Edgefest Festival to feature Michigan Jazz Ensemble

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 4:26pm

Michigan’s Jazz Ensemble will be playing at this year’s 20th Annual Edgefest in Kerrytown. With a heavy lineup of performers and presenters, this year is expected to be bigger and better than in years past. Originating in 1997, Edgefest has premiered a wide variety of jazz artists from all over the country in the decades since its inception.

Jazz pianist and composer Ellen Rowe has been a part of Edgefest since the beginning. However, her passion for jazz and her career began much earlier.

“In junior high and high school, jazz was more unique … not a lot of other musicians, especially women, were pursuing it,” Rowe said. “It was creative and allowed for a large degree of self-expression. I just loved the spirit and sense of community.” 

Rowe went on to create compositions and arrangements and lead her own jazz quartet. The Arizona Daily Star praised her when as a “rare ‘triple threat’ of pianist, composer-arranger, and teacher ... the best possible role model …”

Not only is Rowe the director of the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble, but she also works as the professor and chair of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation.

The Michigan Jazz Ensemble has been preparing for Edgefest with other professors and composers. The members of the band are required to practice individually, in addition to rehearsing with their section and with the band altogether.

The first half of their concert this Friday will be a jazz piano concerto with composer and performing arts technology Professor Stephen Rush at the piano, with additional soloists from the ensemble. The second half will be a collaboration with award winning percussionist and composer Jon Hollenbeck. 

“He is in town once every couple years,” Rowe said. “So when students get the chance to play his music, it’s pretty special.”

Although the Michigan Jazz Ensemble will only be performing one night, Edgefest will be filled with iconic jazz artists, performers and composers throughout the week. The performances range from individuals to small quartets to entire bands.

“This year’s lineup is stacked. We are a lot more interesting as improvisers and composers,” Rowe explained.

Edgefest is unique to the Ann Arbor community because it only comes around once a year, and it allows room for non-traditional jazz artists to present their work. Rowe noted that “contemporary, improvised jazz is not generally on people’s radios, and they are not getting exposed to it. Some people have not experienced it.”

However, Rowe believes that it’s vital for people to hear this type of music and specifically, this type of jazz, adding that Ann Arbor often provides that.

“Ann Arbor has been somewhat of a leader in the country for presenting real contemporary music,” Rowe said.

Edgefest is a prime example of that kind of presentation. 


Edgefest: Michigan Jazz Ensemble

October 29th 8:30pm

St. Andrews Episcopal Church

$15 General Admission

$5 Student