Ann Arbor’s Edgefest expands in its Ninth Outing

for CODA

Participants, including members of Chicago’s AACM, representatives of Montreal’s Musique Actuelle scene and a New York-based musician and hybrid instrument designer who’ll jam with a golf club and an umbrella, will all take part in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s ninth annual Edgefest, October 19 to October 22.

Taking place in a medium-sized college city, home to the University of Michigan, about an hour’s drive west of Detroit, Edgefest has steadily expanded from its one-day debut to the four-day 2005 festival. Besides American musicians, particular emphasis is on innovators from the music scenes in Holland and Quebec. This year, for instance, Claude St-Jean’s Les Projectionnistes is the featured Quebec ensemble – its second Edgefest appearance – with saxophonist Tobias Delius’ Quartet – including cellist Tristan Honsinger and drummer Han Bennink – representing the Netherlands.

Les Projectionnistes’ second CD will be released in time for Edgefest, and its celebration at the festival may include an expanded band line-up. Besides the Delius Quartet, filled out by Amsterdam-based, Icelandic bassist Valdi Kolli; Dutch trombonist Wolter Wiebos will appear opening night as a member of German tubaist Carl Ludwig Hubsch's Longrun Development of the Universe trio.

American-based performers, include a group fronted by AACM mainstays, saxophonist Ed Wilkerson, Jr. and flautist Nicole Mitchell; drummer/vibraphonist Kevin Norton’s Bauhaus Quartet; legendary bassist Henry Grimes’ trio with saxophonist Andrew Lamb and drummer Newman Taylor Baker; and the all-star FAB: bassist Joe Fonda, drummer Barry Altschul, and violinist Billy Bang. Hybrid instrument designer Ken Butler brings his self-constructed axes from Manhattan to jam with a contingent of local musicians for one show, with other players from the Ann Arbor-Detroit axis featured on other shows, including an all-star nonet.

Both festival venues – the Kerrytown Concert House, which is the organizer and presenter of the festival – and the Firefly Club, are within easy walking distance of each other in pedestrian-oriented Ann Arbor. Each can seat about 110 people. Total festival attendance is usually in the 600-person range, with all-inclusive festival passes on sale for a reduced fee.

Featuring afternoon educational workshops at the concert house throughout the festival, Edgefest is supported by a local businesses and some government funding. As Festival director, David Lynch says: “despite its small size, Edgefest brings a bit of an international perspective to Ann Arbor.

“It’s nice to have musicians from Montreal and Amsterdam sharing the festival stages with musicians from New York City and Chicago, “he adds. “Perhaps it’s one small strike against cultural isolationism.” Check for updates.

— Ken Waxman