Monday, February 27, 2012

Jazz Face: Red Holloway, 1927-2012





© Andrea Canter

One of the still-active veterans of bebop, saxophonist Red Holloway died on February 25th at age 84. And he went down swinging--he had been touring through September 2011 with the Lionel Hampton All-Stars and, although he had postponed some dates this winter, had some upcoming on his 2012 calendar.

Red was best known for his work with Sonny Stitt in the late 70s – early 80s, and more recently with Clark Terry and Kevin Mahogany. He was a favorite among vocalists like Etta James, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae and Jackie Ryan.

I saw Red at least twice in the past six or seven years, first at the Dakota Jazz Club with Kevin Mahogany and again, at the Dakota, last fall with the Lionel Hampton All-Stars tour. On that date he was on stage with Fred Wesley, Dianne Schuur, Jason Marsalis and a bunch of our Twin Cities horn stars—Pete Whitman, Adam Rossmiller, Kathy Jensen, Jeff Gottwig. Other than Wesley, Red had a good 30 years on the rest of the band, but he could swing as hard as any.


Photos: Red Holloway at the Dakota Jazz Club, September 27, 2011. Maybe one of Red's last gigs. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jazz Face: Heeeeere's Doc!



© Andrea Canter

My friend Joan says she has discovered the secret to eternal youth: Play the trumpet into your 80s and lead a band of hot talents half your age. That formula probably won’t work for most of us but it sure seems like the right recipe for Doc Severinsen, in town this past week leading his Big Band at the Dakota. At 84, Doc could have really retired after 30 years leading the Tonight Show Band, but in the 20 years since that gig ended, he has only been busier as leader of his own bands and frequent guest artist/conductor for bands and orchestras worldwide. And he can still blow the heck out of that trumpet, suggesting lung capacity of a 40-year-old.

The spring 2012 tour is Doc’s first outing with his Big Band in five years, and the two nights at the Dakota his only stop at a small venue. The stage was expanded for the night, and the brass section filled primarily with local talents (trumpeters Adam Rossmiller and Zack Lozier, trombonists Michael Nelson and Scott Agster); Mary Louise Knutson was particularly highlighted on piano. She’s signed on for the rest of the tour, while Dave Graf will fill in for Nelson in the coming week.

Saxophonist Ernie Watts is also a highlight of this tour, and at 67, the only other band member who appears eligible for an AARP card. But somehow I think it might be Doc Severinsen who is injecting eternal youth into this outfit!


Photo: Doc Severinsen at the Dakota, February 23, 2012. (Photo by Andrea Canter)

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, February 24-March 1













© Andrea Canter

It’s another one of those weekends when I will just have to accept missing out on something cool in order to not miss out on something cool. There should be no bored jazz fans this weekend, or into the following week either.

Highlights, This Week

February 24-25
. He doesn’t seem to perform that much these days, so don’t miss the master of odd meters, pianist Larry McDonough, with long-time cohort Richard Terrill on sax, jazzing up the west burbs at Three Crows in Delano Friday night (2/24). A legal aid attorney by day, McDonough’s arrangements and original compositions often come from unique sources as well as his own quirky ideas, like putting Monk and Brubeck together.

One of the area’s most popular vocalists/radio personalities returns to the Artists Quarter this weekend (2/24-25). Patty Peterson and Friends (Donnie LaMarca, Bobby Vandell, Billy Franze, Jason DeLaire, Paul Peterson) covers it all, from jazz to R&B to pop, and it always feels like a party. And with some “Westside tacos” on Saturday night, there’s even party flavors.

Saturday (2/25) brings more dilemmas! Start out with an afternoon of solo guitar with the sublime Dean Magraw at Hosmer Library in south Minneapolis. This is surely the bargain of the week—no cover! Dean is most often enjoyed in the context of his Red Planet trio or a duo with Davu Seru or tablist Marcus Weiss, or an area vocalist. The opportunity to hear him with just his own imagination and guitar is rare.

By evening the choices might be overwhelming: The spicy Atlantis Quartet, barely out of the studio as they prepare for a spring CD release, performs at Studio Z in Lowertown, the February installment of Jazz at Studio Z, curated by Atlantis leader Zacc Harris. With his fellow explorers Brandon Wozniak, Chris Bates and Pete Hennig, he’ll be introducing some new material. And before the evening gig gets underway, you can observe an open rehearsal (4 pm). Jazz@St. Barney’s presents Laura Caviani and Joan Griffith with Dave Schmalenberger reprising their “Sambanova” repertoire. Even if you have heard the album or earlier concerts, this music continues to grow with each performance and is unlike any other exploration of the Brazilian jazz idiom. And if you never heard this music before, it will be a revelation.

In Roseville, St. Michael’s Church might seem to be the unlikely venue for the music of Frank Sinatra, but pianist Richard Johnson (formerly with Wynton Marsalis, Russell Malone and Bobby Watson) and his trio will turn the church into a real jazz club for one night. Johnson is making the Twin Cities his second home in 2012 with his “Jazz Alive” series of monthly gigs. And on the U of M West Bank Campus, it’s the U of M Jazz Festival all day Saturday, culminating in an evening concert with Jazz Ensemble I and the fabulous Hornheads at Ted Mann, free and open to the public. And this is another ensemble we hear much too rarely these days, a brass-only quintet featuring the best in the area (Steve Strand, Dave Jensen, Kathy Jensen, Kenni Holmen and Michael Nelson.

Still all jazzed up by late evening? The original curator of Late Night at the Dakota, Jeremy Walker initiates yet another band, this one called Boot Camp, coming in at 11 pm for the Late Night slot Saturday and into the early hour of Sunday (following the mostly monthly night with keyboard giant Nachito Herrera). Boot Camp brings together Walker, Chris Thomson, Chris Bates and Jay Epstein for a nightcap of mayhem.

February 26. Northfield is just a nice country drive south of the Twin Cities, and on Sunday afternoon (2/26), the site of Laura Caviani’s first recital at St. Olaf (in Urness Recital Hall). She’s put together a play list from her recent forays into jazz arrangements of classical works, from Bach to Gershwin.

February 27. The Latin Jazz All-Stars, led by trombone master Steve Turre, return to the Dakota on Monday, ready to warm up any remaining chill in our strange Minnesota winter. Joining Turre are Ray Vega, Chembo Corniel, Yunior Terry, Benito Gonzalez, and Diego Lopez, all well-established practitioners of everything south of the border. You can’t help but be energized by this music. If you’re at the first set, you will be able to dash over to Northeast and hear Pete Whitman’s sessions at Jazz Central. We so often hear Pete’s saxophones and flute with large ensembles, from his X-Tet to JazzMN Orchestra, but he really shines in the small group context and intimate space of this gallery setting.

