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Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 2-2

Troy Dostert By

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Edgefest
Ann Arbor, MI
October 20-21, 2017

On the last two days of the festival, the Edgefest audience was treated to even more of the eclectic, explorative music that was present in abundance on Wednesday and Thursday.

Edgefest-goers who were able to attend the early-evening performance of Ben Goldberg's "Invisible Guy" trio experienced Goldberg's distinctive combination of technical brilliance and imaginative, boundary- stretching work on clarinet. With his partners, drummer Hamir Atwal and pianist/keyboardist Michael Coleman, Goldberg presented music that had one foot in the tradition and the other in a stranger, more amorphous realm. After pacing the stage while unfolding a lovely version of "Abide With Me," Goldberg dug in on dynamic interactions with Coleman and Atwal—interactions that became increasingly intriguing once Coleman switched from piano to keyboards. Working with a Fender Rhodes and a synthesizer, sometimes simultaneously and with a host of effects to process the sound, Coleman added keyboard textures reminiscent of '70s fusion while ultimately moving beyond category altogether. When locked in on hypnotic, swirling ostinato phrases, the group kept a tenacious groove going (thanks in no small part to Atwal's unwavering support) while avoiding clichés and obvious reference points. Whether deftly interpreting a couple of Steve Lacy pieces or unveiling their own material, these musicians cast a captivating spell.

Edgefest veteran Tom Rainey brought his own band this year, in contrast to his many previous sideman appearances at the festival, and it was a terrific set, with tenor/soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Mary Halvorson rounding out the trio. Within the first few minutes the group hit an early peak of intensity, with Halvorson's churning chords and Laubrock's repeated figures creating a stirring effect, helped in no small measure by Rainey's formidable pummeling of his kit—with brushes, no less! While the group had its moments of relative calm—Laubrock in particular is fond of exploring timbre and texture during her more ruminative moments, and Halvorson has a beautiful tone when teasing out less-frantic phrases—it was without question at its most gripping when going all-out. These musicians know each other remarkably well, as their transitions within the pieces were crisp and decisive, and they communicated intuitively throughout the set. A well-oiled machine, to be sure.

Drummer Andrew Drury had a busy week at Edgefest as he partnered with Joe McPhee on some workshops with local middle school students, but fortunately he had plenty of his trademark spirit and engaging humor left for Friday's performance with his band, Content Provider. With Laubrock staying on stage to partner with fiery alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss and the uniquely creative Brandon Seabrook on guitar, the group was determined to make music that could cover the spectrum of improvisation, with rich, Mingus-like heads gradually devolving into much more open and unhinged spontaneity. Seabrook's punk-meets-jazz aesthetic works wonderfully with this band, with jagged shards of notes flying off of his guitar, and Drury did more than enough to keep things interesting, whether climbing out from behind the kit to direct the band with manic gestures or blowing on bells to turn his drums (and tympani) into wind instruments. An entertaining set with an anything-goes aspect, the band kept the crowd enthused for the duration.

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