Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, July 1-8

© Andrea Canter

The best music deal in the Midwest this weekend is 300 miles south of the Twin Cities at the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival. If you don’t have holiday plans yet, consider the 5-hour drive (4 lanes all the way!) as a shortcut to 2 ½ days of diverse jazz, starting off Friday night with student ensembles and culminating Sunday night in Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio before the fireworks. In between, hear vocalist Carmen Bradford, trombone star Josh Roseman, John Ellis’s Double Wide, and fast-rising trumpeter Ambrose Akinmisure. It’s all free, outdoors (yes, some seating in the shade!), and the main stage never competes with other music. A great selection of food concessions is available, too.

If you are sticking around town this weekend, there’s some good options despite holiday closings. Nathan Hanson (sax) and Brian Roessler (bass) continue their collaboration at the Black Dog on Friday night (7/1). Anchors of the Fantastic Merlins, these guys never seem to run out of ideas for improvisation and spontaneous composition. (And the Black Dog is a cool place to hang out, with an expanded menu, local brews, and more.) A midday visit to the Midtown Global Market on Saturday will pay off with a couple hours from Charmin (Michelle) and Shapira (Joel) as the duo serenades in the atrium (7/2). Charmin, with Denny Malmberg, returns to Fireside Pizza on Wednesday night (7/6) for a salute to New Orleans with bassist Pooch Heine. For dinner or a nightcap, stop in at First Course Bistro in south Minneapolis Saturday night (7/2) for the swinging sounds of vocalist Vicky Mountain and guitarist James Allen—a little Ella meets Joe Pass.

A leisurely Sunday brunch at the Aster Café (7/3) will feature accordion virtuoso Patty (Patrick Harrison) and the Buttons, while an evening stroll around a quiet East Minneapolis neighborhood will bring you to the vibrant sounds of the Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar. For post-holiday music, you can always count on Tuesday nights at the Artists Quarter, starting off the evening with the Cory Wong Quartet and then staying on for the ever-grooving Tuesday Night Band—aka B-3 Organ Night. Or head down to the Black Dog for the guitar/drum duo of Dean Magraw and Davu Seru, guaranteed magic (7/5).

And you can enjoy energetic trumpeter Steve Kenny twice this week, as he hosts the usual early show Wednesday night (7/6) at the Artists Quarter, but then brings his quartet in for prime time on Thursday night (7/7). Note the AQ is closed through the three-day weekend.

Coming Soon!
• July 8, Lucia Newell and Maud Hixson at the Artists Quarter (Strayhorn/Ellington salute)

• July 10, PipJazz with Pippi Ardennia, Chris Lomheim, Jamecia Bennett at Landmark Center

• July 12, Rene Marie at the Dakota

• July 13, Dan Cavanagh and Dave Hagedorn at the Artists Quarter

• July 16, Dakota StreetFest on Nicollet Mall

• July 16, Reynold Philipsek CD Release at the Aster Café

• July 20-21, Karrin Allyson at the Dakota

• July 22-23, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter

• July 25, Lucia Newell and Dean Magraw at the Loring Pasta Bar

• July 29-30, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter

• July 30, Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival

• August 3, Jon Weber at the Artists Quarter

• August 11, Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Park

• August 20, Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival

• August 22, Ben Sidran with Irv Williams at the Dakota

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall

For a Twin Cities live jazz calendar, see the KBEM website

Photos: (Top to bottom ) The Iowa City Jazz Festival, on the Pentacrest lawn in front of Old Capitol; Brian Roessler at the Black Dog; Charmin (Michelle) and (Joel) Shapira, this month at Midtown Global Market. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Monday, June 27, 2011

13th Twin Cities Jazz Festival Stays True to the Music

© Andrea Canter

Was it just two years ago (2009) that Steve Heckler, producer of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, sadly announced that the 2009 festival would be canceled due to lack of sponsors? After 11 years in full or in part as a Minneapolis cultural event, the city faltered in its support of the festival, and major sponsors seemed to follow. But sister city St. Paul rose to the occasion, offering the urban “forest” setting of Mears Park in historic Lowertown and generating enough new sponsors to revive festival planning. With Esperanza Spalding and Allan Toussaint headlining the main stage, the 2009 festival was not only successful but garnered enough enthusiasm and support to guarantee a repeat in 2010. And in 2010, with Joe Lovano’s Us Five, John Scofield, Sean Jones, Bobby Watson’s Horizon and John Ellis’s Double Wide, the crowds were even bigger, paving the way for yet more sponsors, grants, etc. Over the last few years, the festival organizers have emulated the best jazz improvisers, starting with fragments, modifying direction to fit each new twist, making seeming dead ends into exciting new melodies.

Confining the festival to St Paul apparently has few drawbacks. Jazz fans will follow the music, and the strong sense of community in St. Paul ensures large crowds whether there’s bebop, swing, Latin or more avant garde bands on stage. Less cooperative in 2011 was the weather, threatening storms off and on and dampening the grounds much of Saturday afternoon; yet each evening was pleasant and the music transcendent. Top moments for me: The New Gary Burton Quartet spun gold with whizkid Julian Lage on guitar and standout veterans Scott Colley (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums). And of course, four-mallet master Gary Burton who can make any song, any style, sound ethereal and magical. Much of their set was drawn from their new recording, Common Ground, which might be Burton’s best as leader of his own ensemble.

There’s always a “sleeper” or two at the TCJF, and this year surprise high points came from veteran jazz & blues saxophonist Sue Orfield (based in Eau Claire) and a very young band of hotshots led by Minneapolis drummer Miguel Hurtado and featuring two brash talents out of Chicago, trumpeter Marquis Hill and alto saxophonist Christopher McBride. I first heard Orfield some years ago, shortly after she relocated from Seattle where she was a perennial winner of their “Blues Saxophone” award. This lady can blow the house down. And I first heard Miguel Hurtado playing on a youth stage at the festival when he was about 13 or 14; since he has been a frequent sit-in and now frequent sideman throughout the festival, his Manhattan School of Music diploma barely dry. He already knows how to put a band together, melding his Chicago-based pals with local strongment, Zacc Harris on guitar and Graydon Peterson on bass. But the thrills came from Hill and McBride as they took turns improvising over original compositions that bore the sophistication of veteran innovators. Hopefully we’ll start seeing more of Orfield in the Twin Cities, and more projects from Hurtado as his maturing talent gets “discovered.”

And speaking of brash young talents, the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Youth Stage (DFJE) is always a fountain of surprise. This year, we enjoyed the Twin Cities Youth Jazz Camp band (led by Bernie Edstrom), the St. Cloud Area All-Star Jazz Band (led by Steve Minkler), the Minneapolis South High School Jazz Band (led by Scott Carter), the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band (led by Dave Mitchell), and the Dakota Combo (led by Adam Linz), as well as a quartet (or sextet, counting “guests”) of Dakota Combo and area high school alums and two bands led by past Schubert Club/DFJE piano competition winners, Joe Strachan and Quentin Tschofen. Some of these up and coming musicians are true veterans of the festival, having played on the Youth Stage with their school or jazz camp bands since middle school.

Given the way of the jazz world today, the TCJF also stands out for its commitment to presenting jazz without the compromises that seem to confuse the intent of "jazz" festivals in recent years. Many of the biggest and most prestigious jazz festivals, like many jazz clubs, are hoping to bring in new audiences and more funding by infusing the events with pop, rock, and blues stars, even promoting their “jazz” festivals with headliners like Prince and the B-52s (Montreal Jazz Festival) or BB King and Paul Simon (Montreaux). OK, this probably keeps some festivals and clubs alive... but does it keep jazz alive?

Thanks to Steve Heckler and company for sticking it out and reshaping the St. Paul edition of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival into one of the best free, “real jazz” festivals around. And maybe the best in the integration of festival and neighborhood venues like the Artists Quarter, Black Dog, Hat Trick Lounge, and a welcome newcomer this year, the avant garde/experimental music space, Studio Z.

When it comes to jazz, St. Paul plays no second fiddle to Minneapolis. And I say that as a 40-year resident of the Minni-Apple.

Photos: (top to bottom) Gary Burton; Sue Orfield; the Mears Park Stage on Saturday night (with Danilo Perez Trio on stage) (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, June 24-30

© Andrea Canter

I can make this task much easier this week—just go to the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, starting with Jazz Night Out tonight (6/23) and going through the post-festival gig at the Artists Quarter Sunday night (6/26) with bass heavyweights, John Patitucci and our own Billy Peterson. In between, it’s Gary Burton’s New Quartet (6/24) and Danilo Perez Trio with Patitucci and Adam Cruz (6/25) heading a line-up covering three outdoor stages and numerous club stages. Note particularly the scheduling at Studio Z, first time in conjunction with the festival, and featuring some of the most innovative music you will hear all weekend with the likes of Zeitgeist, Douglas Ewart and Milo Fine, as well as a particularly eclectic schedule at the Black Dog Café, ranging from Hanson/Roessler/Hennig to Zacc Harris to Lee Engele to Ticket to Brasil. Details at the festival website and on Jazz Police.

There actually are a few other gigs around town apart from the festival! The encyclopedic sage of piano, Jon Weber, hosts his trio and a jam session this weekend (6/24-25) at the Artists Quarter (well, that is sort of related to the festival if not an official gig), in addition to his usual festival duties. Jon is as entertaining (and talented) as Victor Borge (remember him?); expect him to invite audience suggestions for the key and style for a given tune and to throw out his own version of Trivial Pursuit along the way.

Doc Severinsen was a lot of fun to see last fall at the Dakota, and now he’s back in a more typical venue, bringing his Big Band to Orchestra Hall Friday night (6/24). It’s glitz and glamour but it’s also cool music. Indoors, no rain, no bugs.

If you are staying in Minneapolis Saturday night (6/25), stop at the Dakota to hear singer/actress Greta Ogelsby (most recently heard at the Capri Theater and Penumbra Theater) and then hang out for the Late set with young trumpeter Jake Baldwin and his quartet. Jake, a Minnetonka HS grad now at the New England Conservatory of Music, was recently on the Dakota stage as a finalist in the International Trumpet Guild competition. He’s bringing along some long-time cohorts at similar stages of their budding careers, bassist Cory Grindberg, drummer Cam LeCrone and pianist Joe Strachan.

And if you are anywhere near St. Cloud this weekend and missed one of Prudence Johnson’s presentations of A Girl Name Vincent, get down to the Paramount Theater Saturday night (6/25) as this is one of the best produced musical revues you will see around here—a revival and revision of Johnson’s earlier tribute to the life and art of young Edna St. Vincent Millay, featuring original music from area composers (Laura Caviani, Joan Griffith, Michelle Kinney) and of course the stellar voice of Prudence Johnson.

The Dakota brings back Max Weinberg, of Conan O’Brien fame, this time with a more wieldy septet featuring Chicago keyboardist/vocalist Bill Champlin (6/27-28). I saw his big band at Guthrie last winter—lots of energy, lots of fun, but would much rather hear the music in the more acoustic-friendly Dakota.

There’s lots more for those with energy leftover after the festival weekend. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg make pizza swing at Fireside Pizza (6/27 & 6/29); Rhonda Laurie stars in Musique Mystique at the Loring Pasta Bar (6/27); Reynold Philipsek and Jeff Brueske are at Centennial Lakes (6/28); the Pete Whitman X-Tet parties at the AQ (6/30); violinist Kip Jones and bassist Karl Doty bring an undefinable musical viewpoint to the Bryant-Lake Bowl (6/30), and more. Just check on the KBEM website for Pamela’s online jazz calendar!

Coming Soon!
• July 1-3, Iowa City Jazz Festival

• July 8, Lucia Newell and Maud Hixson at the Artists Quarter (Strayhorn/Ellington salute)

• July 12, Rene Marie at the Dakota

• July 15-16, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter

• July 16, DakotaFest on Nicollet Mall

• July 16, Reynold Philipsek CD Release at the Aster Café

• July 20-21, Karrin Allyson at the Dakota

• July 25, Lucia Newell and Dean Magraw at the Loring Pasta Bar

• July 29-30, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter

• July 30, Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival

• August 11, Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Park

• August 20, Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall

Photos: (top to bottom) Young jazz fan ponders the many options at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival; Jon Weber--a perennial festival presence; Prudence Johnson in A Girl Named Vincent; Jake Baldwin at the recent ITG Competition at the Dakota. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review: Festival Preludes

© Andrea Canter

I barely had one foot out of Bryce Canyon and had to hit the “ground” running. Between music venues. I think I get most of my exercise that way these days. But it was worth the rather sudden mind shift--e.g., nearly two weeks without any live music followed by one gig after another. It was sort of like flying from our near-sea level locale to Montana, stepping off the plane at about 5,000 feet. Our music elevations here in the Twin Cities can be dizzying, too.

Festival Preludes
One of the new partnerships this year for the annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival is with the St. Paul Public Libraries, which sponsored three “preview” concerts in three community libraries. I missed the first one last week, Debbie Duncan’s performance at the Rondo Outreach Library, but heard it was well attended and received. I was impressed to see a good crowd at the Central Library on a climatically iffy Father’s Day afternoon (6/19). Although disappointed that 91-year-old Irv Williams was not feeling up to blowing his sax, the remaining musicians were anything but disappointing. These cross-generational ensembles seem to benefit from both the experience of the veterans (here, Dave Karr and Kenny Horst) and the energy of the young ‘uns (here, Tanner Taylor and Graydon Peterson). The set list included some classic jazz favorites (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” “Tangerine,” “On Green Dolphin Street”); each musician gave the audience a wide sampling of his talent and as a quartet, the interplay revealed plenty of mutual respect and camaraderie. It was a fun afternoon that I wished I could have shared with my Father on Father’s Day.

A few days later (6/22), the third pre-festival concert drew a full house to the Hayden Heights Library (Maplewood) despite threatening skies. Singer Rhonda Laurie and frequent collaborators Sidewalk Café (Reynold Philipsek, Jeff Brueske, Gary Schulte) were in swinging form, running through some of the material from Rhonda’s recent central Minnesota tours with her “Happy Days Are Here Again” project, supported by a Legacy Fund grant. Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and more were covered with panache and a smile.

Hiromi’s New Trio Project, Under Glass
I don’t think I have missed a Hiromi gig locally since I first heard her at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in 2004, and I also managed to catch her solo in Chicago a year ago. Her new recording, Voice, was released a few weeks ago on Telarc and features a new “trio project” with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. But for this tour, Steve Smith mans the trapset, and as expected, he seems to perfect fit to the pianist’s range of lyricism, velocity, power and whimsy. Or he would have fit perfectly had the sound been as balanced at the Dakota as it is on the recording. And in fairness to all, the sound at the Dakota seemed markedly impaired as well as inconsistent due to the presence of a plexiglass barrier separating the piano from the rest of the stage. I’ve seen these barriers a few times, but always encasing the drummer, not seemingly surrounding the piano. I talked with folks sitting in various parts of the main floor and mezzanine, and each had a different experience with the sound. Those of us sitting closest appeared to absorb the most deflection of percussion, which in my case caused serious muffling of the bass and far more volume from Smith and Hiromi. The farther away from the stage, the better the sound blended. And this was the first set, first night; some tinkering might have improved the situation thereafter. I hope so; this trio has too much going for it to fall victim to sound issues. I am still uncertain as to the need or wisdom of the barrier. This was not a live recording session.

So, as much as one can dismiss sound quality… the set was nevertheless enjoyable, displaying Hiromi’s trademark percussive attack that can dissolve instantly into delicate cascading lyricism; her CD title track “Voice” comes off like a multi-layered Bad Plus signature; “Now or Never” playfully virtuosic; her arrangement of Beethoven’s “Pathetique” a masterpiece of invention—his and hers. I’d like to hear this show again. And really hear it. (Meanwhile I highly recommend the recording, even without Smith; Phillips has many similar qualities in his drumming. See Jazz Police review.)