February 28. Come Tuesday, it’s a return visit to The Nicollet from Three Flights Up, featuring Don Stille, Dave Graf, Doug Haining, Don Stille, Michael Gold and Nathan Norman. They might need to rent some space “three flights up” to make room for the band! Expect some hard driving mainstream jazz and a very loyal group of swing dancers.

March 1. Maud Hixson opens the regular schedule of the new jazz series at The Lexington on Thursday, with husband Rick Carlson on keys. The Lex offers a comfortable clubby setting with music in the Williamsburg Room (adjacent to the bar), a nice piano, great food and/or cocktails, and tonight and Saturday (3/3), the best in intimate vocal jazz. The series continues with jazz (mostly vocal) on Thursdays and Saturdays, curated by the one and only Arne Fogel.

And perhaps the most anticipated jazz event of 2012 thus far, seriously amazing pianist/composer Vijay Iyer starts a two-night residency at the Walker (McGuire Theater) on Thursday, with a 3-set mini-festival (Iyer solo, Iyer in duo with trumpter Wadada Leo Smith, Iyer with his trio featuring Steven Crump and Marcus Gilmore). The fun continues Friday night (3/2) with another solo set, duo with Mike Ladd, and his Tirtha Trio.

More Jazz All Week
For the full story, always check the Twin Cities Live Jazz Calendar as well as updates on Jazz Police. More recommendations:

Friday, February 24: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota; Debbie Duncan and Dennis Spears at the Dakota; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen (Meridien/Chambers Hotel); Charmin Michelle and the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra, CD release at Medina Ballroom; Wolff Jabbr Quartet at the Black Dog

Saturday, February 25: James Allen and Tom Pieper at First Course Bistro; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen (Meridien/Chambers Hotel)

Sunday, February 26: Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Midtown Global Market (afternoon in the Atrium); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, February 27: Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza

Tuesday, February 28: Cory Wong Quartet followed by invitational jam at the Artists Quarter; Frankhouse at Hell’s Kitchen; Minnesota Youth Jazz Band at Famous Dave’s (Uptown); Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; Nova Jazz Orchestra at The Shorewood; Jack Brass at the Driftwood

Wednesday, February 29: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Modern Time (Vinnie Rose, Graydon Peterson, Adrian Suarez) at Café Maude; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by Media Addicts at the Artists Quarter

Coming Soon!
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 2-3, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 3, Head of the Waters Jazz Festival (John Fedchock guest artist) at University of Minnesota/Duluth
• March 4, Nathan Hanson’s Saxophone Choir with George Cartwright, Donald Washington, Pat Moriarty and more (TCJS, Jazz From J to Z) at Roseville Area High School
• March 7, Benny Golson and Nnenna Freelon at the Dakota
• March 8, TCJS Young Artists Series, the Dakota Combo at the Artists Quarter
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 9-10, Atlantis Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 11, PipJazz Sundays with Pippi Ardennia and Jason DeLaire
• March 11, Chris Bates Quintet Open Session II at Jazz Central
• March 12, Regina Marie Williams CD Release at the Dakota
• March 13, Graydon Peterson Quartet at The Nicollet
• March 13, James Blood Ullmer at the Dakota
• March 14, Leigh Kamman, KBEM Community Ed at South High School
• March 16-17, Richard Johnson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• March 20-21, Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba at the Dakota
• March 23-24, Bruce Henry at the Artists Quarter
• March 25, Chris Bates Quintet Open Session III at Jazz Central
• March 25-26, Hiromi Trio Project at the Dakota
• March 29, Pete Whitman X-Tet at the Artists Quarter
• March 31, Doug Little, Music of Roberto Fonseca, Jazz at Studio Z
. April 1, Jalala (Janis Siegel, Laurel Masse, Lauren Kinhan) at the Dakota

• April 6, Irvin Mayfield Quintet at Orchestra Hall
• April 10, Cory Wong and Peña (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at Minneapolis Southwest High School
• April 15, MacPhail Center for Music Combo Festival and Spotlight Concert featuring Adam Niewood, the Dakota Combo, and MacPhail Jazz Faculty
• April 21, JazzMN Orchestra with Terell Stafford at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• April 22, Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Fund Raiser at the Dakota
• April 22, Grace Kelly at the Dakota
• April 22, Doug Haining Quintet, Tribute to Cannonball Adderley (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at the Artists Quarter
• April 29-30, Steve Tyrell at the Dakota
• May 8-9, Poncho Sanchez at the Dakota
• May 20-21, Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Dakota
• May 26, Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Orchestra Hall
• June 28-30, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park (headliners Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; Delfeayo Marsalis Octet; Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari)
• July 1-2, Bill Frisell at the Dakota



Photos (top to bottom): Jeremy Walker launches Boot Camp at the Dakota; Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at The Lexington; Vijay Iyer comes to the Walker. (Photos by Andrea Canter)





Friday, February 17, 2012

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, February 17-23











© Andrea Canter

It’s a very densely packed weekend for jazz fans, from a hip CD release at the AQ to a rare performance by one of the area’s most highly regarded experimental jazz ensembles to a sublime vocal pairing at Orchestra Hall to the brief return of one of our beloved former residents and another production featuring a favorite duo + friend. If the weekend isn’t enough, we have a trio of top jazzers coming into Jazz Central Monday, a long-awaited return of one of the most popular vocalists of the early millennium, and a “homecoming” of sorts for one the nation’s most popular bandleaders. Good thing February is a short month!

Highlights This Week
Friday night (2/17), the Black Dog welcomes what might be the only 2012 appearance of the Fantastic Merlins, a quartet of improvisers that has redefined experimental chamber music. Saxophonist Nathan Hanson, bassist Brian Roessler, cellist Daniel Levin and drummer Pete Hennig follow a set by electronics wizard Tim Kaiser. Given the small seating area and the Merlins’ intense following, you are strongly advised to come early, grab a pizza or sandwich and stake out a table with good sightlines! Also on Friday night, vocalist Bruce Henry returns “home” to the Dakota one night of standards, bebop and a little R&B. Now based in Chicago, Bruce finds time to hit the Dakota and other stages about every other month.

A few blocks away (2/17-18), the Artists Quarter hosts the CD celebration for A Love Electric, guitarist Todd Clouser’s feisty ensemble now at home on the Royal Potato Family label. A Twin Cities native now based in Baja, Clouser has found a way to put jazz sensibilities into a 70s rock context that holds on strong to melodic elements. Planning three recordings this year, 20th Century Folk Selections is the first out the door, a studio effort that takes a broad view of “folk music” – traditional and culturally iconic works—and recasts the music in modern terms without losing track of the source. The recording includes local heroes Adam Meckler, Bryan Nichols and Greg Schutte, with another hometown star and frequent Clouser cohort Chris Bates joining the Local Electric for the weekend. Pearl Jam and Beastie Boys never sounded this cool.

