Saturday, December 31, 2011

Signs of Jazz Life in the Local Universe, 2011 (Part 1)

© Andrea Canter

The Variety section of Friday’s Star Tribune was filled with “best of” lists –night life, quotes, albums, live acts, songs. The only mention of anything jazz-related was in the article, “No. 1 Sign the Local Music Scene Was Alive and Well in 2011,” which provided responses from 9 panelists of the Twin Cities Critics Tally and, not surprising, included only one jazz comment -- from local blogger/jazz calendar maven Pamela Espeland. With the exception of Jon Bream, who on occasion covers something jazzy, Pamela was the only member of the entire panel with any clear interest in jazz.

No one asked my opinion, so I’m happy to share it here. What were the signs that the local jazz scene was alive and well in 2011? In no particular order:

KBEM radio. After celebrating 40 years on the air in fall 2010, Jazz88 continued its jam-packed daily programming from trad to rad, giving more students opportunities to learn about the music as well as broadcasting skills, adding new programs like Patty Peterson’s Playroom and expanding Maryann Sullivan’s Corner Jazz to include the Local Corner. Further, Jazz 88 has continued its REEL Jazz film screenings, seasonal jazz cruises, and Jazz After Work. And I am looking forward to the 2012 return of South High (and now Southwest) students running their own show, as well as broadcasts of St Paul Live.

Twin Cities Jazz Festival. After nearly going under a few years ago, the festival is fast becoming one of the top jazz events in the Midwest, growing in attendance, gigs and enthusiasm each year since settling into Lowertown for one long weekend in June. Hats off to Steve Heckler and his crew for bringing in acts like Gary Burton and Danilo Perez, showing off local talents, presenting workshops, and doing it all as a free public event. At least for a few days and nights, everyone’s a jazz fan. Bonus in 2011--Downbeat Magazine was on hand to not only cover the story of Gary Burton, but the story of the festival (published in October).

Artists Quarter. Credit owner Kenny Horst with survival as the only club venue in town presenting jazz full time. A haven for local musicians and serious listeners, Kenny offers lots of bop and bang for the buck (usually $5 weeknights and $10-$15 weekends). In the past year, he brought in more national artists, like Eddie Gomez, Christian Howes, Eric Alexander, Jon Weber and more. And of course there are our locally-based musicians with national reputations!

Jazz Central. Underground clubs and house parties are making a comeback, even in the Twin Cities, and Jazz Central leads the way. Tanner Taylor and Mac Santiago turned an old recording studio in Northeast Minneapolis into a performance space/teaching and recording studio, “for the cats, by the cats.” Surviving on donations and rentals, they offer Monday night gigs and jams and sometimes more during the week, but the mission is to give musicians a place to play without being confined by concerns for filling the house or playing to a common denominator of musical tastes—here they can stretch out, experiment, and work in combinations that are simply unlikely bookings.

Dakota Jazz Club. Some may view the expanded music schedule (covering pop, rock, blues, and more) as a contra-indicator of jazz health. Ideally, the Dakota Jazz Club would still be offering “jazz” seven nights per week and making a profit doing it. This concept is becoming an oxymoran in jazz worldwide. Lowell Pickett continues to bring in top names in the national jazz scene more often than any other local venue and at prices that are still competitive with clubs in other major cities. And the Dakota continues to be one of the classiest settings to hear music of any kind. Best of all, it’s still open. Maybe someone who enjoyed Little Anthony and the Imperials will come back to hear Kenny Werner and Toots Thielemans (March 20th)? Maybe.

Young Artists and Jazz Education. Opportunities for students to learn and perform are growing, within our public and private schools (including MacPhail, McNally Smith, Walker West) and within the arts community. From the student broadcasters at KBEM to those in the elite community ensembles like the Dakota Combo, Minnesota Youth Jazz Band, and Walker West, the array of talent coming up through the ranks is impressive. In the past year, the Dakota Combo was selected to participate in the annual Charles Mingus High School Festival and Competition in New York, and MYJB toured Europe, including a performance at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival. My friend Joan Delich also reminded me that the St Olaf Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dave Hagedorn, was named Top Large Jazz Ensemble in the college division of the Downbeat Student Awards. And young artists have been welcomed to the stage at the Artists Quarter (including the TCJS Young Artists Series), Dakota, area jazz festivals (TCJF, Dakota Street Fest, Burnsville Art and All That Jazz) and more. A new opportunity launching in 2011 was the PipJazz Sundays concert series at Landmark Center, where each concert (as of November) features a student guest who rehearses and performs with the house band.

Learning opportunities outside of the schools have also grown, with public clinics during the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, at Walker West, and through Zacc Harris’s Jazz at Studio Z series, which includes open rehearsals on the afternoon of each gig. The Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education received an MRAC grant to bring jazz artists into schools for intensive learning experiences. Perhaps one of the best examples of the growth of opportunities for young musicians was last night’s line-up at the Black Dog Café. On stage for the Community Pool/Deep End new music series was a band simple labeled Ikeda/Smith/Wildenauer. Alden Ikeda and Joe Smith are seasoned veterans on the local scene. Sam Wildenauer is a 17-year-old bassist at South High. Yeah, that’s the way it used to be.

Local recordings. It was a good year for local jazz artists, with excellent releases from Bryan Nichols (Bright Places), Atlantis Quartet (Lines in the Sand), Mary Louise Knutson (In the Bubble), Doug Haining (Last Many Swinging), Joel Shapira Quartet (Open Lines), Charmin and Shapira (Dawning and Daylight), the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle (Dance Party Volume 1), Prudence Johnson (A Girl Named Vincent), Paula Lammers (Deep Purple Dreams), Red Planet (Space Dust) and the late Christine Rosholt’s tragically final jazz/pop hybrid (Pazz). And let’s count the Dave King Trucking Company (Good Old Light), since nearly all members of the band are based here.

Big gigs: The brightest stars on the national and international jazz scene came to Twin Cities venues this year, including the Bad Plus performing their arrangement of the Rite of Spring at the Loring and their 12th annual holiday weekend at the Dakota; Joe Lovano’s Us Five visiting twice (at the Dakota and at the Hopkins Center for the Arts); Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard, and Herbie Hancock (solo) at Orchestra Hall; Gary Burton and Danilo Perez at the TC Jazz Festival; Mike Stern with the JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins Performing Arts Center; Theo Bleckmann at Macalester; Ramsey Lewis, Roy Hargrove, “Four Generations of Miles,” Michel LeGrand, Arturo Sandoval, Roberta Gambarini, Jane Monheit, Karrin Allyson, Ben Sidran, Stanley Clarke, James Farm, John Scofield at the Dakota; Eric Alexander, Eddie Gomez and Christian Howes at the Artists Quarter.

New venues for jazz. Pamela noted in the Strib that “when one venue closes, others open or make room for jazz.” The Clown Lounge closed; Café Maude put music on hold for couple months; and the Loring Theater has closed as of today. But now we have Nicollet Coffee with jazz at least weekly, a revived Nomad World Pub Jazz series, the new series at Studio Z, expanded jazz at the Black Dog (e.g., first Tuesdays with Dean Magraw and Davu Seru and Community Pool/Deep end on alternating Fridays), and the return of the Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen. And it seems more and more restaurants and bars are presenting jazz at least a few nights each month. Jazz is increasingly present in the suburbs, from Wayzata (318 Café) to Stillwater (Shanghai Bistro).

Signs That Jazz Needs a Boost
Amidst all the indicators that jazz thrives in the Twin Cities, there remain some signs that jazz advocacy is still sorely needed:

Attendance at gigs. Especially during the week, audiences can be painfully scant. When an artist like Joe Lovano and his Us Five band can not fill the house at the Dakota, you have to wonder…. But where is the press to help promote jazz gigs? Oh yeah, I forgot, the Strib sent a photographer down to the Artists Quarter to cover the last B-3 Organ Night!

