Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities jazz, June 1 - 7



 © Andrea Canter

I’ll be packing my gear and my ears for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival this week—heading west on Thursday for the northern California’s second festival weekend. But there’s plenty here to put me in a festival mood before I leave, from the slinky vibes of Red Planet to the swinging sweet sounds of Sophie Milman.

Highlights This Week
June 1. You have to love a band of Native American and world flutes, electric cello and percussion. Especially one with the name JazZen. The music can be soothing, ethereal, challenging—definitely enjoyable. The trio led by flautist Bob Fantauzzo (with Aaron Kerr and Darrin Pinto) has a semi-regular gig at The Nicollet, often on the weekend. Like tonight. Don’t be surprised to see Bob handle 7-8 different flutes in a single set. And several in a single tune.  With a little touch of zen himself, young bassist Andrew Foreman heads a trio of new music at the Black Dog (Community Pool-Deep End series). I first heard Andrew last weekend, first with Trio Bossa Nova on the KBEM boat cruise and then with the Max Corcoran Project at Studio Z—proof that his chops are eclectic and flexible.

June 1-2.  Together now for nearly a decade, three of our most potent explorers return to their favorite haunt, the Artists Quarter. Red Planet (Dean Magraw, Chris Bates, Jay Epstein) continues to orbit the jazz galaxy without ever tracing the same path twice, be it arrangements of Coltrane or original compositions. Each musician has the capacity for sublime reflection or incendiary rocket flares.

June 2. Our favorite Chicagoan returns to the Dakota Saturday night. There was a lot of angst when Bruce Henry moved from the Twin Cities back to his native metropolis but he seems to be gigging here almost as much now as before. Saturday night finds him in his usual fine company of Peter Schimke, Jay Young, Kevin Washington and Darryl Boudreuax (now dubbed Wild Horses Run Free), and he’ll be mining his extensive songbook, which highlights his versatility from swing to bebop to cool to soul. That voice is one of a kind.

This is not really a jazz event. It’s not even an improvised music event. But it’s an unusual event from an unusual composer whose roots are in jazz and improvisation. Ann Millikan, whose exciting musical installation “House of Mirrors” featured some of our most creative jazz and classical artists in 2011, now explores the “Swede Hollow” community in depth with a one-act opera premiering at Art in the Hollow in Swede Hollow Park. (Read about the opera and about Ann Millikan here on the blog, May 30th entry.)

June 3. For something light and fun, come to vocalist Connie Olson’s 7th annual Student Showcase, at Famous Dave’s in Uptown. Every year, Connie prepares her voice students for a public performance with professional band. This year her students range from their teens to 80s, and her band includes Brian Ziemniak, Rick Carlson, Vinnie Rose, Graydon Peterson, Haralds Bondaris, Dave Karr—in other words, the students perform with the best possible backing. We might even get a song from Connie herself.

Hear the students and then head to the Dakota for a young but seasoned pro—vocalist Sophie Milman. The Russian-born, Israeli-raised Canadian émigré brings her multi-cultural upbringing to American jazz and more, earning three Juno nominations in her first four recordings (winning in 2009), selling out Massey Hall in Toronto, and generally garnering accolades usually reserved for veterans. And she’s still under 30.

June 5. Trumpeter Bill Simenson has assembled a new big band for Jazz Central’s new Tuesday Night Big Band series. It might be a tight fit at the small gallery space but that just makes it all the more intimate. Don’t expect a dance floor, this is a modern big band in a little jazz club with a big heart. For a smaller ensemble, check out the Brian Grivna Quartet at the Artists Quarter. One of the most accomplished wind players around, Grivna breaks loose with his own band.

June 7. Rhonda Laurie was at the top of her game recently with her “Uncommon Standards” revue with Phil Mattson out in Plymouth. Now she brings her ever –expanding book to the wilds of Delano with guitarist Joel Shapira, at the Three Crows. It’s not that far—and a good excuse for a drive.

June 7-8. When I first heard Rachelle Ferrell at the Dakota two years ago, she rocked my ears—not with volume but with passion and wide intervals and amazing sounds that rose from her vocal cords. I will miss this gig but really, don’t you miss it! It’s not just the octaves she can cover (six?) but what she does within that range that makes her a unique talent. It’s jazz, it’s soul. It’s a rewarding experience.