Two productions that warrant attention Saturday night (2/18): Part of the Piper Jaffray Jazz Series, Orchestra Hall presents two of the outstanding vocalists of our time—Grammy-winning Kurt Elling and rising star Lizz Wright. They will each do their own set with their own musicians, but the common thread is vocal interpretation. Elling took vocalese from where Jon Hendricks left off to a new planet, while Wright unites the gospel music of her childhood with jazz and R&B flair. In Bloomington (Schneider Theater), crooner/radio host Arne Fogel delves into the film soundtracks of one of his most significant muses, Frank Sinatra. He’s given plenty of support from frequent partner Maud Hixson and under-presented singer Reeves Cary in “Frankie Went to Hollywood,” focusing on songs from the late 40s to early 60s movies that helped make Sinatra a household name.

Jazz Central has been the scene of some scorching sets and projects lately. On Monday night (2/20), it’s Framework’s threesome of Jay Epstein, Chris Olson and Chris Bates, and whoever drops in to jam on the late set. Each of these artists has been involved in some interesting projects lately, individually and together. As a trio, they recently worked with the Bach Society on a program melding jazz and Baroque. More likely, the Jazz Central night will feature their 21st century leanings. Even further up the improvising chain is the trio headed by French cellist Didier Petit (with Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler) at the Black Dog, also Monday night (2/20).

Nearly every Wednesday, the Wolverines Trio swings at Hell’s Kitchen, but this week (2/22) there’s an extra special guest—singer Sue (formerly Tucker) Oattes. One of the most popular jazz vocalists in the Twin Cities about five years ago, Sue took some time off for graduate studies and day job, but hopefully this marks a return to her singing career.

Doc Severinsen has made a number of appearances in the Twin Cities since his days on The Tonight Show, including leading the Pops programming at Orchestra Hall and appearing at the Dakota with his small Latin ensemble, El Ritmo de laVita. But the Doc Severinsen Big Band on the Dakota stage? Lowell Pickett swears they will fit when they make their Dakota debut February 22-23. Joining Doc at the Dakota and on tour this spring is our own piano star Mary Louise Knutson.

Last weekend, bassist Chris Bates stepped out in front to lead his own quintet in open rehearsal. Now he launches yet another ensemble dubbed “Good Vibes,” a trio with Dave Hagedorn and Phil Hey, with blast off at the Artists Quarter on Thursday (2/23).

More Jazz!
For the area’s most complete and updated jazz calendar, check out Twin Cities Live Jazz Calendar, now posted on Jazz Police as well as its home at Bebopified. (Thanks, Pamela!) Some further recommendations:

Friday, February 17: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, happy hour at the Dakota; Erin Schwab at Hell’s Kitchen; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Pau Hotel); Joel Shapira at Ingredients Café; Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Pardon My French; Patty Peterson and Friends at School II Bistro

Saturday, February 18: Charmin & Shapira, midday at Midtown Global Market; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Pau Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Patty Peterson at the Crooked Pint; LeCool Jazz All-Stars (Mary Louise Knutson +) at Vincent’s


Sunday, February 19: Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; Mardi Gras with Butch Thompson at the CSPS Sokal Hall (afternoon, St Paul); Capri Big Band at the Capri Theater (afternoon); Vocalessence and guests, “Witness: In the Spirit of Being” at Ordway (afternoon); Laura Caviani and Joan Griffith, “Sambanova” at Carleton College (afternoon, Northfield); Robb Henry Trio, “Music Under Glass” at Como Park Conservatory; Charmin Michelle and the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, February 20: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter

Tuesday, February 21: Cory Wong Quartet at the Artists Quarter followed by invitational jam; Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood; Rhonda Laurie and Maryann Sullivan at The Nicollet; KBEM Community Education, “Jazzin’ the Blues” at Edison High School

Wednesday, February 22: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Black Heralds Quartet at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Anthony Cox Group at the Nomad; Firebell live on KFAI

Thursday, February 23: Axis Mundi at Hell’s Kitchen

Coming Soon!
• February 24, Debbie Duncan and Dennis Spears at the Dakota
• February 24-25, Patty Peterson and Friends at the Artists Quarter
• February 25, Laura Caviani, Jazz@St. Barneys
• February 25, Atlantis Quartet, Jazz at Studio Z
• February 25, Richard Johnson, “Frank Sinatra Songbook” at St. Michael’s Church, Roseville
• February 25, Nachito Herrera at the Dakota
• February 27, Latin Jazz All-Stars at the Dakota
• February 28, Minnesota Monthly Celebrate Minnesota Music with Sophia Shorai at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 2-3, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 3, Head of the Waters Jazz Festival (John Fedchock guest artist) at University of Minnesota/Duluth
• March 4, Nathan Hanson’s Saxophone Choir with George Cartwright, Donald Washington, Pat Moriarty and more (TCJS, Jazz From J to Z) at Roseville Area High School
• March 7, Benny Golson and Nnenna Freelon at the Dakota
• March 8, TCJS Young Artists Series, the Dakota Combo at the Artists Quarter
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 9-10, Atlantis Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 11, PipJazz Sundays with Pippi Ardennia and Jason DeLaire
• March 11, Chris Bates Quintet Open Session II at Jazz Central
• March 12, Regina Marie Williams CD Release at the Dakota
• March 13, Graydon Peterson Quartet at The Nicollet
• March 13, James Blood Ullmer at the Dakota
• March 14, Leigh Kamman, KBEM Community Ed at South High School
• March 16-17, Richard Johnson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• March 20-21, Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba at the Dakota
• March 22, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota
• March 23-24, Bruce Henry at the Artists Quarter
• March 25, Chris Bates Quintet Open Session III at Jazz Central
• March 25-26, Hiromi Trio Project at the Dakota
• March 29, Pete Whitman X-Tet at the Artists Quarter
• March 31, Doug Little, Music of Roberto Fonseca, Jazz at Studio Z
• April 6, Irvin Mayfield Quintet at Orchestra Hall
• April 10, Cory Wong and Peña (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at Minneapolis Southwest High School
• April 15, MacPhail Center for Music Combo Festival and Spotlight Concert featuring Adam Niewood, the Dakota Combo, and MacPhail Jazz Faculty
• April 21, JazzMN Orchestra with Terell Stafford at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• April 22, Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Fund Raiser at the Dakota
• April 22, Grace Kelly at the Dakota
• April 22, Doug Haining Quintet, Tribute to Cannonball Adderley (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at the Artists Quarter
• April 29-30, Steve Tyrell at the Dakota
• May 8-9, Poncho Sanchez at the Dakota
• May 20-21, Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Dakota
• May 26, Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Orchestra Hall
• June 28-30, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park (headliners Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; Delfeayo Marsalis Octet; Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari)
• July 1-2, Bill Frisell at the Dakota


Photos (top to bottom): Daniel Levin (Fantastic Merlins), Maud Hixson and Arne Fogel, Todd Clouser (A Love Electric), Kurt Elling (all photos by Andrea Canter)


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Live Bates! Bassist Leads His Band Through "Open Sessions"







© Andrea Canter

Last week, Chris Bates sent out his usual update. But this time, the listing was not so usual. In addition to the gigs in which he plays a critical sideman role, Chris invited us to one of his first forays into bandleading, and not just on a gig. We were invited to a ringside seat of the creative act itself, observing his quintet’s first encounter with new music during public rehearsals at Jazz Central. “Attendees will be witness to the evolution of these new compositions right alongside the performers. Ideas will be expanded on and modified as the tunes evolve through the collaborative nature of an improvising ensemble. New compositions will be heard at each rehearsal as the band builds up to recording at the beginning of April.”



