Friday, September 30, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, September 30-October 6



















© Andrea Canter

Hard to top the nonstop, night after night great gigs of last week, firing up jazz on all cylinders for a promising fall. But here comes another week.



Highlights
Minnesota small-town native, former Twin Cities rising star vocalist Nancy Harms has done what many fear is impossible—she’s settled in New York and is getting gigs and plenty of attention. It’s only been a year but Nancy already caught the approving ear of Wycliffe Gordon and formed a partnership with young hot pianist Jeremy Sisskind. But for her homecoming Friday night (9/30) at the Artists Quarter, she relies on old friends, guitarist Zacc Harris, bassist James Buckley and drummer Jay Epstein. She likely will bring out some old standards (as well as new material), but don’t expect anything less than new arrangements and some alluring new sounds. (If you are out near Dawson, MN, you can catch Nancy at the Memorial Auditorium Saturday night, 10/1!)

Helping with the ongoing fund raising for Kyber Pass Cafe, the Dave King Trucking Company performs there Friday night (9/30) and then returns to the AQ on Saturday night (10/1), pared down to one sax this weekend, but the one sax is Brandon Wozniak. Who could ask for anything more?

The best big band in the area, JazzMN Orchestra launches its new season Saturday night (10/1) with one of the best bassists in the universe, John Clayton. More often associated with his Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and Clayton Brothers ensemble, this will be a rare treat to hear John as a featured soloist and arranger. Judi Donaghy provides the local vocal. Another local vocal, Connie Evingson, performs not to far away at the same time, with the hot club swinging John Jorgenson Quintet at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. This collaboration has been on the Dakota stage, and guitarist Jorgenson has shared the stage with Elton John, Sting, Billy Joel and… Pavorotti? Want more Connie? Her monthly Jazz in the Lounge at the Minneapolis Woman’s Club returns on Wednesday (10/5), this time a duo with piano monster Tanner Taylor.

Easy to do a double header on Sunday (10/2), with a matinee at the Bloomington Center for the Arts presenting “Swing Set,” Lee Engele with “the Andrews Sisters”—Aimee Fischer, Kathy Mueller and Lisa Pallen. The gals recall the great songs of the 40s when swing was truly the thing. Four great voices for a Sunday afternoon. At Orchestra Hall in the evening, it’s a return engagement with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis, who is celebrating the big 5-0 on this tour. One of the very best big bands in modern jazz. It might be a stretch to do a triple on Sunday, but if you are a fan of jazz guitar, Charlie Hunter shows how it’s done at the Dakota with sets at 7 and 9. And who knows, some famous trumpeter might just come down the street and sit in on the end of the late show…it would not be the first time.

Monday (10/3) marks the beginning of Arne Fogel's new 13-week radio series on KBEM, Minnesota Voices: Certain Standards, airing twice each Monday through Friday at 8:30 am and 6:30 pm, and featuring top local (or formerly local) voices: Connie Evingson (Mondays), Nancy Harms (Tuesdays), Arne Fogel (Wednesdays), Maud Hixson (Thursdays) and Debbie Duncan (Fridays). Each segment is about three minutes, each singer accompanied by Tanner Taylor on piano (except for Maud, who performs with husband Rick Carlson). Read more on Jazz Police.





Monday (10/3) marks the first anniversary of Jazz Central, the underground performance and studio space run by Tanner Taylor and Mac Santiago. This is a celebration of survival of an independent venture in a tough economy—and they have pulled it off with at least weekly gigs and jams featuring a wide range of the area’s top and up-and-coming jazz artists. “By the cats, for the cats,” as the website notes. This anniversary party features one of the best in the jazz business, drummer Phil Hey. Tonight he is not a sideman. Come out, help pay the rent and have a blast.

One of the area’s most accomplished and enjoyable duos, Charmin (Michelle) and Shapira (Joel) perform twice at Fireside Pizza this week, on Monday (10/3) and Wednesday (10/5), as well as next Saturday (10/8) at the 318 in Wayzata. And in quartet format, they’re on the stage at Hell’s Kitchen on Thursday (10/6). They’ll be doing selections from their two duo recordings as well as some new material. For voice and guitar, this is an unbeatable combination.

If you missed Esperanza Spalding’s Chamber Music Society last year at the Dakota, or want another dose, she’s bringing her stellar project to O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on Tuesday (10/4), cosponsored by the Dakota. Since topping Justin Bieber for the Grammy’s Best New Artist, she’s been expanding her audience and turning up in slick magazine ads. Whatever brings jazz more attention! Note she is scheduled to perform with Joe Lovano’s Us Five in Hopkins on October 22nd.

More Jazz!
There’s plenty more during the week. As full a schedule as exists can be found on the KBEM website. Some additional recommendations:
Friday, September 30: Jana Nyberg Group at Honey; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel)

Saturday, October 1: Sophia Shorai at the Nicollet Island Inn; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel)

Sunday, October 2: Joan Griffith and Clea Galhano at Kyber Pass Café

Monday, October 3: Lalah Hathaway at the Dakota; Headspace at the Artists Quarter

Tuesday, October 4: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Rhonda Laurie and Phil Mattson at The Nicollet; Dean Magraw and David Seru, First Tuesdays at the Black Dog; Jack Brass at the Driftwood; Copper Street Brass at MacPhail

Wednesday, October 5: James Buckley Trio at the Artists Quarter; Acoustic Alchemy at the Dakota; Paula Lammers with Sample Night Live at the History Theater (St Paul)

Thursday, October 6: Tyler Anderson’s Coriolis Effect at the Artists Quarter (Young Artists Series) followed by Media Addicts; Reynold Philipsek and Matt Senjem at Barbette; Acoustic Alchemy at the Dakota

Coming Soon!
• October 7-8, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
• October 9, PipJazz at Landmark Center with Irv Williams
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale and Dave Stryker at the Dakota
• October 13, U of M Jazz Bands, Salute to Art Blakey at Ted Mann
• October 13, Patricia Barber at the Dakota
• October 16, Soul Café at Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church
• October 17-18, Jazz Crusaders at the Dakota
• October 19, Wallace Roney Quintet at the Artists Quarter
• October 20, REEL Jazz at the Trylon Cinema, films by Bob DeFlores
• October 21-22, Matt Slocum Trio at the Artists Quarter
• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• October 22, Seven Steps to Havana at Studio Z
• October 24, Dead Cat Bounce at Studio Z
• October 26, Bryan Nichols at Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music
• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall
• November 1, John Scofield Quartet at the Dakota
• November 12, Insurgent (Pat Moriarty, Ellen Lease, Phil Hey) at Studio Z
• November 16, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• November 25-26, Pat Mallinger at the Artists Quarter
• December 25-27, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)



Photos: (Top to bottom) Nancy Harms; John Clayton; Wynton Marsalis; Esperanza Spalding (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review: September 23-29







© Andrea Canter

Maybe it is just my imagination or luck, but it seems the Twin Cities jazz scene is heating up and about to bubble over. There’s a lot to hear, often simultaneously, meaning there’s a lot to miss as well. Which means I can be just as overwhelmed here as in New York. I think that is a good thing. Highlights, from my perspective:

Theo Bleckmann at the Macalester Plymouth United Church, September 23: Mezmerizing, nearly impossible to describe in human terms. But I tried – see blog, September 26.

Dave King Trucking Company at Studio Z, September 24. This was the first in the monthly Jazz at Studio Z series curated by Zacc Harris with support from an MRAC grant. Some of the usual suspects in the DKTC were missing—New York saxman Chris Speed and Happy Apple guitarist Erik Fratzke. Brandon Wozniak handled the horn duties alone, which just meant more soloing from the guy who is one of the area’s the most inventive musicians; Luke Polopnik took over on guitar, which meant a somewhat more mellow, Frisellish sound. With King and Adam Linz, the result was well up to DKTC standards as the band moved through some of the most appealing compositions of their recent release, Good Old Light, as well as some other concoctions. And when King crushed his snare, he was in the perfect setting to find back-up percussion supplies. This is the home to Zeitgeist!

