Friday, July 29, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, July 29-August 4

















© Andrea Canter

A locally based band releases its first CD on a major label. An innovative community market space hosts its first jazz festival. A jazz festival favorite makes a special guest appearance at the area’s acclaimed underground jazz room before performing at what some call the area’s only “real” jazz club. The man dubbed “the baddest organ player in jazz” brings his trio to the Dakota. And a trio of college musicians gives us a taste of the future of jazz. Just another musical week in Minnesota.

Highlights This Week
Back in March 2010, there was a two-night blast at the Walker Art Center honoring the genius of drummer Dave King. Dave tried out a few new ideas for ensembles, one of which he dubbed The Dave King Trucking Company. The name and the music stuck, and now the band is celebrating a major label CD debut, Good Old Light on Sunnyside, with two nights at the Artists Quarter (7/29-30). King has already made his mark as a composer via works for The Bad Plus and Happy Apple, but he’s clearly not done yet. He’s joined by the CD cast and his working band—saxophonists Brandon Wozniak and Chris Speed (in from New York), guitarist Erik Fratzke, and bassist Adam Linz. It will be playful and maybe even a little dangerous.

You can find great jazz, great food, and great fun all day at the Midtown Global Market’s first jazz festival, starting at noon on Saturday (7/30). The outdoor stage features heavyweights Chris Lomheim, Ticket to Brasil, Twin Cities Seven with Charmin Michelle, and Patty Peterson. Inside the market, between headliner sets, you can hear three outstanding student-led ensembles—Public New Sense, the Quentin Tschofen Quintet, and the Respective Sound Convergence Summit. These students have played in such bands as Minnesota Youth Jazz Band, Dakota Combo, Walker West, South High, MITY and more. Quentin’s group is somewhat older, all heading to college in the fall or already into their studies; the other bands feature the best area high school students from St Paul and Minneapolis. Hang out at the Market after dark, with music on the Sheraton patio from guitarists John Penny and Joel Shapira.

Another freebie—Doug Little brings his Charanga Tropicale to the Capri Theater for a fun Saturday night reprieve from the heat. Well, only in terms of climate—this band is steamy!

Throughout the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Jon Weber entertained with his virtuosic piano skills and encyclopedic memory of anything related to music – he backed Alicia Renee at Mears Park, joined in the fracas of the annual Stride Piano Night, and hosted a weekend jam at the Artists Quarter. He’s not waiting for 2012, Jon is back in town this week. Monday night (8/1), he will be special guest at Jazz Central, the underground club managed by Tanner Taylor and Mac Santiago. It’s trumpeter Bill Simenson’s night and Weber will join in. On Wednesday night (8/3), Weber takes the stage for his own gig at the Artists Quarter.


Go out earlier on Monday (8/1) and catch another installment of the Musique Mystique series at the Loring Pasta Bar, this time with two of the hippest swingers in town, vocalist Rhonda Laurie and guitarist Robert Bell. They've had plenty of action over recent months touring east central Minnesota libraries with Rhonda's "Happy Days Are Here Again" revue.

Stay out late enough on Wednesday (8/3) to catch Maud Hixson with guitarist Dave Singley at the Aster Café. The space is simply a perfect fit to the cabaret intimacy of Maud’s songbook interpretations and Dave’s ethereal strings. Or welcome back the Nomad Jazz Series, with bassist James Buckley curating every Wednesday night. The new series kicks off in high fashion with Quartet Midwest (Kip Jones, Brandon Wozniak, James Buckley and JT Bates) at Nomad World Pub on the West Bank.

Tough decisions face jazz lovers on Thursday night (8/4). You can start your evening at the AQ and the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Young Artists Series gig, this time featuring St. Paul Central grad Remy Taghavi and “Friends Present Deer Puncher.” The name of the band is a long story. Less difficult to explain is the talent pool – saxophonist Remy is going into his fourth year of classical bassoon (and jazz) studies at the University of Southern California; pianist Joe Strachan, a Northfield high school alum, will be heading into his junior year at the U of M where he has been pianist for Jazz Ensemble I while appearing on club stages with Jake Baldwin, Cam LeCrone, and fronting his own bands. And drummer Cam LeCrone, a graduate of Minnetonka High School, is studying music at Northwestern University. Cam and Joe were busy on the Youth Stage of the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Thursday night dilemmas—organ master Joey DeFrancesco leads a trio with amazing guitarist Paul Bollenback at the Dakota; the Phil Aaron Trio (with Tom Lewis and Jay Epstein) comes on at the AQ after the Young Artists set. You can’t go wrong either way—Joey D is one of the most entertaining jazz musicians around, particularly when he’s groovin’ on the Hammond B-3. The Phil Aaron Trio has been making great music since they had a long-running weekly gig at Hotel Sofitel. Pick your swing.

More Jazz!
For a relatively complete listing of area jazz events, check the jazz calendar on the KBEM website. A few more gigs that caught my ear:
Friday, July 29: Zacc Harris with Cory Grindberg and Jay Epstein at Shanghai Bistro in Hudson; Jana Nyberg Group at Honey Lounge; Patty Peterson and Friends at School II
Saturday, July 30: Frankhouse, brunch at Hell’s Kitchen; Dean Magraw with Peter Schimke and Jay Epstein at Shanghai Bistro; Erin Schwab and Lori Dokken at the Townhouse Bar
Sunday, July 31: Sunday brunch, take your pick, Frankhouse at Hell’s Kitchen and Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café.
Monday, August 1: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Tuesday, August 2: First Tuesdays with Dean Magraw and Davu Seru at the Black Dog; Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Nick Videen at Jazz Central
Wednesday, August 3: Babatunde Lea, Zacc Harris and Adam Linz at Café Maude; Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at the Minnesota Zoo; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Arne Fogel and the Wolverines Trio at Hell's Kitchen
Thursday, August 4: The Great River Jazz Fest begins in LaCrosse (through Sunday); the annual Bix Beiderbecke Festival runs August 4-7 in Davenport, IA

