Friday, April 3, 2009

The Lead Sheet, April 3-9

© Andrea Canter

Some new adventures await this week, at least for me. I’ve been hearing about New York guitarist Greg Skaff for a while, as he comes to the Artists Quarter pretty often. Somehow I have missed him but will make amends this weekend (Friday and Saturday, 4/3-4/4). He has particular affinity for work with organists, so the B-3 anchor of The Tuesday Night Band, “Downtown” Bill Brown, will be on the bandstand along with TNB drummer Kenny Horst. Check out his new CD, East Harlem Skyline with George Colligan on B-3, which according to Jazz Police Chief Don Berryman “demonstrates that Skaff is as comfortable in the pocket as a baby kangaroo, and that the musical territory he explores using the guitar/organ trio can be as varied as any other jazz configuration.” And I never argue with Don about organ trios. And of course the TNB continues to hold court every Tuesday night at the AQ.

Competing on Friday night (4/3) is the duo of guitarist Dean Granros and valve trombonist Brad Bellows at that odd little den of experimental music and fine dining, Café Maude in southwest Minneapolis. Just the instrumentation should be enough to arouse curiosity, even if the musicians weren’t two of the most creative in town.

Competing Saturday night (4/4) is the final show of the season for the JazzMN Big Band, surely the best full-size jazz orchestra in the Midwest. Guest tonight will be the next best thing to the king of swing, Ken Peplowski. It’s an evening of tributes to the great Benny Goodman, as well as a toast to Bing Crosby from our own Crosby-maven Arne Fogel, who will sing a couple tunes with the band during the first set. JazzMN BB performs in the acoustically friendly setting of the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center in Minnetonka.

On Sunday evening (4/5), Homewood Studios in north Minneapolis again hosts the very fine Milo Fine, local prince of the avant garde. Purveyor of keyboards and woodwinds for the adventurous ear, Fine invited one of modern jazz’s true innovators, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, to drop in for a special edition of his Improvised Music series, along with percussionist Davu Seru. Bynum’s web bio describes his music as extending the compositions of 20th century masters like Ellington but with “a third millennial flavor and a trickster sensibility.” Hard to resist the implications. I think I saw Bynum with Anthony Braxton’s tentet at the Iridium in New York—I recall a wildman on brass and indeed Bynum is a long-time collaborator of Braxton. Cover at Homewood is a mere $5.

Speaking of brass in a modern but less “out there” context, Snowblind returns to the Dakota on Thursday (4/10). A great hornline with Shilad Sen (sax), Adam Rossmiller (trumpet) and Scott Agster (trombone) is ably backed by Graydon Peterson on bass and Reid Kennedy on drums. All are accomplished composers as well as performers, and make you wish the world was gilded in brass. As it will be for this evening.

If you want to check out some soulful blues with class, Davina and the Vagabonds take over the Dakota stage tonight (4/3), while the jazzed up/standup comic/vocalists, The Girls, fill the bill Sunday evening (4/5).

It’s not the busiest week in the jazz community, a good time to check out some of the regular offerings that are easy to push aside when special events flood the calendar. Fireside Pizza continues to host Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg, nearly every Monday and Wednesday night. Great music, great pizza. Some of the usual spots are slow to get their April calendars up, but you can generally count on loud crowds and great jazz at Crave in The Galleria (Edina) on Friday nights and some good vocal music at the Dakota County Steakhouse in the Burnsville Holiday Inn each weekend—Friday (4/3) with Arne Fogel and Saturday (4/4) with Nancy Harms.

Coming soon? A tasty edgy threesome on Easter Sunday night at the AQ with Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz and Phil Hey; across the river at the Dakota, it will be the great John Scofield with his Piety Street Band. West African bassist/vocalist Lionel Loueke takes time out from his Herbie Hancock tour to come to the Dakota on April 14th. And the Out to Lunch Quintet brings Dolphy and more to MacPhail’s Jazz Thursdays on the 16th.

Photos: Taylor Ho Bynum (photo by Hilary McHone) comes to Homewood Studios 4/5; Snowblind hopefully brings spring weather on 4/10 at the Dakota; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg are the house band at Fireside Pizza. Other photos by Andrea Canter.