Birmingham Jazz Festival
We're not talking about the Birmingham in Alabama or across the pond in England; this is the upscale hamlet just outside of Detroit. And we're focusing on the geodesic dome in Shain Park, where a noble experiment was launched 43 years ago. City fathers recruited native Detroiter Dave Usher to produce a Birmingham Jazz Festival, hoping to utilize his experience and contacts as a record producer.
During the '50s, Usher joined with Dizzy Gillespie to found Dee Gee Records and later became jazz A&R man for Argo/Chess, producing such artists as Ahmad Jamal and James Moody. In 1960, as impresario, he managed to put together an eclectic package that included pianist Junior Mance; harmonica player and guitarist "Toots" Thielemans, drummer J. C. Heard, tenor saxophonist Sandy Mosse and vibist Lem Wincheste. Among thelocal players were pianists Bess Bonnier and Johnny Griffith, bassist Nick Fiore and drummer Dick Riordan.