The Peterson Family’s "Our Love Is Here to Stay" at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, September 25. With matriarch Jeanne Arland Peterson celebrating 90 last month, there’s been a lot of Peterson Family gigs lately. But each time out, it’s a somewhat different configuration, and this matinee kicking off both the Bloomington and TCJS concert seasons focused on the songs and times of the Gershwins with extended Peterson Family talents from Jeanne to her offspring to nephew and grand nephew. This is not just a multi-talented family but a bunch of multi-talented individuals. And clearly, their love, and their music, is here to stay.

Christine Rosholt, Jazz Meets the Bard at the Jungle Theater, September 26. My nominee for the most transformed jazz artist in the Twin Cities, Christine has been performing around town for much of the past decade, starting out as an entertaining, adequate interpreter of the Great American Songbook and morphing steadily into an even more entertaining, more personal, more complex interpreter of… most anything musical. From her Elizabethan ruff to her informative, stand-up comic style banter with the audience and stellar vocal performance throughout, Jazz Meets the Bard Meets Christine was a fine night of songs and stories. (And watch out for Christine’s upcoming CD release with English songwriter Kevin Hall in December as she melds jazz and pop into “Pazz.”)

Emily Green with the Chris Lomheim Trio at The Nicollet, September 27. Maryann Sullivan of KBEM is curating this Tuesday night series at The Nicollet coffeehouse, and so far it has been an impressive and diverse array of musicians. One-time student of Vicky Mountain who has rarely performed at club venues, vocalist Emily Green joined husband/pianist extraordinaire Chris Lomheim and pals Jim Chenoweth and Reid Kennedy for some light and sassy takes on jazz and pop classics. Her voice is sunny and charming. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to enjoy it.

Lionel Hampton Celebration at the Dakota, September 27. Vocalist/producer Jaycee Falk has assembled a cast of Hampton’s alums and admirers for this tour showcasing the great vibraphonist’s music. Heading the bill, an inspired Jason Marsalis, who has shifted his focus from drums (which he still plays in bands like John Ellis’s Double Wide) to vibes (which is his only instrument in his own band). Seeming uninspired or simply bored on his own gig at the Dakota a year ago, this time out Marsalis was animated and artful, two important qualities in a vibes player. His elder partners on this gig, saxophonist Red Holloway and trombinst Fred Wesley, though clearly masters of their craft, were decidedly upstaged by the local horn team—trumpeters Jeff Gottwig and Adam Rossmiller, saxophonists Pete Whitman and Kathy Jensen; bassist Gary Raynor and drummer Dave Schmalenberger ably provided the pulse for the night. Diane Schuur only sang three songs, but they were three highlights of the night. The only real flaw in the show was emcee Falk himself, whose nightclub chatter got old quickly and added about 20 unnecessary minutes to an otherwise delightful, high-energy evening. But Falk, as producer, is commended for taking full advantage of the talents he found on the local scene. It gave new meaning to “Flying Home.”

Jane Monheit at the Dakota, September 28. Speaking of transformations: Five years ago, maybe only three, buttery perfect vocalist Jane Monheit seemed headed in a too-pop, too smooth direction, particularly on her recordings. Her live shows always hinted at a more personal sound but she was “packaged” for mass appeal. Then she became a first-time mom. She took control of her recording. In short, she became the jazz singer her early potential suggested she would become. Sometimes she scats, sometimes she doesn’t—whatever seems like the natural thing to do, it sounds effortless either way. Even without scatting –which is overrated as a marker of “jazz” singing, Jane seems comfortable sending her voice in whatever direction best fits the lyric and underlying emotion. While her set was mostly a round-up of favorites we’ve heard her do before, songs like “Over the Rainbow,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” and “That’s All” were rearranged and/or reinterpreted, making it a new set. And she is still buttery perfect.

Stephen and Greg Paulus and the Minnesota Orchestra, “TimePiece” at Orchestra Hall, September 29. Most fans of classical music in Minnesota are familiar with composer Stephen Paulus. Some jazz fans in the Twin Cities remember his son, trumpeter Greg Paulus, recently minted from the Manhattan School of Music and now making a name for himself as a composer and performer of electronic music. The inevitable? Father and son working together on a composition for orchestra and jazz soloists. The centerpiece of the program kicking off the Minnesota Orchestra’s new season, Paulus and Paulus wrote a score that highlights the versatility of a large classical orchestra and the heart and soul of jazz from some of the area’s most accomplished improvisers (Bryan Nichols, Mike Lewis, Adam Linz, JT Bates). “TimePiece” does not attempt to make jazz artists of classical musicians or classical musicians of jazz artists, but rather melds two worlds into one dramatic composition. (Two more nights, September 30-October 1—tickets still available.)


Photos: (Top to bottom) Emily Green with the Chris Lomheim Trio at The Nicollet; Jason Marsalis and Kathy Jensen with the Lionel Hampton Celebration Band at the Dakota (photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keep Jazz Radio Alive - Join KBEM

© Andrea Canter

If you have been listening to KBEM radio this week, you know it is Fall Pledge time. And especially if you have been listening and are not already a member of Jazz 88, this is your chance to put your money where your ears are—tuned in to the only jazz radio station in Minnesota and one of few left nation-wide.

KBEM is unique, even as a jazz radio station. KBEM is a jazz education vehicle! Not only are listeners educated about various jazz styles, players and events by listening to various programs and interviews, but high school students from the Minneapolis Schools participate in a variety of learning experiences, from the skills of broadcasting and radio technology to the music of jazz. Student announcers augment the pros every day, and some have their own programs. Minneapolis South High students, for example write and present their own radio show. Further, KBEM goes well beyond the airwaves, sponsoring events like the jazz cruise, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Jazz After Work.

Check membership options online or listen to KBEM for more information about how you can keep jazz radio alive and thriving in the Twin Cities. Since matching funds are often available during pledge drives, this is the best time to join and show your support for KBEM. We have a true national treasurer on the air!





Photo: Student announcer Emmanuel Perry in the KBEM studio at North High School (photo by Andrea Canter)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jazz Face: Adam Linz



© Andrea Canter

The first time I heard Adam Linz was as a solo opening act for Happy Apple at the Cedar Cultural Center, before Happy Apple became an international sensation and before Adam trimmed off his dreadlocks. It was maybe the first time I heard solo bass. It intrigued me then, and even more so now. And now I have heard Adam in multiple solo, duo, trio and larger ensembles, playing everything from straight ahead jazz to Mingus to free improv. Of course there really is no such thing as a “solo” performance from Adam, as he typically vocalizes (on key) whatever he is bowing or plucking, sort of a “duet for one.” It’s annoying if it’s Keith Jarrett’s moaning during solo piano. It’s simply part of the charm of Adam’s music.

Among many projects, Adam is a member of the relatively new Dave King Trucking Company, and performed with the ensemble Saturday night at Studio Z in St. Paul. His soloing was a high point of a very cool evening of original compositions. Like the great bassists touring the world today (Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Dave Holland, Christian McBride, Charnett Moffett, Alex Blake, William Parker), Adam can make his instrument sing, scream, growl, sing, creak, groan, sing….his fingers generating sparks, squeaks, squeals, melodies. It’s always a pas de deux, Adam and his bass. Two-part harmony.


Photo: Adam Linz at the Dakota in 2009. (Photo by Andrea Canter)

Theo Bleckmann: From the Fifth Dimension of Human Voice and Mind



© Andrea Canter

The New York Times
refers to him as “from another planet.” He must be. Theo Bleckmann and I can not possibly share the same anatomy of mouth and throat, let alone brain. But standing alone on the chancel of the Macalester Plymouth United Church on the Macalester College campus, Bleckmann looked anything but alien. In fact he sort of looks like Peewee Herman. And he took us on a Big Adventure.