More Jazz Every Night
Don’t wonder what’s going on, check out the best sources for live jazz in the Twin Cities – Bebopified calendar; Jazz Police; daily listings and interviews on KBEM (88.5) and KFAI (90.3) radio. More suggestions:

Friday, June 1: Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble at the West Bank School of Music; East Side at Hell’s Kitchen

Saturday, June 2: Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Parisota Hot Club at the Loring Pasta Bar; Vicky Mountain and James Allen at First Course Bistro; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Pardon My French; Maryann Sullivan and David Martin at Butter Bakery

Sunday, June 3. Maud Hixson and Arne Fogel with Tanner Taylor and Graydon Peterson, noon at The Lexington; Charmin Michelle with the Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar; James Buckley Trio at Barbette

Monday, June 4. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Tom Krochock Sextet at Jazz Central; Russ Peterson Big Band at Old Log Theater

Tuesday, June 5. Cory Wong Quartet at the Artists Quarter (early show); Dean Magraw and Davu Seru at the Black Dog; Deanna Lind at The Nicollet; Patrick Harrison at Café Maude; Robert Everest World Quartet at the Dakota; Jack Brass Band at Driftwood Char Bar

Wednesday, June 6. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Black Heralds at the Artists Quarter; Robb Henry Trio at Barbette; Cellar (Bryan Nichols, James Buckley, Joey Van Phillips) at Nomad World Pub

Thursday, June 7. Snowblind at the Artists Quarter

Coming Soon
·       June 9, Ginger Commodore at the Dakota
·         June 9, Wozniak/Linz/Gravatt at the Artists Quarter
·         June 10, Connie Evingson, CD Release at The Jungle Theater
·         June 10, Barbara Leshoure, Pippi Ardennia, PipJazz Sundays at Landmark Center
·         June 10, Jazz on the Prairie Festival at Staring Lake Park Amphitheater
·         June 10, Wadda Leo Smith with Douglas Ewart at Weyerhauser Memorial Chapel, Macalester College
·         June 10-11, Roy Hargrove Quintet at the Dakota
·         June 12, Cedar Avenue Big Band at Jazz Central
·         June 12, Maryann Sullivan and Rhonda Laurie at The Nicollet
·         June 12, Tuesday Night Band at the Artists Quarter
·         June 13, Dean Brewington, Rondo Outreach Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         June 14, Peterson Family at Edina Performing Arts Center, Edina High School
·         June 14, Joann Funk Trio at the Dakota
·         June 14, Dave Brattain Quartet at the Artists Quarter
·         June 15-16, Paul Bollenback at the Artists Quarter
·         June 16, Jana Nyberg Group at Hayden Heights Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival (2 pm)
·         June 16, Barbary Coast 45th Anniversary at the Black Box, Bloomington Center for the Arts
·         June 18, Laura Caviani at Jazz Central
·         June 18-19, Stanley Clarke and George Duke at the Dakota
·         June 20, St Peter Street Stompers, St Anthony Park Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         June 20, Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter
·         June 21, X-Tet at the Artists Quarter
·         June 22, A Love Electric/Adam Meckler Orchestra at the Ritz Theater
·         June 22-23, Nachito Herrera at the Dakota
·         June 22-23, Dave King Trucking Company at the Artists Quarter
·         June 28, Jack Brass Band at St Paul Central Library (11:30 am), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         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
·         July 5,  Dean Magraw & Marcus Wise, PipJazz Sundays at Landmark Center
·         July 9-10, Victor Wooten at the Dakota
·         July 13-14, John Raymond Project at the Artists Quarter
·         July 20-21, Pete Whitman & Laura Caviani at the Artists Quarter
·         July 28, Dakota StreetFest on Nicollet Mall
·         July 29, James Carter Organ Trio at the Dakota
·         August 1-2, Tribute to Jimmy Smith with Joey D’Francesco, Larry Coryell & Jimmy Cobb at the Dakota
·         August 3, Pat Mallinger at the Artists Quarter
·         August 9, Tribute to Blossom Dearie with Joann Funk at the Artists Quarter
·         September 4-5, Pat Metheny Unity Band at the Dakota
.      September 18, John Scofield Trio at the Dakota
·         September 26-27, Chick Corea and Gary Burton at the Dakota
·         October 30-31, Maria Schneider Orchestra at the Dakota

