Friday, July 9, 2010

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, July 9-15

© Andrea Canter

Normally musicians are pleased to have gigs around town, but I know several vocalists who are disappointed that work will keep them from the Artists Quarter this weekend (7/9-10) when Kendra Shank holds a belated Twin Cities CD release party for her acclaimed 2009 recording, Mosaic. Shank was last here in 2006, shortly after releasing her tribute to Abbey Lincoln, A Spirit Free. This time, instead of her touring quartet, she will join forces with Bryan Nichols, Terry Burns and Phil Hey, talents up to the task of supporting one of the most creative improvisers in vocal jazz. It will be a first meeting for Kendra and Bryan, and while Bryan is far less known than Kendra’s usual keyboard partner, Frank Kimbrough, I think there’s some basic similarity in the way the two pianists approach their craft—with big ears and fertile imaginations. Perfect foils for Kendra Shank. Shank has been immersed in the arts since early childhood, delving in theater, painting and later folk music before discovering Billie Holiday and the wide world of jazz. Kendra describes her approach to music as “sound painting—using instruments (including drums) as colors, creating sonic environments and moods. And using space/silence as one of the colors.” And one of the instruments is her voice, be it reinventing something as common as “Blue Skies” or creating new lyrics or new melodies. Her recent projects have included acapella ensembles and tandem experiments with a modern dance company. And with every new turn, her metaphorical palette of color and shape expands, as if adding a new substance to her personal Sonic Table of Elements. With three new cohorts at the AQ, Kendra will no doubt create new colors and shapes.

Speaking of improvisers with diverse projects, here comes Bill Frisell with his Beautiful Dreamers Trio, featuring two cohorts from other ensembles, violist Eyvind Kang and drummer Rudy Royston, at the Dakota for two nights (7/12-13). It’s just one many string projects (he’s worked with Jim Hall, Hank Roberts and Mark Feldman, among others) for the restlessly talented Frisell, who was here (at Walker) last spring with Kang and world renowned oud player Rami AlHaj. Royston too is making a quick return, having been on stage at the Dakota in late May with sister in law Tia Fuller. It seems that the only requirement for a Bill Frisell gig, aside from immense talent, is to have established credentials across diverse projects. And that’s more than enough.

And back from New York, but only long enough to pack up, Nancy Harms will sing at the Bloomington Hilton this week (7/15) in the fine company of Phil Aaron and Graydon Peterson. Harms, who has literally been on a rocket ride over the past year since the release of her outstanding debut CD, In the Indigo, spent June in the Big Apple, sitting in and gigging and particularly fronting a gig at The Bar Next Door with guitarist Paul Bollenback and bassist (and former Twin Citian) Michael O’Brien. It must have felt right as Nancy will be moving to New York in September. So don’t waste an opportunity like this one to hear her take apart standards with the aplomb of a veteran improviser.

You can hear some other fine voices this week: Charmin Michelle is back at Crave in the Galleria with the Laura Caviani Trio (7/9), at Crave in the West End Shops with Rick Carlson for brunch and at Cinema Ballroom with the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra, both on Sunday (7/11), and with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza Monday (7/12) and Wednesday (7/14); Christine Rosholt kicks off the weekend on Peavey Plaza today (7/9), at Como Park Pavillion Sunday night (7/11) and with Beasley’s Big Band at Wabasha Street Caves (7/15); Aaron Keith Stewart sings at Tryg’s Saturday night (7/10); Debbie Duncan and Mary Louise Knutson hit the stage of the Lake Harriet Bandshell on Sunday (7/11); Maud Hixson performs with the Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen on Wednesday (7/14) and Arne Fogel fills that singer’s space the next night (7/15).

Instrumental jazz keeps coming hot and steamy all week long: Julie Johnson and Friends are featured on Fantastic Fridays at the Black Dog (7/9); Gordy Johnson and Tommy O’Donnell are on stage at Roman Anthony’s (7/9-10); the Zacc Harris Trio holds their usual spot on Sunday nights at the Riverview Wine Bar (7/11); guitarist Rick Stack has a Sunday gig at the Black Dog (7/11); the Southside Aces swing at the Nomad (7/11); visiting experimental music makers Gerry Hemingway (percussion) and Terrence McManus (guitars) do a double header, Sunday at Rogue Buddha Gallery (7/11) and Monday at the late set at the Clown Lounge, following the open set by Fat Kid Wednesdays (7/12); Milo Fine freely improvises at Homewood Studios (7/12); The Bryan Nichols Quintet and Atlantis Quartet perform for Tuesdays at the Clown (7/13); Cory Wong Quartet and the Tuesday Night Band are at the AQ (7/13); Max Weinberg, of Conan O’Brien fame, brings his big band into the Dakota on Wednesday (7/14); master drummer and vibest Marv Dahlgren brings his quartet back to the AQ on Thursday (7/15).

Coming soon!
• July 16-17, Mulligan Stew at the AQ
• July 17, DakotaFest, about 12 hours of nonstop music and fun on Nicollet Mall, featuring Bonerama, Charmaine Neville, Glenn David Andrews, Patty Peterson, Debbie Duncan, Nachito Herrera, Davina & the Vagabonds, the Dakota Combo and more on Nicollet Mall and Peavey Plaza
• July 19-20, Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Dakota
• July 21, Phil Hey Quartet at the AQ
• July 23, Lizz Wright & Evan Christopher at Orchestra Hall
• July 23-24, Ben Sidran at the Dakota
• July 23-24, Laura Caviani Quartet at the AQ

Photos: Kendra Shank (at the Dakota a few years ago); Bill Frisell (at the 2009 Iowa City Jazz Festival); Nancy Harms. (All photos by Andrea Canter)