Labeling Bleckmann a “vocalist” is like labeling Picasso a “painter.” Yes, he sings, and yes, he sings very well. He has a pleasant, pitch-perfect tenor, and if you listen to his voice on the more-or-less straight recording of MOSS, you would expect him to be forging a successful career as a jazz or pop singer. But that is not Theo’s direction. He doesn’t follow the experimental path of Bobby McFerrin so much as he hurtles above and beyond it, gathering swirls of electronic manipulations and playtime paraphernalia which he recycles into a menagerie of sounds, some human, some not. It’s McFerrin in a psychedelic wind tunnel. At times the connection to more earth-bound song is obvious; at other times there seems to be little resemblance to a human source. Yet at all times, Bleckmann is riveting, the result jaw-dropping, playful, hilarious, even beautiful.

German-born Theo Bleckmann came to the Macalester campus through a marvelous series, New Music at Macalester, supported by the Rivendell Foundation. The free concert followed two days of residency with Mac music students, who filled the majority of seats Friday night. “New Music” can refer to anything from innovative instrumentation to spontaneous creations to unusual sources of sound. Bleckmann fulfills any definition.

The program, lasting a little over an hour, included eleven pieces, the majority composed (invented?) by Bleckmann, and starting with the aptly titled “Duet for One.” Thus we were introduced to his ability to create the illusion of harmony with one voice, the sound of singing with electronic loops without any out-of-body apparatus. So maybe it is not really an illusion, but Bleckmann truly can produce two tones simultaneously? Is his voice a chordal instrument? There is some similarity to yodeling, but more so.

Other compositions, coming from Bleckmann himself as well as arrangements of works by others (including frequent collaborator Meredith Monk), made use of electronic loops, some which seemed pre-recorded, some clearly created on the spot; Bleckmann at times used a small megaphone (muting his human trumpet), whistles, toys that went inside the mouth… Where is the DVD with close-ups? The effects ranged from drones, Gregorian and African chants, haunted house sound effects, cartoonish voices, echos from deep caves….and sometimes that gorgeous tenor. Even standards were fair game, including Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You” and Lew Brown’s “Come Love,” the latter a creaky, croaky, teeth-rattling mass of sound effects from a toy-like apparatus Theo stuffed in his mouth. The long “Channel Surfing/anteroom” was particularly clever, loops suggesting the electronic jerking of stop and start, overall a weirdly liturgical soundscape. And in addition to his one-man soundtrack effects (especially prevalent on his “Free4all”), Bleckmann at times resorted to total silence, miming his vocalizations with his rubber-face antics. He closed with a haunting rendition of the classic “Lilli Marleen,” his megaphone creating an echo chamber of (mostly) human harmonies.

Listening to Theo Bleckmann, I couldn’t help but recall the words of Rod Serling as he introduced the 60s TV classic series, The Twlight Zone: “You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination…”

It was a wondrous night in the land of Theo Bleckmann.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, September 23-29









© Andrea Canter

Falling temperatures, changing colors, pre-holiday sales? Our “theater” of seasons marches on, but it’s always a good season for jazz in the Twin Cities. Just check out the week’s offerings and plan your route through whatever makes your ears dance.

Highlights
Every year, Macalester College’s Music Department brings in a nationally renowned jazz artist for a two-day residency followed by a free public concert on campus. On Friday (9/23), the very unusual vocalist Theo Bleckmann closes his residency with what is sure to be a memorable performance at the Macalester Plymouth Church. Nate Chinen of the New York Times summarizes Bleckmann as “a vocalist of inventive instinct and assiduous musicality, he’s never more secure than when in reverie, plumbing depths at once familiar and strange.” Should be the reverie of the year!

A new monthly jazz series gets underway Saturday (9/24) at the intimate Studio Z in Lowertown St. Paul. Curated by guitarist/bandleader Zacc Harris, the series could not have a better start than the Dave King Trucking Company. Locally based (save saxophonist Chris Speed, who is not on this gig), DKTC not only features the Bad Plus/Happy Apple drummer but our own heavyweights, saxophonist Brandon Wozniak, guitarist Erik Fratzke and bassist Adam Linz. Their debut CD (Good Old Light) and recent appearances in New York sealed the deal—this is one of the best of the new crop of collaborative improvisers out there. Studio Z is experimenting with beer and wine sales this weekend. And there’s a free workshop (open rehearsal) with King at 1 pm, part of the jazz series.

New York-based saxophonist Jim Snidero makes his nearly annual pilgrimage to the Artists Quarter this weekend (9/23-24). The alum of Brother Jack McDuff’s touring band is perhaps as well known for his work in jazz education as for his virtuosic horn, commuting from New York to Indiana to run that university’s jazz sax studio. Still he is has found time to perform with such luminaries as Tom Harrell, Billy Hart, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Kirkland, Benny Green, Louis Hayes, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Peter Washington, Eric Alexander, and Paul Bollenback.

With matriarch Jeanne celebrating 90 this summer, the Peterson Family has been in the limelight even more than usual. And it continues Sunday afternoon (9/25) with their Gershwin salute, "Our Love is Here to Stay" at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, the kickoff concert for TCJS’s Jazz From J to Z season. Count on Jeanne, offspring Patty, Billy and Linda, and some other Petersons to brighten the afternoon with some of the best of the Great American Songbook.

Christine Rosholt has proven star power in the Twin Cities, and it seems it really does not matter if she is fronting a quartet or big band, singing Harold Arlen or Irving Berlin. But Christine has also proven herself to be a restless seeker of new material, and Monday (9/26) she brings her “Jazz Meets the Bard” project to the Jungle Theater, backed by an ensemble of local heroes including Dave Karr and Dave Jensen on horns, and a rhythm section of Tanner Taylor, Graydon Peterson and Jay Epstein. Only Epstein was on hand back in 2005 when Christine first presented songs drawn from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, music courtesy of Ellington, Strayhorn, Dankworth and Young. Now, with some additions and refinements, that critically acclaimed show is again on stage. The preview on Almanac was totally charming.

The great late vibist Lionel Hampton is celebrated over two nights at the Dakota (9/26-27), with an intriguing cast putting Jason Marsalis in the vibraphone chair, with singer/pianist Dianne Schurr, saxophonist Red Holloway, and trombonist Fred Wesley.

Jane Monheit returns to the Dakota for one night, Wednesday (9/28). Although the hype surrounding her debut over a decade ago may have seemed overblown at the time, Jane is evolving into a true jazz interpreter who isn’t even afraid to scat now and then, and her increasing fearlessness (which she has attributed to motherhood) only enhances her superb vocal instrument.

Minnesota Orchestra opens its new season this week (9/29-10/1) with a jazzy twist, a new commissioned work by father and son, Stephen and Greg Paulus. The younger Paulus is a grad of the Manhattan School of Music and trumpeter/composer based in New York. Their first major collaboration (Time Piece for Jazz Soloists and Orchestra) includes Greg with Mike Lewis, Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz and JT Bates.

Not a jazz joint, the Kyber Pass restaurant in St Paul has been presenting new and improvised music, but is facing financial setbacks. This week, you can help support live music by attending a promising series of fund-raising gigs at the restaurant, featuring some of our favorite modern improvisers: Davu Seru and Dean Magraw (9/23); Merciless Ghost with George Cartwright, Josh Granowski, Davu Seru (9/24); Charcoal with Anthony Cox, Milo Fine, Davu Seru (9/25); Jelloslave with Jacqueline Ultan, Michelle Kinney, Greg Schutte, Gary Waryan (9/29). The Dave King Trucking Company and Joan Griffith/Clea Galhano are featured next weekend.

More Jazz!
Check the KBEM Jazz Calendar online for updates and more listings. A few more recommendations:

Friday, September 23: Tim Patrick and Blue-Eyed Band with Maud Hixson at the Medina Ballroom; Lee Engele at Pardon My French.

