© Andrea Canter
Some of the best of the area’s experimentalists, plus sterling guitar, Latin percussion and soaring vocals, punctuate this week’s jazzy offerings as we head fully into spring… or is this summer?
Highlights This Week
May 4. Just this week I received a press release from a New York agent with a heads up about a late summer Midwest Tour for locally based free-improvisers Merciless Ghost. The press release described the ensemble as “a ‘free jazz’ trio in the best sense of the term, which is to say that it is devoted to the spirit of group improvisation and the sometimes agonizing struggle to speak using one’s own voice.” Here, we don’t have to wait til late summer, these guys (George Cartwright on saxophones, Josh Granowski on bass, and Davu Seru on drums) take their spirit and struggle to the Black Dog as part of the Community Pool/Deep End series of experimental music curated by Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler.
May 4. “Tortoise and Minneapolis Jazz All-Stars” make it a wild night at the Walker. Tortoise is based in Chicago, a band that defies classification with its trademark melding of “jazz, rock, electronica, dub, dance, ambient and minimalism.” Tonight they join forces with local “all-stars: Douglas Ewart, Michael Lewis, Michelle Kinney and JT Bates.
May 4-5. You may have enjoyed the Dean Magraw/Bryan Nichols duo at Café Maude; you likely have enjoyed Dean and Bryan in their own ensembles; and if you have ever set foot in the Artists Quarter, you have heard the rhythm team of Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst. So why not put them all together and turn them loose? This new quartet launches what we hope will be a long collaboration at the Artists Quarter this weekend.
May 6. The date was switched recently, from two nights to one, but hopefully that will not interfere with your enjoyment of one of the best, maybe the best, Latin jazz band on the scene today. The master conguero Poncho Sanchez returns to the Dakota with his long-standing cohorts - Francisco Torres (trombone), Ron Blake (trumpet), Javier Vergara (saxophones), David Torres (piano), Tony Banda (bass), George Ortiz (timbales), and Joey De León (bongos & percussion). Pamela Espeland reviewed their 2010 visit for Jazz Police, commenting, “What a pleasure. Unless you don’t enjoy the head-nodding, foot-tapping, hip-shaking—oh, just get up and dance, will you?—sounds of Latin jazz, you simply can’t go wrong with this band.”
May 7. The Monday night series of jazz and jams continues at Jazz Central, the best kept secret on the Twin Cities jazz scene. Tonight enjoy multi-reed master Doug Haining out of the context of his Twin Cities Seven and working quintet, mixing it up with Tanner Taylor, Mac Santiago and more. Doug’s most recent exploits include turning ears at the French Quarter Jazz Festival and bringing the music of Cannonball Adderley to life at the AQ.
May 8. As guitar trios go, this is one of the best. In fact , Framework is two-thirds of another hot guitar trio, Red Planet. Chris Bates and Jay Epstein must be the go-to team for jazz guitar, here keeping company with Chris Olson. The band sizzles with original compositions and sublime interpretations of jazz greats, and brings their magic to the Black Dog for some midweek mischief. Not too far away, the Artists Quarter hosts a rare appearance from the Tommy O’Donnell Trio (with Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey), a one-time fixture on the scene to be savored every time they reunite.
May 9. Sultry and sassy, vocalist Jana Nyberg headlines another “Foodie Night” at the Dakota, and her “Group” provides starbright backing with husband/trumpeter Adam Meckler, guitarist Evan Montgomery, bassist Matt Peterson and one of her rotating drummers—Greg Schutte, Derek Drieer or Jake Nyberg. During the day, Jana teaches at the St Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts; but come nightfall, she’s a daring interpreter of jazz and pop fare.
May 10. Jazz Thursdays series at MacPhail was shorter than usual this year but it will end on a high-spirited note with the Dakota Combo on stage in Antonello Hall. The high school ensemble has had an exciting year so far, including performing on a MacPhail Spotlight concert with New York saxophonist Adam Niewood, on the Dakota Stage with Dave Karr and wunderkind Grace Kelly, and participating in Connie Evingson’s Generations of Jazz at the Jungle Theater. And this is a freebie. Across the river, jazz vocal coach supreme Phil Mattson brings his latest edition of the Phil Mattson Singers to the Artists Quarter –six voices supported by Phil’s luxurious piano.
More Jazz Every Night
Don’t miss a beat, check the live jazz calendar from Bebopified and posted on Jazz Police. Some additional recommendations:
Friday, May 4. Charmin Michelle at The Lexington; Joanne Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Hamline Jazz Spring Concert in the Klass Student Center at Hamline University; Todd Clouser Duo and Tonic Trio at the Aster Café; New Standards at the Dakota
Saturday, May 5. Joanne Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Lila Ammons Quintet at Honey; Debbie Duncan at The Lexington; Le Jazz Cool All-Stars at Vincent’s
Sunday, May 6. Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café (brunch); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Charmin Michelle and the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom
Monday, May 7. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Tuesday, May 8. Cory Wong Quartet at the Artists Quarter (early set); Lila Ammons Trio at The Nicollet; Jack Brass Band at the Driftwood Charbar.
Wednesday, May 9. Steve Kenny and the Bastids, followed by Media Addicts at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Reuben Ristrom at School II Bistro; Davu Seru, Dean Magraw and James Buckley at Nomad World Pub
Thursday, May 10. Joann Funk Trio at The Lexington; Zacc Harris Trio at the Red Stag; Debbie Duncan at Hell’s Kitchen
· May 11, Evan Christopher, free public workshop at MacPhail (4 pm)
· May 11-12, Zacc Harris Group CD Release at the Artists Quarter
· May 12, Evan Christopher with Lee Engele & Trad All-Stars at the Hopkins Center for the Arts
· May 13, Jeanne and Patty Peterson, Mothers’ Day Brunch at the Dakota
· May 13, Debbie Duncan with PipJazz Sundays at Landmark Center
· May 13, Nancy Harms at the Dakota
· May 17, Snowblind at the Artists Quarter
· May 19, Rhonda Laurie at Jazz@ St Barneys (St Barnabus Center for the Arts)
· May 19, Reynold Philipsek CD release at the Aster Café
· May 20-21, Ramsey Lewis Electric Band at the Dakota
· May 26, Preservation Hall Jazz Band/New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at Orchestra Hall
· May 26-27, Eric Alexander at the Artists Quarter
· May 29, Vicky Mountain at the Artists Quarter
· June 1-2, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
· June 3, Sophie Millman at the Dakota
· June 15-16, Paul Bollenback at the Artists Quarter
· June 18-19, Stanley Clarke and George Duke at the Dakota
· June 22, A Love Electric/Adam Meckler Orchestra at the Ritz Theater
· June 28-30, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park (headliners Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; Delfeayo Marsalis; Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari)
· July 1-2, Bill Frisell at the Dakota
· September 4-5, Pat Metheny Unity Band at the Dakota
· September 26-27, Chick Corea and Gary Burton at the Dakota
· September 30, John Scofield Trio at the Dakota
· October 30-31, Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Dakota
Photos (top to bottom). Magraw/Nichols/Peterson/Horst (collage) at the Artists Quarter; George Cartwright; Doug Haining; Dakota Combo (at Washburn HS); Todd Clouser; Charmin Michelle with the Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra (photos by Andrea Canter)