Monday, December 20, 2010

Space Dust From the Red Planet

© Andrea Canter

In the midst of his battle with lymphona, Dean Magraw and his Red Planet (Chris Bates, Jay Epstein) released Space Dust (GoneJazz, 2009), filled with the trio’s celestial wanderings on covers of Hendrix and Coltrane as well as compositions from Dean and Chris. I don’t recall if there was a proper CD release since Dean was out of commission through 2009 and much of 2010. The reunion at the Artists Quarter this past weekend thus was a double celebration, of the music of Red Planet and of Dean’s return to action. It seemed as if the ensemble had never gone on hiatus, their interaction as telepathic as ever, Dean—if anything—singing through his guitars with even more clarity, more passion than before. Red Planet has long been sweet on Coltrane, paying homage on several tunes including an extended, ecstatic “Africa.” But Monk got his due as well, the first set including “Ugly Beauty” and a “Let’s Cool One” featuring a very musical solo from Bates and playful exchange between Magraw and Epstein—if ever a guitar trio was well suited for Monk, it’s Red Planet. Originals like Dean’s “Dawn Star” (on acoustic guitar) furthered the joyful return of one of the Twin Cities’ most endearing, and enduring, composers and performers. Our soundscape is once again aglow, our jazz stars back in alignment.

Photos: Red Planet at the AQ. (Top to Bottom) Dean Magraw; Chris Bates; Jay Epstein (Photos by Andrea Canter on December 18, 2010).