Saturday, September 24: Hosmer Library free, world music series with the Wailing Ships Trio; Joel Shapira at Ingredients Café; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske, live recording for Minnesota Live at the Lobby Bar, St Paul Hotel; Orange Mighty Trio, Dakota Late Night

Sunday, September 25: Patty and the Buttons, Aster Café brunch; Ticket to Brasil and friends at the Como Lakeside Pavilion (4 pm)

Monday, September 26: Lucia Newell and Dean Magraw, Musique Mystique at Loring Pasta Bar; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Hobert at Jazz Central

Tuesday, September 27: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Big Band Tuesdays with the Nova Jazz Orchestra at the Shorewood; Frankhouse at Hell’s Kitchen; Emily Green and Chris Lomheim at The Nicollet; Jack Brass at the Driftwood

Wednesday, September 28: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Phil Aaron Trio at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Wolverines at Hell’s Kitchen

Thursday, September 29: Pete Whitman X-Tet at the Artists Quarter; Christine Rosholt at Hell’s Kitchen.

Coming Soon!
• September 30, Nancy Harms at the Artists Quarter
• October 1, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter
• October 1, Connie Evingson and the John Jorgenson Quintet at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• 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 7-8, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
• October 9, PipJazz at Landmark Center with Irv Williams
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale and Dave Stryker at the Dakota
• October 13, U of M Jazz Bands, Salute to Art Blakey at Ted Mann
• October 13, Patricia Barber at the Dakota
• October 16, Soul Café at Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church
• October 19, Wallace Roney Quintet at the Artists Quarter
• October 20, REEL Jazz at the Trylon Cinema, films by Bob DeFlores
• October 21-22, Matt Slocum Trio at the Artists Quarter
• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• October 22, Seven Steps to Havna at Studio Z
• October 24, Dead Cat Bounce at Studio Z
• October 26, Bryan Nichols at Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music
• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall
• November 1, John Scofield Quartet at the Dakota
• November 12, Insurgent (Pat Moriarty, Ellen Lease, Phil Hey) at Studio Z
• November 16, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• November 25-26, Pat Mallinger and Bill Carrothers at the Artists Quarter
• December 25-27, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)


Photos: (Top to bottom) Dave King; Patty and Billy Peterson; Christine Rosholt with Graydon Peterson; Jason Marsalis (photos by Andrea Canter)




Thursday, September 22, 2011

Twin Cities Jazz Week in Review, September 16-22







© Andrea Canter

This was one of the most enjoyable of local jazz weeks of the season… and now we start the fall season! Great songs, great collaborations, from edgy to time-tested to… unique.

Bryan Nichols Trio with Anthony Cox and Dave King (September 16-17 at the Artists Quarter). The line-up was surely enough to make any fan of local (and beyond) free-bop drool in anticipation. Playing original compositions and some inside-out takes on Monk and Coleman, Bryan make the keyboard sing one minute, groan and rattle the next, and the same could describe Anthony’s electric and acoustic bass and Dave’s trapset antics. It was in fact a pleasure to see Dave King in a sideman role, somewhat restrained by Bad Plus or Happy Apple standards but fully collaborative in the moment with his two challenging cohorts. The three were truly in their own zone, but it was a zone open to visitors seeking a glimpse into the process of musical creation.

Maud Hixson and Jason Richards, the Music of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (September 17, Jazz @ St. Barneys). A suburban church hall seems an unlikely venue for a monthly jazz series, let alone jazz at this level. But Jeff Whitmill and colleagues at St. Barnabas Church in Plymouth have been running this program for the past five years, bringing top local talent to the west burbs. This year the theme is vocal jazz, and it is hard to imagine a better kickoff than Maud Hixson and Jason Richards, pairing on songs associated with the great team of Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme. I can vaguely remember their duets from early 60s television, but Maud and Jason brought a charming give and take to the evening, and my old memories became irrelevant. When lyrics are delivered with such care, a good story is still a good story 50 years later. With Maud’s husband Rick Carlson on keys, the feel of family was ever-present. And when Maud revealed that Eydie started out as a Spanish language interpreter, the sense of karma was really reinforced (as Maud herself started out as a French language interpreter). Maybe it’s that ingrained ability to give universal meaning to any language. The setting might have been a little quirky but the music was cabaret cozy, the delivery concert-hall worthy.

PipJazz – Pippi Ardennia, Gary Schulte (September 18, Landmark Center). There’s a nice small concert space inside Landmark (Weyerhauser Auditorium) and Chicago transplant Pippi Ardennia is heading up a Sunday jazz series. Each month she brings her house band and her own versatile voice to the stage with a special guest artist. The choice of violinist Gary Schulte was a stroke of genius, as the hot club virtuoso showed off a few other talents as well, going bow to bow with bassist Billy Peterson, string to string with guitarist Jimi Behringer, and most delightfully, head to head with Pippi on tunes from Django to Wes Montgomery. As always, Pippi brought us a wide range of jazz and blues and soul, her voice one moment feathery and sweet, one moment gritty and salty, one moment swinging for the rafters. It’s a nice way to spend an early Sunday evening, most every month, usually the second Sunday. Irv Williams is the October 9th guest. And is there a better way to spend a Sunday than hearing Irv in a concert hall setting?


Jazz Zen (September 20, at The Nicollet). The Nicollet is new on the corner that housed the successful Acadia Cafe before its move to Cedar Av, and a couple less successful coffee shops. Hopefully this version will have Acadia's karma. Every Tuesday, Maryann Sullivan of KBEM is curating a jazz series, and this week the featured band was one that truly defies classification, Jazz Zen. It's part bebop, part world music, part folkloric exploration. The instrumentation alone defies classification--wooden flutes (Bobb Fantauzzo), electric cello (Aaron Kerr), drumset (Derrin Pinto). The sound palettte runs from Native American ritual to Herbie Hancock and every thing, every where, in between. Fantauzzo brought maybe seven flutes of varying sizes and noted it was only a small part of his collection. Each had its own character as well as tonal range, giving the music infinite possibilities. Sipping chai and nibbling pizza or pastries surrounded by such intriguing sounds, you can easily forget you are on the outskirts of downtown Minneapolis, nearly on top of I-35.


James Farm (September 21 at the Dakota). Where do musicians get band names? This might go down in jazz history as the most ill-named band. Surely the jazz cognescenti knew that James Farm was not some obscure bandleader but the band label for Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland? The somewhat disappointing crowd at the Dakota suggests otherwise, despite the rave press following this new ensemble and their debut recording. This is a “band” in the true sense of the word, a group of equal partners inventing new music which is reinvented with each presentation. And individually, each musician is a powerhouse, Redman, Penman and Harland together til recently in the SF Jazz Collective while establishing their chops as soloists, composers and bandleaders. Parks might be the least known of the quartet, but his skills were immediately apparent and his reputation will undoubtedly grow rapidly in the fast company of his colleagues here. Whether up tempo or lyrically floaty, James Farm never lost its way, never lost its audience, and brought surprises at every turn. Redman has never sounded more interesting, more flexible. One of my pals noted we were hearing the same set –meaning the same group of compositions—as the night before, but that it was otherwise a very different set of music. Never the same way once.


Photos: (top to bottom), Gary Schulte and Pippi Ardennia at PipJazz in Landmark Center; Jazz Zen at The Nicollet; James Farm at the Dakota (photos by Andrea Canter)

A Real Jazz Club: Talents from Near and Far at the Artists Quarter









© Andrea Canter

What’s happening to jazz clubs? The question comes up more and more often as I talk with local (and not local) fans and musicians alike. Even top clubs like Yoshi’s in the Bay Area and our beloved Dakota seem to be booking an increasingly eclectic array of music despite their “jazz club” monikers and reputations. The truth is that jazz is neither sustaining record labels or jazz clubs these days. We can debate the many reasons why but the bottom line remains—fewer quality music venues are presenting real jazz.


