Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, February 11-17

©Andrea Canter

Again, a busy jazzy weekend in the Twin Cities! Weather should be a plus, and as the snow melts, the jazz steam rises!!

Highlights, Last Week
My friend Ray Hayes assures me I missed the best show in a long time—Matthew Shipp solo piano at the Loring Theater. I trust Ray’s judgment. He tossed off his tickets to the Kronos Quartet, I kept mine. And the Kronos put on two really interesting nights of music at the Walker Art Center. Still, I know Matthew Shipp was quite special. But I did enjoy:

Willie Akins Quartet at the Artists Quarter (2/9). A veteran hard bopping tenor saxman based in his native St. Louis, Akins brought together a band he recorded with over ten years ago, and it was some of the most energetic straight-ahead I’ve heard locally. With Moorhead State pianist Simon Rowe, St. Louis bassist Willem von Hombracht and masterful young drummer Montez Coleman, they ran through classics from Coltrane, Tyner, Jimmy Heath and more with a nearly full-house at the AQ. Hard to imagine better music of any sort for a $5 cover.

Kurt Elling Quartet at the Dakota (2/9-10). It’s hard to find appropriate adjectives for Elling—the usual “magnificent,” “ingenious” and “stellar” just fall short. He’s celebrating his new The Gate with longtime music director Laurence Hobgood and relatively new drummer Ulysses Owens and bassist Harish Raghavan, and special guest, Chicago-cohort, guitarist John McClean. He was elaxed, funny and downright poetic -- reminiscent of the shows I heard at Birdland a few years ago.

Highlights, This Week
The annual Bobby Peterson Memorial Piano Showcase fills the Artists Quarter this weekend (2/11-12), with an enviable cast of local piano greats—Peter Schimke, Tommy O’Donnell and Mary Louise Knutson on Friday, and Phil Aaron, Laura Caviani and Bryan Nichols on Saturday. It’s a great opportunity to sample the best (and diverse) keyboard artists while paying tribute to the one who got away too soon, the late Bobby Peterson. Ask local pianists who they really admire or who truly inspired their work, and chances are high they will mention Bobby as a mentor, teacher, and friend.

One night each year, the St. Paul Jewish Community Center transforms itself into a top flight jazz venue, presenting a top Israeli artist. This year, the acclaimed guitarist Roni Ben-Hur is featured with his quartet, Saturday night (2/12). Ben-Hur has been on the New York scene longer than most of his fellow Israeli jazzers, and has established himself as one of the top guitarist of his generation. And if we judge him by the company he keeps, he remains high on the list! His quartet for this tour includes a knock-out Chicago pianist, Ryan Cohan; long-time associate bassist Santi DiBriano; and busy drummer Steve Williams. Cohan’s 2010 CD, Another Look, was one of my faves of the year.

Also this weekend (2/12-13), Two of our “sultry divas of jazz,” Connie Evingson and Ginger Commodore, pay tribute to Peggy Lee and Nancy Wilson at the Capri Theater, part of its Legends series. Long-time cohorts as half of Moore by Four, both singers have their own history with the music, Evingson having honored the songs of Peggy Lee with her recording (Fever) and subsequent acclaimed revue (in part revived recently at the Jungle Theater); Commodore saluting Wilson a few years back at the Dakota. There’s a distinctive difference in style separating the songbirds, but as Capri Artistic Director Dennis Spears notes, “They are both known for their sultry and sassy jazz styles, their class and elegance, and their experiences in acting.”

On the experimental/avant garde scene, some fine options this week: At Studio Z, it’s a long fun weekend with Zeitgiest and pianist/composer Carei Thomas with the annual Playing it Close to Home concert. This series celebrates our local creative artists, this year with winning songs from the Eric Stokes Song Contest and works by the ever-inventiveThomas. And it’s all in the neighborhood on Friday (2/11), as just across the street at the Black Dog, it’s the next installment of the Community Pool: Deep End Music Series, tonight with Bryan Nichols, Nathan Hanson, Brian Roessler and Peter Leggett –a quartet to truly buzz your brain and ears.

It’s Nichola Miller Week! Catch the swinging hipster for brunch at Hell’s Kitchen on Saturday (2/12), in trio for Valentine’s Day, again at Hell; and at the Dakota on Wednesday (2/16).She doesn’t get on the Dakota stage as often as she should, but when she does, watch out! She recorded live a while back and now returns for a night of sass, swing, and probably a little mayhem, in the dashing company of Rick Carlson, Keith Boyles and Nathan Norman, on Wednesday (2/16).

More for Valentine’s Day
It’s a big band Valentine celebration at Orchestra Hall Saturday night (2/12) with Charmin Michelle fronting the Minnesota Orchestra, featuring trumpeter Charles Lazarus and vocalist Brad Benoit. And some of our favorites help celebrate a night for romance on February 14th:
Nichola Miller Trio at Hell’s Kitchen (see above)
Cookie Coleman and Dan Newton at Loring Pasta Bar (Musique Mystique series)
Maud Hixson and Jim Chenoweth at Honey (“The Opposite Sex: Songs Written by a Man and Woman Singer”)
Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (Richfield)
Lee Engele with Pietro Benso at Nonna Rosa’s (Robbinsdale)

More Jazz This Week
See Pamela’s blog for the area’s most complete jazz listing. Some notable gigs:

Friday, February 11: Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Vital Organ with Katie Gearty at Hell’s Kitchen, Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at Erte; Gregg Marquardt and Bruce Pedalty at the Hat Trick Lounge

Saturday, February 12: Funk and Brueske again at the Lobby Bar; Karen Quiroz and James Allen at First Course Bistro; Roxy and Joe Cruz at Ingredients Café (White Bear Lake)

Sunday, February 13: Dan and Reuben Ristrom, brunch at Tryg’s; Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, February 14: Headspace at the Artists Quarter

Tuesday, February 15: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter

Wednesday, February 16: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Peter Schimke Trio at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (Richfield)

Thursday, February 17: Dave Karr Quartet at the Artists Quarter; Dennis Spears at the Dakota

Coming Soon!
• February 18-19, Dean Magraw Trio at the AQ
• February 20, Laura Caviani’s “Songs of Alec Wilder” at the Bloomington Center for the Arts (TCJS Jazz From J to Z)
• February 25-26, Andres Prado Quintet at the AQ
• February 26-27, “Hollywood Cabaret 1940s” with Arne Fogel, Maud Hixson, Jennifer Eckes and Rick Carlson at the Bloomington Center for the Arts
• February 27, Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Fundraiser (Brunch) at the Dakota
• February 27, Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard at Orchestra Hall
• February 27, Benefit for Dave Graf at the Artists Quarter
• February 27-28, Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet at the Dakota
• March 2-3, Glenn David Andrews at the Dakota
• March 12, Mike Stern with the JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 15, Stanley Clarke Band/Victor Wooten Band at the Dakota
• March 21-22, Jane Monheit at the Dakota
• March 24, Mingus IV (Jazz Thursdays) at MacPhail
• March 30, Ben Allison Trio at the Artists Quarter
• April 4-5, Joe Lovano’s Us Five at the Dakota
• April 10, Brad Mehldau Trio at the Dakota
• April 11-12, Kevin Eubanks at the Dakota
• April 27-28, Omar Sosa at the Dakota

Photos: (Top to bottom) Peter Schimke, Mary Louise Knutson and Phil Aaron, all appearing in the Bobby Peterson Memorial Piano Showcase at the Artists Quarter (Peter and MLK on Friday, Phil on Saturday) (Photos by Andrea Canter)