It’s not the sort of invitation I am inclined to ignore. Along with about 35-40 others (some musicians themselves, some like me on the brink of understanding the meaning of chord progressions and time signatures), I became witness to the first stages of collaborative arranging, the first of three “open sessions” that will culminate in the debut recording of the Chris Bates Quintet.

“I have been involved in educational clinics and workshops for a long time but I had never seen anyone put a new project into this setting,” Chris told me after the first session. “I wanted an opportunity to hear my music played and then make edits and adjustments, and these sessions fulfill that need. I like the idea of exposing the process to people because there is something special that happens when a group gels at the beginning. Each tune finds a place within the musicians’ brains as they dissect and familiarize themselves with new material. From there you often see an exponential growth with highly talented players as they digest and elevate the music within a few minutes. Most of that growth is missed by an audience at a live show because the players have already gone through it in rehearsal.”

The session was interactive. Most of the interaction of course occurred between Chris and his cohorts—brother JT (drums) and his triple threat hornline of Brandon Wozniak and Chris Thomson on saxes and Zack Lozier on trumpet. But Bates involved his audience as well, giving us some background on the general approach as well as specific contexts and issues along the way as the band tackled four original compositions. A general inspiration was the music of the Dave Holland bands of the 1980s, the music of Charles Mingus, and traditional North African music. With each composition, Bates offered comments on his general intent, ran the band through the form (or maybe only half-way through) once to get some initial reactions, and then worked through one or more sections, experimenting with solos, harmonies, moods.

Take the band’s first encounter with “Dark Energy.” Chris explained it as an attempt to create something new from a “North African melodic zone,” drawing on influences of Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen and the melodic style of French bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons. A few trial runs later, Bates was pleased with the backgrounds which added new colors “that I had not considered.” The quintet tried out higher and lower intervals, putting the composition together with what Chris termed “collective minds.” Personally I am not sure what they were doing, exactly, but the work was clearly coming together with the “dark energy” of the title, the harmonies conjuring exotic spices and desert winds. And it never ceases to amaze me how three horns can create a full symphony.

“I was very happy with the results of the first session,” Chris said later. “I was surprised by the sounds I heard. I love hearing my songs live after listening to very bad computerized versions of them. That's not to say I don't have an idea of what a song sounds like before it's played, it just means that living, breathing musicians put life into the notes and that I am always surprised and overjoyed with hearing it 'for real'!” Me, too, I loved hearing it for ‘real’ and hearing not only live notes, but the beginning of a composition’s life cycle.

For Bates and the band, this was the first of three “open sessions.” And the work is just beginning. “I will be making changes to every song except 'This Is Tonight,'" Chris noted. “These musical ideas are evolving and I really like to edit and refine each composition. Most of these tunes have not been fleshed out quite enough so that they stand on their own…I also see many places I could have improved my speaking and explanations to the audience and I'll be making several adjustments in that area as well.”

Well, I suppose he could give us a master class in the “12-tone row” form of his tune, “The Jape.” But maybe that should come later. Right now, I am quite happy to sit back and let the musicians do their thing with the window open. That fresh air is already filling my brain with new discoveries about this thing called jazz.

The Chris Bates Quintet will hold two more “Open Sessions” at Jazz Central, on March 11 and 25th, 4- 6 pm. No cover but a $5 donation would be appreciated. Jazz Central is located in the lower level of 407 Central Av NE, free on-street parking on Sundays. No pre-requisites or age limits.




Photos (top to bottom): Chris Bates explained his rationale for bringing in the electric bass; Chris bowing a passage; Brandon Wozniak and the rest of the ensemble make some notations on a chart; Zack Lozier and Chris Thomson try out a tune. (Photos by Andrea Canter at Jazz Central on 2/12/12)





Friday, February 10, 2012

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, February 10-16













© Andrea Canter

The weekend begins with the annual piano extravaganza at the Artists Quarter, honoring the late Bobby Peterson, one of the brightest lights on our jazz planet who left our orbit all too soon. The rest of the week finds the first of a series of open rehearsals from a new band of fabulous veterans, the return of one of the prophets of African music, and of course the sound of romance for Valentine’s Day.

Highlights This Week
When pianist Bobby Peterson passed away—on a gig—in 2002, he left behind a long line of former students, mentees and fans. This weekend (2/10-11) marks the sixth annual Bobby Peterson Memorial Piano Showcase at the Artists Quarter, and it’s a line-up that would make Bobby proud. On hand both nights will be former student and now internationally acclaimed performer and composer Bill Carrothers, with Laura Caviani and Bryan Nichols sharing the stage Friday, and Chris Lomheim and Peter Schimke on the piano bench Saturday. Supporting the keys will be Graydon Peterson and Kenny Horst. This is always one of the highlights of the winter jazz season and truly a showcase of piano talent in (and from) the Twin Cities. And this time, a too-rare opportunity to enjoy Carrothers, who released two of the best recordings of 2011.

One of the newest bandleaders in town is the veteran bassist Chris Bates. A pivotal sideman in such ensembles as the Motian Poets, Kelly Rossum Quartet, Atlantis Quartet, A Love Electric, Volcano Insurance, How Birds Work, Bryan Nichols Quintet, Zacc Harris Quartet, Enormous…. (somebody stop me!) and more, Chris is stepping up to lead a new Quintet this weekend, and later this month, a new trio (Good Vibes). On three Sundays at Jazz Central, starting on 2/12, the Chris Bates Quintet will hold open rehearsal sessions in preparation for a recording date in April. From 4-6 pm, come see how a working band tackles new music, revising, refining, collaborating. Chris has assembled a horn-happy group with brother JT on drums, Chris Thomson and Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, and Zack Lozier on trumpet.

And come back to Jazz Central on Monday night (2/13) for a swingfest with guitarist/banjoist Kent Saunders and bassist Gary Raynor. Saunders, often appearing with the Wolverines, has an amazing history performing with Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Pearl Bailey, Louis Bellson, Nancy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, George Burns, and Mickey Rooney, as well as with touring Broadway shows, Prairie Home Companion and the Minnesota Orchestra. Gary Raynor is also known for his PHC connection, as the bassist for The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band. Locally he has worked with Debbie Duncan, Bruce Henry, Dave Karr, Manfredo Fest, Laura Caviani and more, and has performed with the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr., Richie Cole, Claudio Roditi, Herb Ellis, Mark Murphy, and Clark Terry.