Fortunately, at least for the audiences and musicians, there are still a few clubs like the Artists Quarter in St. Paul, where it is rare indeed to see a booking that can not be defined under the jazz umbrella. Long a haven for local talents (a club run by musicians, for musicians), the AQ used to book more national acts, and that trend is slowly but surely returning as owner Kenny Horst is booking artists like Eddie Gomez, Christian Howes, and, in October, Wallace Roney. And tickets are not much more than the usual for weekends—usually around $20. To keep his costs down so that he can offer these artists at an affordable price, Kenny looks for artists who will play with a local supporting band or who are touring nearby with an open date.

The great Bill Evans alum, bassist Eddie Gomez and his touring trio brought virtuosic excitement to the AQ a few weeks ago, followed by violinist Christian Howes and most of his touring band. Howes picked up Chris Bates to fill out his quartet, hardly a downside to two electrifying evenings. October finds a one-night stand with the Wallace Roney Quintet on October 19th. Acclaimed trumpeter Roney has toured and recorded extensively with ex-wife pianist Geri Allen and brother/saxophonist Antoine Roney. Making it a jazz-errific week, on October 21-22, the AQ also hosts young drummer Matt Slocum and his trio with pianist Sam Yahel and bassist Massimo Bialcati, with whom he has toured and recorded for the past few years. Slocum is a Twin Cities native now based in New York. After two nights of performing, Matt will hang around to present a free master class on Sunday, also at the AQ (12:30-2 pm).

And augmenting Chicago-based, St Paul native saxophonist Pat Mallinger’s annual Thanksgiving weekend, the AQ welcomes home another restless native, internationally renowned pianist Bill Carrothers (November 25-26). Carrothers fills clubs (real jazz clubs) all over Europe. Kenny snags him every chance he gets.

Of course in between the national acts, the AQ continues to present the best of the Twin Cities, be it Pete Whitman’s X-Tet or Phil Hey Quartet for their monthly Thursday night gigs, the weekly funky blues and grit of the Tuesday Night Band, the weekend blasts with Bryan Nichols, the Atlantis Quartet, Red Planet, Debbie Duncan and more, or the bimonthly presentation of “Young Artists.”


Jazz is alive at the Artists Quarter, from coast to coast and from down the street.

For updated calendar and more information, visit http://www.artistsquarter.com/


Photos: (Top to bottom) Eddie Gomez at the AQ in September; Matt Slocum (coming October 21-22); Wallace Roney (coming October 19); Bill Carrothers (coming with Pat Mallinger on November 25-26) (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jazz Face: Bobb Fantauzzo

© Andrea Canter

Bobb Fantauzzo is a many of many flutes. Each flute generates a slightly different face, I would guess a slightly different embouchure given the varying sizes of the wooden cylinders and their mouthpieces. For his performance tonight at The Nicollet with the trio Jazz Zen (electric cellist Aaron Kerr, drummer Darren Pinto), Bobb brought along seven or eight diverse-looking instruments in the flute family, and said it was just a fraction of his collection. Maybe one looked somewhat like the familiar C flute we see in symphonies and jazz ensembles. Others were as long as a tenor sax and played straight down like an oboe (who could reach it if held horizontally?), short like an alto recorder, embellished with blade like projections on the bottom, thin or thick in diameter. And Bobb is the only flautist I have seen who transforms the woodwind into a percussion instrument—hitting it against his hand. Different flutes, different slaps.

So what sort of music is generated by the merger of wooden flutes, electric cello and drums? Very cool. Very other-worldly, folkloric, even when taking on Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Mostly the band plays original music, as on their new recording, Bounce Off the Moon. But their “Footprints”—talk about Jazz Zen!



Photo: Bobb Fantauzzo on one of his many wood flutes at The Nicollet, September 20, 2011. (photo by Andrea Canter)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jazz Face: Gary Schulte



© Andrea Canter

It seems a long concerto away from Indiana University and classical violin studies to Prairie Home Companion and “Gypsy Mania.” Perhaps bringing his swinging 4-string orchestra to an intimate concert stage is the perfect compromise for Gary Schulte. From gigs with the Twin Cities Hot Club and Sidewalk Café to duets with the likes of Robert Bell and Reynold Philipsek, Gary mesmerizes with his face as much as with his violin. You can see the music with every note. Last night he was the featured guest with vocalist Pippi Ardennia at her PipJazz series at Landmark Center. And it wasn’t all hot club fare—Schulte paid homage to the great Wes Montgomery with “Road Song.” Still, it was “Gypsy Mania” that brought down the house.


Photo: Gary Schulte on the stage of the Weyerhauser Auditorium at Landmark Center, September 18, 2011. (Photo by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, September 16-22





















© Andrea Canter

Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that is often true in jazz where the ensemble sound and creativity transcend what any individual can bring to the stage or studio. Such is the coming week in Twin Cities jazz—perhaps more so than usual.

A much anticipated collaboration, the new Bryan Nichols Trio debuts at the Artists Quarter this weekend (9/16-17) with Nichols on piano, Anthony Cox on bass and Dave King on drums. Nichols has been on a nearly vertical trajectory over the past few years, best documented by his recent, first recording as leader, Bright Places. The alum of Betty Carter’s famed Jazz Ahead program (and otherwise without a formal jazz education), Bryan is nothing short of brilliant as a composer and improviser. Which puts him in good company with his internationally acclaimed cohorts. Modern improvisers also mark the return of the Community Pool: Deep End series at the Black Dog, this Friday night (9/16) with Erik Fratzke (guitar), Nathan Hanson (saxophones), Brian Roessler (bass), Pete Hennig and Peter Leggett (drums).

Collaboration celebrating collaboration is the theme of the opening concert in the Jazz@ St. Barney’s series at St. Barnabas Church in Plymouth Saturday night (9/17). Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé were long one of the most charming singer/composer teams. Their duets are recalled by the vocal team of Maud Hixson and Jason Richards, accompanied by Maud’s life and frequent work partner, pianist Rick Carlson. Collaborative connections all around. This is an inexpensive, casual series with an early evening start (7 pm)… which means you can easily get back to town for a late set at a Twin Cities club. St. Barney’s focus this year is on vocal jazz—Connie Evingson, Bruce Henry and more are on the season schedule.

The Dakota hosts a unique collaboration Saturday (9/17) when organist Lincoln Berry makes a rare appearance with three top voices—Debbie Duncan, Dorothy Doring and Donald Thomas. Over his career---from the Twin Cities to Denver to Dayton and back, Berry has backed the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Sonny Stitt and B.B. King. Add to his gospel and blues flavors the diverse vocal talents of Debbie, Dorothy and Donald (who also handles the drum kit)—sounds like a fun evening.

And speaking of jazz vocalists, Sunday (9/18) is the September installment of PipJazz at Landmark Center, this concert featuring Pippi Ardennia’s songs, a hot band led by Peter Schimke, and special guest, violinist Gary Schulte. Pippi has one of those voices that morphs to fit any context, be it the blues, a ballad, swing or soul. And Schulte is particularly adept at the gypsy jazz repertoire, which he often performs with Twin Cities Hot Club, Parisota Hot Club, Sidewalk Café and more. But I suspect he is no stranger to Bach. PipJazz is also an early evening venture (5 pm), perfect on a work or school night.

Midweek (9/20-21) brings one of the most talked about new ensembles, James Farm, to the Dakota. This is a true collective with Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland, making it almost a mini-SF Jazz collective as all but Parks have been (or continue to be) affiliated with that acclaimed ensemble. Coming together two years ago, touring and recording their first CD in the past year, James Farm features original compositions from each musician and the fine art of in-the-moment improvisation. And you won’t find four more accomplished musicians on one stage.

