Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hee Haw! It's Handel!









© Andrea Canter



This blog is not really about jazz but about a project that likely would appeal to jazz fans and musicians because it is so… well…renegade. And it is all about music, community and creativity, which makes it very much in the same universe as jazz, right? Last Sunday I enjoyed my first Mixed Precipitation event. No, not the weather, which was totally perfect. Mixed Precipitation is a performance /cultural/foodie/artsy program that is best described in its own words:


“Our goal is to present short form projects that encourage exploration of space (public, private and civic) and collaboration across disciplines. With a varied group of performers, each summer we present our signature event, the annual community garden tour and the picnic operetta, bringing together classical music, horticulture and food in a celebration of the urban eco-system.”


I heard about the 2011 “signature event” from my friend Marjorie, who learned about it from our mutual friend, jazz singer Tommy Bruce, part of the cast for the picnic operetta, Handel’s Alcina’s Island. The idea was go spend an early evening in the JD Rivers Children’s Garden at Theodore Wirth Park, watching and listening to an adaption of Alcina’s Island, and nibbling on fare created for this event using locally sourced ingredients. The music, according to the website, would “combine Handel’s early baroque with trucker songs and classic country.” And the plot—“the garden becomes a truck stop on the American highway; scheming sorceresses Alcina and Morgana become truck stop waitresses luring brave truckers astray”—is based on Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furious, complete with “monsters, magic spells, rings of invisibility and a flying hippogriff.”



The setting was perfect—the children’s garden was filled with assorted blooming flowers and hovering butterflies, with a Paul Bunyan-sized Adirondack Chair as a centerpiece. And the music covered just about every genre to some degree, demanding flexibility from the talented cast to move back and forth among Italian aria, Texas country and truck-stop pop. It was Rossini Meets the Beverly Hillbillies. It was strange. It was hysterical. It was a total delight, from the seductive soprano to the cowboy tenor to the winsome young boy to the baritone trucker. And chef Nick Schneider’s little morsels of equally creative if somewhat strange combinations added to the experience, from cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes to fried peppers to marinated watermelon cubes….


Mixed Precipitation’s Picnic Operetta Season continues rotating through area park and garden spaces into October. Check out the website for locations and reservations.




Photos: (top to bottom), Alcina's Island, August 28th at Wirth Park, featured eclectic combinations of musicians, strange women on a Road Trip that smacked of Thelma and Louise, and a chorus line of humanoid rocks, trees and odd creatures (my friend Tommy Bruce, in the middle, under a rock hat). (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, August 26-September 1













© Andrea Canter

Hard to believe it is nearly Labor Day. We need to get out to see as much music as we can while we can still start the evening in daylight.

Highlights This Week

After a short break, jazz returns on Friday nights at the Black Dog, and tonight (8/26) is a big one—guitarist Jef Lee Johnson with bassist Yohannes Tona and drummer Michael Bland. With his own style of jazz/blues/rock, and the small space of the Black Dog, there is a good chance that the decibels will be off the chart, but this one will be recorded for later playback on KBEM if you forget your ear plugs. (Watch for the return of the weekly Community Pool/Deep End series in September.)

Hot off her gala 90th birthday celebration at the Old Log Theater, pianist/vocalist Jeanne Arland Peterson shares the honor with violinist/bandleader Cliff Brunzell at the Artists Quarter this weekend (8/26-27). Friends, family and cohorts will be on hand to make this one big party.

One of the musical losses to our community in the past year was harmonica master Clint Hoover’s move to Pittsburgh. But he’s back for a visit, which includes a reunion of East Side at the Aster Café Saturday night (8/27). Clint will be blowing with pals Reynold Philipsek, Matt Senjum and Michael Bissonnette. And you can catch the quartet again on Thursday (9/1) at Hell’s Kitchen, with Andy Artz filling the percussion seat. These guys are unique among area jazz bands, blending the tango of Piazzolla with the bebop cool of Miles Davis.

Three veteran jazz pranksters take the stage together at the AQ on Wednesday (8/31), with drummer Kenny Horst, bassist Billy Peterson and guitarist Dean Magraw. Horst and Peterson continue the fun on Thursday (9/1), this time with vibes giant Dave Hagedorn and saxman Brian Grivna. (And come back Friday, 9/2, as Horst and Peterson next join forces with Brandon Wozniak and Peter Schimke.)

One of the most sophisticated composers to appear locally, pianist/bandleader Amina Figarova returns with her European sextet at the Dakota on Thursday night (9/1), enroute to the Detroit Jazz Festival and other stops on her American tour. The classically trained native of Azerbaijan now based in Rotterdam, Figarova relies largely on an original repertoire fueled by visual imagery and harmonies that conjure big bands.

More Jazz All Week
Visit KBEM’s jazz calendar for more listings! A few more recommendations:
Friday, August 26: Frankhouse at Hell’s Kitchen; Zacc Harris with Matt Peterson and Jay Epstein at Shanghai Bistro; Laura Caviani and Pete Whitman in the Annandale Summer Concert Series (Annandale Park)

Saturday, August 27: Peter Schimke, Gordy Johnson and Jay Epstein at Shanghai Bistro; Vicky Mountain and Tanner Taylor at First Course Bistro; Joel Shapira solo guitar at Ingredients Café

Sunday, August 28: Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson, Ellington and Strayhorn, at St Albert the Great Church; Moonlight Seranaders Big Band with Lee Engele at Como Park Pavillion; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, August 29: Connie Evingson at the Dakota; Matt Edlund at Jazz Central; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza

Tuesday, August 30: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band with Debbie Duncan at the Artists Quarter; Joann Funk Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; FourPlay at the Dakota

Wednesday, August 31: Steve Kenny and the Bastids, early show at the Artists Quarter; Stefan Kac Octet at Nomad World Pub; Fourplay at the Dakota; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza


Thursday, September 1: Miguel Hurtado and friends play some really cool new music at Jazz Central (8 pm start).

