by W. Kim Heron
Back when something new called Edgefest ’97 was happening, Andrew Bishop was a University of Michigan grad student of music and one of the younger and lesser-known participants in the event.
These days, Bishop is a U-M assistant professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation. He’s also a widely traveled and well-recorded musician, and the Hank Williams Project, presented at that first fest, matured into a 2006 recording of the same name.
That Williams Project and disc, and any number of his subsequent projects and travels have involved drummer Gerald Cleaver, now based in New York, who can boast an extensive discography as a sideman and leader.
We’d complete the where-were-they-then/where-are-they-now introduction riff, but when he e-mailed us from home in Brooklyn the other day, Cleaver couldn’t recall exactly what he was doing in 1997 as a twentysomething. But like Bishop, he was at the edge of an international musical world that he’s now moved toward to center of. Cleaver confessed that when it comes to the festivals, “the experiences tend to run together.”
Both Bishop and Cleaver used words like “amazing” to describe the fests, to which they return this week as leaders of the annual Edgefest Parade, leaving from Kerrytown at noon on Saturday (show up at 11:30 with your axe if you want to join in). The parade, now in its fifth year, is a tradition within a tradition, as the 15th Edgefest takes place this week. The headliner is the same as in first year: The ROVA Sax Quartet. And Charlie Kohlhase, who brought his band from Boston for the first fest, is back, now playing in the group Dead Cat Bounce. (See full schedule below.)
In addition to the parade, Bishop and Cleaver will also reunite, as they do several times a year, with bassist Tim Flood in the trio Bishop/Cleaver/Flood. They’ll also play in Lucian Ban & John Hébert: Enesco Re-Imagined (jazzing 20th century classical composer Georges Enescu)
Meanwhile the bill includes Bishop and Cleaver’s Ann Arbor contemporary from the late ’90s, Craig Taborn. Like Bishop and Cleaver, Taborn’s career has taken him to the inner circles of the jazz and not-necessarily-jazz avant garde scenes. Taborn had a long stint in James Carter’s quartet, has recorded with the likes of Roscoe Mitchell and Tim Berne, and most recently released Avenging Angel, his first solo piano disc for the ECM label. (The solo ECM disc is a virtual genre unto itself, begun by Keith Jarrett and including such notables as Chick Corea, Steve Kuhn and Marilyn Crispell.)
David Lynch, who directed Edgefest ’97 and the subsequent fests through 2006, reflected on its continuity the other day. In the time that it’s been around, such venues as the Firefly Club, the Gypsy Café and Workbench Furniture Store have all closed. And if one were to classify it as a jazz fest, “it would be Ann Arbor’s longest continually running festival of that sort.”
And with the decline of corporate funding, “for anything this edgy,” he credits Deanna Relyea, the concerthouse founder and now fest director as well, for snagging funding from the National Endowment of the Arts to help make the festival a reality.
Which is to say, that for all its aesthetic edginess, Edgefest’s greatest achievement has been institutional stability — against the odds.
Unless otherwise noted, performances are at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2999; kerrytownconcerthouse.org. A $135 fest pass buys admission to all performances plus a dinner with festival artists.
Feldman/Courvoisier Duo (Mark Feldman, violin, Sylvie Courvoisier, piano), 7 p.m.; $15 general, $5 student.
Tamarindo Trio (Tony Malaby, tenor & soprano saxophones; William Parker, bass; Tom Rainey, drums), 9:30 p.m.; $15 general, $5 student.
Bishop/Cleaver/Flood, $7 p.m., $10 general, $5 student.
Ned Rothenberg & Mivos Quartet, 8 p.m.; Lucian Ban & John Hébert: Enesco Re-Imagined, 9:30 p.m.; $25 general, $5 student (two-show package price).
James Cornish’s Short Opera Project (featuring mezzo-soprano Deanna Relyea in interpretations of the poetry of Philip Levine) 7 p.m.; $10 general, $5 student.
Vinny Golia & Friends, 8 p.m.; Dead Cat Bounce, 9 p.m.; Craig Taborn (solo piano), 10 p.m.; $30 general, $5 student (three-show package).
Saturday ($50 pass covers full day)
Composers Forum (Joel Harrison, composer; Vinny Golia, composer), 10:30 a.m.; free.
Edgefest Parade (led by Gerald Cleaver and Andrew Bishop with other fest notables; bring your axe and get marching orders at 11:30), noon; free.
Joel Peterson String Quartet & Faruq Z. Bey’s Conspiracy Wind Ensemble, 2 p.m.; $10 general, $5 student.
Joel Harrison 7: Search, 4 p.m.; $15 general, $5 student.
Steve Rush plays John Cage, 7 p.m.; $10 general, $5 student.
Vinny Golia with the University of Michigan Creative Arts Orchestra, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 306 N. Division Street, Ann Arbor; 8:30 p.m.; $15 general, $5 student.
Rova Saxophone Quartet, $10 p.m.; $15 general, $5 student.
NOTE: Joel Harrison’s group plays the Detroit Institute of Arts on Friday (7 and 8:30 p.m., free with admission). Concurrent with Edgefest, U-M’s Institute for Humanities presents composer-trombonist George Lewis, pianist Geri Allen and an interactive computer-pianist Thursday at 5 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium (free).