Friday, August 14, 2009

The Lead Sheet, August 14-20

© Andrea Canter

If you use local print media as your guide, you would have to agree with our friends at Minnesota Monthly that jazz is hard to find. Today’s Star Tribune, for example, in its “big gigs” listing, has no jazz at all. Maybe it does not help that the biggest gig at the Dakota Jazz Club this week (arguably) is Aaron Neville. And that is indeed a big gig.... but where’s the jazz? Fortunately, what’s missing from the Strib is in plentiful and exemplary supply, including jazz gigs at the Dakota.

And there should be a banner headline declaring this Irv Williams Weekend in the Twin Cities, as the tireless tenorman celebrates #90 on both sides of the river, tonight (8/14) at the Artists Quarter and again Monday (8/17) at the Dakota. As prolific in his 9th decade as most musicians in their prime, Irv still holds weekly gigs (happy hour at the Dakota on Fridays, pleasing the Saturday diners at Il Vesco Vino) and brings his quartet to the AQ a few times each year; he was one of the prime acts at the 2009 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. You won’t hear a sweeter horn or meet a sweeter guy. Birthday cake is on the set list, and Irv has more than enough lung power to handle 90 candles.

Another double-header this weekend features saxophonist/flautist Doug Little and his Seven Steps to Havana. It’s a multi-cultural experience, with band members from the US, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico, tied together by Doug’s immersion in the traditions of Cuba and Brazil as well as solid American post bop chops. They’re at the Dakota tonight (8/14) and the AQ Saturday (8/15).

There’s one more opportunity to enjoy Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in St. Paul (Saturday, 8/15). There’s no finer voice/piano duo. Check out Maud’s website for some clips she recorded last winter in New York! (

The weekend also includes Patty Peterson at Crave in the Galleria (8/14); steamy vocalist Ginger Commodore at the Dakota followed by the edgy James Buckley Trio (8/15), young creators Bryan Nichols and Jeremy Boetcher in a piano/bass duo at Café Maud in southwest Minneapolis (8/15), and the always engaging Connie Evingson at the Dakota to close out the weekend (8/16). If you are down around Northfield this weekend, or decide to make the short drive, it’s the first Northfield Jazz Festival. There’s a ticketed performance by Butch Thompson tonight (8/14) and an afternoon of free music in the park from noon on Saturday (8/15). The opening act, the Joe Strachan Quartet, features some of the most gifted young musicians around.

For the night owls, Slide Huxtable, one of the area’s most exciting if infrequently appearing ensembles, takes the stage at the Clown Lounge (Turf Club) for a 10:30 pm gig on Monday (8/17). Their 2007 recording was one of my favorite of the year... and the next. SH features trombone master/leader Mark Miller, guitarist Bill Bergman, bassist Chris Bates and brother JT on drums.

Looking for Trouble? Vanessa Trouble, that is. The intriguing New York vocalist will be in town with Minnesota transplant, trumpeter Charlie Carinicus, for an exciting evening on Tuesday (8/18). Just down the street at Hell’s Kitchen, Maud Hixson takes us to Paris with a new project, French 75. Thursday night, Hell hosts the sublime Arne Fogel with the Wolverines Trio.

As always, great chamber jazz prevails at the AQ midweek, with Dave Karr’s Quartet on Wednesday (8/19) and Phil Hey’s Quartet on Thursday (8/20). For a noon reprieve, Vicky Mountain and James Allen offer the perfect break with swinging tunes at Anita’s Café in the Landmark Center in St. Paul, previewing their new release, Sincerely Yours (8/19). And your pizza quota for the week can be filled with song, Monday night with Charmin Michelle, Wednesday night with Maxine Sousé, at Fireside Pizza in Richfield, both accompanied by Denny Malmberg, master of wit and keyboards.

On the jazz horizon: A dazzling weekend (8/21-22) at the AQ with Kelly Rossum (releasing a duo CD with Phil Hey and playing in varying combinations with Hey, Adam Linz and Bryan Nichols); one night with the amazing pianist Amina Figarova at the Dakota (9/3); two nights with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White at the Dakota (9/7-8). And way out on the horizon but never too early to mention – Dave King for Two Days, an amazing line up over two nights (March 13-14) of Dave King’s many projects, all at the Walker’s McGuire Theater, and featuring The Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Bad Apple, Buffalo Collison (with Tim Berne and Ethan Iverson) and two new bands, one reuniting Golden Valley “kids” King, Reid Anderson and Craig Taborn and another with Adam Linz and Chris Speed. Call it the Dave King Modern Jazz Festival. Check the Walker website for tickets.
Photos: Irv Williams blew sweet and cool at the TC Jazz Festival; Doug Little propels Seven Steps to Havana; Maud Hixson, always on key (Photos by Andrea Canter)