Coming Soon!
• September 2, Last Days of Summer Riverboat Cruise (KBEM)
• September 2, Wozniak, Schimke, Peterson and Horst at the Artists Quarter
• September 2-4, Chicago Jazz Festival
• September 2-5, Detroit Jazz Festival
• September 3, Koplant No at the Artists Quarter
• September 5, Ivan Lins at the Dakota
• September 6, Christine Rosholt at The Nicollet
• September 8, Eddie Gomez Trio at the Artists Quarter
• September 9-10, Christian Howes at the Artists Quarter
• September 10, Selby Avenue Jazz Festival featuring Gerald Albright
• September 10, Concrete and Grass Festival, Mears Park
• September 10, Dakota Combo open auditions at MacPhail Center for Music
• September 16-17, Bryan Nichols Trio with Anthony Cox and Dave King at the Artists Quarter
• September 18, PipJazz at Landmark Center with special guest Gary Schulte
• September 20-21, James Farm (with Joshua Redman) at the Dakota
• September 23-24, Jim Snidero at the Artists Quarter
• September 25, Peterson Family “Our Love Is Here to Stay” at the Bloomington Center for the Arts
• September 26, Christine Rosholt, “Songs of the Bard” at Jungle Theater
• 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
• September 30, Nancy Harms at the Artists Quarter
• October 1, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter
• 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 4, Esperanza Spalding’s Chamber Music Society at O’Shaughnessy
• October 7, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale 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
• November 1, John Scofield Quartet at the Dakota




Photos: (Top to Bottom) East Side (coming Saturday night to the Aster Cafe); Billy Peterson (three consecutive nights at the Artists Quarter); Amina Figarova returns to the Dakota (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review, August 19-25









© Andrea Canter

Some special music this week, from some of our youngest artists, and from one of our oldest-still working veterans. And a few in-between.

Miguel Hurtado Sextet at the Artists Quarter, August 19. In his teens he was a frequent participant in the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Now the Manhattan School of Music graduate is making his mark not only as a performer but as an astute bandleader. Bringing back most of the band that turned ears at the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Miguel and friends (including two young stars on the Chicago scene) raised the roof with their creativity and energy. Special high-five to pianist Joe Strachan, the youngest on the bandstand and one to watch as he churns through the local jazz scene. (See blog for more.)

The Dakota Combo at the Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival, August 20. It was a bittersweet performance, the best of their year-long season, and the last. With their first year of college studies looming a few days ahead for most of the band, the ensemble proved you can never be too young to understand the collaborative imperative of jazz and particularly of the music of Charles Mingus. Wherever they go, whatever they ultimately do with their music, these teens have experienced a freedom of expression and mutual respect that will always serve them well. (See blog)

Ben Sidran and Irv Williams at the Dakota, August 22. The consummate entertainer, jazz and blues pianist Ben Sidran particularly wanted to play with 92-year-old saxophonist Irv Williams, and it proved to be a sublime pairing. Irv, plagued by health problems off and on over the past decade, was in fine spirits and his lung capacity was up to the task of blowing his trademark smooth tenor lines on tunes such as “Lullabye of the Leaves,” “Lover Man,” “The Sunny Side of the Street,” and even on a trip down Dylan’s “Highway 61.” Sidran seemed to channel Mose Allison much of the evening, charming his way through “God Bless The Child” and “Have You Met Miss Jones?” Bassist and long-time pal Billy Peterson and son Leo Sidran provided the right support at the right moment.

Lila Ammons Quintet at Hell’s Kitchen, August 25. She’s been touring so much in Europe and Brazil, we don’t get many opportunities to enjoy Lila Ammons. But we should. Hers is one of the best and most versatile voices in town, and throw in saxman Dean Brewington and you have a swinging team.


Photos, top to bottom: Miguel Hurtado led a savvy sextet at the AQ; the Dakota Combo played lik there was no tomorrow--and for ths edition of the band, there was only today; Ben Sidran entertained with words and song at the Dakota; Lila Ammons raised a little Hell at Hell;s Kitchen. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Dakota Combo: Peer Support and All That Jazz







© Andrea Canter

Another year, another Dakota Combo. Every September (since 2006), the MacPhail Cener for Music and Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education have joined forces to bring an intensive year of jazz studies to a highly selected, small ensemble of the area’s top high school jazz artists. And every summer, there’s that final performance of the Combo, the summation of their months of rehearsal, clinics, and performance –with directors Kelly Rossum (2006-2009) and Adam Linz, with guest artists like Bobby Watson, Delfeayo Marsalis and Tia Fuller, and most of all, with each other. Teen athletes in most sports have a ready peer group at school, 30 or more like-minded teammates. And perhaps hundreds more fellow students who actively cheer on their accomplishments, not only at games but as part of the social fabric of their schools and communities. But students whose passions lie outside the mainstream—be it as sculptors, actors, classical violinists, poets, or jazz musicians—generally lack that available cohort.

Providing an ongoing supportive learning environment for exceptional jazz students was the goal of the Dakota Combo, in addition to filling the need for the small ensemble experience and instruction rarely available in school and community music programs. Of course, through school bands and summer jazz camps, student musicians do find each other, sooner or later. They form their own bands, seek out their own gigs. Some are very successful. But typically these groups are also on their own for learning –the critiques, the demonstrations, the feedback that can be as essential for artistic growth as performance experience is missing. The Dakota Combo has offered young musicians the best of both worlds---guided learning, immediate feedback, professional models coupled with the intimacy of peer collaboration and support that quickly extends far beyond the scheduled rehearsals and performances.

I’ve been able to observe the development of each Combo “family” by attending rehearsals, clinics and gigs throughout each Combo year. But even without that background, you can’t miss the importance of peer support and interaction when the band performs. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it. And I have never heard, seen or felt that as strongly as Saturday afternoon, when the 2010-2011 edition of the Dakota Combo took the stage together for the last time, just days before the six recent graduates head off to college. It was the longest Combo “season” ever, running from auditions last September through the late August Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival. Perhaps it was that extended summer –filled with festival performances for the band, private gigs, jazz camps and individual studies for the musicians—that added some extra sparkle. Or maybe it was just that extra momentum that comes when you celebrate the completion of a life-changing experience.

Adam thought the Combo gave its best performance of the year. Having heard nearly all of those performances, I have to agree. They were in sync. They were stoked. This was no longer a bunch of talented kids but a band of young professionals playing with confidence and a joyful freedom just this side of recklessness—defining characteristics of modern jazz. From the opening exuberance of pianist Quentin Tschofen’s “Spleen” to the last notes of Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Eric,” the Dakota Combo was on fire, ignition provided by the spontaneous combustion of musicianship and friendship.


“This has been a life-changing experience for him,” noted one parent. And another parent noted the invaluable opportunity this year for the band to travel to New York City, one of 12 invited high school bands to play and compete in the Charles Mingus High School Band Festival and Competition. The band worked for weeks on their repertoire of challenging Mingus compositions, Adam reminding them that the goal was not winning, but doing justice to the music and having fun doing it. In New York, the Dakota Combo won the Mingus Spirit Award. Some regarded it as on par with “Miss Congeniality.” And it’s hard to know if the intent of the award was to recognize the demeanor over the talent of the chosen band. But the Dakota Combo indeed embodied the spirit of Charles Mingus, a free-thinking composer and bandleader who would have thoroughly loved the informality, playfulness, and mutual respect of the Combo, traits Adam Linz reinforced all year.

Gifted students, be they math geniuses or extraordinary composers, need peers who truly appreciate their passion, who live with it every day. I recall, during the first year of the Combo, a young saxophonist whose gender (female) and ethnicity (African American) put her in a double minority position in the band. Yet this is where she felt at home. Her friends at school and in the community didn’t listen to jazz and didn’t understand why this music was so important to her. And they didn’t connect their own heritage in the history of jazz. “They give me a hard time about playing jazz, “ she said. “They tell me I am just trying to act white!”

The Dakota Combo and similar programs in all arts and genres give our most talented teens their own community where they need only be themselves. And every year, for this small group of jazz musicians, the intensity of instruction and peer interaction, as well as unwavering family support, allows them to become superior artists and confident young men and women. Even if they do not ultimately become professional musicians, the Combo Class of 2011 will always invoke the spirit of Mingus—inventive, adaptable, collaborative, joyful, passionate. And for that we should have a line of cheerleaders and a big pep rally.

Auditions for the 2011-2012 edition of the Dakota Combo will be held at the MacPhail Center for Music on September 10, 12:30-4:30 pm. Contact Adam Linz for details at linz.adam@machphail.org


Photos: (Top to Bottom) The Dakota Combo posed before its MacPhail concert in May; the Dakota Combo's last note ("So Long, Eric") at the Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival on August 2oth; pianist Quentin Tschofen and bassist Caitlin Kelliher with trombonist John Cushing and saxophonist Brad Allen. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Monday, August 22, 2011

From Playtime to Prime Time: Miguel Hurtado











© Andrea Canter

I think he was about 14 when I first heard Miguel Hurtado play the drums with a quartet of young teens. They were on the MacPhail Youth Stage at the Hot Summer Jazz Festival. Maybe 2003? 2004? The group was known as the Eggz, headed by a young saxophonist named Owen Nelson. The Eggz played around town off and on for a few more years; Miguel moved among the Eggz and a few other teen jazz bands, as well as handling the trapset for Minneapolis South High and various area jazz camps. But his presence at the annual jazz festival was a constant; if he wasn’t playing with a scheduled band, he was sitting in at jam sessions or, as he moved into college studies at the Manhattan School of Music, he was likely to be part of the rhythm section for another performer. It would be accurate to say that Miguel Hurtado grew up with the jazz festival.

That Miguel has matured into the role of bandleader was clearly evident at the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, when the 23-year-old put together a quintet combining local and Chicago-based talents, blowing down the Sixth Street Stage with one of the most exciting surprises of the weekend. Not only did he involve two of the area’s premiere string players in bassist Graydon Peterson and guitarist Zacc Harris (“old” guys barely into their 30s) , Miguel introduced the local jazz audience to trumpeter Marquis Hill and alto saxophonist Christopher McBride, both active on the Chicago jazz scene and barely older than Miguel. Their set of mostly original music was filled with nonstop fire and energy. But it was perhaps somewhat surprising when the Miguel Hurtado Quintet landed a weekend gig at the Artists Quarter barely two months later.

This time Miguel enlisted another “older” local star to fill the bass chair, James Buckley. And in addition to Harris and his Chicago horn team, Miguel expanded the ensemble to a sextet for the first night, with an even younger Joe Strachan on piano. Filling a space originally planned for Javier Santiago, who ended up with a gig in China, the U of M junior from Northfield was no stranger to Miguel or to the AQ. In fact he was just on the bandstand there as part of the TCJS Young Artists Series a few weeks ago, in a trio led by Remy Taghavi.

The Artists Quarter was close to full on Friday night; undoubtedly some of the crowd had been on Sixth Street when the band played its inaugural gig during the festival. Undoubtedly some, like me, had known Miguel since his middle school and high school days. And since it was a Friday night, undoubtedly there were some in the audience who came to the AQ just because it’s a top choice for live jazz. I don’t imagine anyone was disappointed. The long first set seemed even more focused, more exhilarating than the festival performance; Hill and McBride are young monsters who show no hesitation in exploring the far reaches of their instruments or challenging their cohorts to do the same. Much of the setlist was original compositions; each piece gave ample opportunity for each musician to shine. A particularly engaging work by Joe Strachan suggested the power of Chick Corea or Wayne Shorter. But maybe it was the riveting cover of “Com Alma” that was most inspiring?

Miguel Hurtado already knows how to put together a band and make the most of each musician’s talents, including his own. And he’s been working toward this moment for more than a decade. It’s a moment fueled by family support, topnotch teachers and mentors, and invaluable opportunities like the Twin Cities Jazz Festival’s youth stages and jam sessions. And Miguel’s own hard work and fearless ambition.




Photos: Miguel Hurtado; Joe Strachan; Marquis Hill and Chris McBride (all at the Artists Quarter on August 19th; photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, August 19-25















© Andrea Canter

The talents of our elders, local and national legends, are in the spotlight this week, as well as the talents of a new generation. It’s a time to marvel at the lifespan of music—and how it enhances our personal lifespans.

Highlights, This Week
Surely one of the youngest musicians to lead a weekend gig at the Artists Quarter, drummer Miguel Hurtado at 23 is already a Twin Cities veteran, having appeared at clubs and festivals since his early teens. Now a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Miguel is settling back into the local jazz (and rock) scene, now as an assertive leader capable of assembling bands that ensure a long and distinguished future for modern music. One of those bands lit up the sonic sky at the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival in June, and this weekend (8/19-20) Miguel brings most of that group to the Artists Quarter stage, featuring the Chicago horn section of Marquis Hill (trumpet) and Chris McBride (alto sax). Also in their mid-20s, Hill and McBride delivered the one-two punch in Hurtado’s festival ensemble, and this weekend will join guitarist Zacc Harris and bassist James Buckley—the senior members—as the band runs through original compositions. On Friday, the group expands to a sextet with another young lion, pianist Joe Strachan, currently attending the University of Minnesota. (Read more!)

Friday night (8/19) brings another band of relatively young hotshots, led by Todd Clouser who is back in town after his A Love Electric band opened for Marco Benevento at the Loring earlier in the month. Clouser has another band of local heros, Hope Tonic, featuring frequent cohorts Adam Meckler (trumpet), Chris Bates (bass), and Greg Schutte (drums). They’re at the very cool Aster Café.

More from the younger generation: The Dakota Combo, 2010-2011 edition, plays it swan song as the opening act of the Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival, at Nicollet Commons from noon til dark on Saturday (8/20). Expect a lot of Mingus and some original tunes from these talented teens, six of whom head off to college studies in the next few weeks. Other bands include Jack Brass, Salsa Del Soul, Super Pilots and Mick Sterling and the Irresistables. And speaking of college students….trumpeter/New England Conservatory student Jake Baldwin returns to the Dakota Late Night (8/19) with fellow collegians Joe Strachan, Cory Grindberg and Rob Fletcher. Jake recently placed third in the International Trumpet Guild performance competition.

Two CD release gigs introduce area listeners to new talents/ensembles that deserve more attention: Vocalist Jana Nyberg (the Jana Nyberg Group) celebrates her second recording, Fever, with an early evening gig at Hell’s Kitchen Saturday (8/20). Crossing boundaries among jazz, blues, soul and pop, Jana and very talented crew (husband Adam Meckler on trumpet, Evan Montgomery on guitar, Matt Peterson on bass, Derek Drier on drums) cover such timeless hits as “Desafinado,” “The Nearness of You,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and of course the title track. And somehow, Nyberg blends Peggy Lee and Bonnie Raitt. She also shows off her own talents (and those of Adam) as songwriter.

The other release this weekend is also a collaboration of genre-benders under the moniker JazZen. The instrumentation alone is noteworthy—wood flutes, electric cello and percussion, as well as the resulting collaborative sound that is both holy and hip, primal and sophisticated. Bobb Fantauzzo, Aaron Kerr and Derrin Pinto celebrate their first release as a trio, Bounce Off the Moon, Saturday night (8/20) at the Hat Trick Lounge. In addition to compositions from Fantauzzo and the trio as a unit, they offer intriguing arrangements of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. (Read more!)

As for the legends in town this week: Jeanne Arland Peterson has always joked that her age is an “unlisted number,” but the gloves come off Sunday (8/21) as the grand dame of Minnesota music turns 90 with (of course) a family celebration at the Old Log Theater. Children Patty, Linda, Billy, Paul and Ricky; nephews Tommy and Russ; grandson Jason and more will be on hand. And if you can’t make it or need another dose, Jeanne will share her 90th with violinist/bandleader Cliff Brunzell the following weekend at the AQ! (Read more!)

And with his 90th birthday two years passed, sax legend Irv Williams plays guest of honor with a much younger, but legendary-in-his-own-right Ben Sidran at the Dakota on Monday (8/22). Also connected to the Peterson Family (via bassist Billy and the Steve Miller Band), Sidran’s fame comes from many directions, as pianist, composer, educator, broadcaster, producer and arranger. Most of all, he is an entertainer, and in the company of the always-entertaining Mr. Smooth, this should be an evening of great music and conversation.

It’s not just legendary musicians, but Return to Forever is one of the truly mythical bands of the 20th century. Reunited a couple years back for a memorable tour, the jazz fusion supergroup has a new lineup, including core artists Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White, plus Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale, coming to the Orpheum on Wednesday night (8/24). Opening act is Zappa Plays Zappa (the tribute band founded by Dweezil). The tour coincides with a new release (Forever, Concord) from Corea, Clarke and White (with a guest shot by Ponty and others), a double decker featuring an all-acoustic trio “best of” disc (recorded in 2008 at the time of their reunion) and a bonus electronic set. Make mine acoustic, it’s an awesome tribute to the jazz chops of these all-stars.

Finally, end your week with veteran Twin Cities performers who never go out of style, and always seem to have something new to say no matter what the setlist—Lucia Newell and a quartet featuring Phil Aaron, Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst.

More Jazz, All Week
There is always a lot more music than we even hear about, let alone can attend, but isn’t it cool to have choices? See KBEM website for a more complete listing. Some recommendations:

Friday, August 19: Erin Schwab at Hell’s Kitchen; Nachito Herrera at the Dakota.
Saturday, August 20: George Maurer CD Release at the Dakota
Sunday, August 21: Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar
Monday, August 22: Adam Rossmiller at Jazz Central; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Tuesday, August 23: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter
Wednesday, August 24: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Brian Grivna Quartet at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; the Wolverines at Hell’s Kitchen; Cookie Coleman at the Dakota
Thursday, August 25: Lila Ammons at Hell’s Kitchen; Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; Gang Font at Seventh Street Entry




Photos: (Top to Bottom) Miguel Hurtado; Jana Nyberg (earlier this year at the Dakota); Jeanne Arland Peterson; Irv Williams (Hurtado, Peterson and Williams all at the 2011 TC Jazz Fest; all photos by Andrea Canter)

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review, August 12-18







© Andrea Canter

I have to confess that I did not get to much jazz here in the past week, between traveling and dealing with home projects. But one thing I like about the Twin Cities jazz scene—it’s always there, even if you have only one or two nights free. It’s always the “right” night. One treat this week was the chance to check out a potentially exciting new small venue, The Nicollet. Once upon a time, this space at Franklin and Nicollet just south of downtown Minneapolis housed the Acadia Café, which has since moved over to Cedar near the U of M West Bank. It’s been a few things since. New owner, new name, new sense of purpose—like at least one weekly jazz night? The Nicollet is a coffee shop, no liquor and a simple café menu. It could be a cozy space for new music and new artists. On Tuesday night, Reynold Philipsek entertained with solo guitar art, augmented with some songs from Rhonda Laurie and Maxine Sousé. Stay tuned.

