Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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

© Andrea Canter

Some interesting options especially this weekend, with a “swan song” for Jeremy Walker’s Nownet and a triple bill at the AQ as part of the eclectic String Theory Music Festival.

Highlights, Last Week

Michel Legrand Trio at the Dakota (April 8). It was no surprise that the set list was filled with wonderful songs from Legrand’s vast book of compositions—“You Must Believe in Spring,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” etc. But his virtuosity as a pianist has not diminished a bit (including his ability to play in the style of a long list of heroes, from Tatum to Peterson), his vocals were charming enough, and his sidemen were impeccable—John Pattitucci and Willie Jones III.

Brad Mehldau Trio at the Dakota (April 10). Mehldau has always frustrated me—technically brilliant, artistically innovative, but at times prone to tedious introspection. But I loved his epic Highway Rider at the Walker last fall (and on CD) and his opening set at the Dakota last weekend was nearly perfect, maybe because he concentrated on reinventions of jazz tunes, from Jobim to Miles to Coltrane. And reinvention is what Mehldau does best. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard were as sympathetic as ever.

Highlights, This Week

The Loring Theater (the Music Box in a former life) has been presenting some of the most exciting jazz in town lately. Friday night (4/15), it will be the scene of a final concert by the Nownet, the ever-evolving ensemble of the Jazz Is Now organization. Headed by Jeremy Walker, composer/pianist/bandleader, the Nownet has performed a few times each year, but with Walker’s move to New York, gigs have been seldom. Jeremy gathers his band (Chris Thomson, Jeff Brueske, JT Bates) for one “Last Dance,” adding special guests Wessell Anderson and Marcus Printup. But fear not, Bryan Nichols, an equally innovative composer, pianist and bandleader, will be assuming duties as Artistic Director for Jazz Is Now, and a new ensemble can’t be far behind.

The annual String Theory Music Festival returns, celebrating all things musical with strings (4/13-17 at various venues). At the Artists Quarter Friday night (4/15), three ensembles play back to back to back—the Tanner Taylor Trio at 9, followed by the Orange Mighty Trio with Zack Kline on violin, Nick Gaudette on bass and Mike Vasich on piano and finishing the evening with a midnight set from Felix, with Michelle Kinney, pianist Eric Mayson, tabla master Gary Waryan, and multi-reedman/electronics wizard Chris Thomson. (For Thomson, it might mean a mad dash from Minneapolis after his Nownet gig!) Taylor might look like the straight man in this context, but his monster piano chops will no doubt create their own string theories!

Later in the week (4/19-20), Arturo Sandoval returns to the Dakota with his special brand of Latin post bop. Protégé of the great Dizzy Gillespie, cofounder of the great Cuban ensemble Ikare and four-time Grammy winner, Sandoval is as much an entertainer as virtuosic trumpeter (and pretty fair pianist as well). Expect a wide range of percussion as well as some soaring top notes… and probably a sell-out.

More Jazz All Week

See Pamela’s blog for the most complete area listing of jazz and related events. Some recommendations:

Friday, April 15: Scott Miller and Nathan Hanson at the Black Dog

Saturday, April 16: Nichola Miller at Hell’s Kitchen; JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); New Standards at the Dakota ; Dean Magraw and Debbie Duncan at the Riverview Wine Bar

Sunday, April 17: Clint Hoover’s Going Away Party at the Eagles Aerie Club; Lee Rittenour at the Dakota; Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Milo Fine’s Assemblage at Homewood Studios

Monday, April 18: Lori Dokken’s Singer Showcase at Camp Bar; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Lee Rittenour at the Dakota; Charmin Michelle and Rick Carlson in La Chambre Rouge at the Loring Pasta Bar; Doug Little at Jazz Central

Tuesday, April 19: Cory Wong followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Snowblind at Jazz Central; Arne Fogel with the Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood

Wednesday, April 20: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by Phil Aaron, Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (Richfield); Arne Fogel with the Wolverines at Hell's Kitchen

Thursday, April 21: Opening night for I Wish You Love,” Nat King Cole show at Penumbra Theater (through May 22); McNally Smith Ensembles at the Artists Quarter

Coming Soon

• 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 24-25, John Pizzarelli at the Dakota

• April 27-28, Omar Sosa at the Dakota

• April 29-30, Connie Evingson at the Artists Quarter

• May 1, Soul Café at Hennepin United Methodist Church

• May 6-7, Atlantis Quartet at the AQ

• May 12, Dakota Combo, Jazz Thursdays at MacPhail

• May 13-14, Red Planet at the AQ

• May 14-15, John Raymond at the Dakota (Saturday) and AQ (Sunday)

• May 14, Brubeck Brothers at the Hopkins Center for the Arts

• May 16-17, Steve Tyrell at the Dakota

• May 20-21, The Bad Plus (Rite of Spring) 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

• May 22-23, Candy Dulfer at the Dakota

• May 24-25, Four Generations of Miles (Stern, Fortune, Williams, Cobb) at the Dakota

• June 20-21, Hiromi with Steve Smith at the Dakota

• June 24-25, Twin Cities Jazz Festival with Gary Burton, Danilo Perez and more, at Mears Park

Photos: (Top to bottom) Jeremy Walker; Tanner Taylor; Chris Thomson (all photos by Andrea Canter)