Coming Soon!
• August 5, Marco Benevento and Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric at the Loring Theater

• August 5, John Moulder Quartet with Dan Musselman at the Artists Quarter

• August 7, Bloomington Jazz Festival

• August 8-10, Bettye Lavette at the Dakota

• August 10, Snowblind at the Artists Quarter

• August 13, Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Park



. August 14, PipJazz at Landmark Center (with Patty Peterson)




• August 19-20, Miguel Hurtado Sextet at the Artists Quarter

• August 20, Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival

• August 21, Jeanne Arland Peterson 90th Birthday Celebration at the Old Log Theater

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

• August 26-27, Jeanne Arland Peterson/Cliff Brunzell 90th Birthday Celebration at the Artists Quarter

• September 2-4, Chicago Jazz Festival

• September 2-5, Detroit Jazz Festival

• September 5, Ivan Lins at the Dakota

• September 20-21, James Farm (with Joshua Redman) at the Dakota

• September 26-27, Lionel Hampton Tribute with Jason Marsalis, Dianne Schurr at the Dakota

• September 29-October 1, Minnesota Orchestra Season Opener with Fat Kid Wednesdays

• October 1, JazzMN Orchestra with John Clayton at the Hopkins High School Arts Center

• October 2, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Orchestra Hall

• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall

• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)









Photos: (Top to bottom) Dave King; Pavel Janey of Ticket to Brasil; Patty Peterson; Jon Weber (all photos by Andrea Canter)





Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Road Music









© Andrea Canter

Over the past month I’ve traveled twice to Iowa City, for the annual jazz festival and then for my dad’s 90th birthday. I took along plenty of music, most of it brand new. Sure helps to have some modern sounds to break up the monotony of cornfields, although some familiar voices are always welcome when road construction and other annoyances threaten the otherwise welcome escape from daily reality.

New and Notable
Daniel Bennett, Peace and Stability Among Bears. The title is a little odd, but it fits with a couple earlier releases for which titles were inspired by cartoons saxophonist Bennett commissioned to accompany his music. What is not odd at all, but in fact most delightfully folkloric and bouncy, is the music. Particularly blending soprano and flute joyfully with guitarist Chris Hersch, Bennett sounds like no one else; this is music that could bring peace and stability among humans while keeping our ears on full alert. You don’t want to miss any of these lovely notes or melodies, whether a tune that suggests backwoods Americana or one that conjures an East European ceremonial dance.

Judy Wexler, Under a Painted Sky (Jazzed Media). Wexler has a very accessible voice, a super band with Alan Pasqua on piano, Darek Oles on bass and Steve Hass on drums, and a diverse set of uncommonly engaging songs from the likes of Abbey Lincoln, Carmen McRae, Norma Winstone and Benny Golson, and from the songbooks of Blossom Dearie, Johnny Mathis, Shirley Horn, and Jeri Southern. But every tune feels like it was written by Judy Wexler.

Falkner Evans, The Point of the Moon (Consolidated Artists Productions). With help from Greg Tardy, Ron Horton, Belden Bullock and Matt Wilson, Falkner Evans proves a most welcome addition to the crowded field of modern jazz piano. Filling all but two tracks with his own sophisticated compositions, Evans arguable shines most on tracks by Jobim (“O Grand Amor”) and, particularly, Alec Wilder’s “While We’re Young.” There’s just enough old fashioned swing here to make this a modern masterpiece.

Nilson Matta and Roni Ben-Hur, Mojave (Motema). Part of Motema’s “Jazz Therapy” series (20% sales are donated to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund to provide care to jazz and blues musicians), this recording would surely cure the bluest of blues. Joining the bassist and guitarist is drummer Victor Lewis, resulting in a sublime trio set of largely classic Brazilian composers along with a few originals and a Burt Bacharach tune. Call it Samba-Bop, perfect for a summer ride through Middle America with the top down. Well, maybe with the top up and the AC running?

Denny Zeitlin, Labyrinth (Sunnyside). A great title for this live solo recording from a pianist who has proven time and again that there’s an orchestra inside the piano. Zeitlin takes us through every conceivable twist and turn, from the spectacular opening “Footprints” (apparently you do not need Wayne Shorter to give this starpower) to the delicate “They Say It’s Wonderful” to the rambunctious “Lazy Bird” to the majestic “Dancing in the Dark.”

Familiar and Fabulous
I can’t imagine a road trip without one of my favorite vocalists. Diane Krall was my “guest” on the earlier drive (From This Moment On, Only Trust Your Heart) – her phrasing alone keeps you from falling asleep at the wheel. But for the second trip, I opted for a favorite I have not heard in a while, the Maud Hixson/Rick Carlson duo, Love’s Refrain. None of the glitz of Diana and decidedly more intimate, as if it’s just you, Rick and Maud in the room (or, in this case, the front seat). The sound is impeccable—easily the best of the lot in overcoming road noise, not a syllable obscured. And you can’t beat Maud’s musical storytelling, especially on gems like “Lotus Blossom” and “Star Dust,” and “love’s refrain” as it penetrates the opening “With a Song in My Heart” and the whimsical “Remind Me.” Remind me to listen to this one more often; it surely puts a song in my heart. Even on I-35.


Images: CD Covers, Daniel Bennett and Judy Wexler; Maud Hixson with Rick Carlson, live. (photo by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, July 22-28










© Andrea Canter

Getting tired of talking about the weather? Had your fill of “Fever” or “The Summer Knows?” This has not been a great week for outdoor music, but there’s a promise of a mild cooldown, and plenty of great music to enjoy in air conditioned interiors as we head into late July.