Among the options for Valentine’s Day, consider the romantic setting and jazz series preview at the Lexington in St. Paul. Revamped to retain its old-time elegance with a more up-to-date menu, the Lex sought a curator for a series of music and found what they needed in Arne Fogel. While the twice-weekly series of mostly vocalist-led duos and trios gets underway in March, Fogel is hosting a couple preview nights, including Valentine’s Day (2/14) with long-time singing partner Maud Hixson. They’re supported sublimely by pianist Rick Carlson and bassist Steve Pikal. The Lex is offering a special menu so make a reservation early.

It’s hard to think of African music without thinking of trumpeter/singer Hugh Masekela, whose music exudes his South African roots and global influences. An alum of South Africa’s first youth jazz orchestra, Masekela ultimately escaped apartheid to study in England and later at the Manhattan School of Music. He’s collaborated with Miriam Makeba, Herb Alpert and Paul Simon. His past shows have been inspirational. And for every ticket sold for shows at the Dakota on Wednesday and Thursday (2/15-16), the club will donate one dollar to the American Refugee Committee.

Wednesday (2/15) also marks the return of Slide Meets Valve at the Artists Quarter. SMV brings together two master trombonists, slide man Dave Graf and valve artist Brad Bellows. Two bones in a quintet format? Gotta hear it. And what better way to appreciate the nuances differentiating these two often-underappreciated instruments? And come for the weekly, free early (7 pm) show with Steve Kenny and the Bastids, maybe the best under-the-radar bopcentric band in town. You get not only the virtuosic trumpeting of Kenny but the hottest young support team of pianist Jesse Mueller, bassist Adam Tucker and drummer Aaron Rupart. And someone cool is always sitting in. Competing with the trombones (or not, if you split your late evening sets across town) is the not-often-enough gig of Red Planet, tonight on the jazz series at the Nomad World Pub. Dean Magraw, Chris Bates and Jay Epstein have maintained this collaboration for more than a decade and the results are always a bit out of this world.

Thursday (2/16) is the first screening in KBEM’s spring REEL Jazz season, and what a lead-off with In Good Time: The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland, from Films by Huey. As of post time, all tickets to the screening at the Trylon Microcinema were sold—but I am including it here because a) it’s a landmark film event and 2) someone might cancel out at the last minute so it is worth checking with KBEM and the theater. I had the good fortune to preview this very well-done documentary last month and can only hope that there’s another opportunity to bring this back to the Twin Cities. Check the KBEM website for news of the remaining REEL Jazz screenings in March and April.

More Jazz All Week
What’s going on every night of the week? Keep up to date with Pamela’s Live Jazz Calendar on Bebopified. Some additional recommendations:

Friday, February 10: Irv Wiliams and Peter Schimke at the Dakota, Happy Hour; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at the Wine Market; Charmin Michelle with Twin Cities Jazz Imports at House of Pizza (Sartell, MN); Sophia Shorai at Hell’s Kitchen

Saturday, February 11: Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Sophia Shorai and Bryan Nichols at Hell’s Kitchen; Patty Peterson and Friends, Valentine’s Gala at the Minneapolis Club; “Speak Low When You Speak of Love” (Dennis Spears, Dennis Oglesby, Julius Collins) at the Capri Theater; Ticket to Brasil at the Loring Pasta Bar

Sunday, February 12: Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; “Speak Low When You Speak of Love” (Dennis Spears, Dennis Oglesby, Julius Collins), matinee at the Capri Theater; Butch Thompson Trio, free afternoon performance at Behthlehem Lutheran Church (Minneapolis); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Charmin Michelle with the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Sophia Shorai and Bryan Nichols at Barbette

Monday, February 13: Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza

Tuesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day: Joann Funk at the Dakota (early show); the Steeles at the Dakota (dinner and late shows); Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Nonna Rosa’s; Cedar Avenue Big Band at the Shorewood; “Music by Lovers for Lovers” at the Artists Quarter; James Allen at the Nicollet; Jack Brass at the Driftwood

Wednesday, February 15: Charmin Michelle, Denny Malmberg and Joel Shapira at Fireside Pizza; KBEM’s “Hillbilly Jazz” class with Phil Nussbaum at Minneapolis Edison High School (offered through Minneapolis Schools Continuing Ed); Sophia Shorai at Red Stag

Thursday, February 16: Jana Nyberg at Hell’s Kitchen; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Nonna Rosa’s

Coming Soon
• February 17, Bruce Henry at the Dakota
• February 17-18, Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric at the Artists Quarter
• February 18, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall
• February 19, Laura Caviani and Joan Griffith, “Sambanova” at Carlton College Concert Hall (Northfield)
• February 22-23, Doc Severinsen Big Band (with Mary Louise Knutson) at the Dakota
• February 24-25, Patty Peterson and Friends at the Artists Quarter
• February 25, Laura Caviani, Jazz@St. Barneys
• February 25, Atlantis Quartet, Jazz at Studio Z
• February 27, Latin Jazz All-Stars at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 2-3, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 3, Head of the Waters Jazz Festival (John Fedchock guest artist) at University of Minnesota/Duluth
• March 4, Nathan Hanson’s Saxophone Choir with George Cartwright, Donald Washington, Pat Moriarty and more (TCJS, Jazz From J to Z) at Roseville Area High School
• March 7, Benny Golson and Nnenna Freelon at the Dakota
• March 8, TCJS Young Artists Series, the Dakota Combo at the Artists Quarter
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 9-10, Atlantis Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 11, PipJazz Sundays with Pippi Ardennia and Jason DeLaire
• March 16-17, Richard Johnson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• March 20-21, Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba at the Dakota
• March 22, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota
• March 23-24, Bruce Henry at the Artists Quarter
• March 25-26, Hiromi Trio Project at the Dakota
• March 31, Doug Little, Music of Roberto Fonseca, Jazz at Studio Z
• April 10, Cory Wong and Peña (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at Minneapolis Southwest High School
• April 15, MacPhail Center for Music Combo Festival and Spotlight Concert featuring Adam Niewood, the Dakota Combo, and MacPhail Jazz Faculty
• April 21, JazzMN Orchestra with Terell Stafford at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• April 22, Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Fund Raiser at the Dakota
• April 22, Doug Haining Quintet, Tribute to Cannonball Adderley (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at the Artists Quarter
• April 29-30, Steve Tyrell at the Dakota
• May 20-21, Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Dakota
• June 28-30, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park (headliners Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; Delfeayo Marsalis Octet; Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari)



Photos (top to bottom): Bill Carrothers; Chris Bates; Hugh Masekela; Maud Hixson and Arne Fogel (photos by Andrea Canter)




Monday, February 6, 2012

Jazz Face: Billy Peterson's Rhapsody





© Andrea Canter

Outside of the Twin Cities, Billy Peterson is probably best known for his two+ decades of work with the Steve Miller Band. But here at home, and particularly over the past six months, Billy literally has served as the house bassist at the Artists Quarter, appearing with a wide range of jazz artists from vocalists to quartets and trios, from established bands to new configurations. He’s also been working steadily with vocalist Pippi Ardennia as her “house band” bassist for the monthly PipJazz concert series at Landmark Center, a stirring blend of down-home jazz, blues and R&B.

