Over the Pavement fest presents artistic range

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

Joel Peterson has hosted a wide variety of concerts since co-founding the Detroit café-cum-performance space Trinosophes in 2013, but until recently, he still had a festival-shaped hole in his heart.

From 2006 to 2008, while he was still booking shows at the Bohemian National Home, Peterson organized an event called the Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music. The avant-garde performances the festival presented proved popular, and Peterson says patrons have asked for a revival since Trinosophes opened. They'll get their wish this weekend, as the venue presents "Over the Pavement: A Festival of Art Music." Peterson says the event came together when several acts he'd wanted to book for some time all wanted to play Detroit in the same time frame.

"Instead of having to say 'yes' to one and 'no' to another, I thought here was the core of doing another festival again," he says. "It's a little less premeditated than the previous festivals … but it's bound to be an even broader, more interesting kind of lineup and a survey of art music broadly defined."

Jazz and improvised music will be represented at Over the Pavement, as in Peterson's previous festival. But the lineup's genre blend goes far beyond that, incorporating Arabic classical music, contemporary chamber music and "Afro-futurist groove."

"It's all creative music that isn't seeking a place in the market, the commodified music world," Peterson says. "It's all people who are doing it because they're dedicated to the art form, in whatever way they perceive that."

The lineup includes some international luminaries. Marshall Allen and Danny Ray Thompson, both alumni of jazz legend Sun Ra's Arkestra, will perform Saturday with occasional Arkestra collaborator and Detroiter Jaribu Shahid. Avant-garde pianist Thollem McDonas will appear Friday, performing what he describes as "stream-of-conscience" music.

"It's not just my performance," McDonas says. "This is part of a much longer movement of musicians and artists that have been working towards a deeper and higher conscience in regards to sociopolitical dynamics, ecological dynamics, cultural dynamics and so on."

The festival's lineup includes as many metro-Detroit acts as it does those who hail from beyond the area. Hamtramck trumpeter James Cornish will lead a group of four musicians, including mezzo-soprano Sara Grosky, in performance of an opera he's been developing for nearly a decade.

"It's going to be an alchemy, a blend, of different sensibilities between avant-garde opera ... free jazz and very spatial, very atmospheric music," Cornish says. "How it's going to turn out, we won't know until the moment of performance."

Cornish, who has been performing improvised music in Detroit since the '80s, expresses unbridled enthusiasm for the new festival, its venue and its creator.

"This is going to be intense," he says. "It's unfiltered. It's untempered. It's how this music, this experimental music, this creative music is supposed to be performed and enjoyed. It's a wide-open venue with no parameters. The art in and of itself is the standard of measure, and that's how it should be, I think."

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

Over the Pavement:

A Festival of Art Music

7 p.m. Thursday; 6 p.m. Friday

and Saturday


1464 Gratiot, Detroit

Tickets $12-$25 (three-day pass $40-$55)

(313) 737-6606