Mack Avenue Records, a Detroit-area jazz record label, has agreed to become the festival's $250,000 lead sponsor. The six-year-old label records bandleader Gerald Wilson and trumpeter Sean Jones, among other artists. It was founded by Gretchen Valade, a member of the board of Detroit's Music Hall, which runs the jazz festival.
Before Mack Avenue stepped in, Music Hall officials had been considering moving the jazz festival from Labor Day weekend to early August, in order to avoid competition with a massive street fair in Pontiac, Michigan. But Valade insisted that the festival remain in its traditional slot.
According to the Free Press, Velade, who is also chair of the Carhartt clothing company, had no other conditions for supporting the festival. Mack Avenue declined to attach its name to the title of the festival or to boost the number of its artists on the schedule. "[Gretchen]'s doing it because she wants to save a Detroit tradition and not for commercial reasons," Music Hall president Sandy Duncan said.
Billed as the largest free jazz festival in North America, the event drew 600,000 people last year. Performers included Aretha Franklin, Jon Hendricks, Jon Faddis, Ramsey Lewis, James Carter, and George Benson.