Do not, under any circumstances or any label, underestimate Billy’s jazz chops, which are among the best anywhere. Listen to his comping. Better yet, listen to his sleight-of-hand solos.

Last week, I happened to catch Billy two consecutive nights at the AQ, with the Phil Aaron Trio and then with the Chris Lomheim Trio. With both ensembles, he played “I Hear a Rhapsody,” leading into the tune with a long solo and pretty much leading the way through the tune to the finish. The particulars varied across the two nights, of course, and for me the standout moments came in his dueling with Lomheim.

On that second night, midway into “Rhapsody,” as Billy and his instrument spun through their exquisite pas de deux, my friend leaned over and whispered, “You can tell, he really loves that bass.”

So do we.


Photos: Billy Peterson at the Artists Quarter (2/1/12). Photos by Andrea Canter.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

El Intruso's "Other Music" Picks for 2011





© Andrea Canter

With so many year-end polls, it’s hard to keep track and even harder to make sense of the range of opinion from critics and consumers. And many would argue, what difference does it make anyway? Everyone has his or her opinion, and in music, it’s all about personal tastes. What appeals to me might not appeal to you. Ellington tried to make it easy by suggesting music falls only into two categories---good and everything else. Still, some of these polls are interesting given their scope and contributors, and one that strikes me as unique is El Intruso’s polls.


El Intruso is a Spanish (Buenos Ares) website dating back to 2005, dedicated to “people who care about music,” with a focus on “creative music, jazz and beyond, free improvisation, art-rock and all kind of experimental music.” Not your typical jazz or general music poll, El Intruso invites opinions from a world-wide array of music writers for its “Critics Poll,” covering the usual categories from musician of the year to best of specific instruments, albums, and labels, and from a global ensemble of musicians for its Musicians Poll for Album of the Year.

I was invited to participate in the Critics Poll, and found it challenging given the parameters went beyond the usual definition of “jazz.” Among other respondents, local free-thinking saxman Nathan Hanson participated in the Musicians Poll. The results were released today, and in addition to the lists of winners and runners-up, the site also provides each participant’s individual responses. What’s most striking to me is the vast number of musicians I’ve either never heard of at all or for whom I have no real knowledge. Many of the artists here are of course from beyond the U.S., reminding us that music is indeed global, be it jazz, classical or rock. I was pleased to see, however, the frequent appearance of Twin Cities native pianist Craig Taborn, who topped the critics’ piano poll and the musicians’ CD of the Year list. The site is in Spanish but you can figure out the poll pretty easily regardless of your linguistic skills. Think of this as an introduction to a lot of musicians that might be new to you! Highlights:

Critics Poll
About 40 writers and critics participated, with winners determined by the number of votes (with each participant allowed three votes per category):

Musician of the Year: Wadada Leo Smith (runners-up, Peter Evans, Anthony Braxton, Craig Taborn and Rob Mazurek)
New Musician of the Year: Ambrose Akinmisure
Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Album of the Year:
1. Peter Evans Quintet, Ghosts
2. Bill Dixon, Envoi
3. (tie) Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel; Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic, Heart’s Reflection
4. Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Live in Coimbra
Composer: Wadada Leo Smith
Drummer: Gerald Cleaver
Bass: William Parker
Guitar: Mary Halvorson
Piano: Craig Taborn
Keyboards: John Medeski
Sax: Darius Jones
Trumpet: Nate Wooley
Clarinet: Joachin Badenhorst
Trombone: Samuel Blaser
Violin: Jason Kao Hwang
Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
• Other: Nicole Mitchell, Flute
Female Vocalist: Fay Victor
Male Vocalist: Theo Bleckmann

The Musicians Poll, CD of the Year
1. Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel, ECM

2. Tyshawn Sorey, Oblique-I, Pi Recordings

3. Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (reedición 2011), International Phonog.

4. Anthony Braxton, Trillium, E New Braxton House; PJ Harvey, Let England Shake, Island; Gerald Cleaver/Uncle June, Be it As I See It, Fresh Sound (tie)

5. Peter Evans Quintet, Ghosts, More is More; Paul Motian, The Windmills of Your Mind, Winter & Winter (tie)


6. The Claudia Quintet + 1, What Is the Beautiful? Cuneiform Records; Endangered Blood, Endangered Blood, Skirl; Nate Wooley Quintet, (Put your) Hands Together, Clean Feed Records; Radiohead, The King of Limbs, Ticker Tape; Steve Coleman & 5 Elements, The Mancy of Sound, Pi Recordings (tie)



Photos (top to bottom): Craig Taborn, winner of the Musicians' Poll for CD of the Year and Critics Poll for Pianist of the Year, and runner-up for Critics' Musician of the Year and CD of the Year; Ambrose Akinmisure, Critics' Poll New Musician of the Year. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, February 3-9













© Andrea Canter

Having missed much of the last week of local music (in favor of a few days in New York), I am doubly looking forward to the coming week and yet another weekend filled with delightful dilemmas. Another new venue (The Lexington) previews its jazz schedule, one of our local bands-gone-international returns to the Artists Quarter; an internationally renowned cellist performs gratis at Macalester; and one of our free improvising ensembles reinvents itself, yet again, with a re-debut at Studio Z. That’s just the weekend.

Highlights This Week
Macalester College again hosts a free public concert featuring an internationally acclaimed artist, courtesy of funding from the Rivendell Foundation. Friday night (2/3) in the Weyerhauser Chapel, you can hear cellist Matt Haimovitz in a solo performance, capping a short residency on campus. Haimovitz, at 40, has been a prolific performer and clinician, bringing classical music as well as rock and jazz into new venues, from bars and clubs to festivals and off-beat concert halls. He’s as likely to tackle Coltrane or Hendrix as Beethoven. I’d plan on arriving early given the free tickets and Matt’s reputation.

Friday and Saturday (2/3-4), the Dave King Trucking Company shifts to high gear for its return to the Artists Quarter, riding the high road since its debut release, Good Old Light, which managed accolades from the New York Times. The quartet (King, Brandon Wozniak, Adam Linz, Erik Fratzke) had a busy 2011 with gigs in New York and abroad, and more will come their way in 2012. Opening each night at the AQ, the new MacPhail Jazz Workshop students will show off their talents, starting at 7 pm. Led by Adam Linz, this weekly session brings theory and composition skills to enhance performance chops of the area’s top high school level jazzers.

