Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists. This week we feature Fred Thomas, Isaac Levine, Briaa Dupree, Jib Kidder, and Aye Hawk.
Jazz on the Small Screen: Concerts by Danielle Gonzalez, Beartrap, and various sets at Blue LLama Jazz Club & Kerrytown Concert House
Back in April or so, I got overwhelmed with the number of music livestreams popping up on my radar. Anybody with an instrument and a cell phone was broadcasting from their bedroom stages, and I pretty much shut down on trying to follow livestreams. But as the pandemic wore on and venues figured out how to safely present music, I started to peek at livestreams every now and again because curation helped narrow down the list of things I might want to watch rather than me remaining forever frozen by decision paralysis.
Ann Arbor has a small but vibrant jazz scene thanks to the University of Michigan's robust music school, so I thought it was time to give a nod to that genre's artists and the host venues whose livestreams have caught my eye. (In many of these cases, you can tip the artists for the shows you've just watched, too.)
If you really want to keep up on the neverending supply of improvised music livestreams, check out the Facebook group LiftingUpA2Jazz, which is a comprehensive source for events in Washtenaw County.
A collection of recent-ish music videos from Washtenaw County artists Dre Dav, The Kelseys, Towner, Hi Potent C & Dyelow, and DruziBaby734.
Jazzy hip-hop, neo-soul, '80s synth sounds via a modular setup, drum 'n' bass, and trance techno are all on tap for this week's Friday Five spotlighting Washtenaw County artists. But also know that this is Bandcamp Friday, so any purchases made through that site will benefit the artists immensely since they'll get 100% of the revenue. Only two of the five selections below are on Bandcamp right now, but peruse the last six months of Pulp's Music section and you'll find plenty of Washtenaw County artists you can support via that site.
Now, go listen to Speak Mahogany, The DayNites, Mogi Grumbles, X-Altera, and John Beltran.
Athletic Mic League returns after a 15-year hiatus to confirm its status as Ann Arbor's "Playground Legends"
The Ann Arbor hip-hop collective Athletic Mic League was on hiatus for more than 15 years as its members pursued solo projects—and life.
The group formed in 1995 at Huron High School and released three albums during its 10-year run—The Thrill of Victory...The Agony of Defeat (1998), Sweats and Kicks (2002), Jungle Gym Jungle (2004)—and two EPs: Feel Good (2001) and Isolation (2005).
But right before the pandemic started, Athletic Mic League reunited for a four-day studio retreat and recorded the majority of Playground Legends there, a seven-song mini-album that will come out soon. But the group has released three singles from the sessions: "Hold My Hand," "Finish Line," and "Complications." The current lineup of the collective includes Grand Cee, Buff1, Trés Styles, 14KT, Wes Taylor, VaughanTego, and Mayer Hawthorne (not shown in the photo above).
Athletic Mic League (AML) takes inspiration from Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, and Hieroglyphics Crew, as well as soul and jazz music. AML's songs showcase sharp lyrical content and instrumentals decorated with soul-music loops. "Hold My Hand" and "Complications" feature retro-soul vocals over laid-back beats. In contrast, "Finish Line" is a nice uptempo track that opens and closes with a sample from motivational speaking guru Eric Thomas.
Below, AML dishes on the stories behind its new singles, the reunion, and what’s next for them.
During its three-year existence, Ypsilanti's Grove Studios has become a creative hub for Washtenaw County musicians. Beginning as an affordable rehearsal space—with a lot of high-end musical instruments and gear—Grove has since added a podcast studio and has produced numerous concerts, interviews, and livestreams. Even the pandemic couldn't stop Grove's roll: In the past five months, the studio has added more than 60 performances and podcasts featuring a ton of regional talents on its YouTube channel.
Grove's latest nod to the community of creators who support the studio comes in the form of the Amplify Fellowship. Created in partnership with Ann Arbor's high-end audio company Leon Speakers, the Amplify Fellowship will give three recipients 40 hours of studio time at Grove along with production and engineering support.
The Amplify Fellowship is for African-American residents of Washtenaw County who are at least 18 years old. The fellowship's application is on amplify-fellowship.com and the deadline is October 19.
The Grove crew talks about the Amplify Fellowship in the podcast video at the top of this post. Below are a few selections from Grove's ever-growing collection of performance videos from Washtenaw County musicians.
Friday Five: Violet Sol, Anna Grace Agrawal, Nature Meets Nurture, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Brave New Works
A lot of classics in this edition of the Friday Five. I'm not talking about the recordings themselves—that's up to you, dear listener—but four of the five Ann Arbor artists/ensembles featured below are classical musicians or have definitely studied classical music at some point, and the remaining musician strives for an orchestral majesty in his music. Check out new sounds from Violet Sol, Anna Grace Agrawal, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Brave New Works, and Nature Meets Nurture.
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra was supposed to launch its fall 2020 season with "Goodyear Plays Beethoven" at the Michigan Theater, in front of an audience, on September 10. [Insert section about Covid-19 ruining everything] [That's not an editing mistake; I'm just saving myself time since we all know what's going down in the world.]
Stewart Goodyear will still play Beethoven, and there will still be an audience; the crowd will just be at home and the concert will be broadcast from the Kerrytown Concert Hall on September 26.
The other fall 2020 A2SO programs that were affected are:
We trawled the universe and found five Ann Arbor artists with new or recent singles, albums, and compilations that you need to hear right this instant. So, put down the welding torch, slide on your headphones, and slip off into a quiet space to listen to tunes by The Kelseys, Same Eyes, Emilie Lin, Matthew Dear, and a Spotify playlist from the Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO).
Edgefest, the annual explosion of avant-garde jazz in Ann Arbor centered on Kerrytown Concert House, was in its final planning stages when Covid-19 shut down the world. The festival was canceled soon after and it looked like Edgefest's 24th year would have been a lost one—just as 2020 has been for everyone.
But it turns out, Edgefest will happen this year—and it will last six months.
Beginning October 23 and continuing through March 26, the Edgefest virtual concert series will be a once-a-month show streamed on the Kerrytown Concert House website featuring some of the artists who were supposed to play the 24th edition of the fest, which had a brass-heavy theme.
Each concert will begin with performances by Michigan-based musicians, followed by national artists. All the concerts will be free to view but links to donate to the festival and artists will be provided.
"The local opening sets will be streamed live from the Concert House (artists from the SE Michigan area) with no live audience except the KCH staff/crew, but the national artists will stream from their location," wrote Abby Dotz, administrative liaison and events manager at Kerrytown Concert House, in an email. "We're trying to bring the atmosphere of KCH to the screen, but still respect what is safest for everyone during these times."
The Edgefest 24 virtual concert lineup includes: