|Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Mears Park|
© Andrea Canter
My favorite weekend of the year actually gets underway Thursday, June 27th with the kickoff of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival; Friday and Saturday boast an eclectic mix of jazz styles, from trad to swing to bebop to avant garde, from soul jazz to funk, solo performers to big bands, youth to octogenarian veterans. And yes, there are some other jazz events in the coming week apart from the festival.
Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Friday, June 28th
There’s two outdoor stages for opening night as well as at least a dozen clubs, bars, and restaurants boasting festival jazz. The full line-up and schedule are available online and in the program booklet available at all participating venues.
On the Main Stage: The Illicit Sextet won many fans in the 90s. After a decade- long hiatus, the band—Steve Kenny, Paul Harper, David Roos, Chris Lomheim, Tom Pieper and Nathan Norman-- reunited in 2009, stronger than ever, and released a new CD (Chapter Eleven) this spring. You can hear their new original compositions and celebrate the new CD (4 pm). At 6 pm, the festival continues its tradition of promoting tomorrow’s stars with the Ariel Pocock Trio. Only 20, Ariel already is an award-winning pianist/vocalist with worldwide performance credits. Winner of Downbeat Student Awards for both piano and voice, the Seattle-area native is a student at the University of Miami. Pocock will be joined by regular cohorts, bassist Chris Croce and drummer (and Twin Cities native) Matt Buckner.
|Kenny Werner (TC Jazz Festival)|
Closing the Main Stage tonight (8:30 pm) is one of the most prolific composers and recording artists in modern jazz, pianist Kenny Werner. His seasoned trio includes bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig (who has performed a couple times at the Artists Quarter in the past few years). Werner most recently was at the Dakota when Debbie Duncan sat in! Werner will offer a free clinic at 5:30 pm at McNally Smith.
Sixth Street Stage: Named after the Iowa town where leader Steve Jennings’ great-grand parents settled in 1870, Story City has evolved from its beginnings as a quartet in 2008 to the imaginative percussion-heavy octet that ignites audiences today. Drummer Jennings is joined by Andrew Schwandt, Karl Koopman, Sean Turner, Terry Burns, Steve Faison, Shai Hayo and Dave Schmalenberger. They open the Sixth Street Stage at 5 pm.
Amsterdam Bar: Music goes nonstop from 6 pm til 1 am, starting with guitar master Cory Wong, followed by brilliant pianist Bryan Nichols and his double-sax quintet (featuring Brandon Wozniak and Michael Lewis), and the three sets dubbed the Jazz Central Showcase. The showcase brings an array of artists from newbies like Trevor Haining and Brian Courage to veterans, including Dave Karr, Dave Graf, Phil Aaron, Doug Haining and Mac Santiago, in new configurations, all quintets.
Artists Quarter: Perennial festival favorite Jon Weber returns to the AQ to host a night of piano wizardry and late night festival jams. (Rumor – Connie Evingson will sit in?) But check out the free early set—young pianist Will Kjeer and his Blue Haven quartet are back at the AQ to reinforce the view that jazz is not dead!
Black Dog: The relatively new ensemble Triosé is swinging, inventive and full of mischief. All alums of the UW-Eau Claire, the band includes guitarist Vinnie Rose, bassist Jeremy Boettcher and drummer Adrian Suarez. Their 7:30 pm set is followed by another trio – pianist Todd Harper, bassist Andrew Foreman and drummer Peter Leggett.
Golden’s Deli: A new festival venue this year, Golden’s hosts two nights of the Minnesota Vocal Showcase. Tonight’s sets feature Maryann Sullivan, Rhonda Laurie, Vicky Mountain and Connie Olson, starting at 7 pm. Each singer will be joined by a steady rhythm section. Pick up some great deli concoctions at Golden’s and munch to the music.
More: Bar hopping is not a bad idea tonight. Check out: Yohannes Tona and JazZen at the Hat Trick; Clearwater Hot Club at Heartland; JoAnn Funk Trio in the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel; John Penny with Ray Rivera at Señor Wong; Bobby Schnitzer at Trattoria da Vinci, and the Kevin Washington Quintet at the Minnesota Music Café.
Twin Cities Jazz Festival, June 29th
Today there’s a record four outdoor stages, adding the new Union Depot outdoor stage and the annual Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Youth Stage. And a full afternoon and evening at Mears Park plus another round of clubs in the evening and wee hours.
|Walker West Jazz Ensemble|
Mears Park Main Stage: As they typically do every year, the Walker West Academy of Music jazz ensembles start things off at Mears Park (2 pm), and every year the pool of teen talent just seem better than ever. And speaking of a talent pool, the JazzMN Orchestra boasts a number of the area’s most respected musicians. Today they join forces with savvy vocalist Connie Evingson in a salute to Hollywood.
At 6 pm we welcome the return of native son, acclaimed drummer Matt Slocum. Slocum has released two outstanding recordings and is building a reputation as a clinician as well as performer and composer. His quartet includes volcanic saxophonist Walter Smith III, with whom he will conduct a free clinic at McNally Smith, at 2 pm. Rounding out the ensemble are local heroes Bryan Nichols and Chris Bates.
|Cyrus Chestnut (TC Jazz Festival)|
The festival’s closing set at Mears Park (8:30 pm) features internationally renowned pianist Cyrus Chestnut and his trio. It’s been a long while since Chestnut played in the Twin Cities. Known for his soulful swing, Chestnut cut his teeth with Betty Carter and Wynton Marsalis, and since has released 15 recordings. Chestnut will conduct the final clinic at McNally Smith at 5:30 pm.
Sixth Street Stage: Starting at 1 pm, you can hear an exciting and diverse line-up that truly defines Twin Cities jazz. Soon to leave the Twin Cities, pianist Kristin Sponcia brings her quartet at 1 pm; veteran horn virtuosos Dave Graf and Doug Haining follow at 3 pm; next at 5 pm, hear the ever evolving Adam Meckler Orchestra, an 18-piece ensemble featuring mostly young up-and-comers like Nelson Devereaux (sax) and Joe Strachan (piano) and led by outlandishly talented trumpeter/composer Adam Meckler. Closing the stage, it’s Salsa del Soul at 7:15 pm – the band most likely to get a crowd up and dancing as they have done at a number of previous festivals.
Union Depot Outdoor Stage. A new depot and a new outdoor stage for the festival! From 1:30 -8 pm, hear an eclectic line-up that includes Brio Brass, guitarist Dave Ziffer, the Atlantis Quartet, St Peter Street Stompers, and vocalist Lee Engele.
|The Dakota Combo on the Youth Stage|
Youth Stage. Again sponsored by the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, the Youth Stage has been part of the festival for over a decade. Set up outside the Black Dog on Prince Street, the stage opens at 1 pm with an ensemble from a new jazz camp, Jazz Around Minnepolis, and closes with the Dakota Combo, an all-star high school band directed by Adam Linz. In between, here an X-Tet from Stillwater, the McNasty Brass from McNally Smith, and student-led bands Byzantine Sextet and the Jack Breen Group.
Artists Quarter: It’s Jon Weber’s last night and for sure, he will make the most of it. With all the pianists featured at the festival, perhaps we can anticipate some four-handed duels?
|Alicia Renee (A Rey)|
Amsterdam Bar: Remember hearing Alicia Renee sing with Jon Weber a few festival ago? She’s still singing, now with a new band A Rey, kicking off the Amsterdam at 6 pm. She’s followed by the always-effervescent Patty Peterson “and Friends,” and the second Jazz Central Showcase, again featuring mixes of newcomers and veterans, with young lions Javi Santiago, Miguel Hurtado, Ted Olsen, Joe Mayo and Ted Godbout collaborating with established stars like Graydon Peterson, Steve Kenny, Dave Hagedorn, Jay Epstein and more.
Golden’s Deli: The second night of the Minnesota Vocal Showcase brings favorites and new voices to the stage, starting at 7 pm with Judi Donaghy Vinar and introducing relative newcomers Martha Alkins and Colleen Wold-Heibeler, and new resident Tony London.
More! Another new venue, Black Bear Crossings at the Como Lakeside Pavillion gets a strong initiation with the Larry McDonough Quartet; the Black Dog has something for everyone, starting with Papa John Kolstad followed by the Joel Shapira Trio and a genre-crossing ensemble, Dead Cat Swing. Gypsy Mania will be swinging at Heartland; and the JoAnn Funk Trio continues her Blossom Dearie salute at the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel. And there’s even more, consult the program or online schedule.