Limited venues for serious listening/playing. Despite some great spaces and attitudes, a-too high percentage of jazz musicians still play for too little money in cramped spaces with poor sound systems in rooms filled with people seeking only background music to talk over. We need more Black Dogs, more Studio Zs, small venues that are truly artist-friendly.

Awareness: Apparently we don’t yet have a critical mass of jazz websites, jazz bloggers, or jazz reporters as I still hear, way too often, “Where can I go to hear some jazz?” or worse yet, “It’s too hard to find out about jazz gigs.” Of course if you are reading this, you do know how to find out. As much as we like to think the world has switched allegiance to online information, the dearth of jazz coverage in daily print media or on commercial radio continues to be one of the most serious deterrents to jazz wellness.

But these downers are long-standing issues. Despite these ongoing challenges, jazz is thriving as much in the Twin Cities as anywhere else, and given the size of the metropolitan area, this may be the strongest jazz scene per capita in the country.

New Year's Resolutions

You can help make 2012 a banner year for jazz in the Twin CItites by making a few commitments:

• Join the Twin Cities Jazz Society and ensure continued series of concerts, scholarships, Young Artists Series, student workshops and print and online news coverage.
• Donate to KBEM and KFAI radio to ensure continued programming and educational support. (And listen to jazz programming!)
• Donate to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival to ensure a wide range of artists and workshops at no charge
• Attend as many jazz gigs as you can, and make it a point to visit new venues to hear new artists and/or new music, including student performances.
• Visit jazz-related websites and blogs to find out what is going on!
• Tell your local newspaper that you want more coverage of jazz events!
Stop talking during the bass solo!

What were the key indicators of jazz health in 2011 according to other local jazz hounds? Watch this blog for Part 2, to be posted in early next week.

Photos (top to bottom): Maryann Sullivan broadcasts Corner Jazz and the Local Corner on KBEM radio; the Twin Cities Jazz Festival filled Mears Park for the Gary Burton Quartet; the Dakota Combo performed at the Mingus Festival and Competition in New York; the Nicollet Coffee hosts jazz every Tuesday night with groups like JazZen. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, December 30 - January 5

© Andrea Canter

The joy of celebrating and anticipating the New Year is tempered this week with the loss of our dear friend and jazz chanteuse Christine Rosholt. But she would be the first one to tell us to get out and share some good music with friends and family. So let’s do it, there’s enough to keep us in good spirits every day.

Highlights This Week
With a Saturday night of New Year’s Eve special gigs, it might be easy to overlook some fine options for Friday night. But don’t! For starters, enjoy New York-based pianist and one of our favorite visitors, Rick Germanson, playing in trio at the Artists Quarter (12/30) as a warm-up to the annual AQ New Year’s Eve Party with vocalist Carole Martin. In trio, you can readily hear the lyricism, the layers of harmony, the eclectic approach to improvisation that has marked Germanson’s performances and recordings over the past decade. And of course, New Year’s Eve at the AQ means Carole Martin and a great band, this year anchored by Rick on piano, with Graydon Peterson, Kenny Horst, Dave Karr and surprise guests. Carole has been headlining the year-end bash for a number of years now, and there are a few predictables—great torch songs and feisty blues, a down-home light buffet and noise makers, a champagne toast, and a club full of people who love jazz and the AQ. (Reservations still available.)

Of course there’s more for New Year’s Eve, and with some gigs scheduled early in the evening, you can enjoy some good music and still get home early, or make it a double-header. Among those early options, Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson gently chase away 2011 at Honey; Nichola Miller and Tanner Taylor swing the Hell out of Hell’s Kitchen; Lee Engele and Pietro Benso sway at Nonna Rosa’s. A bit later, catch Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel; the Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen at the Meridien/Chambers; or the first New Year’s Eve Jam at Jazz Central.

Save some energy for 2012! Charmin Michelle is off to a busy start, not only with her usual Sunday (1/1) gig with the Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom and her Monday (1/2) and Wednesday (1/4) nights with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza, but also on stage at the Dakota for “Foodie Night” at the Dakota on Tuesday (1/3), swinging hard with Rick Carlson, Steve Pikal and Nathan Norman. Another area favorite, Lucia Newell is back at the Artists Quarter Wednesday night (1/4), and there’s no brighter way to start the new year than with some south-of-the-border fare sung in the original language.

A few months ago, I heard a young band of jazzers from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, dubbed The Coriolis Effect. It was pretty sophisticated stuff for college musicians, and now they are taking their compositions and arrangements on a Midwest tour during January, starting off at Jazz Central on Thursday night (1/5). Leader Tyler Anderson blows a mean saxophone, and his cohorts (Cody Peterson on piano, Jordan Jenkins on bass, Mike Malone on drums) contribute their own works. We’ll be hearing a lot more from them.

More Jazz!
A lot of venues are a bit slow transitioning to 2012, so look for updates online, particularly on the KBEM jazz calendar. A few more recommendations:

Friday, December 30: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota followed by The New Standards; Sophia Shorai at Hell’s Kitchen; Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen (Meridien/Chambers Hotel); Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Big Band Christmas at St. Barnabas Church with the KC Gospel Orchestra; Ikeda-Smith-Wildenauer at the Black Dog.
Saturday, December 31: Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek, 12:30-2:30 pm in the atrium of the Midtown Global Market; New Year’s Eve with Davina and the Vagabonds at the Dakota
Sunday, January 1: Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Cafe'; Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar
Monday, January 2: Soapboxing at the Artists Quarter
Tuesday, January 3: Cory Wong Quartet at the Artists Quarter; no B-3 organ night at the AQ (schedule TBA); Dean Magraw and David Seru at the Black Dog; Jack Brass at the Driftwood; Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood; Doug Haining and Dave "Cool Breeze" Brown at Nicollet Coffee
Wednesday, January 4: Steve Kenny and the Bastids at the Artists Quarter (7 pm show); Zacc Harris Quartet at the Black Dog; George Maurer at the Dakota; Nomad Jazz Series at Nomad World Pub (TBA)
Thursday, January 5: Dave Brattain Quartet at the Artists Quarter; Nick Haas Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; Yemen Blues at The Cedar

Coming Soon!
• January 6, Jake Baldwin Quartet at the Dakota (Late Night)
• January 13, Jon Weber at the Artists Quarter
• January 14, Richard Johnson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• January 14, Roseville Winter Jazz Blast with Mike Stern at Maranantha Hall, Northwestern College
• January 15, Bryan Nichols “Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet” at the Artists Quarter (Jazz From J to Z)
• January 22-23, M’Shell Ndgeocello at the Dakota
• January 25-26, Nellie McKay at the Dakota
• January 27-28, Bryan Nichols Quintet at the Artists Quarter
• January 28-29, Great Guitars (Joan Griffith, Sam Miltich) with Connie Evingson at the Bloomington Center for the Arts (Jazz From J to Z)
• February 3, Matt Haimovitz at Macalester
• February 8-9, Jeff Lorber Fusion (with Randy Brecker) at the Dakota
• February 15-16, Hugh Masekela at the Dakota
• February 16, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall
• February 17, A Love Electric at the Artists Quarter
• March 2-3, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 20, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota
• March 21-22, Al DiMeolo and Gonzalo Rubacalba at the Dakota

Photos (top to bottom): Rick Germanson; Charmin Michelle with the Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra; Lucia Newell; The Coriolis Effect (L-R), Cody Peterson, Jordan Jenkins, Tyler Anderson, Mike Malone) (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Jazz Face: Christine Rosholt, RIP

© Andrea Canter

I first heard Christine Rosholt sing at the Dakota, maybe in 2004. She had a sincere perkiness that was contagious and carried over into her renditions of great tunes from the 30s and 40s. She was just at the beginning of her singing career, and her voice was still finding its mark. But she already knew how to draw in an audience to hear her stories, well prepared from her education at the Children’s Theater and as a performance art/photography major at the Art Institute of Chicago. And just naturally one who enjoyed interacting on the live stage.