This weekend at Studio Z (Friday night 2/3 and Sunday afternoon 2/5) is the annual Keys Please, initiated back in 2002 by pianist/composers Carei Thomas, Todd Harper and Paul Cantrell. The annual concert features a diverse array of music “for an evening of sonic surprise, wonder and beauty.” This year’s special guest is Fantastic Merlins bassist Brian Roessler in a program ranging from Brahms to Messiaen to improvisations. You can buy tickets at the door and students with ID get in free.

Saturday night (2/4) is the date for the rebirth of the Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty ensemble of the 80s-90s, a free improv group for piano, sax, trombone and drums now reissued for piano, sax, trumpet and tuba as Resurrection. Joining pianist Ellen and alto saxophonist Pat will be two newcomers, young trumpeter Noah Ophoven-Baldwin, still working his way through the U of M jazz program and a former student of Pat’s at Roseville Area High School, and tubist Evan Clarke, U of Colorado grad and MM student at the U of Minnesota as well as instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Each musician contributes to the set list but, really, it will be a collaborative improv session all the way.

Another debut, The Lexington in St. Paul previews its new jazz program, curated by local singer/historian/radio personality Arne Fogel. The Lex has recently gone through a major overhaul, and part of its updating includes music two nights per week (Thursdays and Saturdays) beginning in March. But you can get a taste now as Arne himself performs Saturday (2/4) and with Maud Hixson on Valentine’s Day. Music from 6:30-10:30 in the Williamburg Room, no cover. Check out the new menu, have a drink at the bar, enjoy the very classy surroundings with one of the area’s favorite crooners.

Some of the best purveyors of Jazz Fusion come to the Dakota this week (2/8-9) headed by Mr. Fusion himself, keyboardist Jeff Lorber. He’s aided and abetted by bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), saxophonist Bob Franceschini, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and drummer Gary Novak. Even if you are not big on fusion, I think it’s worthwhile for Brecker alone.

Another new combination takes the bandstand at the Artists Quarter on Thursday (2/9), this time putting saxophonist Dave Brattain opposite vibes master Dave Hagedorn, with bass ace Billy Peterson and house drummer Kenny Horst. Brattain doesn’t get out to the clubs often enough so this is a special treat indeed. And speaking of not getting out into the clubs often enough, you can also catch a rare appearance by the off-quadrant cello/tablas/percussion ensemble Jelloslave for a late set at Barbette (2/9).

So Much More Jazz
Find more live jazz for any night of the week by checking out the calendar on the Bebopified site, managed by Pamela Espeland. (The calendar will be moving off the KBEM site shortly but will continued as before at Bebopified.) Some further recommendations:

Friday, February 3: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota; Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen (Meridien/Chambers Hotel); Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Nachito Herrera at the Dakota; Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble, West Bank School of Music

Saturday, February 4: Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Joel Shapira Trio at Loring Pasta Bar; Vital Organ at Hell’s Kitchen; Rhonda Laurie at The Social Dance Studio (Minneapolis); JazZen at The Nicollet

Sunday, February 5: Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar; Nichols/Buckely/Bates at the Red Stage

Monday, February 6: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Phil Hey at Jazz Central

Tuesday, February 7: Dean Magraw and Davu Seru with special guest Anthony Cox at the Black Dog; Arne Fogel at Hell’s Kitchen; Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood; Cory Wong Quartet followed by Invitational Jam at the Artists Quarter; Cat Tet at The Nicollet



Wednesday, February 8: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Zacc Harris Quartet at the Artists Quarter; Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; KBEM Community Ed class, “Jazz Goes Broadway” with Ed Jones at Edison High School; Nomad Jazz Series at Nomad World Pub with Barry Alexander, Jim Anton, Jef Cierniak and Al Oikari.

Thursday, February 9: Music Under Glass with Café Accordion at Como Park Conservatory; Lila Ammons Quintet at Honey



Coming Soon!
• February 10-11, Bobby Peterson Memorial Piano Showcase at the Artists Quarter
• February 15, Slide Meets Valve (Graf and Bellows) at the Artists Quarter
• February 15-16, Hugh Masekela at the Dakota
• February 17, Bruce Henry at the Dakota
• February 17-18, Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric at the Artists Quarter
• February 18, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright at Orchestra Hall


. February 18, "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" with Arne Fogel, Maud Hixson and Reeves Carey at the Bloomington Center for the Arts
• February 19, Laura Caviani and Joan Griffith, “Sambanova” at Carlton College Concert Hall (Northfield)
• February 22-23, Doc Severinsen Big Band at the Dakota
• February 24-25, Patty Peterson and Friends at the Artists Quarter
• February 25, Laura Caviani, Jazz@St. Barneys
• February 25, Atlantis Quartet, Jazz at Studio Z
• February 27, Latin Jazz All-Stars at the Dakota
• March 1-2, Vijay Iyer at the Walker Art Center (McGuire Theater)
• March 2-3, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 3, Head of the Waters Jazz Festival (John Fedchock guest artist) at University of Minnesota/Duluth
• March 4, Nathan Hanson’s Saxophone Choir (TCJS, Jazz From J to Z) at Roseville Area High School
• March 8, TCJS Young Artists Series, the Dakota Combo at the Artists Quarter
• March 9-10, Manhattan Transfer at the Dakota
• March 9-10, Atlantis Quartet at the Artists Quarter
• March 10, Caswell Sisters with JazzMN Orchestra at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
• March 11, PipJazz Sundays with Pippi Ardennia and guests
• March 16-17, Richard Johnson Trio at the Artists Quarter
• March 20-21, Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba at the Dakota
• March 22, Toots Thielmans and Kenny Werner at the Dakota
• March 23-24, Bruce Henry at the Artists Quarter
• March 25-26, Hiromi Trio Project at the Dakota
• March 31, Doug Little, Music of Roberto Fonseca, Jazz at Studio Z
• April 10, Cory Wong and Peña (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at Minneapolis Southwest High School
• April 15, MacPhail Center for Music Combo Festival and Spotlight Concert featuring Adam Niewood, the Dakota Combo, and MacPhail Jazz Faculty
• April 22, Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Fund Raiser at the Dakota
• April 22, Doug Haining Quintet, Tribute to Cannonball Adderley (TCJS Jazz From J to Z) at the Artists Quarter
• April 29-30, Steve Tyrell at the Dakota
• May 20-21, Ramsey Lewis Trio at the Dakota
• June 28-30, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mears Park (headliners Bad Plus with Joshua Redman; Delfeayo Marsalis Octet; Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari)



Photos (top to bottom): Matt Haimovitz; Dave King and Erik Fratzke; Arne Fogel; Brain Roessler (photos by Andrea Canter)











Thursday, February 2, 2012

New York Diary 2012







© Andrea Canter

It feels like time is compressed whenever I am in New York, maybe because I try to fit so much into a few days. And that just mirrors Manhattan—so much of the world squeezed onto that one relatively small island. I learned on my last visit to make that first night the long one; fatigue is cumulative at my age.