Rescheduled after the death of his father a few weeks ago, former Twin Citian Bruce Henry is back in town for a weekend at the Dakota (7/22-23). Since returning to his native Chicago two years ago, the Dakota hosts Bruce every few months, and it is always a pleasure to hear some old favorite songs like “Afro Blue” with new takes on bebop, R&B and gospel-influenced hits, from Charlie Parker to Stevie Wonder.

The Phil Hey Quartet plays the Artists Quarter nearly monthly, so it can be easy to take their ferocious energy and consummate artistry for granted. But don’t—monthly gigs are hardly enough, and their weekend bookings are few and far between, so head to the AQ Friday and/or Saturday night (7/22-23) for your PHQ fix. And it will be a little different this time, with monster bassist Adam Linz on the bandstand in place of Tom Lewis. Adam and Phil are often in the same place at the same time but this will be a rare opportunity to hear Adam with Phil Aaron and Dave Hagedorn. Expect the evening to have a bit more edge.

Saturday (7/23) offers a different sort of opportunity at the Gingko Coffee House—the chance to hear one of tomorrow’s stars at the beginning of his pro career. Pianist/composer Quentin Tschofen is all of 17, a new high school graduate heading to UW-Eau Claire in the fall, and he’s starting to book gigs around the metro. Winner of scholarships in the past two Schubert Club/Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education jazz piano competitions and pianist for the Dakota Combo for the past two seasons, Quentin brings in a trio of slightly older players (Ted Olsen on bass, Matt Buckner on drums), the same configuration that he led at the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival’s “piano showcase” on the Youth Stage. Quentin already has a diverse repertoire, including the challenging works of Charles Mingus and his own sophisticated compositions.

The Monday night gigs and jams at Jazz Central provide some of the most exciting music in town, in large part due to the imaginative bookings of Tanner Taylor and Mac Santiago, proprietors of this “underground” collective space. Running a noncommercial venue has its advantages, including the freedom to schedule music based entirely on artistic criteria. There’s no cover—just a request for donations. There’s no restaurant or bar—you can bring your own. There’s no chatter—it’s a space “by the cats, for the cats.” This Monday (7/25), you can hear one of the new trombone talents in town—Scott Agster—with the house band of Taylor, Santiago and Keith Boyles, with special guests Dave Graf, Michael Nelson, and Wade Clark (that makes 4 trombones!) and Shai Hyo on congas. The “Bone Band” will unveil some of Agster’s new Latin arrangements.

Earlier in the evening (7/25), "Musique Mystique" continues just down University Ave at the Loring Pasta Bar, with Lucia Newell and Dean Magraw. That’s sublime meets sublime in jazz terms, and you can count on a lot of playful repartee as well as very cool duets. Another local guitar giant, Joel Shapira brings his “Open Lines” quartet to the Aster Café on Wednesday night (7/27). This culminates a busy week for Joel, who joins with Charmin Michelle (Charmin & Shapira) for Saturday brunch (7/23) at Hell’s Kitchen; goes solo at Ingredients Café on Saturday night (7/23), and spreads jazz throughout the Alexis Bailey Vineyard in Hastings with Jon Pemberton on Sunday afternoon (7/24).

“Hot and Crusty” describes not only the pizza at Fireside but the duo of Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg. (Go listen; you can decide who is “hot” and who is “crusty…) They’re usually in the band corner Mondays and Wednesdays (7/25 & 27). Nothing better in July than a cold beer and hot “Kiss My Face” pizza to accompany classic swing tunes.

Banjo, bass and drums? Makes sense if the bass and drums belong to Adam Linz and JT Bates, with Paul Metzger handling the banjo! Free jazz and great food (ask about the special jazz night prix fixe menu) join together on Wednesday (7/27) at Café Maude. Best to make a reservation and ask to be seated near the music or you could end up in aural purgatory.

Continuing a tradition of presenting former regional stars who have gone on to the Big Apple, the Artists Quarter brings in Wisconsin native saxman David Bixler (7/27). Bixler toured with Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Duke Ellington. About ten years ago he joined the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, where he began an ongoing collaboration with Grammy-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill. That’s a lot of cred for a $5 cover. And come back Thursday night for the nearly monthly blowout with the Pete Whitman X-Tet.

For as complete a jazz listing as we can find, visit KBEM online.

Coming Soon!

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

• July 30, Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival

• August 1, Jon Weber at Jazz Central

• August 2, Dean Magraw/Davu Seru at the Black Dog (First Tuesdays)

• August 3, Jon Weber at the Artists Quarter

• August 4, Joey DeFrancesco Trio at the Dakota

• August 5, Marco Benevento and Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric at the Loring Theater

• August 5, John Moulder Quartet with Dan Musselman at the Artists Quarter

• August 7, Bloomington Jazz Festival

• August 13, 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

• September 2-4, Chicago Jazz Festival

• September 2-5, Detroit Jazz Festival

• September 29-October 1, Minnesota Orchestra Season Opener with Fat Kid Wednesdays

• October 2, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Orchestra Hall

• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall



Photos: (Top to bottom), Phil Hey; Quentin Tschofen; Lucia Newell (all photos by Andrea Canter)



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review





© Andrea Canter

I know there was more great jazz in town this week, but I only got out twice. But Saturday it was nonstop music all day at the Dakota Street Fest, and last night it was Karrin Allyson. It was as rich as any week.

Dakota Street Fest, Nicollet Mall (7/16). There was something for everyone, from the diverse 27 bands on four stages to Kidsville to fire dancers and Dakota Dogs. You could get your face painted while listening to prodigious high school jazzers, walk over to Peavey Plaza for the Maud Hixson Quartet, back down the mall to hear Sharon Little or dance to Davina and the Vagabonds, or seek refuge from the heat inside the Dakota where Bobby Lyle and Irv Williams made jazz love, supreme. It was hard to separate Lowell Picket from Kidsville’s Mr. Fun. (Full review on blog, 7/18).

Karrin Allyson at the Dakota (7/20-21). If I wasn’t heading out of town, I would have stayed for the late set and booked a second night. For those expecting a lovely but somewhat morose night of heart-tugging ballads from her recent Round Midnight, there were many upbeat surprises as Karrin covered the full range of her career, from Rio to downhome blues, from Mose Allison to Paul Simon to Duke Ellington. The constant, in addition to her impeccable band and her own sparkling piano, was Karrin’s love of each song, each story, a joy that seeped into the cracks of the most melancholy melody. As for the perennial question, “Was this Karrin’s best show yet?”-- I am taking myself out of the debate. How many facets make a perfect diamond?


Photos: (top), Nicollet Mall was transformed into an outdoor music club at Dakota StreetFest, and the crowds kept coming all day; (bottom) Karrin Allyson on her "home" stage at the Dakota Wednesday night.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dancing, Singing, Blowing in the Streets: The 2011 Dakota StreetFest







© Andrea Canter

It could have been a disaster. I know the Dakota StreetFest line-up was still in flux a few days out. Between Thursday night and Saturday morning, various parts of the Twin Cities had five or more inches of rain. The forecast was for a chance of storms and temperatures in the 90s. These were not the best ingredients for a mostly outdoor music and family fun festival. But Lowell Pickett and company at the Dakota Jazz Club pulled the rabbit out of the hat. The second Dakota StreetFest was everything a summer street party should be—12 hours of non-stop eclectic music, street food in the best sense of the term, fun activities for young (and not so young) children, and no rain! Yes, it was hot, but it was hot like a July day in Minnesota is supposed to be. And there was plenty of cold beer, cold lemonade, various forms of ice cream, and places of retreat all along Nicollet Mall, including of course the Dakota club.

Downtown Minneapolis is a perfect arena for a street festival. This stretch of Nicollet Mall, with the proximity of the Dakota Jazz Club at 10th Street to Peavey Plaza at 11th Street, begs for outdoor music. Until two years ago, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival enjoyed that corridor for one weekend each June. But sponsors and city support evaporated, and now the festival’s only home is Mears Park and surrounding venues in St. Paul’s Lowertown. In fact the festival is thriving, but the change left a gap in summer fun for Minneapolis jazz fans. Lowell Pickett took matters into his own hands last year, holding the first Dakota StreetFest in honor of the club’s 25th anniversary. Sponsors and headliners were harder to come by for 2011, but it all worked out in the end. Three outdoor stages –at either end of the 1000 block of Nicollet and on Peavey Plaza—plus early evening to early morning acts on the club stage presented an amazing 27 bands, everything from mainstream jazz to Latin to avant garde to blues, soul and rock. And some that defied classification.

The music was all free and mostly local, showcasing the enormous talents that make the Twin Cities the envy of other (and much larger) urban areas. Within 12 hours you could hear singers Debbie Duncan, Patty Peterson, Maud Hixson, Sophia Shorai; guitarist Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, saxophonist Doug Little’s Seven Steps to Havana, Bad Plus drummer Dave King’s Trucking Company, keyboardist/composer’s George Maurer’s Group with vocalist Rachel Holder, and four exciting high school jazz ensembles from Minneapolis, St. Paul and Stillwater. And special attractions – inside the Dakota, you could spend an hour with the sublime duo of famed pianist Bobby Lyle and our own living legend, saxophonist Irv Williams; and later, a rare trio performance featuring Cuban import, pianist Nachito Herrera with just bass (Yohannes Tona) and drums (Kevin Washington). And that’s just the jazz agenda. Even bigger crowds enjoyed bluesman Cedric Burnside, the popular New Orleans sounds of Davina and the Vagabonds, the bluesy soul of Willie Murphy, Willie West and Paul Metsa. Folksy Sarah Morris, the eclectic talents of the Bootstrap Family Band, Lynhurst, Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, Sharon Little, City on the Make, and Zoo Animal…as I said, the music was nonstop.

But there was more to the entertainment than the music. In Delmonte’s Kidsville, “Mr Fun” taught juggling and led a kids parade down the mall; face painters turned four-year-olds into tigers and fairy princesses; 12-foot puppets from the Heart of the Beast Theater wandered around to the delight of young and old. And once the sun set, a pair of fire dancers baffled and entertained between bands on the Buick main stage. If the day got to be too much, you could stop for a chair massage, a glass of wine or beer, an icy ice cream bar or a spicy Dakota Dog.

For me, the best reason to go to such a wide-ranging event is to open my ears to some of the music I typically pass by. Sarah Morris sparked my old folk music period; Cedric Burnside rubbed me blue, happily. I always get caught up in the energy of Davina and the Vagabonds, although it’s always hard to move through the crowd she generates. But it was the mix of jazz that I found most appealing. Hearing Bobby Lyle with just Irv Williams? They should quick go to the studio and put this on tape. Hearing Nachito without horns? Maybe the best way to actually hear Nachito! (After all, he is an orchestra by himself.) The Dave King Trucking Company outdoors? Perfect fit and the amps were never too loud. Each of the singers brought her own distinctive style to the stage and I think it was the first time I ever heard Maud in an outdoor setting. It all worked. The right band in the right place.

The bands on the youth stage (11th Street between 1 and 5 pm) were impressive, and drew much bigger crowds than last year to hear great jazz classics and original compositions. And the Dakota Combo closed the student program with a set of Mingus—and is there any music more appropriate for the unfettered enthusiasm of a street festival than the tunes of Charles Mingus?