I last heard Christine sing at the Dakota on December 1, 2011, a celebration of her third and most ambitious recording (Pazz) that pushed her beyond her comfort zone into pop, R&B and rock arrangements of songs, mostly written for her, by British songwriter Kevin Hall. It capped a year (or two) that revealed a more daring, more personally styled singer who was as likely to sing Frishberg or Blossom Dearie as Harold Arlen or Irving Berlin, one who now cited the influences of Tierney Sutton and Karrin Allyson as well as Billie and Ella. Her voice had found its mark. In October, Christine revitalized a 2005 production of songs based on Shakespeare’s sonnets and dialogue. Then there was the new recording with potential pop chart hits. And ever the warmth, the banter, the stories –the brightness that kept the demons far from public view.

My last interview with Christine was back in August. Things were coming together for “Jazz Meets the Bard” and the final mix was underway for Pazz. “It’s fun to break away from the song book and work on something that pretty much no one has heard before,” she said.

What we saw on stage, particularly at the Pazz release, was the fun, the delight in presenting new music, the camaraderie with her musicians, that love of performing for a live audience. We never saw Christine give in to the dark side.

On December 28th, the demons won. But they can’t take away our memories of all that.

For obit, see Jazz Police.

Photo: My favorite of Christine, from the TCJS 30th anniversary party at the Dakota in February 2009, with frequent cohort Graydon Peterson.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday Nights Will Never Be the Same

© Andrea Canter

It was the Tuesday after Christmas, and throughout the Artists Quarter, not a chair or barstool stood empty, not even a mouse could squeeze in. The drinks poured freely, the $5 admissions piled high; even the Strib sent photographers to cover the gig. Up on the stage, Bill Brown made the B-3 bubble and hum; Billy Franze tossed and turned that guitar inside out with his usual big grin; and owner Kenny Horst pounded and rattled the drumkit into submission.

This should have been the usual weekly gig for the Tuesday Night Band, that evening of snarly soulful bluesy organ jazz that has brought “a joyful noise” to the AQ for the past fifteen years, making it one of the –or the—longest running club shows in the Twin Cities. With media coverage and a wall-to-wall audience, you might assume it was also one of the most popular gigs in town. It used to be. And maybe, if even 25% of last night’s crowd had turned up on a regular basis over the past few years, Tuesdays would continue to be B-3 Organ night.

The gig is up. With falling attendance, change was inevitable. The Tuesday Night Band will no longer define Tuesday nights at the AQ. Sure, we can expect the band to turn up on the schedule now and then. And most likely, attendance will be high when TNB is on stage. Maybe it’s just human nature to gravitate to the least frequent, most novel opportunity and take for granted the things we can really count on. I’m as guilty as anyone. Tuesday night? I can always go hear the TNB. I’ll go next week.

Any time I missed TNB, I missed something special. Fortunately I did not miss their last weekend gig at the AQ, a November blowout with guest saxophonist Sue Orfield. Where was the Strib on that night? It was one of the best club shows I attended in 2011. I was, still am, looking forward to a follow-up.

Another band, or maybe many other bands, will turn up on the AQ’s Tuesday night schedule. Maybe it will draw big crowds. I hope so. And wouldn’t it be cool if the Strib sent a photographer or reporter to cover the story of a new band, a new artist, or a landmark jazz club that offers great music to the community six nights per week?

Photos (top to bottom), the grand finale of B-3 Organ Night on December 27th: AQ owner Kenny Horst, Billy Franze, "Downtown" Bill Brown, the trio composite photo. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, December 23-29

© Andrea Canter

Year 2011 is soon to be “last year,” but there’s plenty of great music around town to enjoy over the coming week, even on Christmas Day. Tickets and gift cards to your favorite club make great gifts!

Highlights This Week
It’s tradition! The Bad Plus come to town over the holidays and give us a preview of their upcoming residency at the Village Vanguard in New York. So New Yorkers might get TBP for New Year’s Eve, but in the Minni-Apple, we get them first, and we’ve had the trio for the most years. In fact, in the general Twin Cities area, we’ve had Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King since the beginning. Since their first improvisations. In 2010, Iverson (from Menonomie) and Reid and King (from Golden Valley) celebrated ten years of bodacious collaboration, and now they come into the Dakota for their 11th consecutive holiday gig, starting tonight (12/23) and picking up again on Sunday/Monday (12/15-26) before heading to the Vanguard. Their last recording (Never Stop) was filled with original music, while their acclaimed 2011 spring tour featured their interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Will they never stop? We hope not. Expect some surprises in 2012! (Well, that’s of course totally predictable!)

Friday night only (12/23), the Artists Quarter hosts a holiday celebration with the Phil Aaron Trio, special guests, CD give-away and other treats. One of the most consistent and elegant pianists in town, whether leading his trio or comping with great voices like Lucia Newell or collaborating with the likes of Phil Hey, Phil can be counted on to give you a special evening. He’s joined by bassist Billy Peterson and drummer/AQ owner Kenny Horst for this holiday party gig. (AQ closed Saturday and Sunday!)

It’s always a special night every Friday and Saturday at D’Amico Kitchen in Le Meridien/ Chambers Hotel. Grab a drink or a snack or light entrée and let the Benny Weinbeck Trio do the rest! One of the area’s most accomplished pianists, Weinbeck has a long-standing rapport with bassist Gordy Johnson and drummer Phil Hey. Gordy notes that this is “really kind of fun, and it's an ‘artsy’ environment. Le Méridien Chambers Minneapolis is an interesting building with a lot of modern artwork all over the place, some really good food, etc., etc.” Don’t be thrown by the fact that this is a downtown restaurant on weekends—there’s seats at the bar or tables and the dinner crowd thins out by 8:30—music til 11:30 by a trio that could easily draw a crowd in New York. But we have them here. With valet parking. Open Christmas Eve!

The AQ has a few more special nights in the coming week. On Wednesday (12/28), get a glimpse of the future of jazz when the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band and alumni open the evening under the leadership of jazz educator David Mitchell, and then stick around for a heavy dose of Jazz Present Tense with the Phil Hey Quartet. Although they might suggest the bebop glory of Jazz Past (Modern Jazz Quartet?), Phil and company have their ears on the future and never disappoint. On Thursday (12/29), it’s a cross-generational duo with pianist Dan Cavanagh and former mentor, vibes master Dave Hagedorn. If you have not heard their 2010 release, Horizon, quickly add it to your wish list! Sublime, elegant, intriguing.

MYJB highlights young musicians mentored by jazz educators; the Quentin Tschofen Trio, playing Thursday night (12/29) at the Acadia Café, highlights slightly older young musicians striking out on their own. Tschofen played a solo set yesterday at Landmark Center, part of the Schubert Club Courtroom Concert series, and was dazzling in his interpretations of Monk and JP Johnson, as well as his own composition. Heading to New York to start studies at the New School in a few weeks, Quentin will be joined at the Acadia by college student musicians, bassist Ted Olsen and drummer Matt Buckner.

More Jazz, Every Night
Keep up with jazz in the Twin Cities via the KBEM jazz calendar, Jazz Police, TCJS and of course, live jazz radio at 88.5 FM.