Photos: (top to bottom) Tanner Taylor, Dave Karr, Kenny Horst and Graydon Peterson in the St Paul Central Library; Rhonda Laurie with Gary Schulte at Hayen Heights. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More Road Music: Canon for Canyon Country

© Andrea Canter

After that 15-hour drive to Detroit last September, I swore I’d never do such a trip again. But the opportunity to explore the national parks of southwest Utah was too tempting, and besides, we were breaking up the drive into manageable segments, round trip from the Bozeman, MT area. I was warned there would be absolutely nothing on radio and it was my job to bring along some music we’d both enjoy. My friend Judy has visited here a few times and seemed to like the music we heard at the Dakota, but there’s a different burden in selecting all the music for 12 days. And given that I was flying Minneapolis to our Bozeman starting point, I couldn’t just bring my favorite 100.

So I narrowed my choices to seven that I thought had both general appeal and some interesting, folkloric twists, remembering the days Judy and I hung out listening to the Kingston Trio or Brothers Four for hours. There had to be some guitar, but probably nothing leaning too far into fusion. An emphasis on local music would give it a more personal touch. And each CD had to hold up to repeated listening—we had only 7 sets of music and many hours on the road coming and going.

Reynold Philipsek, Tales From the North Woods (2011, Zino-Rephi Music). I had to take one new recording along! Reynold, who releases at least one new recording each year, makes this one official in a few weeks (July 16th at the Aster Café). Another solo outing highlighting not only his outrageous guitar chops but original compositions as well, this disc proved to be perfect accompaniment to a rainy Idaho backcountry drive—nothing rushed, often nostalgic, gently swinging.

Kip Jones, Hallazgo (2011). Violinist/vocalist/composer Kip Jones found inspiration for most of these tunes on recent journeys to South America and Korea, and the unusual combination of voice and violin (simultaneously performed) readily fit our folkloric wanderlust mood as we crossed into Utah, the 90-mile stretch of urban buzz from Ogden to Provo still a CD interlude away. It’s global bluegrass with some avant garde vocalese tossed in, a unique sound from a unique talent. And his version of "Darn That Dream" proves there is no such thing as a “standard.”

Joan Griffith/Laura Caviani, Sambanova (2008, Pleasing Dog Music). We were heading south, albeit stopping short of Arizona, but some Brazilian rhythms seemed perfectly natural as Old West suburbia whizzed by. And Joan’s ode to her Nebraska hometown “La Bellevue” could just as easily sketch the small towns that slowed us down as we approached Canyon Country.

Dan Cavanagh/Dave Hagedorn, Horizon (2010). There’s nothing more soothing than piano and vibes after a long day’s drive, and Cavangh and Hagedorn keep it mellow without falling into the sugar jar. Less familiar covers (mostly) and original compositions, but my favorite is a melding of Debussy and Monk on the final track, proving you can be gentle and absurd at the same time.

Terell Stafford, This Side of Strayhorn (2011, MaxJazz). Even in the still of night, the steep canyons of Zion suggest an underlying cosmic energy, and Stafford’s Quintet swings at all tempos and all moods through a set of favorite and less familiar Strayhorn fare. Stafford and saxman Tim Warfield at times suggest the great soloists of the Ellington bands. It’s a set as multi-colored as the cliffs of Kodachrome Basin.

Eric Alexander, Revival of the Fittest (2009, HighNote). Eric Alexander produces more recordings per year than Reynold Philipsek, but he too never runs out of ideas. Or energy. And any hour spent with pianist Harold Mabern is a gift. This is music to recharge your internal batteries after a few days of high-altitude canyon trekking.

Regina Carter, Reverse Thread (2010, E1 Music). I’ve seen Carter’s African roots project twice in the past year but this was my first experience hearing the recorded effort. Judy declared it her favorite—the combination of violin, accordion, bass, percussion and kora yielded a cross-cultural whirlwind, as if assimilating all the music on hand. It was hoedown, festive, roots and improv. Uniquely everything. Like millions of years of accumulated strata that Mother Earth has tossed up and repositioned in seemingly impossible juxtapositions. A canon of Canyon Country.

