A2 Jazz Fest
by arwulf arwulf
From the September, 2017 issue
Jazz and world music bandleader Dave Sharp works overtime coordinating the Old Town Wednesday jazz series and tutoring and leading workshops for adults and teens at the Ann Arbor Music Center. Multi-instrumentally adept, he is often seen in public with his arms wrapped around an upright bass. That's how I found him steaming up the windows of the Old Town with the Klezmephonic band last December. After the crowd had thinned out and the instruments were put away, we chatted about his A2 Jazz Fest as he sipped a Missouri Mule and tucked into a late-night dinner.
The first Jazz Fest last year grew directly out of the Old Town jazz series. Slated to take place at West Park, the event was moved to the Ann Arbor Distilling Company on Felch St. as a precautionary measure after three days of continuous rain. Anyone who made it to that unlikely location will never forget the pleasantly disorienting effect of experiencing jazz performed in the shadow of a giant industrial whiskey still, with drummers working away in front of stacked barrels of bourbon. Best of all, says Sharp, "the players could all dig in without concern for the seventy-one-decibel limit imposed by the City of Ann Arbor at the West Park band shell."
As examples of that unbridled atmosphere, he described the Dobbins Krahnke Weed trio swinging like crazy, Max Brown and the Cosmonauts responding to the crowd by cutting loose, and the Andrew Bishop Quartet channeling Coltrane. My own favorite moment occurred when trumpeter Ingrid Racine began to sing. I got the uncanny impression that she was shape-shifting into her instrument, right there in front of us.
The Second Annual A2 Jazz Fest opens on Friday, September 8, at the open-minded and socially progressive First Congregational Church. On Saturday, September 9, it moves to the LIVE nightclub. The roster has expanded to include students from Community High and Skyline, collegiate musicians from U-M and WCC, and professionals from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit.
James Partridge, key organizer of the recently revived Ann Arbor Blues Festival, is a former Sharp student. When asked what inspired him to organize the festival, Sharp responded with words strikingly similar to Partridge's: "Someone told me it couldn't be done."
[Originally published in September, 2017.]
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