Friday, 12/23: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Arne Fogel and Rick Carlson at Ingredients Café; Erin Schwab at Hell’s Kitchen; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at the Wine Market (Mendota Heights).
Saturday, 12/24: Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel)
Sunday, 12/25: Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café
Monday, 12/26: Aaron Hendenstrom’s Jazz Beasts at Jazz Central; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Nichola Miller and Rick Carlson at Loring Pasta Bar, Musique Mystique; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Tuesday, 12/27: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Connie Evingson at the Dakota; Nova Jazz Orchestra at the Shorewood; Chris Morrissey at Café Maude; Vicky Mountain at The Nicollet
Wednesday, 12/28: Nichola Miller with Tanner Taylor at the Aster Café; the Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Thursday, 12/29: The New Standards at the Dakota; Daddy Squeeze Band at the Crooked Pint

Coming Soon!
• December 30, Rick Germanson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• December 31, New Year’s Eve Party at the Artists Quarter with Carole Martin & Rick Germanson
• December 31, Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at Honey
• December 31, New Year’s Eve Jam at Jazz Central
• January 2, Charmin Michelle at the Dakota
• January 6, Jake Baldwin Quartet at the Dakota (Late Night)
• January 13, Jon Weber at the Artists Quarter
• January 14, Atlantis Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• January 14, Roseville Winter Jazz Blast with Mike Stern at Maranantha Hall, Northwestern College
• January 15, Bryan Nichols “Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet” at the Artists Quarter (Jazz From J to Z)
• January 22-23, M’Shell Ndgeocello at the Dakota
• January 25-26, Nellie McKay at the Dakota
• January 27-28, Bryan Nichols Quintet at the Artists Quarter
• January 28-29, Great Guitars (Joan Griffith, Sam Miltich) with Connie Evingson at the Bloomington Center for the Arts (Jazz From J to Z)
• February 3, Matt Haimovitz at Macalester
• February 8-9, Jeff Lorber Fusion (with Randy Brecker) at the Dakota
• February 15-16, Hugh Masekela at the Dakota
• February 16, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall
• February 17, A Love Electric at the Artists Quarter
• March 2-3, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 20, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota
• March 21-22, Al DiMeolo and Gonzalo Rubacalba at the Dakota

Photos (top to bottom): Phil Aaron; The Bad Plus (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Calling All Drummers! Fight World Hunger With Marv Dahlgren!

Marv Dahlgren, well-known Twin Cities’ percussionist and educator, has launched an initiative that he hopes will raise global awareness of world hunger. His new Global Drummers Alliance calls upon drummers to send the message via a global performance of “Three Camps” on January 14th at 2 pm CST. His fellow drummer (and former student) Dave Stanoch is hosting Marv’s website, which provides background and information about this initiative. If you are a drummer at any level, please consider joining in this demonstration, wherever you are!

Dahlgren, now 86, was the principal percussionist with the Minnesota Orchestra for 48 years as well as a renowned educator and author of texts on drumset method. But these days he is drumming up interest in the fight against world hunger via Global Drummers Alliance. Using the drums has long been an effective way of communicating, so Marv invites drummers everywhere to send a message around the world on Saturday, January 14th. At 2 pm, raise your sticks and play the classic snare drum solo, “Three Camps.” Originally this piece was played in wartime to rally soldiers, and it can be found online.

To raise awareness of world hunger, Marv asks that all who participate send a personalized copy of the official press release in advance to local print, radio, television and web media about the location of your local gathering. The press release is available in PDF, here. Remember that the performance on January 14th will be short—it’s the awareness generated in the media that will give the project impact.

Global Drummers Alliance is not collecting donations or asking that others solicit funds. Remind media and others of the many organizations that exist to raise funds to fight world hunger and encourage donations. Remember, every penny helps someone who desperately needs it.

Marv and Dave remind us that professional players, teachers, students at every level, drum shops and more can participate in this one-of-a-kind event. Marv says, "You could be riding a bus and pull out your sticks at the chosen time and if someone asks why, you can tell them you're raising awareness to help end world hunger."

So get out your sticks, spread the word, and send your message loud and clear on January 14! And if you know a drummer, drum teacher or drum student--in any genre--tell them all about it!

Check out more on Facebook!

Images: Global Drummers Alliance banner; Marv Dahlgren on vibes; Dave Stanoch. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

© Andrea Canter

Look no farther than your favorite CD and book sources for last minute stocking stuffers for the jazz fan on your list.

Holiday Music
Geri Allen, A Child Is Born (2011, Motema).
Geri Allen surrounds herself with keyboards (piano, Fender Rhodes, concert celeste, farfisa and clavinet) and voices (vocal, voice samples and spoken word) to celebrate the joy and wonder of the holiday season—and more generally a wish for hope and peace-- on A Child Is Born. In addition to the title track (dedicated to the late Hank Jones), Allen covers traditional music, favorite carols and two original compositions. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” highlights the voices of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, thus playing traditional church ritual chants against rural Americana, setting the stage for Allen’s lyrical arrangement of this holiday folksong. The original tracks include “Journey to Bethlehem,” a very brief interlude referencing both the pilgrimage of the Magi and Allen’s visit to Bethlehem in 2006, with the soulful voice of Carolyn Brewer providing a backdrop. Brewer and singer Connaitre Miller join forces with Allen on another original inspired by her Bethlehem visit, setting the text of Matthew 1:23 "God Is With Us" as a short, magical prayer.

Chris Bauer, In a Yuletide Groove: Harmonica Jazz for the Holidays (2011). There’s something so utterly charming and swinging about the harmonica, especially when applied in a jazz groove to seasonal favorites like “Winter Wonderland” and “Frosty the Snowman.” This self-produced project brings the listener 16 gifts that infuse the musical joy of Toots Thielmans with a swinging quintet. It’s easy listening, but nothing simple about the arrangements and artistry of these musicians. This is the perfect recording to play for the diverse tastes of extended family gatherings around the holidays.

Elisabeth Lohninger Band, Christmas in July (2011, Jazzsick Records). Austrian-born vocalist Elisabeth Lohninger and her accomplished European band bring bebop riffs and swinging inventions to a dozen holiday songs reflecting global cultures and highlighting Lohninger’s multi-lingual chops--she sings in nine languages. With arrangements quoting Coltrane and Parker in surprising contexts, Lohninger—whether offering the straight lyric or horn-like vocalese—presents many moods for the holidays and many interpretive twists that will linger long after the season. And as common as "Christmas in July."

Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack, A Very Gypsy Christmas 2011, Got Music Records). For this set of seasonal favorites in hot club arrangements, veteran eclectic guitarist Doug Munro rounded up an ensemble featuring Ken Peplowski on clarinet, Howie Bujese on violin, and Cyrille-Aimee Daudel on vocals. Everyone swings with authority throughout the set, the spirit of Django and Grappelli pulsating through “Sleigh Ride,” “Let It Snow,” “Greensleeves” and “Silent Night,” while Peplowski gilds “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and “Winter Wonderland”; Cyrille Aimee offers the rarely heard verse on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” What Munro and company accomplish, beyond a lot of holiday cheer, is a testament to the versatility of hot club swing—it fits these traditional and popular carols perfectly.

Matt Wilson, Christmas Tree-O (2010, Palmetto). Issued for the 2010 holiday season, this one deserves repeated recommendation. And it is so Matt Wilson… you half-expect the clever drummer to pop down the chimney wearing a bright red suit and big grin, as he dumps his bag of quirky holiday gifts at your feet. Or in this case, in your ear. From what other musician would you expect to find, on the same CD, “The Chipmunk Song” and Alvin Ayler’s “Angels”? And of course there is Matt’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

Jazz for All Seasons
Some top releases of 2011 (listed in no particular order) make great gifts to be enjoyed all year long.
• Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)
• Brad Mehldau, Live in Marciac (Nonesuch)
• Three Cohens, Family (Anzic)
• Pilc/Hoening/Moutin, Threedom (Motema)
• Denny Zeitlin, Labyrinth (Sunnyside)
• Karrin Allyson, Round Midnight (Concord)
• Tierney Sutton Band, American Road (BFM Jazz)
• Lynne Arriale, Convergence (Motema)
• Fred Hersch, Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto)
• Joe Lovano & Us Five, Birdsongs (Blue Note)
• Bill Carrothers Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Pirouet)
• Pat Mallinger, Home on Richmond (PJM Records)
• Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani, Orvieto (ECM)
• Kurt Elling, The Gate (Concord)
• James Farm (Redman, Parks, Penman, Harland), James Farm (Nonesuch)
• Dan Tepfer, Goldberg Variations/Variations (Sunnyside)
• Terell Stafford, This Side of Strayhorn (MaxJazz)
• Matt Slocum Trio, After the Storm (Chandra Records)
• Konitz, Mehldau, Haden, Motion, Live at Birdland (ECM)
• Jacqui Naylor, Lucky Girl (Ruby Star Records)
• Gary Burton New Quartet, Common Ground (Mack Avenue)
• Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri, Athens Concert (ECM)

And for fans of Twin Cities jazz, or those who should be:
• Bryan Nichols, Bright Places
• Mary Louise Knutson, In the Bubble
• Doug Haining, Last Man Swinging
• Christine Rosholt & Kevin Hall, Pazz
• Charmin & Shapira, Dawning and Daylight
• Joel Shapira Quartet, Open Lines
• Atlantis Quartet, Lines in the Sand
• Jana Nyberg Group, Fever
• Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle, Dance Time Volume 1

And for a wee bit of holiday joy, Lee Engele’s A Hot Christmas.

