Note from the editor: This article is part of the On the Ground Edison series from Southwest Michigan Second Wave.
It’s about to become jazzy in the Edison neighborhood.
In September, Kalamazoo’s most populous neighborhood plans to launch a first-of-its-kind jazz festival, involving local musicians as well as talented jazz recording artists from across the world.
The Edison Neighborhood Association’s executive director, Stephen Dupuie, states, “It’s about giving quality of life in the neighborhood.” “When I consider quality of life, I include arts and culture as well as the setting in which individuals grow up.” So, in putting on this festival, we’re essentially taking it to the streets and making it free for everyone.”
The festival, according to Dupuie, would last three days and take place in three different places across Edison. Jerico, a rehabilitated section of the neighborhood’s industry district, will host concerts. It is now home to entrepreneurs, artisans, and tradespeople on the 1500 block of Fulford Street. On another day, plans call for a block celebration on Egleston Avenue with music, food trucks, and a musical procession (a section is to be closed off for the day).
Singer, composer, and lyricist Fay Victor at home. She will be at the jazz festival in Edison this fall.
The march is open to anyone who wishes to participate with their own instruments, according to Dupuie.
A third day will feature rooftop concerts at the Creamery Building, a new residential and commercial complex in the neighborhood. Last year, the $14.7 million affordable housing building at 1101 Portage St. debuted. The Dormouse Theatre will host an evening following the rooftop performances.
“As far as the folks coming in from out of town,” Dupuie says, “we have the venues lined up and the performances signed up.” “They’ve been verified.”
The neighborhood group is now raising funds to put on the event, which will cost around $25,000 to put on. It wants to raise money from a variety of sources. Those interested in contributing can do so by calling 269-382-0916 or visiting the organization’s website. Individuals can use any of the donation buttons on the page and specify that their money is for the jazz festival.
ASCAP Award-winning vocalist, composer, bandleader, and producer Estar Cohen is also an improv comedy musician. She will be at the jazz festival in Edison this fall.
Internationally renowned bassist, bandleader, and recording artist John Hebert; singer, songwriter, and lyricist Fay Victor; and ASCAP Award-winning vocalist, composer, bandleader, and producer Estar Cohen are among the festival’s notable performers. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) represents over 850,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers in the United States.
The event will also highlight the work of underappreciated Black musicians and pay tribute to the music of late jazz artist Herbie Nichols, an improvisational African-American artist who aspired to be a concert composer but was denied entry into the industry in the 1950s.
“Those are the kind of huge names lined up,” he says, adding that “there will be a lot of local performers as well.”
Edison is Kalamazoo’s most populous area and arguably its most diversified neighborhood, with over 9,000 residents and located immediately south and east of downtown Kalamazoo along Portage Street. According to the 2016 census, the population is 49 percent Caucasian, 28 percent African-American, and 19 percent Hispanic. As a result, it has attracted a lot of people who are interested in culture and music.
The jazz festival is an outgrowth of what has become a popular Tuesday night jazz jam at the Dormouse Theatre, a 200-seat theatre at 1030 Portage St. in Edison’s Washington Square. The theater will be a jazz festival venue.
The jazz festival is a result of what has grown into a famous Tuesday night jazz jam at the Dormouse Theatre, a 200-seat live entertainment facility in Edison’s Washington Square district that showcases local performers and musicians. It first opened its doors last summer.
After sitting on the board of the neighborhood organization for roughly five years, Dupuie was chosen executive director earlier this year. He is the Dormouse Theatre Group’s artistic director.
“It spontaneously moved to the Dormouse,” Dupuie says of jazz music.
After the Union Cabaret & Grill collapsed last year, jazz fans and Western Michigan University music students began hosting Tuesday night jazz jam sessions at the Dormouse Theatre. It hosted jazz performers on live music nights.
What are your thoughts on this new event?
“First and foremost, it’ll be a lot of fun,” Dupuie says. “It’ll all be done in Edison.” People will be able to see sections of the neighborhood that they may not have seen before, because why would they travel to that little nook if they are not from the neighborhood?”
“That tiny area has a coffee shop, makers spaces, and stuff that’s off the usual way,” he says of Jerico as an example. And so I really want people to think about how much fun the event is going to be, as well as all of the new locations they might not have visited otherwise because it’s not in their normal travel path.”