Hopefully, success will breed success. Surely there was enough energy on Nicollet Mall to fuel momentum for 2012?

Photos: (top to bottom) The Kids' Parade down Nicollet Mall; Cedric Burnside; face painting; Billy Franze (Patty Peterson and Friends); Dave King (Dave King Trucking Company); Bobby Lyle and Irv Williams on the Dakota club stage. (All photos by Andrea Canter, 7/16/11)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

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












© Andrea Canter

Seems every summer, it feels like I go from one festival to another. And it is a great way to sample a lot of music within a short period of time, to revisit favorites but also an easy way to check out new music.

The second (annual?) Dakota Street Fest will take place on Nicollet Mall Saturday (7/16). What started out a year ago as a 25th anniversary celebration for the jazz club is now a summer celebration of all things music, with four stages between Peavey Plaza and the intersection of 10th Street and the Mall, with the indoor club stage and the 11th Street stages in between. And there is almost no down time from noon til after midnight, as the outdoor stages run pretty much 12 hours while the club stage will be in action from early evening til closing. The roster has just been completed and updates will be available on the festival website, but the offerings cover everything from jazz to folk to rock, mostly drawing on local talent as well as Twin Cities natives who have gone on to success elsewhere. Capping that list is keyboard giant Bobby Lyle, who reprises his spring visit with special guest Irv Williams.

The 10th Street (Buick) Stage includes sets from Patty Peterson and Debbie Duncan; the Peavey Plaza Stage brings on Doug Little and Steven Steps to Havana, Maud Hixson with the Wolverines Trio, Todd Clouser and his Love Electric band, and the hip George Maurer. Not far away, the 11th Street Stage becomes a youth haven from noon til 5 pm, with five high school level bands from St Paul, Minneapolis and Stillwater. Toward evening, the pros take over the stage, including sets from songstress Sophia Shorai and the over-the-top Dave King Trucking Company. Hula hoops, jugglers, Dakota Dogs, Barrio Truck and more should be popular among all family members.

There’s other music around town this weekend. At the Artists Quarter (7/15-16), familiar faces get together to form a new band—Brandon Wozniak, Dean Magraw, James Buckley and Kenny Horst should be flying high. At the Aster Café on Saturday night, guitarist/composer Reynold Philipsek has yet another CD to celebrate, Tales From the North Woods, a personal and very likable composite of songs that salute his formative years in northern Minnesota. He’ll do a solo set followed by a trio outing with guitarist Kyle Tennis and violinist Gary Schulte.

Jazz Central continues its Monday night series of gigs and jams, this time featuring saxman Brandon Wozniak (7/18). This is a very cool way to enjoy a favorite performer in the context of free experimentation and new collaborations. And speaking of changing contexts, the Monday night Musique Mystique series continues at the Loring Pasta Bar, featuring (usually) a vocalist in a duo setting, this week Charmin Michelle with pianist Rick Carlson (7/18). And sometimes predictable is perfect—like when the Chris Lomheim Trio performs at the Artists Quarter (7/20). Nearly monthly, Chris offers some of the most sublime bop and post bop piano to be found on either side of the Mississippi.

If there is a piece de resistance this week, it has to be the return of vocalist Karrin Allyson, coming in for two nights at her home away from home, the Dakota (7/20-21). Her recent release of the bittersweet Round Midnight merely reinforces her wide appeal and deep talent. Karrin always gives us 110%; every performance raises the bar.

For an extended listing of Twin Cities jazz, check the jazz calendar at KBEM.

Coming Soon!
• 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 7, Bloomington Jazz Festival

• August 13, 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 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall



Photos: (Top to botom) Dakota Street Fest hot doggers; Bobby Lyle with Irv Williams; Brandon Wozniak; Karrin Allyson (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review: Lift Every Voice









© Andrea Canter

A perfectly lovely week of jazz in the Twin Cities, from Ellington and Strayhorn via Hixson and Newell to another exquisite partnership, Cavanagh and Hagedorn. In between, a surprise vocal from Dave Karr, wide-ranging vocals from Pippi Ardennia and Jamecia Bennett, and the truly stunning voice of Rene Marie.

Maud Hixson and Lucia Newell, Tribute to Ellington and Strayhorn (7/8 at the Artists Quarter). They took us on the A Train and then a whirlwind (mostly) solo tour of the songbooks of Ellington and Strayhorn, blooming with “Passion Flower” (Lucia), “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” (Lucia) and “Lotus Blossom” (Maud). Peaks in a range of highs included Lucia’s “Lush Life” and a capella verse on “Day Dream,” Maud’s transcription of Jon Hendrick’s rendition of “Cottontail,” and perhaps most surprising, Maud scatting and singing into the soprano range. And then there was the yet-to-be-named collaboration between pianist Rick Carlson and lyricist Lucia, perhaps “Strayhornesque?”


Dave Karr Quartet (7/9 at the Artists Quarter). It was the usual enjoyable and soaring saxman in the usual fine company of Chris Lomheim, Chris Bates and Kenny Horst, romping through the bebop book and wisecracking all the way, but things took an unexpected and delightful turn when Dave stepped up to the mic to ask “Where You At?” in song, maybe his singing debut? Give us more, Dave! Where you been?


PipJazz - Pippi Ardennia with guest Jamecia Bennett (7/10 at Landmark Center). She came to the Twin Cities from Chicago 2-3 years ago and is beginning to make her mark as one of the area’s foremost interpreters of jazz classics and blues. Pippi Ardennia has joined forces with drummer/manager Glenn Swanson to produce a new monthly music series, PipJazz. The July date featured a few songs from Pippi’s upcoming CD and several from guest Jamecia Bennett, particularly effective on a sultry, R&B flavored “Summertime.” Pippi opened and closed with “On a Clear Day” and “I Can See Clearly Now,” stunned with a duo with guitarist Jimi Behringer and took “Midnight at the Oasis” well beyond Maria Muldaur. Watch for her CD release in August.