Swinging Reads
OK, this probably won’t fit in a stocking… but get it anyway.

Kathy Sloane, Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club (2011, Indiana University Press). If there is to be one book on your list this season, let it be Kathy Sloane’s collection of interviews and stunning black and white photos in tribute to the one-time hub of Bay Area jazz, Keystone Korner. Todd Barkan’s legendary club comes to life through commentary from Barkan, Orrin Keepnews, staff, and artists who regularly performed there—George Cables, Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre and more. The text recreates the San Francisco scene of the 70s and 80s, the struggles to keep jazz alive yet accessible to all, to respect the musicians and the music. Yet it is Sloane’s photography that really sells the story, the struggle and the artistry of the era. And there’s a bonus CD included from tapes recorded live at the club, featuring Stan Getz, Art Blakey, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon and more.

Happy Holidays from JazzINK!

Images: Frosty; Craig Taborn's Avenging Angel; Charmin Michelle and Jerry O'Hagan (cover image for Dance Time Volume 1); Geri Allen's A Child Is Born; Kathy Sloane's Keystone Korner. (Dance Time image by Andrea Canter)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review, December 9-15

© Andrea Canter

I feel like I have music coming out of both ears, so much went into them in the past week! And even for me it was an eclectic assortment.

Doc Severinsen and the Minnesota Orchestra (“Jingle Bell Doc”) at Orchestra Hall, December 9. He’s a bit over the top sometimes but there’s no denying Doc Severinsen can blow that trumpet. What many of us did not know was that Severinsen’s talent extends across generations, to granddaughter/singer-songwriter Blaire Reinhard and grandson, singer/pianist Gray Reinhard. Progeny distinguished themselves admirably on original, country/pop infused songs. Severinsen also introduced soprano Vanessa Thomas as his “daughter,” apparently an honorary kinship, but her soulful voice carried well in the big hall in front of the big orchestra. With the Minnesota Chorale spreading holiday cheer, and the unique bell choir, Twin Cities Bronze, it was an evening that covered a wide range of music and holiday traditions.

Arne Fogel and Maud Hixson, The Crosby-Clooney Story at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, December 10. Once a busy and popular jazz duo, Arne and Maude have performed together less often in the past few years, but when they do, it’s magic, just like the partnership of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. With swinging backing from Rick Carlson, Steve Pikal and Dick Bortolussi, Arne and Maude traced the Bing and Rosie partnership through its beginnings in the 50s through Bing’s death, on radio and on record. And of course there were songs from White Christmas. Charming, informative, and always musical. (They will be back in Bloomington with Reeves Carey to salute Frank Sinatra in “Frankie Goes to Hollywood” in February.)

Teri Roiger and John Menegon, Camp Heartland Benefit at the Dakota, December 12. Maybe a private function does not belong in this review, but… it’s my review! And it was a benefit open to the public for a great cause, Camp Heartland for children with HIV, AIDS and other isolating conditions. It was as much the music as the cause that drew me in, as it has been a good five years since either vocalist Teri Roiger or husband, bassist John Menegon, have performed locally. Roiger is one of the most inventive-yet-accessible vocalists on the modern jazz scene, awaiting a spring release of her Abbey Lincoln project. Menegon is a tasteful bassist with impeccable credentials, having toured extensively with both David “Fathead” Newman and Dewey Redman. For this gig they were supported by Laura Caviani and Jay Epstein, and it all made for a delightful quartet that deserves its own audience in a listening environment. Most of the music was holiday-themed, but even sleigh bells ring with more intensity when given new interpretation from artists like Teri Roiger. On my list, Santa, bring me a Twin Cities gig with Teri and John in 2012.

Box Car (Jeremy Walker, Anthony Cox, JT Bates and Wessell Anderson) at the Dakota, December 13th. Saxman-turned-pianist Jeremy Walker may become the Duke Ellington of the early 21st century. At least he is following the path of his hero in significant ways, particularly as a composer, arranger and bandleader. His latest project is the quartet Boxcar, featuring co-leader and internationally renowned bassist Anthony Cox, creative drummer JT Bates, and swinging saxman Wessell Anderson, on hiatus from Jazz at Lincoln Center and his own Cannonball Adderley project. Walker’s own compositions varied from the elegant repetition of “Skateboard Guy” to the prayerful abstractions of “All of Us” to the Monkish swing of “Hey, City Bumpkin!”. Cox contributed “Work in Progress,” featuring his arco introduction to the controlled energy of the whole, particularly his later solo, suggesting a classical bassist on steroids. But Anderson was the focal point, his alto sax soaring like Charles Lloyd playing Mingus on “All of Us,”soloing with swinging bounce on Cox’s “Country Stuff,” always shining be it blues or bop or something more abstract. On a short tour this month, Boxcar will play four nights at Jazz Standard in Manhattan in May.

José James at the Dakota, December 14. When he performed at the Dakota in 2010 with just piano accompaniment, he came on stage dressed in a tailored suit, sliding movely through mostly ballads from his glorious For All We Know. When the South High grad brought his quartet out for the first set at the Dakota, all bets were off. With his leather jacket and Yankees cap siden-angled, José James looked as much a gang wannabe as a one of the most popular male vocalists on the planet, an image initially fueled by the hip-hop cadence and lyrics of his opening song and further promoted when he removed the cap to reveal what resembled graffiti cut/stenciled into his short hair ("Nikki G," his wife) . But you can’t pigeon-hole José James, be it on home turf or European concert venues. While he just returned from a tour with McCoy Tyner featuring the songs of Coltrane and Hartman, his new hip-hop single “Trouble” is traveling virally around the globe.

And for his 80-minute set at the Dakota, James rolled it all into one integrated package, not only proving that hip-hop, jazz and soul are meant for each other, but also introducing stars-in the making, pianist Kris Bowers and trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, and bringing back all-star drummer Nate Smith (Dave Holland, Chris Potter). Tunes like “Save Your Love for Me” and “Feel Like Making Love to You” could have been written yesterday; Coltrane’s “Equinox” soared and smoldered from modern jazz improv to serious blues with the sudden dynamic shifts that characterize Tyner…. and James. The set-closer with hand-clap “choir” signaled yet another collaboration, James and North African writer Hindi Zahra, bringing hip-hop and post bop into alignment. (The two team up on the music of Billie Holiday this spring in Brussels.) The older generation, many connected to James through South High, and the younger audience, more attuned to hip hop and rap, seemed equally pleased.

And keep an ear on Kris Bowers. The Juilliard grad and recent winner of the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition is not along for the Jose' James ride without good reason. He seems adept at any tempo, any mood, and his monster hands can fly across the 88s or delicately weave through a ballad with soul and savvy.

Photos: Teri Roiger at the Camp Heartland Benefit; Wess Anderson with JT Bates (Boxcar) at the Dakota; José James, and Kris Bowers at the Dakota.

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, December 16-22

© Andrea Canter

Just the number of gigs around town tells you things are revving up for the holidays. Seeking holiday fare or not, any local or visiting jazz fan should be pleased with the options in the coming week.

Highlights This Week
It’s always a holiday when Debbie Duncan in on stage, and she’s on the bandstand at the Artists Quarter for two nights (12/16-17) before heading across the river for another night at the Dakota (12/9). On both gigs, she boasts splendid support from pianist Adi Yeshaya and drummer Nathan Norman, with Billy Peterson on bass at the AQ and Gary Raynor on the big box at the Dakota. Once anointed as “Perpetually Outstanding Performer” by the Minnesota Music Awards, Debbie is always that and more, singing a ballad or the blues, perpetually swinging, and endlessly entertaining.

