Edgefest 2014: BAS(S)ically Sound
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Review of EDGEFEST 2014
A review of Edgefest 2014 by Lars Bjorn, President of the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, an organization that is one of our regular sponsors:
The acoustic bass was frequently at the center of this year’s Edgefest at Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, October 15–18, but that does not mean that the festival in any way was monochromatic. After all, the bass is part of almost all jazz performances whether edgy or not.
The four-day affair started on Tuesday night at Encore Records with a sneak peak of one of the key figures of improvised music: bassist William Parker. He also conducted a workshop (supported by SEMJA) with students at Scarlett Middle School on Wednesday, many of whom later showed up for the fun-filled Saturday parade led by Parker through the Farmers’ Market. Towards the end of the parade he had the youngsters chanting: “Cosmic Funk will save the world!”
Saturday night, Parker led an all-star ensemble of some of New York’s foremost avant players, including veteran pianist Dave Burrell and trombonist Steve Swell. Together with the formidable drummer Hamid Drake, Parker formed an incomparable rhythmic unit. Special guest with the group was tenorist Kidd Jordan from New Orleans who, at 79, was a veritable fountain of energy.
New York bassists Mark Helias and Mark Dresser excelled throughout the festival as they gave solo performances, played as a duo, or performed in small groups, topped off by a concert for a “body of basses” with University of Michigan bass professors Diana Gannett and Robert Hurst plus bass students at St Andrews Episcopal Church. Another unique bass feature was Jaribu Shahid’s Bass Quartet on opening night, with Detroit bass masters Marion Hayden, Kurt Krahnke, and John Dana.
The Second City as always contributed greatly to the festival starting with a Septet led by bassist Jason Roebke. Roebke’s arrangements balanced ensemble passages seamlessly with space for solos from players like Jeb Bishop on trombone and Josh Berman on cornet. A somewhat smaller ensemble led by trumpeter Russ Johnson celebrated the music of Eric Dolphy, to the delight of the audience. Dolphy’s Out To Lunch is a classic worth refreshing, and in the hands of Johnson it did sound like it was recorded today.
Myra Melford treated us to some of her brilliant pianisms on several of the tunes. Bassist Harrison Bankhead’s quartet from Chicago was also a powerhouse with saxophonist Ed Wilkerson at the front and Avreeayl Ra kicking on the drums. Saxophonist Mars Williams was a muscular saxophonist in Bankhead’s group as well as in a trio with hard-driving Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Chicago drummer Tim Daisy.
Deanna Relyea has managed to bring a number of special commissions to Edgefest over the years. This year, U-M’s own composer-saxophonist Andrew Bishop treated us to Low Life, which started out in low tones indeed: two bass clarinets and two basses. It did end up at the higher registers, perfectly executed by Bishop, Piotr Michalowski (bass clarinets) and two young bassists: Betsy Soukup and Ben Willis. Relyea should be congratulated for offering another stimulating festival to the community.
Photos from the festival
Row 1 (L to R):
- Mark Dresser (bass/composer) leading Diana Gannett (L), Robert Hurst (R), and University of Michigan double bass students at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
- Open Loose – Tony Malaby (soprano sax), Mark Helias (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums)
Row 2 (L to R):
- William Parker’s “In Order to Survive” – Steve Swell (trombone), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Kidd Jordan (tenor sax), and William Parker (bass)
- Jason Roebke Septet – Greg Ward (alto sax), Josh Berman (cornet), Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Jason Roebke (bass), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), and Mike Reed (drums)
- The Andrew Bishop Project with Andrew Bishop (contrabass clarinet), Betsy Soukup (bass), Ben Willis (bass), and Piotr Michalowski (bass clarinet)
Row 3 (L to R):
- Mark Dresser (bass/composer) and Mark Helias (bass/composer)
- Harrison Bankhead Quartet – Harrison Bankhead (bass), Ed Wilkerson (tenor sax), and Avreeayl Ra (drums)
- Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Trio – Mars Williams (tenor sax) and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass)
All photos by Lars Bjorn
WILLIAM PARKER LEADS THE EDGEFEST PARADE – OCT. 18, 2014
Bassist/composer William Parker leads middle school students on the annual parade through the Kerrytown neighborhood.