Photos (top to bottom): Sophie Milman; JazZen; Dean Magraw; Connie Olson; Rachelle Ferrell; Vicky Mountain (all photos by Andrea Canter)





Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ann Millkan's Latest Compositional "Puzzle": Swede Hollow Premieres June 2nd





© Andrea Canter

Composition is a puzzle,” says Ann Millikan, whose eclectic musical works have been described as “tonally challenging yet emotionally involving" (Joseph Woodard, LA Times). A native Californian who started out studying jazz piano and voice, as well as Brazilian and African music, Millikan turned to composition when she “woke up one morning in 1988, hearing this orchestral music in my head—for mezzo-soprano solo, choir and orchestra.” Experiencing the “limit of my ability to decipher and notate the complex music I was hearing,” she enrolled in the MFA program at California Institute of Arts, where she worked with Mel Powell, Morton Subotnick, and Stephen L. Mosko.  And while her early emphasis on improvisation yielded to the necessities of through-composition in the (primarily) classical world,  that background in jazz nevertheless informs her numerous works, commissions and grants for orchestra, chamber ensembles, choirs, and experimental and interdisciplinary projects. Her latest project tackles the story of St. Paul’s historic “Swede Hollow,” an opera that will have its world premiere this Saturday, June 2nd… in Swede Hollow Park, of course, as the culminating event of Art in the Hollow.

Swede Hollow
Armed with a Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Initiative Grant, Ann chose her neighborhood of Swede Hollow as the subject for her one-act opera, and went to work on the music and libretto, “researching that history and creating fictionalized characters based on the research,” in part based on interviews with former residents. Following the lives of Swedish, Italian and Mexican immigrants over the community’s 100 years, the opera appropriately premieres on the site of the stories that inspired the music, which is scored for professional chamber orchestra and four vocal soloists. This performance is directed by Scotty Reynolds, and features members of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra and soloists Rachel Wandrei, soprano; Meredith Cain-Nielsen, mezzo-soprano; Brad Bradshaw, tenor; and Stephen Mumbert, baritone. (Details on Ann’s website!)

Swede Hollow is not Ann Millikan’s first venture inspired by the community. Funded by a 2010 McKnight Composer Fellowship, she created The “House of Mirrors” Concert Series (performed in early 2011), an electro-acoustic sound installation in the old Hamm’s Brewery, bringing together jazz, free jazz, and classical/new music artists and featuring original Swede Hollow residents sharing their life stories.

Where Improvisation Meets Through-Composition
If Millikan’s route into the world of modern classical composition was a bit meandering, so were her initial encounters with jazz.  “I came to jazz through a circuitous route through Brazilian music,” she explains. “When I was 14, my brother moved to Brazil. And he came back with all of these records. I would listen to them and learn the songs…. The advanced harmonies captivated me, and that’s what led me into jazz.” The interest in Brazilian music ultimately led Ann to Brazil, where she observed the destruction of natural and human resources along the Xingu River caused by the Belo Monte Dam. Her response came out in film and music. "XINGU" premiered this past winter at an American Composers Forum Salon at Studio Z in St. Paul, a project that is available on Vimeo and YouTube

Her diverse musical background results in music that is difficult to label. Stephen Eddins (All About Music) noted that her music is “characterized by high energy and a quirky inventiveness that defies easy categorization.” But Millikan notes that “the all-encompassing classical category is what I do. I also write some experimental music [e.g. “House of Mirrors”]. But I am really eclectic in terms of these influences – the Morton Feldman influence is huge in terms of how I think about texture, how he orchestrates– the way I layer [texture] comes from a real in-depth study of his music…My music is through-composed; everything on my CDs is written down. (With the exception of one drum solo!) But you can hear [jazz background] in my harmonic knowledge, the way I write rhythm—that’s how I hear, there’s the influence of jazz and also Brazilian music.”


What about that early work in improvisation? Says Ann, “When I went back to grad school [Cal Arts], my instinct was to incorporate improvisation into some of the music I was writing.  But I remember my teacher saying, ‘If you know what you want, it’s best to write it down.’ …Classical players are a lot less comfortable with improvisation and you often get less than satisfactory results. So I moved farther and father away from [improvisation]... With ‘House of Mirrors’ that was different because it wasn’t totally through-composed, but not fully improvised, somewhere in-between.  Each person that was part of that project had a different background – straight jazz players, straight classical players. The classical musicians wanted to interpret what was on the page, not create, so it was a challenge. And the jazz players just want the melody or something to run with. Everyone had a different way of dealing with improvisation and that is what made the project such fun.”
 
