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Ron Carter opens Detroit Jazz Festival / Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Jazz Festival is like the Super Bowl of jazz for aficionados. The event spans four days, unfolds on four stages in downtown Detroit and features 60 bands encompassing international stars, connoisseur favorites and local heroes. And the music, which continues through Monday evening, won't cost you a cent. The Detroit festival is the largest free jazz festival in the world.

But the event - which opened its 37th year Friday night at Cadillac Square with 2016 artist-in-residence Ron Carter, one of the world's preeminent bassists and a native Detroiter - is also like the Super Bowl in another way: The festival's appeal transcends experts. Just as the football game attracts millions of viewers who don't follow a team every Sunday, the jazz festival has become a  destination for tens of thousands of casual music fans for whom jazz may not be an everyday passion but who dig the attitude, the spirit and creativity.

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