Another Good Week. Music: 5.7 – 5.13

May 7, 2014

images-1From young jazz musicians to boomer rockers, an oratorio on slavery and some mighty fine blues, we are privileged to be able to choose from a rich palette of music here in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Music certainly lifts the spirit.

Jazz

Wednesday, May 7

Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25) Two acoustic guitars + Jazz + Bluegrass + Two creative minds + Two virtuosos = Fireworks for guitar lovers.

O'Brien at play

O’Brien at play

Michael O’Brien Quintet @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Donation) Minneapolis bassist O’Brien has been based in Brooklyn for a few years now, and lately has been traveling (and playing) around the world. He’ll be joined tonight by Brandon Wozniak, sax; Jake Baldwin, trumpet; Tanner Taylor, piano; and Mac Santiago, drums; to rework some of his old arrangements and play songs from his fine CD, Tunes I Like to Play, which you can sample on his website.

Thursday, May 8

Charmin & Shapira & Friends @ The Dakota. 7pm (No Cover) When the sweet vocals of Charmin Michelle are combined with the tasteful, swinging sounds of Joel Shapira’s acoustic guitar, the results are sublime. Tonight they’re joined by friends on sax, bass & drums to round out an engaging evening of music.

Maurice Jacox @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10 Donation) Maurice brings his vocal chops to the “basement family room” of jazz. Thomas West will accompany him on the JC piano.

The Dakota Combo @ Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music, Minneapolis. 8pm (Free) In September of each year, an open audition is held for high school students to study and perform as part of the Dakota Combo. They study with bassist Adam Linz, jazz coordinator at MacPhail, and then perform at various venues and schools during the school year. This marks the Spring concert for the group, which is as talented a group of young musicians as you can find. Full disclosure: I chair the organization that sponsors the group.

Friday, May 9

Paula Lammers @ Parma 8200, Bloomington. 7:30 – 10:30pm (No Cover) Lammers, a sweetly swinging vocalist, teams up with Phil Aaron on piano and Ray Siegel on bass to deliver an evening of standards seasoned with some under-recorded gems. Here she is doing No Moon at All.

Will Kjeer/Levi Schwartzberg Duo @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm (Donation) Here are two high school seniors who are members of the Dakota Combo and who also have been playing professionally around town. Pianist Will Kjeer has been playing with his own group, Blue Haven, as well as with veterans such as Steve Kenny, Dave Brittain, & Jana Nyberg. Levi Schwartzberg plays both vibes and piano in bands such as Blue Haven, Sound Skirmish, and the Cosmic Troubadours. Both are finishing their second year with the Dakota Combo and will be heading off to college next fall.

Courageous Endeavors CD Release @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 11pm, ($8) Four twenty-somethings, each of whom has been making his mark in Twin Cities jazz, are releasing Prototype, their debut album of original songs. Though the use of a Fender Rhodes gives it a slightly 70s vibe, the time signatures and melodies are 21st Century. The group includes Nelson Devereaux, saxes; Joe Strachan, Fender Rhodes; Brian Courage, bass; and Miguel Hurtado, drums.

Saturday, May 10

Photo by Andrea Canter

Photo by Andrea Canter

Group 47 @ Sweet 317, Northern Warehouse, 308 Prince Street, Saint Paul. 8pm ($10) Trumpeter (Flumpeter?) Steve Kenny has gathered some of the best young talent around for this group: pianist Will Kjeer is finishing up his senior year in high school; Thomas Strommen, sax, is a sophomore at UW-River Falls; drummer Alex Burgess also studies at River Falls; while bassist Adam Tucker has been playing and recording music in the Twin Cities for a number of years. Though their new album, Straight to Vinyl, won’t be out for another month, you can hear some previews in the comfy confines of a house concert. For tickets and more info, go to http://Sweet317.com.

Monday, May 12

Brian Grivna @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Donation) Tenor sax player Grivna is a veteran of the Buddy Rich Orchestra, the Guthrie. He’s toured with the Minnesota Orchestra and with Bobby McFerrin and the SPCO. He continues to work with both the Orchestra and SPCO, as well as in the pit band for touring shows. His appearances at Jazz Central are always a delight.

For a comprehensive listing of Jazz, go to the Twin Cities Live Jazz Calendar. For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs Jazz PoliceBebopified, and Jazz Ink.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, May 7

Erik Koskinen Band @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 10pm ($8) If anyone ever asks how to define Americana music, point them to Koskinen’s recordings. With his writing and singing, Koskinen has a way of connecting with the hopes and fears of both toilers and dreamers. His incisive guitar playing draws from rock n’ roll, country and even some classic folk.

