Friday, August 28, 2009

The Lead Sheet, August 28-September 3

© 2009, Andrea Canter

There’s a lot of great jazz around the Cities as we heat up to Labor Day weekend. And generating the most heat is Kelly Rossum, former Mohawk Man, trumpeter, composer, bandleader, educator, jazz advocate general. His announcement about six months ago that he would be leaving for the less certain, more challenging epicenter of jazz, New York, was greeted with dismay and understanding—he needs to leave his comfort zone and test the deepest jazz waters. If talent counts, he should be swimming with the big fish soon.

But first, one last “farewell” weekend, this time at the Dakota with his brilliant quartet featuring Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates and JT Bates (8/28-29) with the added treat at 10 pm Saturday, when Kelly and JT meet up with sensational German organist Barbara Dennerlein. I saw her about a year ago here and for the first time appreciated the role of foot action on the Hammond B-3. She is in constant motion and her fancy footwork yields some exciting harmonics. Tonight, however, it is all quartet madness, and even without his trademark mohawk (he’s starting “clean” headed in NY), Kelly Rossum is always a unique voice, his horn spewing notes and phrases that can be as sublime (and decadent) as chocolate mousse and as biting and jolting as wasabi. For every human emotion, Kelly has a note, a sound. His vocabulary encompasses every language. Will we see these four musicians together again? Maybe Lowell Pickett has already booked the first reunion gig. Hang out late tonight for Nichols with Jay Epstein and Jeremy Boettcher.

There’s plenty of action across town, with a Charlie Parker Tribute Weekend at the Artists Quarter, featuring five sax giants—Dave Karr, Gary Berg and Bob Parsons tonight; Pete Whitman and Brandon Wozniak joining Dave tomorrow night (8/29), ably supported by Chris Lomheim, Adam Linz and Kenny Horst. And one more chance to enjoy Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in St. Paul, tonight (8/28).

Two big tribute gigs on Sunday for different reasons. From noon til 10 pm, there’s the first of several benefits for ailing guitar master Dean Magraw, this one at the Celtic Junction in St. Paul. Dean, recovering from a bone marrow transplant to fight lymphoma, has been one of the most prolific (and upbeat) musicians in town, covering folk, fusion and jazz traditions, and his fellow musicians and friends are hosting the fund raiser. (Other benefits include 9/14 at the Dakota and 10/11 at the Artists Quarter.) Sunday evening (7 pm), Minnesota’s matriarch of jazz, Jeanne Arland Peterson celebrates 88 x 2--- her birthday and her double CD release (88 Keys) at the Artists Quarter. Cake, swinging piano, and probably more Petersons than you can count.

Wednesday (9/2), one of my favorite local vocals returns to the Dakota—Nichola Miller. She’s full of sassy swing, a great songbook, and warming up to release a CD in November. Amina Figarova and her marvelous sextet return to the Twin Cities Thursday (9/3). A native of Azerbaijan now based in The Netherlands, Figarova is an amazing pianist, composer and arranger who wowed crowds at the 2008 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. This is a rare opportunity to hear one of the most exciting European ensembles on the scene. Competing on Thursday night is the first of the season’s REEL Jazz films at Bryant Lake Bowl. This evening’s screenings include four indie films covering Elvin Jones, Jaki Byard, jazz dance and more. Contact Kevin Barnes at Jazz 88 for reservations,

Coming soon: I for one will spend Labor Day Weekend in Detroit at the 30th annual Detroit Jazz Festival, enjoying a preview of Chick Corea with Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, who appear at the Dakota on September 7-8. We also anticipate hearing Hank Jones and Wayne Shorter among others in Detroit. Closer to home is the annual Chicago Jazz Festival over Labor Day Weekend, with everyone not in Detroit... and some who are. It’s also Jon Pemberton’s Tribute to Lee Morgan at the AQ that weekend, and a singers jam at the Sage Wine Bar in Mendota Heights (9/5), put on by the Jazz Vocalists of Minnesota. Check the Dakota calendar – September 10th offers a triple header with vocalists Tierney Sutton, Gretchen Parlato, and Sachal Vasandani. The Selby Avenue Jazz Festival returns featuring smooth man Kim Waters, on September 13th.

Photos: A dizzying Kelly Rossum; Dean Magraw; Jeanne Arland Peterson again will blow out the candles; Amina Figarova at the TC Jazz Festival (photos by Andrea Canter)