In Lowertown’s Studio Z, there’s back-to-back mayhem, with Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric Friday night (12/16) and Bryan Nichols’ We Are Many on Saturday night (12/17). Both bands feature some of the most innovative jazz artists in the region and beyond, not the least of whom are the bandleaders. Guitarist and composer Clouser, a Minnesota based in Baja, launched A Love Electric about a year ago, with trumpeter Adam Meckler, bassist Chris Bates, and drummer Greg Schutte, and the result is a melding of rock (particularly 70s style), groove and hard boppin’ jazz. There’s some amps and related gear, but mostly it’s the energy generated by the band that’s truly “Electric.” And speaking of energy, there’s plenty from acoustic sources when Bryan Nichols reconvenes his nine-piece We Are Many as the December offering in Zacc Harris’s Jazz at Studio Z series. Trying to gather so many top-flight musicians on a given night is challenging, so their gigs are few and far between. This time out, hear a sax-laden horn line with Mike Lewis, Brandon Wozniak and (New York-based) Nick Videen, Greg Lewis on trumpet, Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar, dueling bassists with Adam Linz on upright and Erik Fratzke on electric, and JT Bates on drums, along with Nichols on piano. Nichols promises a reprise of the We Are Many suite as well as new works created for this night. The program starts at 7 pm but come down early in the afternoon for the open rehearsal at 1 pm.

More excitement in Lowertown this weekend—the Black Dog Café hosts the Brad Bellows/Donald Washington Quartet on Friday night (12/16). This edgy ensemble first gathered together last summer, with bassist Brian Roessler and drummer Pete Henning steering Bellows on valve trombone and Washington on saxophones. We don’t get many chances these days to hear Bellows or Washington, making this gig all the more intriguing. Washington, in particular, is better known as an educator (his most famous pupil being James Carter), but when he picks up his horn—particularly that shiny bari sax, you where his lessons came from.

Perched on the river, the Aster Café on Main Street SE is a cozy, sort of retro joint for good food and music, and Friday night (12/16) is one of their best offerings, with guitar whiz Reynold Philipsek , versatile bassist Matt Senjem, swinging accordionist Denny Malmberg, and former resident harmonica legend Clint Hoover (visiting from Pittsburgh) on stage.

If you are looking for a dose of holiday bliss, look no farther than the annual Peterson Family Christmas, this year at the Dakota with two shows on Sunday (12/18). Mom/Grandma Jeanne Arland Peterson leads her brood, with five offspring (Ricky, Billy, Patty, Linda and Paul), grandson Jason DeLaire, and nephew Russ on board. That’s at least eight Petersons, and between them that means at least a dozen instruments and a choir. Even Scrooge would sing along with the Petersons.

And there’s more celebrating midweek with the annual KBEM Holiday Party, this year at Café Maude where the multi-course dinner will be capped by a much-anticipated trio performance featuring Todd Clouser, Bryan Nichols and Adam Linz. It’s always a fun evening and a chance to help support KBEM as well. Reservations necessary! Check the KBEM website under Events, Restaurant Tour.

The Artists Quarter scores back to back midweek with two gigs featuring stellar musicians with Minnesota roots if not addresses—the Zacc Harris Quartet (12/21) with Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates and JT Bates and Minnesota Nice (12/22) with New York-based saxman Nic Videen joining Nichols, JT and bassist Jeremy Boettcher. Hmm… how many times did I mention Nichols for his week?

More Jazz Every Night!
For a comprehensive overview of the jazz schedule in the Twin Cities, check the calendar on the KBEM website, TCJS’s website, weekly listings in the Star Tribune, aticles on Jazz Police, and just listen to Jazz 88! More recommendations:

Friday, December 16: Peter Schimke and Irv Williams, happy hour at the Dakota; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen

Saturday, December 17: Charmin & Shapira at Midtown Global Market (12:30 pm); Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Jana Nyberg Group at Honey; Maud Hixson and the Rick Carlson Trio (Swing Dance) at the Eagles Aerie Club; Pippi Ardennia at School for the Wise II

Sunday, December 18: Lee Engele Holiday CD Release at the Aster Café (with Reynold Philipsek, Gary Schulte); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, December 19: Maud Hixson and Cliff Brunzell Golden Strings, Holiday Part at Jax Café; Charmin Michelle and Rick Carlson, Musique Mystique at Loring Pasta Bar; Maxine Sousé with David Martin and Doug Haining at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Zack Lozier Quintet at Jazz Central

Tuesday, December 20: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Salon Night (new music) at Studio Z; Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; Rhonda Laurie and Maxine Sousé at The Nicollet; Jack Brass at the Driftwood; Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood

Wednesday, December 21: George Maurer Holiday Show at the Dakota; Steve Kenny and the Bastids (7 pm) at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Nomad Jazz Series (curated by James Buckley) at the Nomad World Pub

Thursday, December 22: Joel Shapira at Hell’s Kitchen; Christine Rosholt at Barbette

Coming Soon!
• December 23, 25-26, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• December 27, Chris Morrissey at Café Maude
• December 27, Paris Strother Trio at the Dakota
• December 28, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• December 29, Dave Hagedorn and Dan Cavanagh at the Artists Quarter
• December 30, Rick Germanson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• December 31, New Year’s Eve Party at the Artists Quarter with Carole Martin & Rick Germanson
• January 6, Jake Baldwin Quartet at the Dakota (Late Night)
• January 14, Roseville Winter Jazz Blast with Mike Stern at Maranantha Hall, Northwestern College
• January 15, Bryan Nichols “Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet” at the Artists Quarter
• January 22-23, M’Shell Ndgeocello at the Dakota
• January 25-26, Nellie McKay at the Dakota
• February 3, Matt Haimovitz at Macalester
• February 8-9, Jeff Lorber Fusion (with Randy Brecker) at the Dakota
• February 15-16, Hugh Masekela at the Dakota
• February 16, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall
• February 17, A Love Electric at the Artists Quarter
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 20, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota

Photos (top to bottom): Donald Washington; Debbie Duncan; Todd Clouser; Bryan Nichols (photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jazz Education? Priceless

© Andrea Canter

For a moderately sized urban area, the Twin Citiies offers a surprising array of learning and performance opportunities for aspiring musicians, and particularly aspiring jazz musicians. Jazz is really a hard sell. It’s been decades since it could be called America’s “popular” music. And it was never a major subject in public school curricula. In most contexts, jazz was barely a footnote in a general music classroom. Listings of jazz gigs and concerts, if included at all, typically are noted on small-print calendars at the back of the Arts section of the daily paper. Fewer and fewer record labels cater to jazz interests or sign jazz musicians. Even venerable jazz clubs like the Iridium in New York, Yoshi’s in San Francisco, or the Dakota in Minneapolis have expanded their calendars to encompass other genres in order to survive.

Yet somehow, professional music schools and universities appear to be thriving with an influx of eager students, many on scholarships, many paying as much as $50,000 per year to pursue their dreams. More and more public and community schools are offering jazz ensemble and big band experiences. Despite the discouraging outlook for careers in jazz performance, despite the often exorbitant costs of private conservatories and even public universities, despite the lack of interest or approval among their peers, a large number of student musicians are seeking the training and experiences that will serve them in clubs, studios and classrooms. Nate Chinen wrote about this phenomenon in the New York Times a couple years ago—the apparent mismatch between the number of students entering college level jazz programs and the prospects for successful careers as jazz artists.

But maybe this is not really a mismatch at all. How many eager young athletes attend college on football or basketball scholarships versus the number who find a position on a pro team? How many students in “Communications” or “Marketing” (let alone English or History!) are finding professional level jobs in these fields?

Just how impractical is a music education? And particularly a jazz education? Jazz, after all, is about communication, collaboration, invention—three life skills that would benefit all of us. Can you succeed in jazz music without an understanding of its history? The history of jazz is the history of mankind from the beginning of the 20th century, and the roots of that history extend much farther back in time and throughout a world of cultural traditions. Music is language, and learning language has long been associated with improved brain functioning.