Thursday, May 8

Cooker John & Mikkel Beckmen @ The Dubliner, Saint Paul. 5pm – 7pm (Tip Jar) Mikkel Beckmen, of the rub board and found percussion, brings in a different guest each week for a genial gathering of business folk, old hippies, and young fans of roots music. This week he’s invited fingerpicker/acoustic blues singer Cooker John to share the stage.

Youngblood Brass Band @ The Triple Rock, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12)  Madison is about as unlikely a place for a New Orleans Brass Band as Minneapolis, but these guys have made it work. YBB has collaborated with hip-hop artists, sold out dates in over 20 countries and continue to stretch boundaries and gain fans. Twin Cities trumpeter Adam Meckler has been playing with them on their recent tour through the west, which has also included a number of workshops in elementary and high schools. Opening is Mpls rapper Botzy.

 

Friday, May 9

Dee Miller Band @ The Sherwood Lounge, Saint Paul. 9pm (No Cover) This venue has remained under the radar as far as I know. Not so The Dee Miller Band, with the potent combination of Miller on take-no-prisoners vocals and Jimi “Primetime” Smith on guitar.

Friday, Saturday, May 9, 10

Kelly Hunt @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25) The piano-pounding sassy singer from Kansas City has been appearing at the Dakota so often, she’s probably sampled most of their dinners. She has a new CD, The Beautiful Bones, about to be released, and it’s already garnering praise, so expect some new material.

Saturday, May 10

Unknown-2TU Dance 10th Anniversary Concert @ The Ordway, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($23 – $48) It’s been ten years since Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, both veterans of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, started their own troupe. They are marking the anniversary with the premiere of Hikari, an Ordway-commissioned pice created by Uri Sands in collaboration with master wood block print artist Hiroki Morinoue. Uri Sands will also perform Alvin Ailey’s Twin Cities with special guest Laurel Keen, and the troupe will also perform Lady, a signature piece for the company, and the Minnesota premiere of Uri Sands’ One. All in all, a very special evening for fans of dance.

Let My People Go! A Spiritual Journey Along the Underground Railway @ Hamline United Methodist Church, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($20, $30) This is a concert-length oratorio featuring T. Mychael Rambo and Aimee K. Bryant in the roles of narrator, and the 75-voice Oratorio Society Chorus. It’s presented by the Oratorio Society of Minnesota. In essence, the piece by composer Dolnald McCulloug interweaves spirituals into a script that explores the ingenuity of America’s slaves, who created “coded” messages within much of their music.

Boom Boom Steve & The Knockouts @ Holihan’s Pub, White Bear Lake. 8pm (Tip Jar) This small East Metro club provides an intimate space for listening to the passionate harp playing of Boom Boom Steve, with John Franken, guitar; John Shroeder, bass; and Dwight Dario on drums. One or two couples can also dance.

Sunday, May 11

Pat Donahue & Daddy Squeeze @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul. 5pm (Tip jar) Both Donahue and Dan Newton are expertly conversant in a number of genres. The master finger-picking guitarist and wizard of the “stomach Steinway” combine for an evening of music that may range from blues to gypsy jazz to polkas.

Sultans of String @ The Fine Line, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($15) This Canadian quartet of two guitars, bass, and fiddle has received raves wherever they go, with their blend of gypsy jazz, Spanish flamenco, Arabic folk, and other genre-blending sounds.

Flamin’ Groovies @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 8pm ($25) Comning out of San Francisco in 1965, The Groovies played what would eventually become known as power pop, using a two-guitar attack to rock up some r&b, classic rock n’ roll, and originals. They were mostly ignored, and certainly outsold by the more psychedelic bands of the time. After the inevitably splintering, quitting, they became cult favorites. After finally reuniting a couple of years ago, they are on the move and on tour. They still rock out, as you can see in the video below. Might Mofos open.

 

Monday, May 12

Willie Murphy’s Blue Monday Jam @ Richfield American Legion, Richfield 7pm (Tip Jar) Willie’s been doing a Blue Monday Jam for  decades, though the location has changed from time to time, as when the old Viking Bar closed. You never know who will show up and take part, but you do know it will be fun, as Willie goes through a repertoire that includes old rock n’ roll, blues, and originals.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.

 


Beautiful Weekend. Cool Music. 8.15 – 8.21

August 15, 2012

Maybe your weekend won’t be as cool (both literally and figuratively) as this pooch, but it will be another beautiful weekend, with more festivals and more music. Festivals are usually well promoted, so I don’t always mention them, though I have four listed for this week. Enjoy.