Another interesting collaboration is Jazz Zen, the aptly named trio of world flutes (Bobb Fantauzzo), cello (Aaron Kerr) and drums (Derrin Pinto). They bring their unique blend of Native American folkloric sounds and post bop explorations to The Nicollet Tuesday night (9/20), which has to be one of the top bargains (no cover) in local jazz. Check out their recent release, Bounce Off the Moon. The Nicollet is offering jazz every Tuesday.

Fun and swing at the Aster Café Thursday night (9/22) when Rhonda Laurie and Sidewalk Café (Reynold Philipsek, Jeff Brueske, Gary Schulte) get together. The music goes well beyond typical gypsy jazz, taking Django ahead a few decades, and delightfully so. And the Aster is a very cool venue for this music, snuggled into the bricks and riverfront of Main Street.

More Jazz!
Keep up with the Twin Cities’ jazz scene with the jazz calendar on the KBEM website. Some recommendations:


Monday, September 19: Maud Hixson and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Charmin Michelle and Rick Carlson, Musique Mystique at the Loring Pasta Bar; Trevor Haining at Jazz Central

Tuesday, September 20: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Acme Jazz Company with Arne Fogel at the Shorewood; Tuesday Salon (new music) at Studio Z; Jack Brass at the Driftwood

Wednesday, September 21: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; Chris Thomson Quartet at Café Maude; Paul Metzger and Milo Fine at the Nomad World Pub; Steve Kenny and the Bastids, followed by the Dave Karr Quartet at the Artists Quarter

Thursday, September 22: James Buckley Trio at Hell’s Kitchen ; Christine Rosholt Quartet at Honey

Coming Soon!
• September 23, Theo Blackmann at Macalester
• September 23-24, Jim Snidero at the Artists Quarter
• September 24, Dave King Trucking Company at Studio Z
• 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 28, Jane Monheit 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, Connie Evingson and the John Jorgenson Quintet at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• 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 7-8, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
• October 9, PipJazz at Landmark Center with Irv Williams
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale and Dave Stryker at the Dakota
• October 13, U of M Jazz Bands, Salute to Art Blakey at Ted Mann
• October 16, Soul Café at Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church
• October 20, REEL Jazz at the Trylon Cinema, films by Bob DeFlores
• October 21-22, Matt Slocum Trio at the Artists Quarter
• October 22, Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
• October 22, Seven Steps to Havna at Studio Z
• October 24, Dead Cat Bounce at Studio Z
• October 26, Bryan Nichols at Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music
• October 28, Herbie Hancock Solo Piano at Orchestra Hall
• November 1, John Scofield Quartet at the Dakota
• November 12, Insurgent (Pat Moriarty, Ellen Lease, Phil Hey) at Studio Z
• November 16, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• December 25-27, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)







Photos: (Top to bottom) Bryan Nichols; Pippi Ardennia; Gary Schulte; Eric Harland (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Jazz Face: Chrstian Howes




© Andrea Canter

This may be as close as I come to a Tweet. And I doubt I will post it every day. But at least regularly I plan to put a “jazz face” on the blog with a brief comment.

I think he has one of the most expressive musical faces in modern jazz. Christian Howes can do anything with a violin, some of which might make Stradivarius shudder (there’s the electric cord, of course, and then the loops). But his face seems as much a part of his music as his four strings and bow. On his recent visit to the Artists Quarter, his loops added mystery to “Nardis” and his original compositions sometimes seemed closer to Stravinsky than Coleman. “Jazz is attitude, approach, mindset…,” he told us. And you could see it as well as hear it.


Photo: Christian Howes at the Artists Quarter. This is from his fall 2010 visit -- my mom particularly likes this one. (Photo by Andrea Canter)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eddie Gomez: Everything I Want to Know About Jazz Bass






© Andrea Canter

Everything I want to know about jazz bass, I can learn from Eddie Gomez. How the bassist sets the pulse, how the bassist keeps everyone in time, how the bassist sets the artistic tone and feel, how the bassist augments the melodic direction, how the bass can sing a line or become a chordal support system. The only thing I can’t figure out from Eddie Gomez is why so many “listeners” tune out during the bass solo. When Gomez solos, there should be a bright spotlight.

Fortunately Eddie Gomez played Thursday night at the Artists Quarter where, by and large, the bass solo gets as much respect as the main theme. For one thing, the AQ isn’t the sort of place you go to just to hang out—it’s not glitzy, there’s no food (beyond take-out from neighboring joints), there’s no special beer or wine list. People come to the AQ to listen to jazz. And then there’s Davis Wilson, the “man at the door” who doubles as emcee and sternly cautions the audience to “sit back and listen to these cats” without adding their conversations to the mix. Davis’s warnings were not necessary Thursday night, as Gomez and his sterling partners (pianist Stefan Karlsson and drummer Rodrigo Villanueva) held our rapt attention through two strong sets, from the first swinging notes of “On Green Dolphin Street” to the last sharp syncopations of “Solar.” In between we were treated to a master class in double-stops, hopscotch walking basslines, cello-like bowing, and telepathic trio empathy.

It wasn’t all Eddie Gomez. A Swede now based in Texas, Karlsson proved to be not only a stellar interpreter but a thoughtful composer as well, drawing particular applause for the exquisite dissonant voicings and Jarrettish lyricism of his “Tri-Kings.” And Villanueva was a man of many moods and many tools, using a variety of sticks, mallets and brushes for both subtle and aggressive play, particularly assertive on “All Blues” with rimshots, vibrating cymbals and fearsome rattles on the snare and toms.

Most often, visiting artists who come to the AQ find local talent to fill out the ensemble, and most of the time, it works well. But hearing a band as the leader intended—with long-standing cohorts who know each other’s artistic mindset—is a treat in any situation, and with the Eddie Gomez Trio, the perfect context for a bass lesson.



Photos: (Top to bottom) Eddie Gomez; Stefan Karlsson; Rodrigo Villanueva, at the Artists Quarter on September 8, 2011. (All photos by Andrea Canter)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, September 9-15






















© Andrea Canter

After four days of multi-staged music in Detroit, I have to get back to reality. But it’s a pleasing reality in the Twin Cities, from violin virtuoso Christian Howes to local favorites Joel Shapira, Maud Hixson, Phil Hey and more. And it’s another festival weekend, with the annual Selby Av Jazz Festival on Saturday and the Lowertown Concrete and Grass Festival all weekend.

The Selby Avenue Jazz Festival (9/10) is held every September at the intersection of Milton and Selby Avenues in the heart of St. Paul. This is a true family-oriented community event, featuring not only music drawn primarily from the talents in the area, but activities to attract the attention of the youngest (and oldest!). Dick and Jane’s Brass Band kicks off the afternoon with a bit of Second Line fun, and the line-up includes faculty from Walker West Music Academy, a showcase of vocalists bringing to life the music and times of such legends as Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, the infectious rhythms of Salsa del Soul, and this year’s headliner, the funky dazzle of saxophonist Gerald Albright.

In Lowertown, from Friday through Sunday (9/9-11), it’s an eclectic salute to metro music via the annual Concrete and Music Grass Festival at Mears Park. Jazz is represented on Saturday afternoon with the teens of Bomba de Luz (billed as “rock/jazz”) and the veterans of Brazilian music, Alma Brasiliera (Joan Griffith, Clea Galhano, Lucia Newell). The remaining line-up covers it all, from rock to pop to classical.

Christian Howes played one glorious night at the Artists Quarter last fall, so it’s a treat to have the violinist (and bassist) return for the weekend (9/9-10). His latest album, Out of the Blue, covers Chick Corea, Fats Domino, Carla Bley, and Ornette Coleman, at times sounding like 21st century improvisation, at other times sounding like backcountry fiddling.






Modern improvisation hits a high mark Saturday night (9/10) with Merciless Ghost (George Cartwright on saxophones, Josh Granowski on bass and Davu Seru on drums and percussion) at the Black Dog. Grab one of the microbrews, a Cuban sandwich, and a small table by the stage and sit back for a rewarding evening.