I picked four gigs for various reasons—Janice Friedman Trio at The Kitano, because I have been wanting to catch her live since first hearing her on CD about five years ago and then live with Judi Silvano at the last IAJE; Tierney Sutton at Birdland because… it’s Birdland and I have always enjoyed her live performances (at the Dakota and Detroit Jazz Festival), and of course there is that 2012 Grammy nomination; Kendra Shank at 55 Bar, because I have never been in New York at the right time to catch her monthly quartet gig and also wanted to check out 55 Bar; and Billy Childs at Jazz Standard, because I have never heard Billy live, I am quite fond of his bandmates (Steve Wilson, Hans Glawischnig and Eric Harland), and I like the barbecue at Jazz Standard.

I started my rounds (1/26) at The Kitano, a boutique hotel in Midtown with a Japanese restaurant/lounge housing one of the smaller jazz clubs in New York. Maybe it holds 50 including the bar? Janice Friedman has a loyal following and the club was packed tight, the trio crammed into a corner where the grand piano barely fit, where bassist Ed Howard was nearly against the window sill and drummer Willard Dyson almost sitting on the snare. But the advantages of intimate spaces far outweigh the lack of elbow room, perfect sound wherever you sit (or stand), and I was about 5 feet from the keyboard. Watching her fingers fly, it was easy to forget that Friedman recently developed some physical difficulties that seriously limit the use of two fingers on her left hand—the other digits apparently take over as needed. Tops for me was her interpretation of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which became Latin swing and then African folktale. Maybe there is more in the Paul Simon book that jazz artists should consider.

It was early enough and warm enough to just walk across Times Square to Birdland and my Big Apple encounter with the Tierney Sutton Band. Sightlines are good from just about anywhere and the sound always on par with the talent. And Tierney? She was pitch-perfect, relaxed, funny, fully engaged with the band, the audience, the music. She assured some hold-overs from the first set that they never do the same set twice—she meant in general, not just on a given night. Thus they did only a couple tunes from the new, Grammy nominated American Road-- the achingly beautiful “Amazing Grace,” with Sutton scatting with just bassist Kevin Axt, and the Grammy-nominated ensemble arrangement of “On Broadway.” (She noted the oddity of crediting an entire band for a single song arrangement—but that’s TSB, it’s a collaborative effort all the way.) Perhaps no other tune highlighted Sutton’s instrumental phrasing as well as “Sometimes I’m Happy,” from her entry into the opening bass/drum dialogue to her interpretation of lyrics that suggests –but isn’t—scat. Axt coaxed a tone from his modified upright bass that seemed to meld the best of acoustic and electric instruments. Tierney managed to evoke her own percussion in a duet with drummer Ray Brinker on “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and led the ensemble into sinister harmonies on “The Lady Is a Tramp.” And then there was that stunning version of “Blue Skies” to close out an Irving Berlin medley. TSB can turn any music into their own and convince you that you never heard it before, making each performance truly a premiere. And I never heard TSB sound better or more at home. Something about Birdland…

Friday night (1/27) was my first visit to 55 Bar. For a quartet, it’s an unbelievably tight space that feels more Cheers than Vanguard, more neighborhood casual than big city club. All of which fits the Kendra Shank Quartet—Frank Kimbrough on Rhodes, Dean Johnson on bass and Tony Moreno on drums. (I heard Kimbrough is not all that fond of playing Rhodes but makes an exception for this monthly gig.) Over her two sets, Kendra covered significant muses--Abby Lincoln, Norma Winstone and Fred Hersch, as well as some reinvented standards and original fare. From the opening “Weaver of Dreams,” my usual response to the Rhodes (“geez I wish it was a piano”) had to be shelved as Kimbrough’s elegant touch and inventive spirit won out every time. The Abbey Lincoln selections—mostly from Kendra’s A Spirit Free tribute—included the tribal feel of “Throw It Away,” the country-folk zing of “The World Is Falling Down,” and the soulful “Should Have Been” –the last highlighting Kimbrough and seemingly summoning the spirits (“I feel Abby coming in!” declared Kendra). One of Kendra’s signatures is her uncanny ability to create opening verses, either from existing material or her own inventions. Woody Guthrie’s “Hard Travelin’” became the intro to a gorgeous “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” (enhanced by Moreno’s crystalline cymbals), while Kendra’s “Is Love Blind” melded seamlessly into “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” vocalese floating atop Johnson’s bowing, then percussive bass and Moreno’s slappy brushes.

Seeing them perform back to back, I was struck by the similarities between Sutton and Shank. For both bands, it is all about ensemble communication and shared responsibilities for the music and the arrangements. The “band” indeed supports the singer, but the singer similarly enhances the band as another instrument. Both singers look broadly at repertoire, and neither is satisfied to leave “well enough” alone when it comes to interpreting a standard or traditional tune. Yet the results are significantly different –two distinctly different voices, individual approaches to interpretation and phrasing, two adept storytellers with different tales to tell.

If anyone needs proof that “chamber music” encompasses jazz ensembles, look no farther than the Billy Childs Quartet. In addition to the eclectic, symphonic chops of the pianist, the quartet includes one of the most under-appreciated saxophonists in jazz, Steve Wilson; the versatile bass master Hans Glawischnig; and the increasingly heralded drummer Eric Harland. At the “big enough” but cozy Jazz Standard (1/28), Childs revealed a deep well of technique and emotion throughout a set of all-original music, conjuring at various moments the powerful orchestrations of McCoy Tyner, the lyrical wanderings of Kenny Werner, the abstract imagery of Jason Moran. Sax and piano provided particularly compatible harmonies on “Stay” while Childs’ mission on “Starry Night”—to capture motion—was fully realized, initially via the piano/arco bass introduction, later through Harland’s pytrotechnics behind the trapset and the rise and fall of Wilson’s glorious soprano.

Any short visit to New York involves trade-offs. I missed Keith Jarrett’s solo at Carnegie Hall the night before my arrival. I missed Marcus Roberts, Jimmy Cobb, Luciana Souza and more during the weekend simply for lack of an alter ego to stretch my presence. I left a few days too soon to catch Ben Monder and Theo Bleckmann and another list of luminaries. But for my three nights in New York, I couldn’t ask for more. Equivalent quality exists elsewhere, particularly in here in the Twin Cities. But for the quantity of quality, New York remains the jazz center of the world.




(Adapted from review posted on Jazz Police)




Photos (top to bottom): Tierney Sutton with Kevin Axt at Birdland (1/26); Kendra Shank at the Artists Quarter in 2010. Photos by Andrea Canter. (Why do venues with the best lighting ban photography?)