 

Does her background in improvisation have a positive impact on her through-composed music? “It depends,” notes Ann. “On ‘Ballad Nocturne’ [title track of her 2010 recording on Innova], a piece I wrote for an Italian pianist [Emanuele Arciuli], I wanted to create something in-between a jazz ballad and a nocturne—where those two worlds met. It’s all through-composed, but I tried to develop the music as an improviser would. So it sounds organic, the way an improviser would build a solo.  As I develop material –that’s really what composition is – I’m coming up with an idea and doing something with it.  The composer is the improviser in that sense.”


And does it work the other way around? Does the foundation of classical composition inform improvisation? “Composition is a puzzle,”’ says Millikan. “What are you going to do with your material?  As a jazz composer, you are trying to write something that is full of possibilities– great chord changes, a really interesting melody, great rhythmic feel, something that people are going to run with. The impetus is to create something that is fruitful. As a classical composer, what I try to do is develop my material in a satisfying way – the way I build material, and the way I think about it, comes from that organic process…I know classical composers who try to dabble in jazz  and write for jazz musicians. And to me it sounds stiff, it doesn’t quite work. I think it works better to have a person coming out of jazz writing classical music than the other way around.”


“…You have to be thorough and write everything down [in classical music]—you need to know how you want it phrased, where you want the emphasis on that one note, where you want it to swell, what dynamic you want. Every articulation, every bowing. The clearer you are on paper, the better result you will get…You have to hear it in your head.  That’s what you are doing as a classical composer--you need to provide all the information possible… and then the performers make it work. As a [classical] composer, you are not directing it – you are usually in the wings.  In a jazz context, it is more democratic. .. and it’s about the playing, you are living in it, you are not trying to get it perfect. You are discovering it, whereas classical music is all about perfection.”


The pursuit of perfection in the context of discovery? It’s where jazz and classical music meet. At Ann Millikan’s doorstep.


“Swede Hollow” will be performed at 4 pm in Swede Hollow Park; main entry near Hope Community Academy at 720 Payne Ave. Follow signs “down the rabbit hole” into Swede Hollow Park. Art in the Hollow begins at 10 am. All events free!

Photos (top to bottom): Ann Millikan; promo poster for Swede Hollow; Ann Millikan discusses House of Mirrors at a pre-concert gathering at Hamm's Brewery (all images provided by Ann Millikan) 


 

 

 


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, May 25 - 31






© Andrea Canter

Memorial Day Weekend in Minnesota typically is cool and rainy.  And while the weather can interfere with holiday activities, neither rain nor wind, neither heat nor chill can put a damper on the hot and steamy jazz coming our way! This weekend, you can hear “Young Lions” at Studio Z and the Dakota; veteran standouts at the Lexington, Dakota, Artists Quarter and Orchestra Hall; the opening rounds of of summer music in the parks and more; and look ahead to some of our favorite performers during the week ahead.

Highlights, This Week
May 25: The KBEM riverboat cruise (with Trio Bossa Nova) is sold out, but there’s a lot more around town tonight. Sassy swinging vocalist Nichola Miller and monster pianist Tanner Taylor hold the stage at Hell’s Kitchen, while the “Dean” of jazz guitar, Dean Granros, makes an all-too-rare appearance at the Artists Quarter, with Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst. Short on experience but long on talent and energy, the Javier Santiago Trio, with pianist Javi’s former teen cohorts Chris Smith and Miguel Hurtado, turn musical somersaults on the Dakota stage in the Late Night slot. We first heard these guys in the teen band, The Eggz, and now they are working musicians, Javi and Chris in New York where they graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Miguel in the Twin Cities after completing studies at the Manhattan School of Music. They were in the groove last night at the AQ!


May 25-26. Recently announced as winner of the American Heritage Award from the American Immigration Council, Cuban dynamo pianist Nachito Herrera keeps things afire at the Dakota, be it some traditional son, rhumba or cha-cha, Ellington, or even Rachmaninoff.

