Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, October 15-21

© Andrea Canter

What an eclectic week awaits us in Jazzland—from the swingy/sassy Nichola Miller’s CD release to the sassy/way-out-there return of Nellie McKay, from a friendly sibling rivalry to the global musings of trumpeter Hugh Masekela and the wild experiments of Anti-Gravity….

Nichola Miller kicks off the weekend (10/15-16) at the Artists Quarter with the same cast that swing through her new recording, a live session at the AQ from November 2009. If you were there, you no doubt remember the sassy energy that bubbled off the stage. It’s all well preserved on Thou Swingeth --“old school jazz with punk rock attitude,” to quote Nichola. Throw in Rick Carlson, Keith Boyles, Nathan Norman and Dave Karr. That’s a party!

The New Standards are just that – a trio that looks back to the glory days of rock and pop, and injects their jazz-informed update. John Munson, Chan Poling and Steve Roehm bring unique instrumentation as well (keyboards, guitar and vibes) to the Dakota stage Saturday night (10/16).

It’s hard to describe Nellie McKay’s music to the uninitiated. The Girl Next Door Meets Lizzie Borden? She can be wicked, she can be hilarious, she is unpredictable and fully entertaining. And she has a new recording of original material, Home Sweet Mobile Home. For a really wild weekend of song, go hear Nichola Miller and follow-up with Nellie McKay (10/17-18). Two really hip and sassy women, one making her point with pure swing, the other by swinging at tradition and whatever else crosses her path.

Add a third singer with a big weekend—U of M voice faculty member Wendy Zaro seems to have successfully shed the classical veil of her training and early experience as she releases Fly Home Little Heart, a collection of popular songs given new life through Laura Caviani’s beautiful arrangements and Zaro’s intimate interpretations. The celebration will be held Sunday night (10/17) at Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank campus, with a cast to make anyone drool—Caviani on piano, Pete Whitman on sax and flute, Chris Olson on guitar, Gordy Johnson on bass, Phil Hey on drums. The result is the intimacy of cabaret and accessibility of the Great American Songbook. The concert is free and proceeds from CD sales will help support the Suicide Awarenes/Voice of Education (SAVE) project. So pick up some early holiday gifts!

Sibling rivalry had a different meaning for Joan and Marshall Griffith—instead of vying for the car keys, they tried to outdo each other figuring out the tunes they heard on television shows and playing them back by ear. Eventually, Joan studied classical guitar and found her way to Minnesota, heading up jazz at St Thomas and Macalester and becoming the local guru of Brazilian guitar, bass and mandolin. Marshall took a more academic route through the Cleveland Institute of Music, earning his DM, landing on the faculty and becoming a highly sought-after composer and performer. It’s a family reunion on Monday (10/18) as Marshall guest stars at an evening of mostly original music at Janet Wallace Auditorium on the Macalester campus, featuring the premier of his “Jazz Impressions of Minnesota.” Joining the siblings will be Dave Karr and Gordy Johnson. This is a freebie! (I heard a preview of “Jazz Impressions of Minnesota”—don’t miss this one.)

Surely one of the highlights of October is the return of trumpeter Hugh Masekela, gracing the Dakota stage Wednesday and Thursday (10/20-21). Born in South Africa and raised in the shadow of apartheid, his early exposure to the conflict between the privileged white minority and the oppressed black majority seeped into his music. He left South Africa in 1960 following the Sharpesville massacre, ultimately landing the U.S. at the Manhattan School of Music, becoming an international star by the 1970s. And he’s still at it. Beautifully.

For the best of improvised and experimental music, look no farther than Studio Z and Anti-Gravity on Thursday night (10/21). Among the most creative musicians in the area, Anti-Gravity brings together the talents of Dean Granros (guitar), Jacqueline Ultan (cello), Steve Goldstein (laptop), Scott Fultz (saxes) and Pat O'Keefe (clarinets), with special appearances from vocalist/improviser Viv Corringham and pianist Rahjta Ren.

Sure, there’s more! Tonight (10/15), Fantastic Fridays at the Black Dog; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek preview Lee’s new CD at Pardon My French; the edgy Leisure Valley (Bruce Thornton, Patrick Harrison, Joey Van Phillips, Chris Bates) ramps up the improv at Café Maude. Saturday (10/16), Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske offer gently serious music in the Lobby Bar at the St Paul Hotel; Christine Rosholt helps you swing dance the night away with Beasley’s Big Band at the Wabasha Street Caves (and for a repeat, go back on Thursday); the African guitar trio Body Omara keeps you awake at Café Maude. On Sunday (10/17), the Zacc Harris Trio takes the stage for their usual weekly gig at the Riverview Wine Bar. Come Monday (10/18), Headspace warms up for poetry at the Artists Quarter; the U of M Jazz Ensemble II (with 16-year old pianist Quentin Tschofen) holds their fall concert at Ted Mann; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg host their semi-weekly gig at Fireside Pizza (again on Wednesday, 10/20); and as always, its Jazz Implosion night at the Clown Lounge.

Tuesday (10/19) brings the weekly back-to-back gigs of the Cory Wong Quartet and Tuesday Night Band at the AQ; the Atlantis Quartet is featured at the Clown Lounge; Arne Fogel croons with the Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood; Café Accordion swings at the Loring Pasta Bar; Jack Brass honors Crescent City traditions at Favor Café. Wednesday (10/20), Arne Fogel again, this time with the Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; a fabulous trio of Tanner Taylor, Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst take over at the Artists Quarter following the weekly TEFSA jam. On Thursday (10/21), master percussionist/vibes man Marv Dahlgren proves age is meaningless in jazz, at the Artists Quarter; guitarist Joel Shapira previews his new recording (Open Lines) at Hell’s Kitchen.

Coming Soon!
• October 22-23, Diane Witherspoon at the Artists Quarter
• October 22, Bruce Henry at the Dakota
• October 23, “With These Songs in Our Hearts” (music of Rogers and Hart), featuring Arne Fogel, Lucia Newell and Maud Hixson with the Tanner Taylor Trio at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• October 23-24, KBEM 40th Anniversary Gala Weekend
• October 28, Lee Engele CD release at Pardon My French
• October 29-30, Kelly Rossum and Nicollet Av Circus Band/Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at MacPhail
• October 29-30, Paul Bollenback at the Artists Quarter
• November 2, Regina Carter at the Dakota
• November 5-6, Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and the SPCO live premiere of Highway Rider at the Walker Art Center
• November 5-6, Dave King/Anthony Cox/Dean Granros at the Artists Quarter

Photos: (Top to Bottom), Nichola Miller; Joan Griffith; Wendy Zaro; Joel Shapira. (All but Zaro photos by Andrea Canter; Wendy Zaro photo provided by artist.)