left disappointed that the concert was held indoors Saturday,” he said.

The Marsalis duo finally got to see the sun Sunday morning when they presented the gospel program on the front porch of the hotel, and Tito Puente, Jr. and his talented group of musicians took over the Tea Garden later that day for the finale to the weekend festival.

The Puente band members were some of the most friendly and outgoing musicians to perform at these annual weekend concerts, and made it apparent they were having a great time. A new generation of musicians playing classic, drum-filled Latin jazz, they posed the audience for selfies on their cell phones and posted their adventure on their Facebook pages.


Lana Rae and Dave Higgins of Shawnee, Kansas, attended their 24th Labor Day Jazz Weekend at Grand Hotel this year and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary August 16. Lana Rae and Dave Higgins of Shawnee, Kansas, attended their 24th Labor Day Jazz Weekend at Grand Hotel this year and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary August 16. Other performers during the weekend were John Pizzaarelli, Jr. and his guitarist father, Bucky, French singer Cyrille Aimée on a return visit, boogiewoogie master Mr. B, Benny Goodman aficionado Dave Bennett, bassist Paul Keller, Nashville singer Rachael Davis, and radio personality and announcer Paul Anthony, who continued his tradition of interviewing the headliners on the mornings before their concerts.

Mr. Graham’s hotel musicians are as notable, and he led some of them in opening for Mr. Puente Sunday, in addition to playing throughout the weekend in the Terrace Room and at receptions and late night venues.


Diane and Jim Edwards of Springfield, Illinois, enjoy lunch Sunday, August 31, in the Tea Garden, where Tito Puente, Jr. performed. They are both retired from Springfield School District #186. Diane and Jim Edwards of Springfield, Illinois, enjoy lunch Sunday, August 31, in the Tea Garden, where Tito Puente, Jr. performed. They are both retired from Springfield School District #186. “We always have a good time,” he said Wednesday, September 4, from his second home in Nashville.

“To be in an environment with so many great musicians and with an audience that is here for the music, I think we feel that energy and enthusiasm. I think we all had a good time.

“The audience,” he said, “seemed really happy with all the performers.”

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