Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

8

Edgefest 2018: The Chicago Connection

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
Edgefest
Ann Arbor, MI
October 17-20, 2018

This year, Ann Arbor, Michigan's Edgefest Festival turned to Chicago for inspiration. An astonishing array of talented musicians, most with roots in Chicago's storied past or its vibrant present, made appearances at the Kerrytown Concert House for four days of exceptional music that could generally be categorized under the rubrics of either free improvisation or left-of-mainstream creative jazz. The Chicago scene has long been a nexus for the jazz avant-garde, especially since the advent of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in 1965. While the presence of Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, Harrison Bankhead and Edward Wilkerson reminded everyone of the legendary origins of that musical stream, perhaps the most hopeful aspect of the festival were the outstanding sets performed by younger musicians, suggesting that the future of creative jazz and improvised music is in very capable hands.

Ann Arbor's own Piotr Michalowski brought a septet to launch Wednesday evening's performances at Kerrytown. A multi- instrumentalist who played both soprano sax and bass clarinet during the set, Michalowski featured a winding, freely-improvised piece and then a composed piece, "For Silence," dedicated to Mitchell, the elder statesman of the festival. With cellist Abby Alwin and violinist/violist Mike Khoury to add contrast with Michalowski and cornetist Ken Kozora, the ensemble offered a full, robust sound with bracing moments of energy alternating with an understated tension. It was a promising start to an evening of adventurous music.

Argentinian clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio represented the Windy City well as he joined long-time Chicago veteran cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and vibraphonist Carrie Biolo for a set of classically-inflected, structured improvisation. Gregorio spent much of his musical career in Chicago while teaching at Purdue University, and while he's also composed for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he has steadily pursued more experimental improvisation since the 1960s. His mastery of the clarinet allowed him to focus as much on texture as tunefulness, but the abstraction and difficulty of the music was tempered by the shimmering surfaces of Biolo's vibes and Lonberg-Holm's uniquely sonorous excavations. The music also possessed at times an almost whimsical aspect, and one could hear in Gregorio's lines a hint—just a hint—of the jazz tradition that first captivated him before his decision to take more unorthodox paths.

Since the release of his iconic album Sound (Delmark) in 1966, Roscoe Mitchell has been the fulcrum of the Chicago avant-garde scene, and he played an essential role as an early member of the AACM and in the creation of his most well-known group, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Mitchell's performances at the festival were some of the most anticipated, and Wednesday's appearance with a broad range of "Detroit friends" surely did not disappoint. Veteran saxophonists Tony Holland and Skeeter Shelton , guitarist A. Spencer Barefield, bassist Jaribu Shahid and drummer Djallo Keita Djakate brought a vast accumulated expertise to the stage, and their ability to navigate Mitchell's challenging terrain was never in question.

Now 78, Mitchell occasionally revealed a tentative, halting manner, but only when talking to the audience; as for the power of his horn, there was no denying his stamina or technique, the latter exhibited to particularly impressive effect during a ten-minute extended solo with circular breathing and overtones. Mitchell also unveiled a brilliant piano composition, performed by the University of Michigan's Stephen Rush, that held the audience spellbound. But it was the rich ensemble performances that were the most memorable of the evening, as Mitchell and his longtime friends and colleagues tapped into the deep well of blues and jazz but pushed it into ever more abstract realms, offering a vivid embodiment of Mitchell's aesthetic. The set was brief, at just over an hour, but it offered a taste of what was to come Saturday night, when Mitchell would perform once again to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Art Ensemble.

Thursday night's opener, a trio led by drummer Adam Shead called "Tradition Talks," lived up to its name with wide-ranging music that remained tethered to the jazz tradition even while taking plenty of chances. Pianist Matt Piet's phenomenal chops were employed to fine effect, as he would offer a seemingly endless supply of figures and riffs that would lead the trio in new directions. Bassist Tony Piazza and Shead were in very tight rapport throughout, giving the music its fluidity and cohesion.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 2 Live Reviews
Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 2
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 3 Live Reviews
Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 3
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read 2018 Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 4 Live Reviews
2018 Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 4
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live Live Reviews
Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Jazz Migration 2018 Live Reviews
Jazz Migration 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2018
Read Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot Live Reviews
Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot
by Doug Hall
Published: December 11, 2018
Read "Pérez, Potter, Cohen Quintet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Pérez, Potter, Cohen Quintet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 29, 2018
Read "Justin Varnes & Ulysses Owens Jr at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Justin Varnes & Ulysses Owens Jr at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: October 6, 2018
Read "Vision Festival 2018" Live Reviews Vision Festival 2018
by John Sharpe
Published: June 5, 2018
Read "The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater" Live Reviews The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater
by Mackenzie Horne
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "Molde International Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Molde International Jazz Festival 2018
by Luca Vitali
Published: August 31, 2018