And perhaps one ultimate consequence of the proliferation of jazz education programs is the evolution of an audience for the music in coming generations. If more students are exposed to jazz beyond a cursory level, if more adults go into the independent world with a love of the music regardless of their level of skill, and regardless of their positions –or lack of—in music, is it likely that they will minimally attend jazz gigs, vote to support music programs in public schools, buy jazz music (in whatever form future technology takes), and donate to their favorite jazz programs? There are many ways that young artists fuel a future for the music.

Locally, jazz programs seem to be increasing at the high school and middle school levels as determined jazz educators inspire students who may have entered the 7th grade band program unaware of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Organizations like the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, Twin Cities Jazz Society and Walker West Academy of Music bring established artists into the classroom and bandroom to ignite students’ budding interests in improvisation and composition; these organizations also find opportunities for fledgling bands and combos to perform on club and festival stages. All-star ensembles like the Dakota Combo and Minnesota Youth Jazz Band provide peer role models and opportunities for the most serious students to tackle the most serious repertoire within a compatible peer group, where one does not need to explain why Spalding is at least as important as Bieber.

And a new organization, PipJazz, is bringing talented young jazz musicians to the stage for a different learning experience—playing with the pros. Each month (the new season begins in March), in addition to the usual guest artist and house band, producers Pippi Ardennia and Glenn Swanson bring a middle, high school or college jazz student aboard as youth guest artist. And that means attending rehearsals and sound check, performing as the “star” on a couple tunes, backed not by talented peers but by seasoned professionals. It’s a more supervised, planful version of the “academy of the streets” that nurtured earlier generations. Imagine the inspiration for a 14-year-old jazz trumpeter attending a concert where one of the guest stars is a 16-year-old trumpeter on stage with leading area players.

Even among these exceptional talents, will they all find jobs? Careers in music? Probably not. But I bet they each find their own voice. And that’s a priceless education.

Photos (top to bottom): Students participate in a vibes workshop at the Shell Lake Jazz Camp; students from the Dakota Combo and MYJB participate in a composition workshop with renowned trumpeter Dave Douglas at the MacPhail Center for Music; 16-year-old Zosha Warpeha as student guest artist at the December PipJazz concert at Landmark Center, with guest Esera Tuaolo (left) and vocalist Pippi Ardennia (right). (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, December 9, 2011

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

© Andrea Canter

More holiday-themed events as well as the “usual” wide range of jazz will keep spirits bright this coming week.

Highlights This Week
The “Jingle Bell Doc” (Severinsen) returns to Orchestra Hall to add some holiday fun to the Minnesota Orchestra (12/9 and 12/11 matinee). I last heard Doc with a small Latin ensemble at the Dakota Jazz Club, and was impressed with his lively swinging trumpet. The fare will be different at Orchestra Hall, far more seasonal and, in front of the orchestra, certainly more symphonic. If you only remember Doc from The Tonight Show, you might want to experience his musicianship from this perspective.

Down the street at the Dakota Friday night (12/9), one of our favorite expat Minnesotans, Bruce Henry, holds everyone’s attention, his crushed velvet baritone dancing around Charlie Parker and George Gershwin as well as some R&B and blues.

Not specifically a holiday revue, we can still expect some songs from White Christmas when Arne Fogel and Maud Hixson bring Bing and Rosie to life in “The Crosby/Clooney Story” at the Bloomington Center for the Arts (12/10). Although they used to be one of the hottest duos in Twin Cities clubs, Arne and Maude have most often paired on theater stages in the past few years, particularly in Arne’s various musical revues at Bloomington, Burnsville and Hopkins performing arts centers. Long known as a Bing Crosby scholar, Arne hosted the popular Bing Shift on KBEM and has been exploring the Crosby archives for some time. And Maud’s been researching Rosemary Clooney, so you know this show will go beyond the music and give us a glimpse of the personalities behind it.

And fasten your seatbelt as Red Planet blasts through our galaxy this weekend (12/9-10) at the Artists Quarter. Our favorite cosmonauts, Dean Magraw, Chris Bates and Jay Epstein will reprise the music of their spring release, Space Dust as well as a new Coltrane medley, Monk, and other treats. Speaking of treats, the first set on Saturday night will feature Dean going solo while Chris and Jay finish upstairs at the Park Square Theater in The Soul of Gershwin.

One of the bright young brass voices on the local jazz scene, trumpeter Adam Meckler debuts his Adam Meckler Orchestra with a raft of new compositions and arrangements under the baton of Dean Sorenson, Monday night at O’Gara’s. And his big band has some big names—Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates, Brandon Wozniak, Pete Hennig—as well as a bunch of young up-and-comers. (In other words, there are some terrific 30-somethings here with some terrific 20-somethings nipping at their heels.)

Monday night (12/12), there’s a cool benefit at the Dakota for Camp Heartland, with both dinner and show-only tickets available (see links on Dakota website). In addition to the live auction and hors d’oeurves, music will be provided by guest vocalist Teri Roiger and husband/bassist John Menegon, with Laura Caviani on piano and Jay Epstein on drums. I first heard Teri when she was booked into the Artists Quarter about five years ago; John appeared with David Fathead Newman at the KBEM Winter Jazz Festival that year. Teri has long been recognized for her modern interpretations of standards and original music, and will soon release an album tribute to Abbey Lincoln. John played regularly with Newman and Dewey Redman, and continues to record, compose, arrange for Teri and his own bands. They’re an amazing team.

And speaking of amazing teams, check out Jeremy Walker’s new band, Box Car, arriving at the Dakota Tuesday night and featuring Wynton’s saxman Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, with Walker on piano, Anthony Cox on bass and JT Bates on drums. It will be a New York moment (or a couple hours) for the band on its debut tour, playing “original jazz music that combines the panache of New Orleans and the drive of New York, with the free-spirited underground jazz of Minneapolis.” Count on Walker, now living in New York, to assemble a group of musicians who can improve upon any music that comes their way, from Armstrong and Ellington to their own inventions.

The Dakota has the hot stage this week, with a welcome return of fast-rising star singer and hometown hero José James on Wednesday (12/14). In the company of recent Monk Piano Competition winner Kris Bowers and fellow South High grad, New York-based bassist Chris Smith, James brings music hot off his recent European tour with McCoy Tyner. Expect some Coltrane and some more soul-oriented tunes from one of the best male voices of the last decade.. and likely one of the very best of the next.

More Jazz All Week!
The most comprehensive and updated listing of Twin Cities jazz can be found on the KBEM website. More recommendations:

Friday, December 9: Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Jazz Nutcracker Suite with David Milne and the UW-River Falls Jazz Band at Landmark Center; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Pardon My French; MacJazz Holiday Concert at Macalester’s Kagin Commons (free)

Saturday, December 10: Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson, White Christmas screening with music at the Heights Theater; Sophia Shorai at Nicollet Island Inn; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Glen Helgesen and Dave Stanoch at the Aster Café; Nachito Herrera at the Dakota

Sunday, December 11: Century Jazz Ensemble holiday show at Century College; Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson, White Christmas screening with music at the Heights Theater (matinee and evening); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Butch Thompson at MacPhail (free, tickets all reserved but call for turnbacks)

Monday, December 12: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Russ Peterson Big Band at Old Log; Twin Cities Hot Club with Rhonda Laurie at Famous Dave’s (Uptown); Connie Olson with Rick Carlson at the Loring Pasta Bar

Tuesday, December 13: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Cedar Ave Big Band at the Shorewood; James Allen at The Nicollet Coffee House; Jack Brass at the Driftwood

Wednesday, December 14: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by Snowblind at the Artists Quarter; Sophia Shorai at Red Stage; Wolverines Trio with Nichola Miller at Hell’s Kitchen

Thursday, December 15: Lee Engele with Reynold Philipsek at Nonna Rosa’s; Emerson Hunton Trio at the Artists Quarter (TCJS Young Artists Series) followed by the Dave Karr Quartet