William Parker Leads the Edgefest Parade – Oct. 18, 2014
On the first day of the festival bassist/composer William Parker led workshops with students at a local middle school. On the closing day of the festival the students and other community members joined Parker for the annual parade around the Kerrytown neighborhood – surprising unsuspecting shoppers at the Saturday morning farmers market!
Kerrytown Concert House presents the 18th annual Edgefest; “BAS(S)ically Sound”, exploring new music created by BASSISTS! The bass has played a very specific role in the search for new musical horizons over the last half century, and unlike mainstream bassists, the avant-garde players of the 50’s/60’s and those who came after them learned from each other exploring the full sonic and percussive possibilities of the instrument and in some cases using electronic devices. Edgefest 2014’s unifying purpose is to pay tribute to the world of bassists who are composer/leaders and consummate collaborators, representing styles evolving from the traditions of Europe, the US East, the Midwest and the West coast. Diverse audiences from the Southeastern Michigan/Northern Ohio area and beyond have a rare opportunity to be exposed to an innovative art form, expanding their musical, cultural, and world views of art music through a series of free and ticketed public concerts in downtown Ann Arbor with related educational activities.
“The annual rite of fall in Michigan music…running off the beaten tracks.” – Downbeat
“…indispensable part of the local cultural calendar.” – Mark Styrker, Detroit Free Press
The only festival in this region presenting groundbreaking artists/composers in this genre, Edgefest opens a world of creative music to young people and the general public who would otherwise have no opportunity to experience this art form while providing opportunities for Michigan artists to meet/collaborate with international touring artists, enhancing their own network and career opportunities.
Concerts take place at KCH (115) and in a nearby church (400). Concerts are digitally recorded for archive and artist use. Two concerts are broadcast live by public radio station WCBN.
- 14 ticketed concerts
- Master classes/open rehearsals/ Meet composer talks
1) Composer/bassist Mark Helias works with Community HS jazz students at KCH.
2) Composer/bassist Mark Dresser conducts open rehearsals and conducts a multiple bass ensemble performance (U-Mich students and community bassists participating) in his compositions.
3) Detroit bassists/composers Jaribu Shaheed (avant) and Marion Haydon (straight ahead) talk about collaborating.
- William Parker: 4 middle school residency activities in under-funded school. Parker stablished a relationship with this school and the students there during Edgefest 2013. The music teacher has requested an expanded 2014 residency with Parker!
- 5 free “fringe” concerts in non-traditional venues: Edgefest and local artist collaborations at restaurants and cafés in the historic Kerrytown area and Encore Records downtown. See an example of a Fringe event from Edgefest 2013 with Michael Formanek and local artists. The Fringe includes the annual Edgefest Parade on Saturday with picnic following; led this year by William Parker. See video interview re 2010 parade.
At KCH, one cannot avoid “meeting the composer”! One is never more than 8 rows from composer/performers as they speak/perform. Post-concert receptions encourage more interaction.
KCH is in its 30th season as presenter. Edgefest has received many awards including the ASCAP/CMA award for adventurous programming. NEA has funded this project for 7 years. With additional financial support from area businesses and individuals, and NEW MUSIC USA, KCH uses its honed artistic and administrative skills to keep this unique festival alive and well.
Composer and double bassist Jason Roebke brings an octet of Chicago’s finest improvisers on his new recording, High/Red/Center, to Edgefest 2014. These eleven new compositions are rooted in rich Ellingtonian harmony while re-imagining the approach with exciting interplay between the soloists and ensemble. Recorded 9/28/13 (Delmark). Jason Roebke – bass/composer; Greg Ward – alto saxophone; Keefe Jackson – tenor saxophone; Jason Stein – bass clarinet; Josh Berman – cornet; Jeb Bishop – trombone; Jason Adasiewicz – vibraphone; Mike Reed – drums.
Bassist/composer Mark Helias comes to Edgefest 2014 with his trio Open Loose celebrating their recent CD, Explicit – Live at the Sunset. The album, recorded in one night at the Sunset Club in Paris (4/11/11), comprises nine new compositions. Recorded in the middle of a two week tour this recording captures the live intensity of new music being explored and turned inside out by master improvisers. Tony Malaby – tenor sax; Mark Helias – bass; Tom Rainey – drums.
Start and End Dates
10/15/2014 — 10/18/2014
Ann Arbor, Michigan