Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lead Sheet--Twin Cities Jazz, November 13-19

© Andrea Canter

If I were in town this weekend, I might have some dilemmas as to my preferred jazz events. So I guess I will just envy whatever decisions you make!

Big gigs on both sides of the river: At the Dakota, Debbie Duncan will carry on for a very lucky Friday the 13th, followed on Saturday night by the always exhilarating Ginger Commodore Quartet, augmented by the smooth and suave Dennis Spears. That’s a lot of soulful voices in one weekend on one stage! For a very different, equally exciting sound, the Pete Whitman X-Tet will blow hot and cool at the Artists Quarter. Pete and the gang typically get a weeknight gig every month, but the weekend shows are extra special. It’s about as big a band as you can squeeze into the AQ, too!

Regardless of your starting point, make the Dakota your end point on Saturday, with the Bryan Nichols Trio doing Late Night duties from 11:30 pm – 2 am. Nothing will keep you as alert and intrigued as Bryan and pals. Except maybe Ellen Lease and Pat Moriarty! Possibly the most “out there” jazz couple in town, Ellen on piano and Pat on sax normally head up the Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty Quintet, one of the region’s finest avant garde ensembles. But on Saturday (11/14), it’s just Ellen and Pat in the first of their Tonight at Noon: Jazz at Studio Z series in downtown St. Paul. More to come later this winter and spring, including a new incarnation of the Quintet minus Kelly Rossum.

There’s more for the weekend of course: For some great free music, check out the Holiday Open House at the Galleria in Edina, and particularly stop by the courtyard outside the Good Earth for a dose of Mary Louise Knutson, with Jeff Bailey (11/13 at 5 pm) or with Gordy Johnson (11/14 at 11 am) or with Chris Bates (11/15, noon). Can’t beat that! (Mary Louise and Debbie Duncan team up weekly on Tuesdays at Camp in St. Paul!) The over-the-edge Enormous Quartet improvises at Café Maude (11/13), other Friday the 13th options—more inclined to soothe nerves-- include Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at the Redstone Grill in Minnetonka (11/13), Jo Ann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the St. Paul Hotel Lobby Bar, and the Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen in the Chambers Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. On the north end, relaxation is on the set list with Arne Fogel and Kristin Sponcia at Ingredients Café Saturday night (11/14).

During the week, you can get a big taste of New Orleans without leaving Minneapolis, as clarinetist Evan Christopher returns to the Dakota (11/17) in the company of fellow Crescent City pianist Henry Butler. Wonder if Jack Riebel will be offering some gumbo and pecan pie? If you want to live dangerously, check the return of Volcano Insurance at the Kitty Kat Club (11/17)! If swing’s the thing, Anita O’Day will be celebrated through the musical charms of Lucia Newell, at the Artists Quarter with the Phil Aaron Trio (11/18). Another local vocalist, Nancy Harms, celebrates the release of her debut CD, In the Indigo, with her quartet at the Dakota (11/19) and again over the following weekend at the Jungle Theater (11/21). This might be Nancy’s first recording, but it’s an effort worthy of a veteran, filled with original arrangements, lyrics, and very personal interpretations of familiar and less familiar works. On the west end, Rhonda Laurie and Sidewalk Café return to Spasso (11/19), Richfield as usual boasts Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza Mondays and Wednesdays, while the Dave Karr Quartet bops away at the AQ (11/19).

All this might be good training for the next weekend, which will truly challenge decision-making skills: Roy Haynes and the Fountain of Youth at the AQ (11/20-21); the JazzMN Big Band on 11/21with its Three Tenors (Pete Whitman, Dave Karr, Dale Mendenhall); the Dafnis Preito Sextet at Walker (11/21); Maud Hixson at Jazz@St. Barney’s in Plymouth (11/21); and Nichola Miller’s live CD recording session at the AQ (11/22). That is of course just one weekend.
Photos (top-bottom): Evan Christopher; Lucia Newell; Nancy Harms (Photos by Andrea Canter)