Rene Marie (7/12 at the Dakota). She just gets better and better, as both singer and songwriter. Rene covered some of her recent Voice of My Beautiful Country including a spine-tingling Oh Shenandoah and was darkly captivating on her new “Black Lace Freudian Slip,” the title track to her upcoming fall release. Full review on the blog (7/13).


Dan Cavanagh and Dave Hagedorn (7/13 at the Artists Quarter). Piano and vibes offer so many options for harmonization, and this former student/teacher alliance takes full advantage, be it a standard like “Cry Me a River” or originals like “Horizon,” the title track to their 2010 recording. And before the first set closed, Dan had pulled Dave into Fats Waller territory – and there’s nothing quite like stride vibes!


Photos: (top to bottom) Lucia Newell and Maud Hixson salute Ellington and Strayhorn; Dave Karr with Chris Bates; Pippi Ardennia wails the blues; Dave Hagedorn strides the vibes (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rene Marie: No Shortage of "Imagination"






© Andrea Canter

In one 70-minute set, she sang an original gnarly blues, a 19th century traditional hymn, a Spanish poem set to music, and two merged songs of “Imagination” from Tin Pan Alley and Motown. But think nothing of it, this was merely standard operating procedure for singer/songwriter/activitist Rene Marie. Of course such a performance might be well out of the ordinary for anyone else.

Rene started generating critical buzz about a decade ago, in part reflecting her talent, in part reflecting her story. Despite early success in R&B in her teens, her career was on hold for two decades while she raised her family. And after years of listening to Ella and Sarah, she looked inward to find her own voice, returning to performing in the mid-90s. Over the past decade, she’s released a string of acclaimed projects for MaxJazz, founded her own label, and most recently joined the ever-expanding family of Motema Records. Along the way, she’s raised eyebrows with her rendition of “Strange Fruit” melded to “Dixie” and her performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” instead of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Republican Convention in 2008. Most recently she has received wide acclaim for her 2011 CD, Voice of My Beautiful Country, her self-described “love song to America.” Covering a wide range of genres from jazz to blues to rock, it’s a crazy quilt of music that in sum salutes the diversity, history, and challenges of American life.

At the Dakota last night, Rene drew some material from Voice, opened with a reworking of her earlier “Vertigo,” and offered tunes recently recorded for release this fall. Most delightful was the upcoming album title track and Marie original, “Black Lace Freudian Slip,” a down-dirty blues filled with clever (if biting) lyrics and a funky dark solo from pianist Kevin Bales.

Aside from the newest music, Rene readily captivated the audience with some highlights from Voice of My Beautiful Country: Seemingly anachronistic and stylistically antithetical, putting the Van Heusen/Burke 30s standard “Imagination” together with the Temptations’ hit “Just My Imagination” is pure Marie genius at work. The initial segment reminds us that Rene Marie could make her mark simply singing standard repertoire, while the counterpart reminds us that she indeed started out in R&B; together, that imagination was indeed “running away with me” and ignited a thunderstorm from Bales. Turning on a vocal dime, Rene began “Oh Shenandoah” a cappella, her voice so resonant here that one suspects she has a built-in sustain pedal. Kevin Hamilton soon added a faint bass vibration; Baxter came in on cymbal shimmer, Bales finally in the mix as this gentle hymn swirled into incantation to higher spirits.

A Venezuelan poem set to a bolero by a Mexican composer, “Angelitos Negros,” as Rene explained, asks why painters only paint white angels. Why not black angels? Hamilton opened with a mesmerizing solo, Baxter soon adding tango-tinged rhythms. Drums and bass drove a seductive sway as Rene’s voice and dancer-like movement spelled “flamenco.” Her closing, joyful “Rimshot” was written as a challenge to drummers who hold back the rimshots during vocal passages. But drummer Quentin Baxter held nothing back, his driving rim hits in perfect alignment with Rene’s own take-no-prisoners phrasing.

On stage, Rene Marie is a powerful presence, vocally and visually. She’s one of the most emotive singers among today’s jazz artists in both phrasing and gesture, an animated storyteller—a griot, a priestess. Sojourner Truth meets Miriam Makeba meets Billie Holiday.


Photos: Rene Marie at the Dakota; Marie with Kevin Bales, Kevin Hamilton and Quentin Baxter. (All photos by Andrea Canter on July 12th at the Dakota Jazz Club)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, July 8-14













© Andrea Canter

It’s not a jazz festival and it’s not the 4th of July weekend—just a normal weekend of too many choices… my favorite kind of dilemma. Enjoy yours.

Highly Recommended This Week



St. Paul provides the first conflict of the weekend, with Maud Hixson and Lucia Newell reprising their Ellington/Strayhorn tribute at the Artists Quarter while Brad Bellows and Donald Washington give free improv new meaning down at the Black Dog (7/8). The partnership of Ellington and Strayhorn left a large legacy of timeless tunes and lyrics, two things Maud and Lucia understand, and communicate, so well. They first performed this music together (and then with Dennis Spears) at the Bloomington Center for the Arts in 2008. They will be back with their strong supporting team of Rick Carlson, Keith Boyles and Mac Santiago. It will be “Lotus Blossom” time and you don’t need to “Take the A- Train” to get to the AQ! ;=




Down at the Black Dog, part of the Friday night “Deep End – Community Pool” series, valve trombonist and too-seldom-heard jazzer Brad Bellows teams up with equally under-the-radar saxophonist Donald Washington for some exciting interaction, backed by always exciting bassist Chris Bates and inventive drummer Pete Hennig. My only recommendation is to note the Black Dog sets start an hour earlier than the AQ sets…. So bring your roller skates. Start here, finish there. Between the two, you can cover much of the history of jazz in one evening.

