Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, March 25-31

© Andrea Canter

If you can’t find something you like this week….you aren’t listening.

Highlights, Last Week
Milo Fine, Two Trios at Studio Z (March 20). Only nine of us in the audience, but there was plenty of interaction on stage as pianist/percussionist Milo Fine joined creative forces with the tuba, played by Stefan Kac, and brought on first John O’Neill on cornet/flugelhorn and then Scott Newell on tenor sax, vocals and spoken word to form two trios. Each half of the program consisted of a spontaneous work. This is not scary music, but sometimes melodic, sometimes probing, always interesting.

Jane Monheit at the Dakota (March 22). Maybe it’s motherhood, maybe just artistic maturation, maybe the freedom of driving her own career. Whatever, Jane Monheit is taking long strides as a jazz singer and this was her most adventurous local gig yet. Last year she apologized for indulging in some scat, noting it was not going to be like Ella. This year she apologized for not improvising on one tune, wanting to draw attention to the lyric. And the voice is still perfect.

• Mingus at MacPhail: Meditations and Revelations IV at Antonello Hall (March 24). The piece that perhaps summed up all that's Mingus to close this landmark series, "Meditations on Integration" (aka "Meditation for a Pair of Wire Cutters") offered a 30-minute workout for seven of the most effective improvisers in town, but there were many other peak moments, from the opening "Reincarnation of a Love Bird" with the horns from the Dakota Combo to the Combo rhythm section churning through "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" with the horns of Dave Graf, Mike Lewis, Greg Lewis and Chris Thomson to the utterly beautiful "Noon Night."

Highlights, This Week
One of the mainstays of the Artists Quarter, the Tuesday Night Band (aka B-3 Organ Night) has owned Tuesdays for years. But now and then they branch out, and this Friday night (3/25) they welcome the weekend crowd at the AQ. Swinging bebop and soul-infused excitement makes this a not-to-be-missed gig for fans of mainstream jazz and the distinctive sound of the Hammond B-3. Featuring Downtown Bill Brown, Billy Franze and Kenny Horst. And come back the next night (3/26) for a quartet that swings with a cutting edge—Brian Grivna, Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates and Kenny Horst.

Remember the great songs of films from the 50s and 60s? Arne Fogel closes this three-show series of Hollywood Cabaret in Bloomington’s Black Box Theater with three performances this weekend (March 26-27). Joining the popular crooner are two Connies—Evingson and Olson. The first two Cabarets were sell-outs and this one is no exception—tickets only remained for the added Saturday matinee, and probably won’t last. More great voices—Monday (3/28), decide between Nichola Miller at Loring Pasta Bar’s Musique Mystique or Charmin Michelle with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza, while Maud Hixson takes over the mic at Fireside on Wednesday (3/30); Sophia Shorai will shine at Barbette on Thursday (3/31).

Monday night (3/28) is the overdue Dakota debut of one of the giants of the 30-something generation of jazz pianists, Robert Glasper. His fusion of hiphop elements into an acoustic jazz already fully flavored with bebop and gospel will be enhanced by bassist Derrick Hodge. Take in the early set and then head over to Jazz Central where Dave Graf makes one of his first public appearances since his collision with ice dams back in December.

And speaking of stylistic fusions, the March 29th installment of Live at 5 at McNally Smith features an original program of music from Judi Donaghy with the catchy title, “Songs of Life, Love, Questions (and Cows).” Long-time head of Vocal Music at McNally-Smith College in St. Paul , Judi has found new challenges as the new Assistant to the Dean of Academic Affairs at McNally as well as a born-again songwriter. It’s been a long while since Judi has really focused on her own music, as she notes that “...exploring the songwriting world again… It’s been on the back burner too long, so I ‘m really excited to be getting into it, writing melodies and lyrics, and utilizing some of the faculty here who are really outstanding musicians.” For this show, Judi brought in talented local arrangers including Laura Caviani and Adi Yeshaya, and has cast a talented array of performers, including Lori Dokken, Dave Schmalenberger, Pete Whitman, Rachel Holder, Laura Caviani and more.