The Musique Mystique series continues on Mondays at the Loring Pasta Bar, with Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson (9/12) in the intimate space of the second floor “Chambre Rouge.” And Maud of course can bring authenticity to anything French, having worked as a French interpreter in another life. But whatever the language, Maud brings her own interpretation to great songs from any era. And Rick? I swear he can pull sound from the piano without even touching a key.

A few years ago, KBEM Jazz 88 initiated the REEL Jazz film series, bringing a variety of indie films on jazz subjects to the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, and more recently, to the Trylon “micro cinema” in east Minneapolis. The fall 2011 season opens at the Trylon on Thursday (9/15) with Life After Django Reinhardt, featuring commentary from guitarists influenced by Django as they assemble for a 100th anniversary tour honoring the father of gypsy jazz. Tickets available online from KBEM. The film should end in plenty of time to catch the Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter. It’s easy to take this band for granted given their almost monthly booking at the AQ, but don’t—this is some of the most sophisticated and cool jazz played in this area by four veterans who manage to keep the music fresh and frisky at all times.

More!
Check out the jazz calendar on the KBEM website for more jazz opportunities. Some recommendations:
Friday, September 9: Debbie Duncan with Adi Yeshaya at Hell’s Kitchen; Joel Shapira Trio at Shanghai Bistro (Stillwater); Arne Fogel and Kristin Sponcia at Ingredients Café (White Bear Lake); Lee Engele and Joan Griffith at Mendoberri’s (Mendota Heights)





Saturday, September 10: Charmin Michelle and Joel Shapira at Midtown Global Market (12:30 pm); Mary Louise Knutson, happy hour at The Marsh; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar, St Paul Hotel; Petersons (Patty, Ricky, Paul and Jason) at School II Bistro (Chanhassan).




Sunday, September 11: Mindfulness Meditations in Schools Project with a seven-hour performance by percussionist Marc Anderson and a number of guests, including Dean Magraw, J.D. Steele, Michelle Kinney, Dan Newton, JT Bates, Erik Fratzke and more (1-8 pm); Arne Fogel and Jennifer Eckes at Honey with special guests Rick Carlson and Rhonda Laurie





Monday, September 12: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Improvised Music with Milo Fine, Scott Newell, Davu Seru and Charles Gillette at Homewood Studios; Patrick Harrison and Kip Jones at Barbette




Tuesday, September 13: Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter; Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; John Penny at The Nicollet; Jack Brass at the Driftwood




Wednesday, September 14: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by Media Addicts at the Artists Quarter; Nomad World Pub Jazz Series with the Jeremy Boettcher Eau Claire Quartet; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza




Thursday, September 15: Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Nonna Rosa’s (Robbinsdale); Sophia Shorai at Barbette; Christine Rosholt fronts Beasley’s Big Band at the Wabasha Street Caves; Dean Magraw with Michael Bissonnette and Bruce Kurnow at the 318 Cafe' (Excelsior)

Coming Soon!
• 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, Theo Blackmann at Macalester
• 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 28, Jane Monheit 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 7-8, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
• October 9, PipJazz at Landmark Center
• October 10, Rondi Charleston with Lynne Arriale at the Dakota
• October 16, Soul Café at Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church
• October 21-22, Matt Slocum Trio at the Artists Quarter
• 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 16, Al Jarreau at the Pantages Theater
• December 25-27, The Bad Plus at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)






Photos: (top to bottom) Christian Howes; Gerald Albright; Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson; Phil Hey (all photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not Heat, Rain, Wind or Presidents! Nothing Really Stops Jazz in Detroit
















© Andrea Canter

Yes. The Detroit Jazz Festival came to a thunderous halt on its second night, thanks to a torrential downpour and ferocious winds that forced cancellation of the final two rounds of music. And yes. This marked the first time in the festival’s 32-year history that Mother Nature pre-empted the schedule of North America’s largest free jazz festival. But it was a temporary setback. Kenny Werner and Toots Thielmans had to cut short their elegant duo as the Waterfront Stage became the Water Logged stage; Dave Holland took his octet into the jazz room of the nearby Marriott for an impromptu late night “rain date,” while Jason Moran (with Bandwagon and twin sons in tow) opted for a raincheck; and the Sun Ra Arkestra played unplugged til the official ax fell on the Carharrt Amphitheater.

But come Sunday, with much cooler temps, some errant sprinkles and a brief afternoon shower, there was no stopping the music. In the Talk Tent, Amina Figarova, Anat Cohen, and Yocouba Sissoko discussed jazz in the context of gender, culture and politics. (For Cohen, “music is about peace, music survives political oppression.”) On the Pyramid Stage, local favorites Hot Club of Detroit, boasting the most recent Thelonious Monk Sax Competition winner, Jon Irabagon, brought ultra modern edges to the gypsy jazz tradition, and featured special guest, French vocalist Cyrille Aimee, who went “solo” as she engaged in a four-part harmonic experiment with self-generated loops. (Was that Django turning in his grave?) Surely one of the most exiting sets of the weekend, Anat Cohen and her quartet turned raindrops into steam, turned the Pyramid Stage into a classy jazz club; Anat doesn’t just play clarinet and soprano sax, she literally dances with her instruments. Relatively more subdued but engaging in his own way, saxophonist Steve Wilson took us into the evening at the Pyramid with ample support from Orrin Evans, Ugonna Okwego and Clarence Penn.

One of a handful of vibes specialists on hand this weekend, Joe Locke elevated the famed Airmen of Note on the Carharrt Stage, where a bit later Artists in Residence Jeff “Tain” Watts rocked the amphitheater with Marcus Strickland, Lawrence Fields, and Christian McBride, followed by the much anticipated exhilaration of Joe Lovano’s Us Five. The Mack Avenue Waterfront Stage, the one shady spot along the Detroit River, was nearly ablaze Sunday, with Amina Figarova’s Sextet taking us on a global journey through soaring, original compositions; Detroit native Regina Carter melded African and American roots with her Reverse Thread project; virtuosic ham Paquito D’Rivera and inventive pianist Vijay Iyer continued a cross-cultural parade on the waterfront that moved to Chase Main Stage with the great Brazilian songwriter/singer Ivan Lins closing out the night.

Monday’s early sets were challenging—the weather was cool and generally a relief from the excesses of the weekend but, Labor Day in Detroit means a parade adjacent to the festival grounds, and for the second time in three years, a visit from President Obama that prompted road closures around the perimeter of downtown. (If you have been pondering the purchase of a GPS, this was a defining moment.) Thus Gary Burton’s New Quartet, playing on the Carhartt Stage (too) early in the afternoon, did not draw as well as it should have, but there were many rewards for those in the audience as Burton, Julian Lage, Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez offered breath-taking tunes from their new Mack Ave release. One of the most exciting of the college bands to play at Carhartt, the Northern Illinois University ensemble not only romped through such tunes as “Cottontail” and “On Green Dolphin Street,” but ably supported Paquito D’Rivera and bounced back from a mid-tune drenching when a gust of wind turned the stage’s canvas roof into a sudden waterfall.

There was a lot more music throughout the weekend, from local students and local legends to an array of Midwest college big bands to such fast rising national talents as pianists Helen Sung and Aaron Diehl and vocalists Sachal Vasandani and Champian Fulton. If the weather and Secret Service barricades cut down attendance, there was no decline in the spirit of the Detroit Jazz Festival. The official merchandise tent was nearly sold out; there were long lines to purchase CDs and collect autographs at the CD tents; there were generally good crowds at every stage throughout the weekend; the army of orange-shirted festival volunteers kept everyone informed, safe, and orderly, and almost always with a smile.

There continue to be serious economic and social challenges to the well-being of Detroiters, but to paraphrase Anat Cohen, music survives challenging times. Once again, Detroit “brought us the world,” with jazz providing a blueprint for global harmony.