Sunday (7/10) is the next installment of the new PipJazz series at Landmark Center. Under the leadership (musical and otherwise) of emotive singer Pippi Ardennia, this monthly, family-oriented jazz concert program features Pippi and her “house band” (this week, Chris Lomheim, Jim Behringer, Jeff Bailey, Glenn Swanson) and a special guest—Sounds of Blackness alum Jamecia Bennett will be highlighted this time. PipJazz refers to “good music that makes you feel good,” and will include tunes from Pippi’s forthcoming CD. (And trust me, it is a knock-out…. Pippi can take any song and make it soar, from ballads to blues.)

For jazz, this month at the Dakota is short on quantity but high on quality, with the ever-evolving, ever-sensational singer Rene Marie coming in for one night on Tuesday (7/12). Coming late to her touring career, and never shy about her social and political leanings, Rene released Voice of My Beautiful Country earlier this year, truly a love letter to the spirit and diversity of America. "Foodie Nights" continue, and back-to-back local talents --multi-lingual guitarist/vocalist Robert Everest (7/10) and butter-smooth singer Charmin Michelle (7/11)-- lead up to Marie, making this the jazziest week at the Dakota in July.

You can get another dose of Maud Hixson, this time with the Wolverines Trio, early evening Wednesday at Hell’s Kitchen, and then down to the Artists Quarter for the sublime duo of pianist Dan Cavanagh and his former St. Olaf professor, vibist Dave Hagedorn. They’ll reprise some of the music that graces their 2010 CD, Horizon.

KBEM’s Big Band Scene host Jerry Swanberg gave me the heads up on this one. There’a a new trombone in town, Nick Syman, and has impressed Jerry with a recent gig with the St. Croix Jazz Orchestra. But Syman has another persona as a member of Disassembly, described as “a contemporary jazz septet from Bloomington, Indiana, made up of recent graduates of the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The group was formed for the 2010 Emerging Jazz Artist Project, which awarded the group studio time through Owl Studios.” Now touring the midwest, the band will perform at the Artists Quarter on Thursday (7/14), showcasing original tunes and arrangements of the music of indie rock band Deerhoof.

More Jazz All Week
Some particular highlights:

Friday, July 8: Maryann Sullivan sings with Reynold Philipsek at the new Mendoberri’s




Saturday, July 9: Sidewalk Café swings midday at the Midtown Global Market; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek greet early diners at Nonna Rosa; Dave Karr has a rare weekend gig with his quartet at the Artists Quarter



Sunday, July 10: Paul Metzger, Adam Linz and JT Bates join forces with Whailing Ships at the Eagles Aerie Club, while the Zacc Harris Trio has their usual Sunday night at the Riverview Wine Bar



Monday, July 11. Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Denny Malmberg and a special guest at Fireside Pizza; Signe Hensel and Joel Shapira present Musique Mystique at the Loring Pasta Bar; Milo Fine leads an evening of improvised music at Homewood Studio; Rick Carlson is featured at the Jazz Central jam.



Tuesday, July 12: Cory Wong Quartet followed by B-3 Organ Night with the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter




Wednesday, July 13. Red Planet at Café Maude; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids (early set) at the Artists Quarter

Coming Soon!
• July 16, Dakota StreetFest on Nicollet Mall (Seven Steps to Havana, Maud Hixson, George Maurer, and More)

• 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 7, Bloomington Jazz Festival

• August 13, 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 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts

• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall

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




Photos: Top to bottom, Maud Hixson (catch her twice this week!), Pippi Ardennia, and Dan Cavanagh/Dave Hagegorn duo. (Photos by Andrea Canter)




Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dad, Opus 90

© Andrea Canter

July 8, 2011 will be my father’s 90th birthday. He’s not a musician but he ought to be. He’s not only been attracted to music since his youth, he has been truly fascinated by it.


In his privately published memoirs, which he wrote in his late 70s as an exercise to increase his fluency with word processing, Dad notes envying the piano lessons offered to an older brother and sister, and even recalls some tentative “improvising” based on the music he overheard as his siblings practiced. He was the youngest of seven, too far down the line for the lessons he would have loved. But he became hooked on Debussy after listening to a local radio broadcast of piano recitals, and discovered the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts at age 12—trading in some of his regular Saturday movie matinees for Milton Cross. As a high school student he attended summer concerts by the Boston Pops, and attended his first opera in 1938, a performance of Faust with Enzio Pinza. Now, 73 years later, he wonders what to do with an enormous collection of reel-to-reel tapes (and CDs) of opera broadcasts and commercial recordings.

Like his daughter, my dad ultimately studied and practiced psychology, but music was always at the center of his life, as an avid concert-goer and, in retirement, as an “Opera Super” (playing nonsinging “extra” roles in university productions) and a prolific writer of program notes for the University of Iowa’s School of Music. (There seems to be a family trend there as well!) As an Opera Super, he had a variety of roles, my personal favorite as an Archbishop (was that Boris Godunov?) which seemed so contrary to his true self in every way. He always threatened to sing along, given that he probably knew the music and libretto at least as well as the lead cast.

Dad was honored by the university a few years ago for his two decades of program notes that, unlike most, brought the stories behind the music and composers to life in a way that connected with an audience that loved (or could love) music without the technical training of a musician. He figured that after 20 years of painstaking research (now online) and listening, he could retire from this second career, but so far the University has ignored his plan. Dad also seems unable to retire from teaching in the area’s “senior college,” where he nearly annually conducts classes for senior citizens about classical music and particularly opera. His most recent course covered various aspects of the Don Giovanni legend.