This “canyon suite” and the treasures of Zion, Bryce, Kodachrome Basin and Cottonwood Canyon—all within a pretty small cosmos of southwest Utah-- highly recommended for your next road trip.

Photos, top to bottom: Looking up from the canyon bottom at Zion; Reynold Philipsek; Regina Carter (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, June 3-23

© Andrea Canter

OK, call this the “pre-festival lead sheet” as it is the only one I will be posting before Twin Cities Jazz Festival weekend. I’m heading west for 12 days of driving, hiking, camping, driving, hiking….no laptop, no email. Plenty of jazz but all on CD. So for the most part, this is a preview of what I will miss. Go and tell me all about it later! The local jazz calendar, as complete as any, can now be found on the KBEM website (maintained by Pamela Espeland).

Recommended, June 3-9
Dubbed “Minnesota’s First Lady of Song” for good reason, Debbie Duncan highlights the weekend (6/3-4) at the Artists Quarter, guaranteeing some ballads, blues, and plenty of sass. She can be so entertaining that you forget she’s one of the best jazz singers around –until she launches into song. The Dakota is booked for a private event this weekend, during prime time, but plan on a late night gig Saturday (6/4) with the very special pairing of guitarists Todd Clouser and Dean Magraw, backed by Chris Bates on bass and JT Bates on drums. Clouser has been growing his audience with his Love Electric recording and tour, and offers an artistically exciting counterpoint to the folky-bluesy-fusiony postbop of Dean Magraw. And Todd will be celebrating another project at the Aster Café on Monday (6/6) with the release of Mighty Bird, the recording debut of Hope Tonic, a trio with Clouser, Bates and Bates. “Toy pianos, big pianos, a National Resonator guitar, melodica, and Clouser's signature guitar work combine to make Mighty Bird a record steeped in emotion,” says his press release.

With most of her North American rhythm section based in the Twin Cities, we can count on frequent visits from Britain’s top jazz singer, American-born Stacey Kent, coming to the Dakota for two nights (6/5-6). Falling in love with future husband and jazz while studying literature in England, Kent gave up the academic life for music, and her series of acclaimed recordings (Grammy-nominated Breakfast on the Morning Tram in 2007 and her 2010 Raconte-Moi ) and popularity in Europe, and now the U.S., support that choice. She recently received the National Order of Arts and Letters from French Culture Minister Christine Albanel, who cited Kent “as a painter of sentiment, spellbinding, mixing sophistication and sentiment, a luminous and unique talent.” In addition to husband/tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and pianist Art Hirahara, Stacey will be backed by Twin Citians Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey, her North American timekeepers.

Dean Magraw figures in another cool pairing this week, Monday night (6/6) at the Loring Pasta Bar with vocalist Lucia Newell, part of the Musique Mystique series. Between them, Dean and Lucia cover much of the world, and together, their art reaches global proportions. And not done with Dean yet… Starting Tuesday (6/7), it’s Fat Tuesday at the Black Dog Café with a new series of music curated by Dean and percussionist Davu Seru “from James Brown to Charles Mingus.” Every first Tuesday, 8-10 pm.

One of my favorite brass ensembles, Snowblind resurfaces at the Artists Quarter on Wednesday (6/8). Put Adam Rossmiller, Scott Agster, Shilad Sen, Graydon Peterson and Reid Kennedy together and you have a real blizzard of original compositions and arrangements. And if that is not enough energy, you can check out the Turf Club and Gang Font (Dave King, Erik Fratzke, Bryan Nichols) on Thursday night (6/9). Earlier in the evening, you can help raise funds for ongoing relief efforts in Japan at the Jazz for Japan benefit at Camp Bar in St. Paul. Organized by local vocal activist Rhonda Laurie and her students at the Minnesota School of Business, this is a great effort to recognize Japan’s contributions and long-standing support of jazz and help those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. Musicians peforming at the benefit include Rhonda, Reynold Philipsek, Arne Fogel, Debbie Duncan, Maud Hixson, Paula Lammers, Joyce Lyons, Aaron Keith Stewart, Robert Bell, Rick Carlson, Doug Little, Joel Shapira, Jazz Zen, Illicit Sextet, Pooch’s Playhouse and more.