May 26. Zacc Harris closes his Jazz at Studio Z season by presenting a Young Lion’s Showcase with three outstanding ensembles. First up, the Miguel Hurtado Group, featuring old South High pals Javi Santiago and Chris Smith (fresh off their AQ and Dakota gigs), along with guitarist Zacc and saxophonist Nelson Devereaux. It’s the best blend of young talents from New York and the Twin Cities. MHG will be followed by the Adam Meckler Quintet. Trumpet star Adam has already proven to be a creative bandleader, leading both large ensemble (the Adam Meckler Orchestra, on Jazz Central’s Big Band Tuesday schedule on 5/29) and quintet, which includes another list of “young lions”—Harris, Brandon Wozniak, Graydon Peterson and Zach Schmidt. The evening closes with the Max Corcoran Project, featuring saxman Max, bassist Andrew Foreman, and again, drummer Zach Schmidt. All in all, there’s eleven of a new generation of jazz stars on the Z stage tonight! That’s not even $1 per artist for your $10 cover.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a hit with Twin Cities audiences over the past few years, appearing at Orchestra Hall and the Dakota. Tonight they join forces with Irvin Mayfield and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to launch the renovation of Peavy Plaza and the Orchestra Hall lobby, which will shut down the facility for a year. Naturally there will be a  Second Line March out of the concert hall following an evening of red hot New Orleans brass.



May 26-27.  It’s become a tradition to bring Eric Alexander to the Artists Quarter for Memorial Day Weekend.  The Midwest native now based in New York, Alexander is considered one of the leading voices on tenor sax in modern jazz, a prolific recording artist and composer, and leader of his acclaimed quartet and One for All. Last visit, Eric literally ran into a dog with open jaws, seriously lacerating a finger before his night at the AQ. Despite the bandage, he played with joyous abandon. Even that dog would have been mesmerized. We should be able to enjoy Eric with ten good digits this weekend! Two sets each night, be sure to check the AQ website for set times.

May 28. The Lake Harriet Bandshell opens its summer music season in style with Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson. Bring a picnic or come over after the barbecue, and just relax as Maud sings songs that you thought you knew well, and some that you maybe have not yet heard at all. And when she steps back for the piano solo, husband Rick conjures the likes of Art Tatum, Fats Waller, and Basie himself. If it looks like rain, bring an umbrella! Maud will have you “singing in the rain.”

Remember, the Dakota, Artists Quarter, and many other venues are closed for the holiday!

May 29. Two amazing, long-popular songbirds grace stages on either end of the Cities tonight. Connie Olson has been brightening bands since her teens, from rock and pop to jazz, and most recently in tribute to Doris Day. She has not been doing that many public gigs lately so this night at The Nicollet is extra special. She’s fronting a group known as Toyz in the Attic, including keyboardist Fred Flowerday, bass guitarist Jonathan Thomas, saxophonist Andrew Schwandt, and percussionist C Harris. Their repertoire includes sambas, originals, and melodic jazz rhythms.

You can catch Connie in Minneapolis and still make it to the Artists Quarter in time to hear all or most of  the Vicky Mountain Quartet. Vicky is also a long-time presence on the Twin Cities music scene, doing rock, pop and R&B back in the 70s before moving more firmly into jazz. Head of  Voice at MacPhail, Vicky infuses her music with bits of Ella and Sarah and  whole lot of Vicky.

May 31. It’s always a special night at the Artists Quarter when the Pete Whitman X-Tet is on stage. Not quite a combo, not quite a big band, Pete makes it the best of both worlds, including a A-List of Twin Cities musicians playing original and inventive arrangements of jazz covers.



More Music Every Night
I hear, too often, “How do you know what’s going on?” If you are reading this blog, you are internet-savvy enough to check the listings on Bebopified and Jazz Police! Or tune into KBEM radio (88.5 FM).  Some more suggestions:

·         Friday, May 25: Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen;  Patty Peterson and Friends at Bunkers
·         Saturday, May 26: Ticket to Brasil at Loring Pasta Bar; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D’Amico Kitchen; Maud Hixson with Tanner Taylor and Keith Boyles at The Lexington; Blue Camel (Viv Corringham, Tim O’Keefe, Pat O’Keefe) at the Black Dog; Southside Aces at the Dakota (Late Night)
·         Sunday, May 27: Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café;  Mouldy Figs at Shamrocks; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar; Charmin Michelle and Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Paul Renz Quintet at Brit's Pub; Cellar (James Buckley, Bryan Nichols, Joey Van Phillips) at Barbette
·         Monday, May 28: Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Scott Agster at Jazz Central (AQ, Dakota closed for holiday)
·         Tuesday, May 29: Cory Wong Quartet, early show at the Artists Quarter; Jack Brass Band at the Driftwood Char Bar
·         Wednesday, May 30: Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the Galactic Soul Arkestra at the Artists Quarter; Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Dan and Reuben Ristrom at Schoolhouse II Bistro
·         Thursday, May 31: Gypsy Mania at Hell’s Kitchen; Arne Fogel at The Lexington; Mark Bloom  with Sim Glaser and Darryl Boudreaux at the 318 Cafe; Josh Granowski and Patrick Harrison at Barbette

