Friday, May 29, 2009

© Andrea Canter

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend at the Artists Quarter since the gig was first announced. Ari Hoenig is one of my favorite drummers—visually as well as musically. I first saw him at the AQ a few years ago with long-time collaborator, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. Hoenig is a percussive acrobat whose facial expressions mirror the music that tumbles from his flailing arms and hands. He’s been described in the press as maniacal and indeed, that seems apt. He and Pilc returned about a year ago with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller. Another outstanding show. But this time, Hoenig has another trio, without piano. He’s been playing with Israeli native, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, a wunderkind who blazed his way through Berklee (or maybe he is still blazing!) and has been getting raves on the New York scene for the past four years. And they will be joined by one of our hometown stars, bassist Adam Linz. Sounds like a recipe for a magnificent jazz feast, Friday and Saturday at the AQ (5/29-30).

Brazilian music takes the Dakota stage tonight (5/29) with guitarist/vocalist Robert Everest’s ensemble, featuring Mary Louise Knutson on piano. I’m hoping to catch the first set enroute to the AQ! Stick around late at the Dakota, or come on over from the AQ for the Late Night All-Stars at 11:30 pm, a collection of some of the Late Night series’ favorites sharing the stage.

Before the AQ on Saturday night, I’ll be at the Sage Wine Bar in Mendota Heights for another installment of the Jazz Vocalists of Minnesota Singers’ Jam. Featuring some of the brightest newcomers on the vocal jazz scene, the jam is always fun, and the food and service at Sage make for a full evening of fun. And it’s early, 6-9 pm, leaving plenty of time to drive across 35E to St Paul and the AQ.

Two fun vocal events on Sunday night (5/31): Paula Lammers and her Cloud Nine band perform at 7 pm at the Como Park Pavillion in St. Paul; Connie Evingson and the Dakota Trio (Tanner Taylor, Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey) are on stage at the Dakota. Start here, finish there.

The big event of early June is the return of the Roy Hargrove Quintet, at the Dakota June 1-2. Last September, I enjoyed two gigs with this monster group, at the Detroit Jazz Festival and then a few days later at the Dakota. Aside from the fact that Roy is one of the finest trumpeters of the day (and perhaps of any day), the quintet stands out as an ensemble that gives 110% to every tune at every performance. They play each note as if recording live. Young pianist Gerald Clayton is worth the admission himself, but you surely want to be close by when Roy picks up the trumpet or flugelhorn. Roy loves the Dakota, lucky for us.

If you haven’t tried the new digs of Hell’s Kitchen (in the old Rossi’s space on 9th Street, downtown Minneapolis), Tuesday (6/2) is a good opportunity when guitar wizard Zacc Harris brings in his trio with young and very talented vocalist Rachel Holder. I’ll be out of town but I would be torn between Mpls and St Paul on Thursday (6/4). Paul Renz and his quintet are at the Dakota—great guitar, great compositions, great energy. Across the river, much the same can be said to describe Pooch’s Playhouse in their AQ debut, with more of an intergalactic vibe in another guitar-led ensemble (Joel Shapira at the helm). With Gilad Hekselman in town over the weekend, this week is definitely guitar-friendly!

Looking ahead – full schedule for the Twin Cities Jazz Festival has been announced and it will be a highly concentrated three days of great music (June 18-20) within a few block radius of Mears Park in downtown St. Paul. Check the website at for details. (Hint—Jon Weber, Alex Han, Esperanza Spalding, Allan Touissaint, New Standards, Dakota Combo and more.) Bettye Lavette returns to the Dakota (June 11), Jay Epstein with Bill Carrothers and Anthony Cox celebrate a new CD release at the AQ (June 12-13), Monty Alexander performs at the Orpheum (June 12), Hiromi (June 21-22) and Karrin Allyson (June 23-24) return to the Dakota. Outdoor music gets underway throughout the city parks and more. Summer, jazz in the city!
Photos: (Top) Ari Hoenig at the AQ; Adam Linz; Roy Hargrove at the Dakota in September 2008. (Photos by Andrea Canter)