Other Big Gigs This Week
Friday, June 28. It’s always a good night when Ginger Commodore and her band (Lee Blaske, Mark Weissbeg, Bobby Commodore, Deevo, Kathy Jensen) take the stage at the Dakota. It’s hard to compete with the jazz festival, but consider this a mini-version! If you can hang out for Late Night, the younger generation of Commodores—drummer Brandon and singer Ashley—will be heading the 11:30 pm set.
Saturday, June 29. The jazz series at Hotel Ivy’s Porter and Frye continues with the Doug Little Trio. We seldom have a chance to hear this warm-toned saxophonist outside the contexts of his Latin bands (Seven Steps to Havana, Charanga Tropicale). Still, it is hard to imagine that Little will not bring some tropical warmth to this gig, given his fluency in Spanish and Portuguese and experiences in Cuba and Brazil!
Tuesday, July 2. Two outstanding bands celebrate “150 Years of Brazilian Music” at the Fine Line Music Café. Dibigode is one of the leading purveyors of Brazilian instrumental music. The quintet has been together for six years, garnering national and international attention at major festivals and via their debut recording. They will be joined by Choro Borealis, led by local Brazilian guitarist Robert Everest with clarinetist Pat O’Keefe and percussionist Tim O’Keefe.
|Evan Montgomery (Lulu's Playground)|
Wednesday, July 3. The Artists Quarter welcomes back Lulu’s Playground, one of the area’s most unusual and musically intriguing ensembles. The instrumentation alone is noteworthy—accordion (Steven Hobert), cello (Cory Grossman), guitar (Evan Montgomery) and trumpet (Adam Meckler. And each musician has a long list of credentials through other projects. In my first encounters with this unusual quartet, I found the music fresh, intriguing, genre-defying and playful. The same adjectives apply to the their debut recording, Shadow Voices, celebrated last January. Wonder what they’ve cooked up now?
Thursday, July 4. There's enough fireworks whenever the Wolverines Big Band takes the stage, but tonight there's even more to celebrate as the Wolves mark their 40th anniversary with a gig at Excelsior Commons. Joining the big band, led by drummer Jendeen Forberg, will be favorite vocalists Maud Hixson, Judi Donaghy Vinar and Arne Fogel.
Be sure to check live jazz calendars on Jazz Police and KBEM sites. Also find a growing number of events on the Jazz Near You site, a service of All About Jazz. A few more gigs of note:
Friday, June 28. Charmin Michelle at Parma; Lee Engele and Reynold Philipsek at Kip’s Irish Pub
Saturday, June 29. Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma; Capri Big Band at Centennial Lakes; Ticket to Brasil at Loring Pasta Bar
Sunday, June 30. Regina Marie Williams at the Dakota; Jerry O’Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle at Cinema Ballroom; Pavel Jany solo guitar at Como Lakeside Pavillion
Monday, July 1. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; JT’s Jazz Implosion at the Icehouse; Southside Aces at Famous Dave’s (Uptown); Shilad Sen at Jazz Central
Tuesday, July 2. Cory Wong Quartet followed by the Zacc Harris Trio at the Artists Quarter; Dean Magraw and Davu Seru at the Black Dog; Beasley’s Big Band at O’Gara’s; Bill Simenson Big Band at Jazz Central; Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; Triosé at Café Maude (Penn Av)
Wednesday, July 3. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids, early set at the Artists Quarter; Joel Shapira at Café Maude (Penn Av)
Thursday, July 4. Wolverines Big Band at Excelsior Commons Park. (Note many venues closed for the holiday)
. July 5-7, Iowa City Jazz Festival with Pharoah Sanders, Fred Hersch, Charlie Hunter, Christian Scott, Lonnie Smith and more
. July 8, Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble at Homewood Studios
. July 8-9, Pharoah Sanders at the Dakota
. July 13, St Croix Vineyards Jazz Festival in Stillwater (Atlantis Quartet, Patty Peterson and more)
. July 14, PipJazz Sundays with Louis Alemayehu at Landmark Center
. July 18, Stanley Jordan at the Dakota
. July 19, Maud Hixson at Parma
. July 23, Badi Assad at the Dakota
. July 25, Benefit for Jeremy Walker at the Dakota
. July 27, Dakota Street Fest (Nicollet Mall)
. August 10, Todd Clouser and A Love Electric with Cyro Baptista at the Icehouse
. September 14, Selby Ave Jazz Festival
|Stanley Jordan, coming to the Dakota July 18th|