Coming Soon!
·         June 1-2, Red Planet at the Artists Quarter
·         June 2, Bruce Henry at the Dakota
·         June 3, Sophie Millman at the Dakota
·         June 4, Russ Peterson Big Band at the Old Log Theater
·         June 5, Dean Magraw and Davu Seru with guest Brandon Wozniak at the Black Dog
·         June 5, Bill Simensen Big Band at Jazz Central
·         June 7, Rachelle Ferrell at the Dakota
·         June 10, Connie Evingson, CD Release at The Jungle Theater
·         June 10, Barbara Leshoure, Pippi Ardennia, PipJazz Sundays at Landmark Center
·         June 10, Jazz on the Prairie Festival at Staring Lake Park Amphitheater
·         June 10, Wadda Leo Smith with Douglas Ewart at Weyerhauser Memorial Chapel, Macalester College
·         June 10-11, Roy Hargrove Quintet at the Dakota
·         June 12, Cedar Avenue Big Band at Jazz Central
·         June 12, Maryann Sullivan and Rhonda Laurie at The Nicollet
·         June 13, Dean Brewington, Rondo Outreach Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         June 14, Peterson Family at Edina Performing Arts Center, Edina High School
·         June 15-16, Paul Bollenback at the Artists Quarter
·         June 16, Jana Nyberg Group at Hayden Heights Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival (2 pm)
·         June 16, Barbary Coast 45th Anniversary at the Black Box, Bloomington Center for the Arts
·         June 18, Laura Caviani at Jazz Central
·         June 18-19, Stanley Clarke and George Duke at the Dakota
·         June 20, St Peter Street Stompers, St Anthony Park Library (St Paul), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         June 22, A Love Electric/Adam Meckler Orchestra at the Ritz Theater
·         June 28, Jack Brass Band at St Paul Central Library (11:30 am), Twin Cities Jazz Festival
·         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
·         July 5,  Dean Magraw & Marcus Wise, PipJazz Sundays at Landmark Center
·         July 9-10, Victor Wooten at the Dakota
·         July 28, Dakota StreetFest on Nicollet Mall
·         August 1-2, Tribute to Jimmy Smith with Joey D’Francesco, Larry Coryell & Jimmy Cobb 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): Eric Alexander, wounded but undaunted at the AQ in 2011; Javi Santiago, Chris Smith and Miguel Hurtado (composite); Adam Meckler; Irvin Mayfield with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Dakota; Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson; Vicky Mountain; Bill Frisell. (All photos by Andrea Canter)






Thursday, May 24, 2012

Uncommon Music



© Andrea Canter

In the past week I’ve had the opportunity to hear jazz in various forms from diverse sources performed by a wide range of artists in diverse contexts. That’s not an unusual experience in this community in this genre. But in the past week, I enjoyed music that “uncommon” to a significant degree—uncommonly performed, uncommonly interpreted, and to some extent, in uncommon spaces.


The Roseville Area High School Spring Jazz Concert (May 18) seemed like the most unlikely opportunity to hear music that quite possibly has not been performed in nearly 20 years, and most likely not performed by a high school ensemble, ever. But jazz director Pat Moriarty is as rare as the charts he gathered over the past year, charts—or rather, chart fragments and notes and tedious transcriptions—from the recordings of the Dedication Orchestra, a band assembled in the early 1990s to pay tribute to the music of expatriate South African jazzmen of the 70s, notably Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Mongesi Feza, and Harry Miller. 

