Third Place Musicfest

Third Place Musicfest, a multifaced music festival, was held in Ann Arbor the week leading up to Memorial Day. There were multiple locations, many of them unusual (or as the organizers put it “third place” locations).

I attended two nights at Canterbury House to listen to some avant gardish jazz — first on May 26 to enjoy Kozora/Michalowski/Thomas with Deanna Relyea, then on May 28 to hear Kindred Lines (below) and Kenji Lee’s Fortune Teller Trio (above).

The Canterbury was packed for the latter concert which lasted close to midnight. Cornetist/percussionist Ken Kozora and reedman Piotr Michalowski have played together for several years and it shows as they have immediate rapport with each other. Kenn Thomas on piano adds to a dynamic mix which is further enhanced by Releya’s voice. Music can transport your mind away from the toxic events of the day, and the group’s choice of Ukrainian poetry was obviously well suited to some of our worries of the day. “I will talk about the wind instruments of anxiety” were Relyea’s words as Michalowski’s deep bass clarinet was heard in the background.

Two days later another out group, Kindred Lines, appeared on the same stage with vocalist Estar Cohen and pianist Josh Catagna doing material composed by both performers. The most poignant piece was “A Prayer for Tad” dedicated to Cohen’s mentor pianist Tad Weed. Cohen intoned “after years in silence now I hear a simple prayer that often goes unheard” followed by a poignant piano solo by Catagna. Kenji Lee led a power trio with bassist Andy Peck and drummer Jonathan Taylor. The trio will soon go on tour and should be a great showcase for Ann Arbor talent. Peck has a deep resonant tone in his bass and Taylor is a marvel at the drums as he manages to be both forceful and elegant in his approach. The trio reminded me of the Sam Rivers’ trio that I heard decades ago in Ann Arbor.