Otherwise, my music was confined to one incredible night:


Freddy Cole at the Dakota, August 17: He’s smooth as ice and twice as cool; he’s as sultry as a young diva and many times more sophisticated; his voice conjures a Velveteen Rabbit and is far more frisky. Pretty good for an octogenarian. Or almost. Freddy Cole turns 80 in October, and he’s swinging and bluesing and otherwise carousing like a 40-year-old prince of cabaret. With longstanding cohorts, Randy Napoleon on guitar, Ellias Bailey on bass and Curtis Boyd on drums, Cole took us through the Great American Songbook—but not the usual standards, including such gems as “A Blossom Fell,” “A Cottage for Sale” and “You Bring Out the Dreamer in Me.” For one night, the Dakota became a cabaret, the crowd of 200 a small gathering around the piano, Cole gently, often conversationally pulling at our emotions before we even realized we were vulnerable. And the sassy “What Are You Afraid Of” seduced us all. In fact, the evening was so perfect that it was all the more difficult to understand the loud chatter at an adjacent table. You paid to hear Freddy Cole and then talked right through it as if it was just sonic wallpaper?

Chris Lomheim, Birthday Tribute to Bill Evans at the Artists Quarter, August 17. Had I realized that Freddy Cole was doing one ticketed show of two sets, rather than two separate shows, I probably would have stayed at the Dakota. In theory I could have still made the late set at the AQ. Whatever, my early departure from the Dakota was rewarded by a night cap with one of my favorite local musicians playing the music of one of my all-time favorite artists. Chris Lomheim celebrates the music of Bill Evans nearly annually at the AQ, always in the company of trio-mates who do justice to the Evans legacy—this year Chris Bates and Jay Epstein. I have yet to meet another pianist in the region who can match Lomheim’s nuanced touch on such compositions as “Since We Met,” “Re: Person I Knew,” or the seldom played “This Is All I Ask.” Jay and Chris B, like the pulse-setters of the great Evans trios, move up front frequently, Bates particularly a standout on Scott LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step.” And the first set closer, “Five,” a Monkish departure from the lyrical curves of the rest, showed off the more playful angles of both Bill Evans and Chris Lomheim. Elegance has no time signature.

Photos: (top to bottom) Freddy Cole croons; Curtis Bailey never missed a beat; Chris Lomheim sends birthday greetings to Bill Evans.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, August 12-18













© Andrea Canter

A short version this week which in no way reflects the local jazz scene, just my time which will largely be out of town this coming week. So I can let you know what I will miss….

Highlights This Week
This weekend (8-12-13), I’ll miss the Atlantis Quartet, which tends to play at the Artists Quarter whenever I am out of town, it seems. They recorded live at the AQ a few months ago and are looking ahead to a CD release in late fall. But you can get a preview of the latest music from one of the area’s most inventive modern jazz bands—Zacc Harris, Brandon Wozniak, Chris Bates and Pete Hennig. You can’t miss with these guys.

I’ll also miss a hot triple header on Saturday night (8/13) featuring the area’s newest jazz stars. Studio Z in St Paul’s Lowertown will be the scene of some creative collaborations, starting with young Quentin Tschofen and his quintet. They played a set of Quentin’s exciting compositions at the recent Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival and will likely showcase his tunes again, with Brad Allen on tenor sax, Caleb McMahon on trumpet, Jordan Jenkins on bass, and this time out, Matt Buckner on drums. Quentin, Brad and Jordan start college studies next month; Caleb and Matt are going into their second years of university music programs. The second and third sets will feature gig organizer/ U of M piano student Joe Strachan, in a free improv duo (“Famous Last Words”) with trumpeter Noah Oppoven-Baldwin and with a trio featuring bassist Cory Grindberg and drummer Miguel Hurtado. At 23, Hurtado is the elder statesment of the night; the others are all immersed in university studies. If you want to know where jazz is heading next, come to Studio Z.

And I will miss the Freedom Jazz Festival, which takes place on Saturday (8/13) and features a line-up of the community’s veteran musicians, including Morris Wilson and the Capri Big Band. There’s lots of family fun, a beautiful location (Minnehaha Falls Park) and of course nonstop music from noon til dark. Free! On Sunday (8/14), Pippi Ardennia and her very smokin’ band (Peter Schimke, Billy Peterson, Jimi Behringer and Glenn Swanson) are back at Landmark Center in St Paul for PipJazz, this show featuring special guest, Patty Peterson. Patty’s been on the bandstands of just about every area jazz Festival since late spring, putting some jazz into R&B hits, and putting some R&B soul into jazz classics. And Pippi? She’s covering R&B, blues, jazz and beyond.

I hope to never miss Chris Lomheim’s annual tribute to muse Bill Evans. This one (8/17) at the Artists Quarter falls just a day ahead of what would have been Evans’ 82nd birthday. There isn’t a pianist in town who calls up the spirit of Evans quite as clearly as Chris. He’s supported in true Evans style by Chris Bates and Jay Epstein.

I last saw Freddie Cole at the Regatta Bar in Boston in 2009. Just 80 at the time, I was impressed with the quality of his voice as well as his piano chops, both of which seemed as silky smooth and swinging as ever. He’s coming to the Dakota on Wednesday and Thursday (8/17-18), and I expect he’s bringing his long-standing quartet with guitarist Randy Napoleon. His most recent CD garnered a Grammy nomination, and if there was a category for veteran mainstream jazz singers, he’d be a sure bet.

And yet one more gig of note on Wednesday (8/17) is Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, with Adam Meckler, Andrew Foreman (for Chris Bates who is booked at the Artists Quarter), Greg Schulte, and Bryan Nichols at the revived jazz series at the Nomad. The band was electrifying at the Loring last week and has been on the road much of the summer.