Pat ultimately connected with the head of Ogun Records which released the two Dedication Orchestra recordings in 1992 and 1994.  Charts were reassembled on both sides of the Atlantic—via Ogun in London, and via student musicians in Roseville. (Read more about this venture on Jazz Police.) Six of these compositions were performed by Jazz Ensemble I in the jam-packed RAHS Auditorium, featuring a rotating cast of exemplary teen soloists. I hope someone recorded it. The concert also included performances by Jazz Ensemble II and two combos, including yet another uncommon work—a nine-part tone poem by senior saxophonist Alex Charland, complete with an extensive program note. The explanatory text was Shakespearean, the music straight out of the 21st century.

Throughout their 2011-2012 season,  Jazz @St. Barney’s has presented monthly programs of jazz vocalists and instrumentalists in the large hall of the St. Barnabus Lutheran Church Art Center in Plymouth. They’ve hosted some of the best in town (and beyond), including vocalists Maud Hixson, Connie Evingson, Judi Donaghy, Paula Lammers and Bruce Henry, and the piano/guitar duo of Laura Caviani and Joan Griffith. For the season finale, vocalist Rhonda Laurie, with backing from pianist Phil Mattson and bassist Josh Granowski, presented “Uncommon Standards,” a showcase of songs, often by well known composers (the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk), that are either seldom performed or seldom performed with lyrics. 

So there were no renditions of “Embraceable You” or “Take the A Train.” Rather, we heard Blossom Dearie’s quirky and Frishberg-ish “I’m Shadowing You”;  we learned there are lyrics to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” and Monk’s “Ruby My Dear”; and we enjoyed a Gershwin and Gershwin tune that, for some reason, just isn’t on most set lists, “Aren’t You Kinda Glad We Did?” (Maybe it is just too risqué for the image of the Gershwins!) The set worked, not only because of the musicianship, which was impeccable, but because we got a little history, a little back story, from Rhonda, a determined researcher as well as musician, including her still-in-progress effort to contact the lyricist of “Ruby My Dear.” (Anyone know how to reach Sally Swisher?)
 
It’s not uncommon in the Twin Cities for young musicians to grab gigs at prime venues like the Dakota and Artists Quarter. But when musicians in their early 20s have already been playing together for ten years, when they get back to back books at the top jazz venues in town… that’s not business as usual. Back when they were barely in middle school, Javier Santiago, Chris Smith and Miguel Hurtado formed the rhythm section of a student band, The Eggz. Over their teen years, the guys played together in Tom Wells’ middle school jazz band at Ramsey Fine Arts, then under Scott Carter at South High and in other configurations outside of school. Javi and Chris went on to the Brubeck Institute, then New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, while Miguel also landed in New York at the Manhattan School of Music. They all completed their college degrees and are making their way into the jazz scenes, Javi and Chris in New York, Miguel in the Twin Cities.  With Javi and Chris “home” to visit family this week, the guys came together at the Artists Quarter (May 24th); the trio plays Late Night at the Dakota tonight (May 25th) and kicks off the Young Lions Showcase (joined by saxophonist Nelson Devereaux) Saturday at the Studio Z.  Each a highly skilled musician in his own right, as a trio these guys exhibited a chemistry and mutual joy that comes from years of collaboration, be it on savvy original compositions,  a simultaneously subtle and exaggerated interpretation of “St. Thomas” a multi-textured run through “I Hear a Rhapsody” or an elegant reading of “Monk’s Mood.” Common standards, perhaps, but uncommonly interpreted. And these young musicians drew an unusually large audience for a Thursday night.

 Music, new, old, and reinvented is the common fare at the Artists Quarter, night after night. But I don’t think we sufficiently appreciate it, and the weeknight audience is often disproportionately sparse relative to the degree of talent on the bandstand. I am seriously guilty myself. When did I last come down midweek to hear the Dave Karr Quartet? Dave is one of our local art treasures. He can play anything with a reed as well as flute. And he can play any tune called and call some that might stymie his cohorts. His cohorts at the AQ typically include Chris Lomheim, Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst. It’s not a pick up band, and it’s not your typical house band. Don’t be fooled by the $5 cover. Their music is priceless. The set list might be bebop standards or songbook ballads, or a tune like Cole Porter’s “I Love You” that’s familiar yet not played often. It’s not so much the songs that make Dave’s music uncommon. It’s Dave’s music that makes the songs unforgettable.

Photos (top to bottom): Roseville Area High School Jazz Ensemble I; Pat Moriarty; Rhonda Laurie; Javi Santiago, Chris Smith, Miguel Hurtado (composite); Dave Karr. (photos by Andrea Canter)