Coming Soon!
• December 16, Todd Clouser’s Love Electric at Studio Z
• December 16-17, Debbie Duncan at the Artists Quarter
• December 17, Bryan Nichols’ We Are Many at Studio Z
• December 18, Peterson Family Christmas at the Dakota
• December 20, KBEM Holiday Restaurant Tour with Benny Weinbeck, Adam Linz, Todd Clouser at Café Maude
. Zacc Harris Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• December 22, Nick Videen and Minnesota Nice at the Artists Quarter
• December 23, 25-26, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• December 27, Chris Morrissey at Café Maude
• December 27, Paris Strother Trio at the Dakota
• December 28, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• December 29, Dave Hagedorn and Dan Cavanagh at the Artists Quarter
• December 30, Rick Germanson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• December 31, New Year’s Eve Party at the Artists Quarter with Carole Martin & Rick Germanson
. January 6, Jake Baldwin Quartet at the Dakota (Late Night)
. January 14, Roseville Jazz Blast with Mike Stern at Maranantha Hall, Northwestern College
• January 15, Bryan Nichols “Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet” at the Artists Quarter
. February 3, Matt Haimovitz at Macalester
• February 15-16, Hugh Masekela at the Dakota
• February 16, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)

Photos (top to bottom): Maud Hixson and Arne Fogel; Doc Severinsen; Adam Meckler; Jose James (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week(s) in Review: From Mallinger to Russell

© Andrea Canter

Never think there’s too much music around the Twin Cities -- but sometimes I have trouble finding time to write about it. Over the past two weeks, we’ve had some enticing visitors as well as accomplished local artists, some expectedly fine music and some surprises. And some celebrations that quickly put listeners in a holiday mood—even without holiday themes.

Pat Mallinger Quartet at the Artists Quarter, November 25-26. Thanksgiving weekend now seems incomplete without a visit from St Paul native Pat Mallinger. Visiting family and friends from his base in Chicago, the inventive saxman played four sets with a sympathetic team of Bryan Nichols on piano, Graydon Peterson on bass and Kenny Horst on drums. Mallinger was celebrating his latest CD, recorded live at the Green Mill with another AQ favorite, Bill Carrothers. But European touring prevented Carrothers from a home-town holiday, and you couldn’t ask for a better alternative on keys than Nichols. Not much from the recording made the set lists—but the title composition “Home on Richmond” was as rich and vibrant as on the CD, perhaps a bit more flowing as Nichols tends to use longer lines than Carrothers. With a band that just came together for this weekend, Mallinger called mostly covers, but not just the usual fare—Ellington’s lovely “Angelica” with particularly glowing work from Peterson; Jobim’s bouncy “So Danso Samba” with Nichols churning freely (so this is what Monk might have done with a samba?); Pat joyfully quoting Coltrane on the 1930s hit, “Close Your Eyes” and Sonny Rollins on his own “On One and Three.” And his tribute to his dad (who was there on Friday night), “Oakdale Avenue,” soared high both nights, a gorgeous ballad that opened wide spaces for the multiple layers of Bryan’s piano. All in all, it was a weekend of wicked blowing and majestic slowing.

Mary Louise Knutson Trio, CD Release at the Dakota, November 30. No surprise here. After a standing room only celebration a week earlier at the AQ, our resident poet laureate of piano repeated the feat across the river, filling up the Dakota with a lot of original songs from both the new In the Bubble and her debut album, Call Me When You Get There. With her core trio of Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey, Mary Louise captivated the audience with her elegant touch and powerful arrangements. Well, maybe some were surprised. One man mentioned he had only heard Mary Louise with the JazzMN Orchestra and did not realize she had such talents as a composer and chamber performer. Hopefully the new recording will keep these talents on public display.

Christine Rosholt and Kevin Hall, CD Release at the Dakota, December 1. The Dakota stage had little chance to cool down before Christine Rosholt brought in her own festival to celebrate the release of Pazz, her pop/jazz project with British songwriter Kevin Hall. That Christine was behind yet another project was no surprise. That she can knock out potential pop and R&B hits as if it was her usual bread and butter was not so predictable. Hall wrote a bunch of songs with Christine in mind after hearing her at the Dakota on a 2008 visit. And over the next three years, the pair went in and out of Creation Audio with a cast that reads like the Who’s Who pages of Twin Cities jazz. And few on the recording missed the party. Perhaps most notable was the performance of the Hornheads, surely one of the top brass ensembles in the Midwest and beyond. And we hardly ever hear them in full around here. Lucia Newell came on to recite a Spanish introduction and share vocal duties with Christine on “Midnight Moon” and take the spotlight on an original song; the show turned theatrical with the introduction of the Pazzettes—red and pink-wigged singers Sophia Shorai, Katie Gearty and Rachel Holder playing back-up to Christine on a rockin’ “Pazz”; some fine R&B renditions from the Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson songbooks with J.D. Steele adding a gospel touch. But the shiniest moments came on Hall’s original tunes, particularly Christine’s pairing with Dave Jensen’s trumpet (“Just Say You Will” and “Better Off Alone”) and a duet with the two principals (“So Not Over You”). It’s clear that Hall is not over Rosholt… and I suspect there will be a follow-up to take their “pazz” even farther.

PipJazz Sunday, Pippi Ardennia and Esera Tuaolo at Landmark Center, December 4. This concert marked the end of the first season of the monthly PipJazz Sunday, the brainchild of vocalist Pippi Ardennia and drummer Glenn Swanson. And it was the second concert that not only highlighted a stunning guest artist, but also brought to the stage an outstanding student guest. Ardennia can command an audience all by herself, from sultry ballads to down-home blues, but her guests always push her up a notch, and vice versa. Former NFL player Esera Tuaolo proved jocks can sing, his rich voice soaring on “Hallelujah;” Pippa always includes her original “Love So Good” but never without a change in mood, and perhaps never “so good” as the swampy reading this evening. If Tuaolo surprised some in the audience, then 16-year-old violinist Zosha Warpeha stunned most with her swing, her energy, and her mature string delivery and improvisation skills. After playing her selected “Over the Rainbow” and “Mahna de Carnival,” beautifully, Zosha was having too much fun to leave—Pippi invited her to sit in the rest of the way, and her presence just added another level of enthusiasm, on stage and in the audience. The PipJazz Youth Program seems to be attracting more to Weyerhauser Auditorium, and not just family and friends. Giving young artists not only a chance to perform in public, but to perform as part of a band of established professionals in a concert hall setting, is a unique and highly motivating component of music education. When PipJazz starts up its second season in March, student guests will continue to be a vital part of each program.

Catherine Russell at the Dakota , December 5. This was my surprise and I suspect the same for many others at the Dakota. While Catherine Russell comes with a stellar jazz pedigree (her dad Luis Russell was an arranger for Louis Armstrong and her mom Carline Ray, at 86, still plays the bass), she spent most of her career through her 40s singing rock and blues, touring with Steely Dan among others. But fortunately for jazz fans, she found her way back to her roots in the past decade and now tours with a classy swing trio (guitarist Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Lee Hudson). Generally her sound comes from the era of her set list, the songs of the 20s, 30s and 40s; her phrasing and stylings suggest Billie, Ella, and Sarah while her voice exudes its own special charms; she notes Armstrong as a strong influence. The long set included tunes from Ella’s and Hoagy Carmichael’s songbooks, some Fats Waller, all swingers but none of the obvious fare. And when she got down to the blues (and I do mean down), she was as wicked as any, particularly on the song she noted was banned at one point, “My Kitchen Man.” Which threw out everything but the kitchen sink in thinly disguised Penthouse lyrics. Like Barbara Morrison (equally swinging but with a more urbane sound), she sold every note at full price. And on both sides of the stage, everyone had a lot of fun. Somehow I missed her when she came to town a year or two ago. I won’t make that mistake again.

Photos (top to bottom): Pat Mallinger at the AQ; Christine Rosholt and Kevin Hall at the Dakota; Zosha Warpeha at Landmark Center (PipJazz); Catherine Russell at the Dakota (all photos by Andrea Canter)