More Jazz Everywhere
Extensive calendar on the KBEM website. In particular, consider:

Friday, August 12: Lee Engele with Reynold Philipsek at Pardon My French
Saturday, August 13: Karen Quiroz at Mill City Farmers Market; Reynold Philipsek with Gary Schulte and Matt Senjem at the 318 Café in Wayzata; Nichola Miller at Hell’s Kitchen
Sunday, August 14: Charmin and Shapira at Midtown Global Market (12:30 pm); Milo Fine and Erkki Huovinnen at Homewood Studios ; Benefit for Jim Marentic at the AQ
Monday, August 15: Charmin Michelle and Rick Carlson in Musique Mystique at the Loring Pasta Bar; Denny Malmberg and friends at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Charles Lazarus and Connie Evingson at Old Log Theater; Darren Sterrud at Jazz Central
Tuesday, August 16: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the AQ
Wednesday, August 17: Park Evans Trio at Café Maude
Thursdsay, August 19: Phil Hey Quartet at the AQ

Coming Soon
• August 19-20, Miguel Hurtado Quintet 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 24, Return to Forever at the Orpheum
• August 26-27, Jeanne Arland Peterson/Cliff Brunzell 90th Birthday Celebration at the Artists Quarter
• September 2, Last Days of Summer Riverboat Cruise (KBEM)
• September 2-4, Chicago Jazz Festival
• September 2-5, Detroit Jazz Festival
• September 5, Ivan Lins at the Dakota
• September 10, Selby Avenue Jazz Festival featuring Gerald Albright
• PipJazz at Landmark Center with special guest Gary Schulte
• 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 4, Esperanza Spalding’s Chamber Music Society at O’Shaughnessy
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale 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
• November 1, John Scofield Quartet at the Dakota
• November 13, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)














Photos: (Top to Bottom) Joe Strachan; Pippi Ardennia; Chris Lomheim (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review







© Andrea Canter

The week really isn’t over but I’ll miss the rest of it, including a performance by Snowblind at the Artists Quarter. I hate to miss that great brass band. Fortunately there was a lot I did not miss this past week, and the highlights were as different from each other as one can imagine and still be in the jazz world.

Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric at the Loring, August 5. This was billed as the warm-up band for Marco Benevento but this ensemble deserves top billing. Former Twin Cities resident Clouser has taken his guitar to Mexico but comes “home” often, building two ensembles featuring some of the best of our local talents. A Love Electric is the quintet, with Adam Meckler on trumpet, Bryan Nichols on piano, Chris Bates on bass, and Greg Schutte on drums, and they recently completed a tour of the Midwest and East Coast. It’s a bit hard to define this music, filled with the electronic energy of 70s rock and jazz fusion, maintaining the improvisational sophistication of Coltrane and Coleman. And often there’s chunks of Frisell. And given the intense volume of the Benevento set (I lasted for four tunes), I really appreciated CLouser and Company for keeping the volume loud enough to assert their voices yet under enough control to avoid offensive aural assault. I think Benevento would have sounded terrific from a block away. Or maybe two blocks.

Laura Caviani Trio at the Artists Quarter, August 6. What a delightful evening! The ever-inspiring and Monkishly swinging Laura brought two “new” cohorts to the stage, Prairie Home Companion bassist Gary Raynor and under-appreciated drummer Nathan Norman. It was difficult to remember that this was their first performance as a trio. Laura dug into her songbook for some favorites, like her arrangement of Sibelius’s “Finlandia,” her own “Paper Cranes,” and samplings of Mary Lou Williams and Horace Silver (“Room 608”, “Peace”). Laura might be the only local artist I have heard cover Abdullah Ibrahim’s magnificent “Mountain,” a showcase for Norman’s elegant brushwork. The big surprise was the appearance of folkie/jazzy singer Claudia Schmidt during the second set. Schmidt moved back to the Twin Cities just a week earlier after some years in rural Michigan. And for all who think of Claudia as that great Red House Records folk artist, take note. The lady has jazz chops to burn—evidenced on “Peace” and “Blue Monk.”

Bettye LaVette at the Dakota, August 9. Unlike past years (she comes to the Dakota annually), Bettye did only one set per night. But oh, what a set, ninety minutes of hell-raising, soul-baring, bra-burning (figuratively), heart-wrenching, blues-slinging song. Not specifically promoting a recording this trip, Bettye chose to present a retrospective of her work, from her first hit in 1962 (the very upbeat blues, “My Man”) and the 1972 blockbuster “Heart of Gold,” to her arrangement of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy,” released last year on her British rock tribute album, Interpretations. She also gave us a gorgeous reading of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and the sexiest “Round Midnight” imaginable. (Hear that? The Great Lady of Soul could be the Great Lady of Jazz.)


Photos: (Top to bottom), Todd Clouser with Greg Schutte and Chris Bates (A Love Electric), caught at the 2011 Dakota Street Fest; Laura Caviani Trio with special guest Claudia Schmidt at the AQ; Bettye Lavette bares her soul at the Dakota. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, August 5-11









© Andrea Canter

There seems to be some improvement in the weather which makes it easier to think about going out and hearing great jazz, indoors and out. And this weekend, the music will be indoors and out.

Highlights This Week
Two visiting talents will present decision quandaries Friday night (8/5). At the Loring Theater, the very hip Love Electric band led by guitarist Todd Clouser will open for the virtuosic keyboardist/composer Marco Benevento. Clouser, formerly of the Twin Cities, has been touring with this band (including Adam Meckler, Chris Bates, Greg Schutte) since releasing its first self-titled recording last fall. Benevento, part of the New York electronic music scene for the past decade, takes acoustic piano and electric keyboards to new dimensions with circuits and Mellotran, and was a co-founder of Garage a Trois.

Across the river at the Artists Quarter, the “jazz priest” of Chicago, guitarist John Moulder, will play in a quartet featuring Dan Musselman on piano, Billy Peterson on bass and Alex Young on drums. Monder’s music credentials include the Paul Wertico Trio (12 years), Kurt Elling, Jackie Allen, Eddie Harris, Bob Mintzer, Paul McCandless, Lyle Mays, Gary Burton, and Niels Orsted Pederson. The AQ gig will undoubtedly go on past midnight so it might work to hit the Loring early and then come east.

Pianist/composer Laura Caviani has not appeared with her trio much of late, so the AQ gig on Saturday night (8/6) should be extra special. Also extra special will be her cohorts on this gig, bassist/Prairie Home Companion musician Gary Raynor and versatile drummer Nathan Norman.

It’s a festival of big bands as the annual Bloomington Jazz Festival gets underway at noon Saturday (8/7) at the Normandale Lake Bandshell. Charts start flying at noon with the Rum River Brass Band, and continue with Vic Volare and the Volare Lounge Orchestra, ending with the fabulous Wolverines Big Band featuring vocalist Judi Donaghy. Perfect for a summer Sunday afternoon.

Bettye LaVette is not really a jazz singer—she’s the Great Lady of Soul, and she can out-blues any blues singer on the planet. But there’s plenty of jazz roots in her voice and her shows are always filled with a great storyteller’s passion and audience interaction. She’s in town for three nights at the Dakota starting Monday (8/8-10).