More this week: Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Pardon My French (6/3); Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble at West Bank School of Music (6/3); Nathan Hanson, Brian Roessler and Peter Leggett at the Black Dog (6/3); Zacc Harris Trio, brunch at Hell’s Kitchen (6/4); Sidewalk Café at Midtown Global Market (12:30 pm, 6/4); Vicky Mountain and Reuben Ristrom at First Course Bistro (6/4); Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café (6/5); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview (6/5); Dave Milne with Tanner Taylor and Mac Santiago at Jazz Central (6/6); Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza 6/6 and 6/8; Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter (6/7); Dave Karr Quartet at the Artists Quarter (6/9)

Recommended, June 10-16
A combination I am sorry to miss, at a new venue I would like to check out—vocalist Lee Engele with guitarist Joan Griffith at Mendoberri, the former Sage Wine Bar space in Mendota Heights, Friday night (6/10). Lee can swing any song she encounters, and Joan can handle anything from bebop to swing to samba and beyond. Long-time drummer for McCoy Tyner, Eric Kamau Gravatt brings his Source Code back for a weekend at the Artists Quarter (6/10-11). And for some swinging south-of-the-border fare, Connie Evingson brings her long-awaited Summer Samba show to Jazz at the Jungle (Theater) on Sunday (6/12). Featuring songs by Oscar- and Grammy-winning lyricist Norman Gimbel, Connie has assembled a stellar Midwest cast, with Danny Embrey and Joan Griffith, guitar; Bob Bowman, bass; Laura Caviani, piano; Dave Karr, sax; and Dave Schmalenberger, drums.

Summer seems meant for big bands, and the free Jazz on the Prairie Festival held annually at Staring Lake in Eden Prairie fits the bill (6/12). Line up this year includes Bend in the River Big Band, Acme Jazz Company, Just Friends Big Band, River City Jazz Orchestra, Good News Big Band and the Jazz on the Prairie Big Band. You can also help strike up the band for victims of the Northside Minneapolis tornado at a benefit at the State Theater in downtown Minneapolis (6/12), featuring an eclectic mix of music from the TC Jammers with Patty Peterson, the Peterson Family, Brother Ali, the New Standards, Prudence Johnson, Paris and Jamecia Bennett, Toki Wright, Ginger Commodore, Jeanne Aland Peterson, Thomasina Petrus, and more. Emcees are T. Mychael Rambo, Robyne Robinson, and Angela Davis.

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival officially gets underway next week but preview events begin Thursday (6/16) with a series of gigs in St Paul Libraries. Tonight Debbie Duncan fills the Rondo Library. Stay in St Paul for the Phil Aaron Trio at the Artists Quarter. Long the Friday night house band at Hotel Sofitel, Phil with Tom Lewis and Jay Epstein continue to make terrific trio music whenever they find time to get together.

More this week: Arne Fogel at Hell’s Kitchen (6/10); Nachito Herrera at the Dakota (6/10-11); Nichola Miller at Hell’s Kitchen (6/11) and with Rick Carlson at Loring Pasta Bar (Musique Mystique, 6/13); Joann Funk solo piano at Nicollet Island Inn (6/11); Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (6/13 & 6/15); Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at the Guthrie (6/13); Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter (6/14); Kristin Sponcia Quartet at the Artists Quarter (6/15); Sophia Shorai at the Aster Café (6/15); Christine Rosholt with Beasley’s Big Band at the Wabasha Street Caves (6/16).

Recommended, June 17-23
He has literally no online presence and does not perform at clubs often these days, but pianist Tommy O’Donnell is among the best in town and has played with all the best in town. Speaking of which, his trio mates for this gig at the Artists Quarter (6/17-18) features Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey. Try to beat that. Make room for two gigs on Saturday (6/18) because Bruce Henry is back for one night at the Dakota! Although we lamented the velvety baritone’s departure two years ago, Bruce has managed to find his way back to his old haunts every couple months. And it’s always a fresh show.

