Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, August 6-12








© Andrea Canter

This week is a great example of the eclecticism of Twin Cities jazz. You can hear (at least one more time) the evolving, exciting voice of Nancy Harms before she moves to New York; you can hear New Orleans brass, dance hall swing and modern big band interpretations in a suburban park; at perhaps the purest jazz club in the Midwest, you can observe the finale of the National Poetry Slam, and at the Midwest’s classiest jazz club, you can hear Texas Swing, the “Great Lady of Soul” interpreting British rock, and one of the grandads of New Orleans, Dr. John.

If you can only get out once this weekend, find your way to the Artists Quarter Saturday night (8/7) for Nancy Harm’s official “Farewell” gig. After developing a very personal style over the past few years, including the release of one of the most exciting jazz projects of 2009 (and beyond), Nancy is taking the plunge into the deep pool of New York. Her June gig in Manhattan at the Bar Next Door and new connections in the Big Apple made the move too enticing, and come the end of the month, Nancy will be on her way. But not before a few more gigs around the Twin Cities, including Saturday night. And just to make the transition easier, she’s on stage with a band that could easily make those folks in Manhattan jealous—pianist Bryan Nichols, bassist Anthony Cox and drummer Jay Epstein. It’s a new configuration for Nancy which only means she’ll find new ideas with every song. (And if you miss Nancy tonight, or want another dose, catch her on Thursday, 8/12, at the Olive Lounge of the Bloomington Hilton.)

Bettye LaVette offers another, albeit very different opportunity to enjoy the human voice when she returns to the Dakota for her annual “soul revue” (8/9-10). She’s not dubbed The Great Lady of Soul for nothing! A teen sensation back when, her career stalled for a couple decades before she came back with a vengeance, performing in 2004 at the Dakota when few clubs would hire her, only to find a new audience. Now she’s had a string of top-ranked recordings and her following grows with each tour. Her new release (Interpretations) finds her grabbing the passion from classic hits of British rock. Did Lennon and McCartney ever dream there was this much emotion to be mined from their book?

And you can cover pretty much the history of jazz in one Sunday afternoon at the Bloomington Jazz Festival at Normandale Lakes Park (8/8). Start out at noon with the New Orleans sounds of the Southside Aces, move on (with your dancing shoes) to the swinging beats of Steve Clarke and the Working Stiffs, and cap your fun with the modern charts of the JazzMN Big Band, with featured vocalist, Connie Evingson. The setting is park-perfect, the music and parking are free, the food vendors on target throughout the afternoon.

Wednesday marks the prime time AQ debut of the Zacc Harris Quartet, featuring some of the hottest talents in town—Zacc on guitar, Bryan Nichols on piano, Chris Bates on bass and JT Bates on drums. Sort of the Atlantis QT, trading sax for piano. These guys are so versatile, they can come together in any number of configurations and make new music.

What else this week? More song: Arne Fogel and the Wolverines at Hell’s Kitchen on Friday night (8/6) and with Jennifer Eckes at Honey on Sunday night (8/8); Vicky Mountain with Chris Lomheim at First Course Bistro (8/7); Dennis Spears at Crave in the West End Shops (8/8); Charmin Michelle at Cinema Ballroom (8/8), at the Old Log Theater (8/9) and with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (8/11); Maud Hixson with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (8/9); Reuben and Dan Ristrom at Sawatdee Maple Grove (8/11); Sophia Shorai at Barbette (8/12)—and plan to join her celebrating her duo CD release with Tommy Barbarella next week (8/19); it’s a winner.

More instrumental jazz: Fantastic Fridays at the Black Dog with Full Moon Rabbit (8/6); Nachito Herrera at the Dakota (8/6-7); Milo Fine at the West Bank School of Music (8/6); Joann Funk at Luna Rossa (8/7); Food Team Trio’s electronic mysteries at Café Maude (8/7); Rick Stack Quartet at the Black Dog (8/8); the “Minnesota Jazz All-Stars” at the Old Log (Cliff Brunzell, Irv Williams, Jeanne Arland Peterson and Percy Hughes with Charmin Michelle) on Monday (8/9); Fat Kid Wednesdays or a reasonably insane alternative at the Clown Lounge (8/9) and Tuesdays at the Clown (8/10); Cory Wong Quartet (early) and Tuesday Night Band (later) at the AQ on Tuesday (8/10); The Wolverines at Hell’s Kitchen (8/11); New Yorkers Jesse Stacken (piano) and Kirk Knuffke (trumpet) at the AQ on Thursday (8/12).

And the hard to classify—Texas swing masters Asleep at the Wheel at the Dakota (8/8) and the one and only Dr. John and the Lower 911 at the Dakota (8/12-13).

Coming Soon!
• August 13-14, Kelly Rossum Quartet at the AQ
• August 18-20, Greg Skaff at the AQ
• August 19, Sophia Shorai/Tommy Barbarella CD Release at the Dakota
• August 22, Connie Evingson and Friends, preview of “Summer Samba” at the Jungle Theater
• August 29-30, Karrin Allyson at the Dakota
Photos (top to bottom): Nancy Harms; Bettye LaVette; the Southside Aces; Zacc Harris with Chris Bates. (All photos by Andrea Canter)