Although my dad’s primary attraction to music has emphasized classical and opera, he introduced me to jazz when I was about ten years old. But much earlier, he and my mother (also a classical music buff) had ensured their children would grow up with music. I probably heard classical music in utero, had my first “record player” as a toddler, and vaguely remember attending a variety of music programs well before starting kindergarten. My dad says I seemed particularly interested in trumpet, and gave me my first jazz recording, Jonah Jones. Al Hirt and Pete Fountain soon followed. And although I don’t remember hearing jazz recordings or broadcasts at home, my father enjoyed jazz piano, particularly Oscar Peterson and Marian McPartland, whom he heard in jazz clubs when attending professional conferences in Chicago. These artists became favorites of mine early on. I still like trumpet and piano, but I suspect my affinity for jazz bass has some genetic connection to my dad’s love of classical cello.

At 90, my dad is still quite sharp and relatively mobile. Severe arthritis limits his walking (and sitting) at times and he always gets aisle seats to facilitate moving around during long concerts. He wears hearing aids and misses pieces of conversation but seems to nevertheless catch every note of every concert—and my parents are (still) known for attending every local classical music event, from student recitals to major touring orchestras. They don’t ever attend the Iowa City Jazz Festival –too much sun, too much volume—but then they usually report enjoying the music as it travels the mile through the air to their neighborhood. And each fall they ask me to recommend specific concerts on the university jazz series. Last fall they enjoyed Kenny Barron.

So at 90 my dad continues to ponder retirement from program note research and writing but acknowledges that the focus on such projects is a great distraction from back pain. He is annoyed because he can not (yet) figure out the wiring to connect the new HD-TV to his stereo system. His computer runs too slow to suit him. And he is not available to celebrate his birthday on July 8th this year because, as usual, he and my mom are heading to Indianola for the weekend to attend 3 productions by the Des Moines Summer Opera. I know that will be a lot of sitting for my dad and he will pay for it the following week. But how else should he spend his 90th birthday?

Yes, we are celebrating my dad’s birthday with a small gathering of family and friends—two weeks late.



Photo: Arthur Canter, April 2011 (by Andrea Canter)






Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hawkeye Jazz











© Andrea Canter

There are many things that make me proud to be an Iowa Hawkeye. First, from a relatively young age, I always liked the University of Iowa’s Herky the Hawk mascot. He wasn’t politically controversial, he wasn’t a wimpy sort of bird, and over the years he has survived redesign to keep him “hip.” Then there’s the university itself, my alma mater, with the nation’s (or world’s?) best creative writing program, the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. Iowa gave the nation Herbert Hoover, Meredith Wilson, Glenn Miller and Charlie Haden, among others. And for the past 20 years, the 4th of July fireworks have played second fiddle to the Iowa City Jazz Festival, designated as one of the nation’s top ten by Down Beat. This year, the local newspaper, the Iowa City Press Citizen, also quoted Jazz Police, which deemed the ICJF one of the “undiscovered cultural treasurers of the Midwest.”

I really should go every year. The line-up might vary in its star power but the festival never wavers from its commitment to present the diversity of modern jazz in a format and schedule accessible to families, students, hard core fans and the musicians themselves. From the headliners and regional touring acts appearing on the main stage at two-hour intervals to the three side stages of local and student bands that play concurrently (and twice each day) during the thirty-minute main stage changeover, you can pretty much hear every band without feeling like you’ve run a marathon.

This year, there was an emphasis on new, hip, and timeless. Among the new sounds, the main stage presented the youth-appealing, high energy Kneebody, a quintet of young lions who are certain to make a deep impression on the modern jazz scene, collectively and individually. (Already trumpeter Shane Endsley has an impressive recording as leader, featuring keyboard magician Craig Taborn.) On the Local sidestage, but no less impressive, was the oddly titled band Koplant No. To quote KFAI’s Larry Englund, here is a group “that knows how to use electronics and still sound like a jazz band.” (Koplant No, led by Twin Cities Native saxophonist Joel Vanderheyden, appeared at the Artists Quarter in St Paul a year ago.) Vanderheyden and drummer/vibes man Rob Baner play relatively “straight” men to Brian Lewis Smith, who alternates trumpet and Mac-driven keyboards, and Drew Morton on bass, keyboards and vocal effects.

"Hip" describes John Ellis and Double Wide, playing a unique blend of New Orleans brass and New York cool, with the unique instrumentation of sax (Ellis), trombone (Alan Ferber), drums (Jason Marsalis), keyboards (Brian Coogan) and sousaphone (Matt Perrine). One moment bebop menagerie, the next majestic balladry, and then second line “boogaloo,” Double Wide was double fun.

But “timeless” reigns, in a concert hall, a jazz club, or an open-air festival. The opening headline act Friday night was my introduction to the exhilarating voice of Basie alum Carmen Bradford, fronting the talented Iowa Jazz Orchestra. And the closing set Sunday night from octogenarian genius Randy Weston and his long-standing African Rhythms Trio was as riveting and uplifting as any I’ve heard in Iowa City….or pretty much anywhere. Towering above the piano at about 6’7,” Weston, with acrobatic bassist Alex Blake and exuberant percussionist Neal Clarke, held nothing back, the African roots and extensions of jazz filling the night air with aural fireworks. The holiday pyrotechnics that followed seemed a bit pale in comparison.

There’s no better way to celebrate American independence than with America’s most independent music, itself a true melting pot of language and culture.


Watch Jazz Police for a more detailed review and photo gallery of the festival.



Photos (top to bottom): Carmen Bradford; Koplant No; Ambrose Akinmisure; Alex Blake; Randy Weston (all at the 2011 Iowa City Jazz Festival; photos by Andrea Canter)