One of the best brass bands around, and surely one of the most inventive, Snowblind brings together five busy musicians. Their shows are few and far between these days and always a treat for the year, with Shilad Sen (sax), Scott Agster (trombone), Adam Rossmiller (trumpet), Graydon Peterson (bass) and Reid Kennedy (drums). Catch them Wednesday (8/10) at the AQ.

More Jazz Around Town
Check out the jazz calendar on the KBEM website for club and other listings. Some recommendations:

Friday, August 5: The Great River Jazz Fest in LaCrosse (August 5-7) featuring the Torff/Wertico Quintet, Christine Rosholt; annual Bix Biederbecke Memorial Jazz Fest in Davenport, IA (August 5-11); Maxine Souse' at Mendoberri’s; Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble at the West Bank School of Music; George Duke, Marcus Miller and Dave Sandborn at the Minnesota Zoo

Saturday, August 6: Nichola Miller at the Mill City Farmers Market; Jack Brass, Anthony Main Courtyard; Vicky Mountain and James Allen at First Course Bistro; Jazz Front@Winehaven (August 6-7) --two days of jazz, food and winery tours in Chisago City, with music from Jeffrey Dunitz, Chris Bates, Lee Blaske and Chris Lomheim

Sunday, August 7: Sunday brunch with Tony Baluff at the Aster Café; Jazz in the Vineyard with Lee Engele at the Alexis Bailey Vineyards

Monday, August 8: Dave Brittain at Jazz Central; Head Space at the Artists Quarter; Musique Mystique at the Loring Pasta Bar

Tuesday, August 9: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter

Wednesday, August 10: Steve Kenny and the Bastids at the Artists Quarter; Arne Fogel with the Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; Patrick Harrison and James Buckley at Café Maude; David Seru, Nathan Hanson and Casey O’Brien at Nomad World Pub

Thursday, August 11: Dave Karr Quartet at the Artists Quarter; “Coloring Time” improvised music and art at The Cedar (Martin Dosh, JT Bates, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Maya Ylvisaker, Jacob Hanson, Michelle Kinney, Chris Cunningham, Mike Rossetto, Benson Ramsey, David Huckfelt, Chastity Brown, Adam Svec, Christopher Keller and Alexei Casselle)

Coming Soon!
• August 12-13, Atlantis Quartet at the AQ
• August 13, Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Park
• August 17-18, Freddy Cole at the Dakota
• August 19-20, Miguel Hurtado Quintet 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 24, Return to Forever at the Orpheum
• August 26-27, Jeanne Arland Peterson/Cliff Brunzell 90th Birthday Celebration at the Artists Quarter
• September 2, Last Days of Summer Riverboat Cruise (KBEM)
• September 2-4, Chicago Jazz Festival
• September 2-5, Detroit Jazz Festival
• September 5, Ivan Lins at the Dakota
• September 10, Selby Avenue Jazz Festival featuring Gerald Albright
• 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 4, Esperanza Spalding’s Chamber Music Society at O’Shaughnessy
• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall
• November 13, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)



Photos: (top to bottom), Todd Clouser (A Love Electric) opens at the Loring; Laura Caviani brings her trio to the AQ; Bettye LaVette returns to the Dakota (all photos by Andrea Canter)








Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review (July 29-August 4)







© Andrea Canter

A CD release, a neighborhood jazz festival, a B-3 icon and a multi-venue visit from one of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival favorites topped jazz in the metro this past week.

July 29, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter. They can be brash, brilliant and balladic, often all in the course of one composition. With New York saxophonist Chris Speed on hand to reprise his role on the recording, the Bad Plus/Happy Apple drummer led the latest Twin Cities’ jazz band phenom through tunes off their new Sunnyside release, Good Old Light. It was a showcase for the sometimes majestic, sometimes off-the-wall, always inventive sounds of Speed, Brandon Wozniak, Erik Fratzke, Adam Linz and of course Dave King.

July 30, Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival. To celebrate this unique market’s 5th anniversary, merchants and vocalist/jazz organizer Lee Engele got together to produce a day of family-centric jazz and market fare. The heat was wicked but the music was transcendent, from the first boppish romps of the Chris Lomheim Trio to the final R&B flavored songs of Patty Peterson and Friends, with Latin sway from Ticket to Brasil, American swing from Doug Haining and the Twin Cities Seven (with singer Charmin Michelle) in -between, and high energy and originality from three student-led bands on the TCJS Student Stage. This sort of first effort deserves repeating. Hopefully this event will become an annual community gathering. (See blog, August 3)

August 1, 3, Jon Weber at Jazz Central and the Artists Quarter. During the annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival, pianist/encyclopedic sage Jon Weber seems to be everywhere, from Mears Park to Stride Night at the AQ. But it is a real treat to encounter him away from the festival, and he tends to find his way back to town at least once in between festivals. This visit, he was guest pianist with the usual Jazz Central house band (Tanner Taylor, Keith Boyles, Mac Santiago) and the night’s scheduled guest, trumpeter Bill Simenson. Bill gave us some elegantly playful Monk and Jon pushed the music ever higher. But he was truly in his element a few nights later leading a trio of Gordy Johnson and Kenny Horst at the AQ. And in typically Weber fashion, he soon dismissed his cohorts to spend what turned into an hour of stride and audience requests – playing tunes in multiple styles, multiple keys, all embellished with relevant trivia. But in the end, what makes Jon such a star entertainer is his musicianship. In any key.

August 4, Remy Taghavi and Friends at the Artists Quarter. Part of the Twin Cities Jazz Society’s Young Artists Series, saxophonist Remy brought friends Joe Strachan (piano) and Cam LeCrone (drums) to a gig filled with free improvisations over original structures, save a dazzling interpretation of Monk’s “Hackensack.” Surely the most “out” of the series thus far, this trio of college students (Remy at USC, Joe at the U of M, Cam at Northwestern) has enough enthusiasm and chops to convince some old timers to listen to 21st century music.

August 4, Joey DeFrancesco at the Dakota. We expected Paul Bollenback on guitar and Byron Landham on drums. We did get Joey D, with Rick Zunigar on guitar and Ramone Banda on drums. We were hardly disappointed in the outcome as the trio roared through a set of mostly Joey D originals along with some nifty covers of “Up Jumped Spring” and Stevie Wonder’s “Find One Hundred Ways.” Joey can find 100 ways to interpret any tune and make it sound like it is the only way to play it. He was the first jazz organist that attracted my attention, and he makes me a believer every time.