The fourth and final installation of “House of Mirrors” should intrigue all lovers of new and experimental music on Tuesday (3/29), taking place at the old Hamm’s Brewery in St Paul’s Swede Hollow. Composer Ann Millikan creates a soundscape with musicians from the worlds of jazz, free jazz, and classical “new music,” along with stories from Swede Hollow residents. This finale features two ensembles, one with vocalist Maria Jette, bass clarinetist Pat O’Keefe and violinist Kathryn Bennett; the second with trumpeter Geoffrey West Senn, saxophonist Scott Fultz and tuba player Stefan Kac.

And you can slide into the weekend with the nearly monthly gig of the Pete Whitman X-Tet at the AQ on Thursday (3/31). It’s one of the few times you’ll see musicians replace tables at the AQ, so come early and grab what’s left, and enjoy one of the region’s most consistently inventive “little big bands” with ten of the hottest jazzers around. It’s always serious fun.

More Jazz This Week
For the metro’s most complete jazz listing, see Pamela’s blog. Some additional recommendations:
Friday, March 25: Dean Magraw and David Seru at the Black Dog; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); James Allen and Tom Pieper at First Course Bistro; Jana Nyberg Group at Honey; Nachito Herrera at the Dakota; Firebell (Park Evans, Graydon Peterson and Jay Esptein) at the Aster Cafe'.

Saturday, March 26: Charmin & Shapira do brunch at Hell’s Kitchen; Funk and Brueske return to the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Nachito returns to the Dakota.

Sunday, March 27: Brunch options include the Jana Nyberg Group at Hell’s Kitchen; Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café; Three Keys Quartet at Trygs. Later, it’s the Macalester Spring Jazz and Pop Concert in the Alexander Hill Ballroom at Mac.

Monday, March 28: Headspace at the Artists Quarter

Tuesday, March 29: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the AQ

Wednesday, March 30: The Wolverines at Hell’s Kitchen; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the River Falls Cultural Project at the AQ

Thursday, March 31: East Side at Hell’s Kitchen

Coming Soon
• April 1-2, Dave King Trucking Company at the AQ
• April 1-2, Bruce Henry at the Dakota
• April 2, Joann Funk Trio, CD Release at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel)
• April 2, Dick Hyman at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• April 3, French 75 and Maud Hixson at the AQ (TCJS J From J to Z)
• April 4-5, Joe Lovano’s Us Five at the Dakota
• April 7, Irv Williams Retirement Party/CD Release at the Dakota
• April 8-9, Michel LeGrand at the Dakota
• April 9, JazzMN Orchestra with Andy Martin at the Hopkins HS Performing Arts Center
• April 10, Brad Mehldau Trio at the Dakota
• April 11-12, Kevin Eubanks at the Dakota
• April 14-17, String Theory Music Festival
• April 17-18, Lee Rittenour at the Dakota
• April 19-20, Arturo Sandoval at the Dakota
• April 24-25, John Pizzarelli at the Dakota
• April 21-May 22, I Wish You Love (Nat King Cole) at Penumbra Theater
• April 22, Charmin & Shapira CD Release at the AQ
• April 22, Fantastic Merlins at the Black Dog
• April 22, Bobby McFerrin at Orchestra Hall
• April 27-28, Omar Sosa at the Dakota
• April 29-30, Connie Evingson at the Artists Quarter
• May 6-7, Atlantis Quartet at the AQ
• May 12, Dakota Combo, Jazz Thursdays at MacPhail
• May 14, Brubeck Brothers at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• May 20-21, The Bad Plus (Stravinsky Project) at the Loring Theater
• May 20-21, Bryan Nichols CD Release at the AQ
• May 22, Maceo Parker and Christian McBride at Orchestra Hall
• May 22, Paula Lammers CD release at the AQ

Photos: Kenny Horst (with two bands this weekend at the AQ); Judi Donaghy at McNally Smith; Pete Whitman leads the X-Tet at the AQ (photos by Andrea Canter)