The soul of the saxophone, the pounding of percussion, the mellow of the cello — these sounds blend into a traveling tune, dancing through the air to the ears of the crowd. Edgefest, the four day festival of avant-garde music, features a plethora of world-renowned artists, each a master of their own form of music. Ground-breaking musicians, influenced by jazz, rock and classical, are bringing innovative and improvised melodies to the Kerrytown Concert House this weekend. With several performances throughout the evening each day, there are plenty opportunities to make time for musical talents that radiate with passion and expertise.  

Founded in 1997, Edgefest started as a one-day festival that quickly grew into its present four-day celebration. It began when two exceptional groups of musicians happened to come through town at the same time. Dave Lynch had the thought to simply add another group and turn it into a festival; thus, Edgefest was born.

It’s the year of percussion. Every year, the festival rallies around a theme to tie it all together, such as bass or saxophone in years past. This year, the musicians are connected by their mastery in percussion. The festival will illuminate the ingenious role of drummers within the avant world of music. The badum tish, the gada gada, the groans and moans, the jars, even the rataplan: all the beats to shake your senses and lull you into the rhythm of the drum.

The community of Ann Arbor clamors with anticipation over this valued attraction each year.  In an interview with the Daily, Deanna Relyea, founder of Kerrytown Concert House in 1984, said Edgefest is “really one of the most important festivals of its kind in the world.” Nowhere else can you hear the same exceptional gathering of music.   

“You don’t get thousands of people stampeding the stage,” Relyea said. “It’s a very specific music, yet it’s a mixture: some improvised, some composed.”

This isn’t the music you hear on the radio. This music is real, requires talent and actually means something. The typical jazz instruments will be featured as well as some atypical cultural instruments and some cutting-edge electric appliances –– it is wholly unusual. Instead of the songs being rehearsed ahead of time, you will be faced with on-the-spot melodies, tunes that come right from the heat of the moment.  

That’s what makes this music special –– what you hear in that moment will not be heard in the same way again. A night spent at Edgefest is a night unique and truly your own.  

“I feel that young minds grasp the roots of this music,” Relyea said.

With a student population from all over the world, the bright minds of Michigan’s community are perfectly suited to Edgefest. Many of this year’s artists are from New York, San Francisco and Europe; students from those areas will probably recognize some of the names of the artists.

“We are happy when the house is full — at 120 people,”  Relyea said about KCH’s attendance. “That’s the way it is in New York too. People playing in downtown Manhattan, with rave reviews by the New York Times, are happy to get 40 people.” During Edgefest, however, the house often finds itself sold out with the popularity of the festival. Each act is different; it’s original. There is no headliner act. Instead, all groups are well known in their musical field, and it becomes a collaborative environment among musicians.

Too often does this genre get over looked by the millennial’s obsession with pop culture and what’s “cool.” Jazz is not an old form of music, but a genre that is continually developing, reshaping and adapting with the times. If you think jazz can’t create a charged, electric feel, you are wrong.  If you think jazz can’t rock the house down, you are wrong. If you think jazz is dead, you are most definitely wrong.

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