Friday, July 17, 2009

The Lead Sheet, July 17-23

© Andrea Canter

Hmm, the Strib couldn't find a single jazz gig to list in the weekly Big Gigs column today? And here I was thinking, it never rains, it pours! In fact, I am noticing more and more difficulty picking jazz gigs for The Lead Sheet each week, and in deciding which ones I will attend.... that suggests there are more venues booking jazz around town. I don’t mind these dilemmas.

I've been following the high school ensemble, The Dakota Combo, since their first edition three years ago. This year, director Kelly Rossum proposed a studio recording session, not only to get the music on record for posterity and PR, but also as a learning experience for the young musicians. The result is a CD of joyous original music and, according to these seven young men, a learning experience to last a lifetime. You can get a free copy of the CD and enjoy the last public appearance of the 2008-09 Combo on Peavy Plaza adjacent to Orchestra Hall (downtown Minneapolis) on Saturday morning (7/18) at 11:30 am. Stick around and hear two of the Schubert Club/Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Jazz Piano Scholarship winners, Joe Strachan from 2009 and Jacob Wittenberg from 2008. It's all part of the DFJE Student Showcase at Sommerfest.
A seldom convened quartet takes the stage at the Artists Quarter this weekend, and it is among the best. Led by Pete Whitman, who is a demon on saxes and flute, it brings together pianist Peter Schimke, bassist Jeff Bailey and drummer Kevin Washington, each a monster. I first heard Jeff with the old Doug Little Quartet at the old AQ on Jackson Street, and a few times with the earlier incarnation of Jazz Is Now! But his public gigs have been few and far between lately. Irv Williams grabbed him for the TC Jazz Festival and it was great to hear him again. Kevin and Peter have numerous projects, Kevin most recently at the Guthrie Theater. This will be a hot one. And always hot, Nachito Herrera returns for his monthly blowout at the Dakota, just Saturday night this time.

Late Night at the Dakota keeps adding new as well as veteran performers. Worth staying up late on Saturday—Tim Sparks teams with Chris Bates and Jay Epstein to recapture the magic of his June release, Little Princess, an interpretative tribute to the great klezmer clarinetist, Naftule Brandwein. Sparks has long been the master of all things guitar, and particularly his blending of East European folk traditions with more global textures. There’s no clarinet in this trio, but the spirit of Brandwein shines nevertheless, with touches of flamenco and a dash of an Italian wedding. So sleep late on Sunday?

Sunday night a new band makes its first public appearance, at the Dakota. Story City brings together a sextet who have played together in varying combinations before finding their way into the Pat Metheny/Michael Brecker playbooks. Led by drummer Steve Jennings, this ensemble promises to become one of the most interesting on the local jazz scene.

Much more around town this weekend, with accordion star Patrick Harrison tonight at The Armatage (the offshoot of Café Maude, across the street in southwest Minneapolis);the ever-sbulime Maud Hixon & Rick Carlson at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in St. Paul, also tonight; two recommended cutting edge gigs at Café Maude –tonight with the Enormous Quartet (Chris Bates, Park Evans, Chris Thomson, Joey VanPhillips) and Saturday night with Van Phillips, Adam Linz and Nathan Hanson. Downtown, Hell’s Kitchen continues its ascent a first-rate music destination, Vital Organ with Katie Gearty on stage tonight, whiz-bang pianist Tanner Taylor on stage Saturday night. The Wolverines continue their run on Wednesday night (7/22).
Freebie of the week - Fat Kid Wednesdays on Peavy Plaza, Thursday at 5-7 pm as part of the free music of Sommerfest.

This coming week brings the unusual, and unusually talented Christopher O’Riley to the Dakota (July 20-21). Noted for his NPR show From the Top, O’Reilly has taken his classical chops to pop and rock, transcribing Radiohead, Nirvana, even Reid Anderson of the Bad Plus.

The Artists Quarter has its usual fine programming with the Tuesday Night Band (7/21), Tanner Taylor Trio (7/22) and Dave Karr Quartet (7/23), while Jeremy Walker’s NOWnet presents original music at the Dakota on July 23rd. That’s a big night in jazztown as trumpeter/Artistic Director for Jazz Irvin Mayfield presents a commissioned new work at Orchestra Hall. My suggestion is to go to Orchestra Hall, then come down the block and catch the last set of the NOWnet.

Coming soon—the long-awaited reunion of the Illicit Sextet at the AQ (July 24-25); Jelloslave at the Dakota Late Night (July 24); the Freedom Jazz Festival on August 1.

Photos (Top to bottom): The Dakota Combo prepares for its CD release; Jeff Bailey at the 2009 TC Jazz Festival; Jazz Is Now NOWnet performed in February with guest Ron Miles; Irvin Mayfield made an impromptu guest appearance with Tia Fuller at the Dakota on July 15th. (Photos by Andrea Canter)