Continuing the jazz festival previews in St Paul libraries, on Sunday (6/19) celebrate Fathers’ Day at the Central Library with Dave Karr, Irv Williams, Tanner Taylor, Graydon Peterson and Kenny Horst, a quintet that will knock your socks off with its bop and swing. The final installment, with Rhonda Laurie and Sidewalk Café, swings on Wednesday (6/22) at the Hayden Heights Library. Also a good ticket for dads, the Dakota welcomes back the king of New Orleans piano, Allen Toussaint (6/19). A headliner at the TC Jazz Festival two years ago, Toussaint is a master of grooving, foot-stomping delta dazzle.

Speaking of dazzle, Hiromi returns with a new Trio Project, two nights at the Dakota (6/20-21). Her new trio CD, Voice, might be her best ensemble effort yet, and here she brings in bassist Anthony Jackson and special guest, drummer Steve Smith (Journey, Vital Information). It’s been a couple years since we heard Hiromi leading a band (she’s been here with Stanley Clarke and in solo), and this trio seems to take the best of all of her worlds—stunning ballads and hard-driving grooves from her original compositions and surprise covers like Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata.

Last week I mentioned the Phil Aaron Trio’s residency at Hotel Sofitel. Is music returning on a regular basis? Maybe not, but at least on Tuesday (6/21), jazz returns to the bar at Chez Collette with the sublime duo of Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson. Maybe this is the start of something good?

And the biggest festival prelude of all, the annual Jazz Night Out is back Thursday (6/23) with jazz throughout St Paul’s Lowertown and beyond: At Mears Park, vocalist Alicia Renee pairs up with pianist extraordinaire Jon Weber, followed by Connie Evingson; elsewhere hear Red Toes (Gregg Marquardt, Connie Dusseau and Jackie Moen), followed by Freddie and the Boys at the Hatrick; creative guitarist John Penny at Senor Wong; the Joann Funk Trio at the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel; Joseph Baird followed by the Zacc Harris Quartet at the Black Dog; Arne Fogel and Maud Hixson with the Wolverines Trio at Mancini’s; Anti-Gravity (Dean Granros--guitar, Jacqueline Ultan--cello, Steve Goldstein---laptop, Scott Fultz--saxes, Pat O’Keefe--clarinet) at Studio Z; Eric Christianson at the Bulldog; and the crowd-pleasing annual Stride Piano Night at the Artists Quarter with 2 pianos and three magicians—Butch Thompson, Jon Weber and Paul Asaro.

More jazz this week: Patty Peterson and Friends at the Dakota (6/17); Erin Schwab at Hell’s Kitchen (6/17); Community Pool/Deep End series at the Black Dog (6/17); Vinnie Rose, Graydon Peterson and Jay Epstein at the Shanghai Bistro in Hudson (6/18); Firebell (Park Evans, Graydon Peterson and Jay Epstein) at the Red Stage (6/20); Charmin Michelle and Rick Carlson at Loring Pasta Bar (Musique Mystique, 6/20); Jelloslave at Barbette (6/20); Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter (6/21); Dean Granros Trio at the Artists Quarter; Zacc Harris, Bryan Nichols, Pete Hennig at Café Maude (6/22); Trombone Shorty at the Minnesota Zoo (6/22); Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza (6/22); Joel Shapira at Hell’s Kitchen (6/23).

Coming Soon
• June 24, Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Orchestra Hall

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

• June 25, Jake Baldwin Quartet at the Dakota/Late Night

• June 26, “Two Bass Hit” with John Pattitucci and Billy Peterson at the Artists Quarter

• July 12, Rene Marie at the Dakota

• July 16, DakotaFest on Nicollet Mall

• July 30, Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival

• August 11, Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Park

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall

Photos: (Top to bottom) Todd Clouser returns to the Dakota; as does Stacey Kent; Eric Gravatt brings Source Code to the AQ; Hiromi will be at the Dakota with a new trio (All photos by Andrea Canter)