Photos: (top to bottom) Dave King at the AQ; Jon Weber at the AQ; Remy Taghavi (sax) and Friends at the AQ; Joey DeFrancesco at the Dakota (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Midtown Global Jazz










© Andrea Canter


Community jazz and more general music festival seem to be “in” these days, at least in the Twin Cities. After a successful 2nd Dakota StreetFest in mid-July, the first-ever Midtown Global Market Jazz Festival took off last Saturday, and hopefully the audience and vendor response will help make this an annual event. Organized to help celebrate the unique market’s fifth anniversary, the one-day, free gathering was geared toward families, offering non-stop music from noon til 7:30 pm on alternating outdoor/indoor stages.

The market—in the old Sears building in the heart of south Minneapolis—was open for business as usual, with its diverse array of food, produce, clothing, crafts, etc. But it was not really business as usual, with a much higher than typical volume of browsers and shoppers throughout the afternoon and early evening. Headed by TCJS President and accomplished vocalist Lee Engele, the festival committee put together a “global” sampling of Twin Cities jazz, featuring top metro ensembles on the outdoor Allina Stage, and a wide-ranging trio of student ensembles on the indoor TCJS Student Stage. For those who did not get enough, music continued into the evening in the bar of the adjacent Sheraton Midtown Hotel, with two guitar ensembles, led by John Penny and Joel Shapira.


The Allina Stage
The market parking lot was transformed into a “street fest” staging area, with typically high quality outdoor sound managed by Steve Weise and crew from Creation Audio. The day of music opened with the Chris Lomheim Trio (Gordy Johnson and bass, Jay Epstein on drums). This is home territory for pianist Lomheim, as he and his wife live in one of the condos in the Market complex. As is always true whenever Chris Lomheim is near a keyboard, the music varied from sublime (“Darn That Dream”) to playful (“Billie’s Bounce”), and the small but eager early afternoon crowd didn’t seem to mind the steam rising from the asphalt. It was a good match to the steam rising on stage.

One of the most popular of our area Latin bands, Ticket to Brasil usually elicits dancing in the aisles, but heat and humidity may have discouraged movement. TTB nevertheless elicted plenty of enthusiasm with some familiar tunes like “One Note Samba” and “So Nice,” Pavel Janey always engaging on guitar and percussion; Lidia Berman flashing her bright smile as she sang and swayed with her congas; Rose Rinder’s flute tumbling through samba and bossa. If we didn’t already feel tropical, TTB sealed the deal.

Doug Haining’s Twin Cities Seven ensemble has been entertaining area audiences since 1999, reprising the sounds of the great swing bands of Basie, Ellington and more. Despite the familiarity of the repertoire, the TC7 always manages to sound fresh and includes some of the less familiar tunes of the swing era, like Johnny Hodges’ “The Peaches are Better Down the Road.” The band hit its stride early and kept going, welcoming to the stage another neighborhood resident, star vocalist Charmin Michelle. With more shade in front of the stage now, a few dancers took advantage of every swinging note.

Patty Peterson and Friends (e.g., relatives and near-relations) closed the festival with something for everyone. Nephew Jason Peterson DeLaire nearly upstaged Aunt Patty as a powerful presence on keyboards, saxophone and vocals, while Patty encouraged audience participation and proved any jazz tune can become a hot R&B tune ("The Shadow of Your Smile")… and vice versa.


The TCJS Student Stage
The small stage in the market atrium is a popular point of entertainment on weekends, and became an even more popular hub of music during the festival. While the schedule was designed to bring the audience inside during breaks between outdoor acts, the high heat and humidity may helped to create an even bigger audience for the three student bands presented by the Twin Cities Jazz Society. With adjacent concessions and merchant stalls as well as tables and chairs, the atrium filled for each set, and seemed to particularly draw in families with small children. It became a living classroom where one could sample a wide range of jazz, from bebop to post bop to avant garde. These were not “school” jazz bands, but student-led ensembles of musicians currently in high school or enrolled in college programs.

The most “out” music started the afternoon, with the Respective Sound Convergence Summit led by South High bassist/drummer Sam Wildenaurer. Chances are that most in the audience had very little experience listening to the groans, squeals, rattles and vibrations; I even heard someone say that “they don’t have to worry about listening, they each are doing their own thing.” Yet this was far from the case; clearly these three young men (with Reagan Flannery and keyboards and Will Nelson on guitar) listen intently to each other, sensing the direction of the music as it evolves. Their skills on their respective instruments were undeniable, and their imaginations unfettered. In the audience, local free jazz icon Milo Fine nodded his approval. And the youngest children, passing by, were totally charmed.

Public New Sense is a quintet of St. Paul high schoolers who have been making music together since third grade, which makes their longevity on par with many area bands of veteran professionals. Make no mistake, this is a band of veteran professionals! PNS has been getting paying gigs for quite a while. With a prodigious horn line of brothers DeCarlo (trumpet) and Devante (tenor sax) Jackson, and superb backing from guitarist Evan Slack, bassist Gavin Taylor-Stark and drummer Adam Sawyer, the band drew enthusiastic applause from the continuously growing crowd with such fare as “Mr PC,” “Footprints,” “All of Me,” and “Jordu.” And DeCarlo was sumptuous on the ballad I never identified!

The student stage closed with a set of all original compositions by leader/pianist Quentin Tschofen and his Quintet. Most of the band are alums of the Dakota Combo, with Quentin, bassist Jordan Jenkins and saxophonist Brad Allen heading into their first years of college studies, while trumpeter Caleb McMahon and drummer Cam LeCrone will be starting their second years in September. The composition titles ranged from sarcastic (“Jordan Hates Jazz”) to deceptively simple (“North”), but the music had all the structure and harmonic excitement of modern post bop played by far more experienced musicians. The horn team of Allen and McMahon was particularly sparkling and inventive. Quentin as a few more gigs scheduled, including August 13 at Studio Z in St. Paul. Not bad for a 17-year-old.

And as for the whole event, not bad for the first year! Let’s do it again.


Photos: (top to bottom) Dancing to the Twin Cities Seven; families gathered to hear student bands in the market atrium; Public New Sense, with brothers DeCarlo and Devante Jackson. (Photos by Andrea Canter)