Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Lead Sheet-- December 14-20

Someone suggested I do this every week. That was weeks ago. I’ll try harder.

Seems to be the great piano week at the Dakota. Attorney by day and composer/performer by night, Larry McDonough celebrates the international release of his Simple Gifts. His abstract improvisations and experiments with time and space are hardly simple, but it is a gift to see Larry and his quartet on the Dakota stage (Monday, 12/15). Next, Laura Caviani holds her nearly annual celebration featuring music from Angels We Haven’t Heard. Actually Laura is the angel we hear as often as we can—whether it be her playful takes on Thelonious Monk or her own, often blues infused compositions. And with frequent partner Lucia Newell on vocals and the always sympathetic timekeeping of bassist Tom Lewis and drummer Phil Hey, the holidays have never sounded better (12/16). Come back to the Dakota Thursday night and catch one of the youngest and brightest stars of the keyboard, Dan Musselman. Dan flexed his solo muscles and compositional chops last spring with the release of Ruminations. In solo or quartet context, he dazzles with an intriguing sense of harmony and melody. Dan will soon release a duet album with songbird Rachel Holder, who might turn up for a tune or two (12/18). Visit for more on these three keyboard giants.

I’m heading out to the Capri Theater for the 2008 edition of A Copasetic Christmas Carol with honey-hued singer Charmin Michelle, versatile saxman Doug Haining and the Twin Cities Seven. The music will swing and the very hip version of Dickens will keep you warm through the season. Only two shows, tonight and the Sunday matinee (12/14). Check for tickets at 651-209-6799 or

There are no weak line-ups at the Artists Quarter in St. Paul. You can always count on the Tuesday Night Band (B-3 Organ Night), on Tuesdays of course. This week you can catch a too-infrequent appearance of Exquisite Corps, aka the Dave Roos Quartet. Roos is one of those guitarists who is hard to define and impossible to ignore; this music has its own form and soul (12/17). Just about every month (and it seems, always on a Thursday) you can enjoy the Phil Hey Quartet. Subtle and sympathetic when backing touring artists and vocalists, Phil gets downright aggressive with his own bands and will put on a master class in drumkit magic. Plus it’s a great opportunity to enjoy one of the finest vibes players you’ll ever hear, anywhere, Dave Hagedorn (12/18). Fans of modern improvised music will be lined up this weekend for Happy Apple. With saxman Mike Lewis, bassist Erik Fratzke and drummer Dave King, not much is predictable except high energy and innovation (12/19-12/21). Check out

Finally, you just have this week to run down to the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown and see the acclaimed new film, Anita O’Day: The Life of Jazz Singer. What a voice, what a life. Shows at 2 pm and 7 pm daily through 12/18. I’ll have to hit a matinee, there’s too much music in the evenings this week!

Planning ahead? The future of jazz at Cue at the Guthrie seems in doubt despite the apparent popularity of this very classy venue. Cue, the bar and restaurant on the main level of the theater, glass and gleaming metal interior looking out into the Mill District, has presented a cadre of jazz artists every Friday and Saturday night for the past six months or more. Rumor has it that a new owner is not so sure this will continue beyond the holidays. So if you are looking for a cool spot for a drink, appetizers or the full menu, make a reservation for the slow 8-10 pm period when most are in the theaters..... and enjoy Arne Fogel (12/19), Alicia Wiley (12/20), Maud Hixson (12/26), Charmin Michelle (12/27) or Dean Brewington (12/31). Maybe if enough of us applaud, the music will go on into 2009.
Photos: (Top) Maud Hixson with Rick Carlson at Cue; Phil Hey; Dan Musselman with Rachel Holder. Photos by Andrea Canter.