Photos: (top to bottom) The final two days of the Detroit Jazz Festival included Yocouba Sissoko (Regina Carter's Reverse Thread project); Joe Locke performing with the Airmen of Note; Amina Figarova; Anat Cohen; Gary Burton with Julian Lage (all photos by Andrea Canter, September 4-5)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Night the Music Stopped in Detroit






















© Andrea Canter



This is my fourth consecutive Detroit Jazz Festival and I have always been amazed at the weather--I've only sat through one rainy set and we had some off and on drizzle another afternoon. Until tonight. Fortunately I had taken a break to meet friends for a bite so I was not actually caught by the storm that roared through downtown Detroit early this evening. But it looked like the photos of Hurricane Irene for a good 20 minutes. We splashed our way back to the Waterfront Stage--now the Waterlogged Stage. We waited as staff pulled plastic tarps on all instruments and equipment. We crossed our fingers that the predicted second wave would not pre-empt Jason Moran and Bandwagon, or the Dave Holland Octet. But soon the announcement that all remaining music was canceled. (Later, though, I got a media advisory that the Holland set reconvened at the Volt jazz club in the Marriott an hour late. By then, we were long gone.)

One of the volunteers told me that, in 20 years, he had never seen this festival actually shut down due to weather. I've been impressed with all the outdoor jazz festivals I have attended that this doesn't happen more often--especially given the summer dates. I remember a sudden downpour prompting the audience to gather at Mose Allison's feet, squeezing ourselves onto the stage at Mears Park in St Paul during one Twin Cities Jazz Festival. I remember sitting huddled under an umbrella to hear the final tunes of Dewey Redman set when the TC Festival was held on Peavy Plaza. And I remember waiting out a long rain delay in a campus bar at the Iowa City Jazz Festival. But never a total wipe out.

But one great thing about the Detroit Festival is its 3 1/2 days of nonstop music. There will be more on Sunday and Monday. And what we've heard so far makes the trip worthwhile already: A powerful threesome of vocalists opening the festival to "Sing the Truth"--Diane Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright, with a band that included Geri Allen on piano and Terri Lynne Carrington on drums; a double dose of Sean Jones fronting the Detroit Civic Jazz Orchestra and leading his own sparkling quintet; the ageless Curtis Fuller with a sexet boasting a St Paul favorite, saxophonist Eric Alexander and his frequent cohort Mike LeDonne on piano; the charming and golden-voiced Brazilian Lucian Souza; the perfect partnership of Kenny Werner and 89-year-old Toots Thielmans. And so much more to come, weather permitting (Joe Lovano's Us Five, Vijay Iyer, Amina Figarova, Ivan Lins, Anat Cohen, etc.

And I take some comfort knowing that a Big Ten football game in Ann Arbor was also cut short this evening. For once, jazz and football got equal treatment.






Photos: (top to bottom) Lizz Wright in a quiet moment during the Sing the Truth set with Dianne Reeves and Angelique Kidjo on opening night; Sean Jones on the Cartharrt stage; Rombero Lubambo and Luciana Souza on the Pyramid Stage; Curtis Fuller on the Mack Ave Waterfront Stage; Toots Thielmans on the soon-t0-be-waterlogged Waterfront Stage (all photos by Andrea Canter, September 2-3)



























Thursday, September 1, 2011

Detroit's Annual Block Party









© Andrea Canter

The forecast for the Twin Cities says scattered thunderstorms for Friday. That means a lot of finger-crossing, weather map pondering, and figuring out the best timing for our private plane departure for Detroit and the 32nd annual Detroit Jazz Festival, one of the largest in the world and the largest free jazz festival in North America. I can hardly wait to join about 750,000 jazz fans in Motor City.


For most of the year, Detroit is an unlikely destination. But come Labor Day Weekend, it is Mecca for jazz fans and really, for anyone who enjoys a community-based cultural experience unlike any other. It’s free. There are no tickets to reserve in advance, no tiered seating arrangements beyond the first few rows in the largest arenas which are set aside for donors. (And VIPs in Detroit give as little as $100, so VIP seating is not limited to the rich and famous.) In sum, Detroit provides an opportunity for anyone and everyone to come out and hear the best jazz musicians in the world as well as the best of the eclectic music scene in Detroit. And at least for one long weekend, anyone and everyone come to the heart of the city, and we all get along. Their slogan—“We Bring You the World.” It could just as easily be, “We Are the World, As the World Should Be.”

Who’s on the schedule this year? Well, Dave Brubeck, at 90+, had to bow out, doctors orders to restrict his traveling. I’ll miss hearing him again (he was at Detroit two years ago) but there’s so much going on otherwise: The festival opens with Artist-in-Residence Jeff “Tain” Watts in a percussion extravaganza featuring Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Susie Ibarra and Joe Locke, followed by a limited-run tour putting Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright together to “Sing the Truth!” as the legacies of Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta. Opening night is always a huge draw with no competing stages.

Saturday—Trombone legend Curtis Fuller, Dave Holland’s acclaimed Octet, Sean Jones Quintet, Downbeat Artist of the Year Jason Moran’s Bandwagon, Toots Thielmans with Kenny Werner, the Sun Ra Arkestra, young vibes sensation Warren Wolf, Grammy-winning vocalist Luciana Souza.

Sunday –Hometown favorite Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread, clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen and her quartet; Latin jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera and his quintet, Amina Figarova and her sextet (hot off their September 1 Dakota gig), the Vijay Iyer Trio, Ivan Lins (enroute to his Dakota gig!), Watts again with his quartet, Steve Wilson’s Wilsonian Grain, Joe Lovano’s Us Five .

Monday (cooling off, says the weather forecast, but not on these stages)—The New Gary Burton Quartet (did you catch them at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival?), the Steeles (yep, our Twin Cities Steeles), fast-rising piano star Helen Sung, and the festival finale, the Detroit Festival Orchestra Plays the Music of Christian McBride, with special guest, Ernie Andrews.

These are the musicians on the three main stages, but throughout the weekend, there’s more music featuring college bands, student stages, the Kid Bop Tent and the Talk Tent where many of the featured artists will be interviewed.


My favorite things about the Detroit Jazz Festival--after the music?


  • The very friendly, helpful volunteers. Detroit might have the best prepared, jazz-happy, people-oriented army of volunteers at any festival I've attended. And a lot of them.

  • The wide range of concessions of all kinds, from food and beverages that cover all ethnicities, diets (well, most) and price ranges to CDs, t-shirts and jazz-related memorabilia

  • The generally clean festival grounds and facilities against the backdrop of the Detroit River, Windsor, Canada and the modern skyscrapers above Hart Plaza

  • The upbeat spirit of local Detroiters and visitors, making this weekend as joyful off stage as on stage

You don’t even have to be in Detroit to enjoy the festival. Check out JazzPlanet.TV (the festival’s streaming news and music corner) where you can join Christian McBride, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and many more festival artists on the Red Carpet, Saturday (September 3) at 3:30 EST. Also new this year, Jazz Planet After Hours, Friday (September 2) and Sunday (September 4), live at midnight (EST) from the Marriott Volt, home of the festival jam sessions. Hosted by festival Artistic Director, Terri Pontremoli, After Hours will include lifestyle conversations with Amina Figarova, Anat Cohen, Dominick Farinacci, Aaron Diehl and many more. (You can get a preview of this year’s artists by checking into JazzPlanet ahead of the festival stream-casts.)

Still, I hope for clear skies and my fourth Detroit Jazz Festival up close and personal. With luck, I’ll be chatting with Maryann Sullivan on KBEM, Saturday night’s Corner Jazz, “live from Detroit.”


Photos: (Top to bottom) Dianne Reeves at the 2008 Detroit Jazz Festival; Regina Carter at the Dakota; the New Gary Burton Quartet at the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. (All photos by Andrea Canter). Visit Jazz Police for slide shows of the 2009 and 2010 Detroit Jazz Festivals.