Friday, December 16, 2011

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)