Jazz

Wednesday, August 15

Battlecat @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis. 7pm (Free) Well, I guess you should at least buy a drink and/or an appetizer. But hey, Maude has a good selection of both. Anyway, Battlecat is Park Evans, guitar, Cody McKinney on bass, and Greg Schutte on drums, and they all are veteran cats from jazz and other genres, which means you’ll hear some great music. If you call for reservations, ask for a table near the music, especially during the first hour, as the noise of everyone enjoying their meal can get quite loud.

Thursday, August 16

Charmin & Shapira & Friends @ The Dakota, MInneapolis. 7pm (No Cover)  Vocalist Charmin Michelle and guitarist Joel Shapira make great music together. Her liquid vocals work well with Joel’s understated but always inventive guitar playing. They’ll be joined by Tom Lewis, bass; Dave Brattain, sax; and Nathan Norman on drums.

Chris Lomheim Trio: Bill Evans Birthday @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Bill Evans would be 83 were he still alive. Chris Lomheim is a great admirer, a sensitive and imaginative pianist. He’ll be joined by Gordy Johnson on bass and Jay Epstein on drums for an evening of exquisite jazz.

Friday, August 17

Nichola Miller @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm (Free) Miller is a no-nonsense vocalist, interpreting the standards with such confidence you’ll feel like you’re in a Mad Men episode. Bartender, I’ll have a Martini, please, extra olives.

Friday, Saturday, August 17, 18

Gravatt, Linz & Wozniak @ the Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Their first gig at the Icehouse a few weeks ago was quite incendiary, as Eric Gravvat, drums, Adam Linz, bass, and Brandon Wozniak, sax, tore through standards and compositions by modern jazz masters.

Saturday, August 18

Randy Brecker

Burnsville Art and All That Jazz Festival Featuring Randy Brecker @ Nicollet Commons Park, Burnsville. Noon – 9:30pm. (Free) A very good line-up for this free outdoor event featuring an outstanding nationally known artist. The young artists of the Dakota Combo start things off at noon, followed by The Hot Swing Combo including Robert Bell on guitar and Erin Schwab on vocals, the nine-piece Charanga Tropical led by Flautists/Saxophonist Doug Little, the fusion of the Super Pilots, whose members met at the Berklee College of Music, and hard bop sounds of trumpeter Randy Brecker, a four-time Grammy nominee.

Dorothy Doring, with Phil Mattson & Greg Byers @ The Lexington, Saint Paul. 6:30 – 10:30pm. (No Cover, but there may be a minimum for some tables)  The parade of excellent vocalists at the Lex continues. Tonight, Ms Doring brings her considerable skills, including a bit of scatting, and charming stage personality to the library-like room.

Jake. Photo by Andrea Canter

Jake Baldwin Quartet @ Late Night at The Dakota, Minneapolis. 11:30pm ($5) Baldwin is a young trumpeter about to enter his last year at the New England Conservatory of Music. He also made his own trumpet, which has a couple of extra valves so he can hit some quarter notes. Imaginative in his soloing, Baldwin has a clean sound, and is well worth checking out by the late night crowd.

Monday, August 20

B3 Night with Zacc Harris @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Donation) Jazz Central’s B3 has hardly been used, and they’re raising funds for some minor repairs. Tonight, Tanner will be sitting down and playing it, with Zacc Harris playing guitar. Zacc is no stranger to B3 combos, so this should be a soulful, fun evening.

Tuesday, August 21

Doug Haining/Scott Agster Big Band @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Donation) Two swinging musicians have put together a big band. Can’t wait to see this.

A more comprehensive calendar for the Twin Cities can be found at Jazz Police. They feature jazz commentary as well, as do Bebopified, and Jazz Ink, which also features Andrea Canter’s fine photography.

Blues, Roots, Other

Wednesday, August 15

Boys N’ the Barrels and Sister Shaw @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 7pm (Boys), 9:30pm (Sister) (Tip Jar)  The Boys give out their unique take on blue/new/neo grass, while Sister Shaw tackles classic Americana, from the Carter Family to Gillian Welch. You can catch the Boys on KFAI (90.3 and 106.7 FM) at 5pm before heading over to the 331.

Thursday, August 16

Reina Del Cid and the Cidizens @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 9:30pm (Tip jar) Reina is a singer/songwriter whose honest declarations on love, heartache, and social commentary will charm you. After all, she’s already gotten about million views just for this video on YouTube.

Friday, August 17

The Dollys @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) The Dollys are three talented female singers who mine the music of the Trio (Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt) as well as other female country singers of the 80s and 90s.

Paul Cebar & Tomorrow Sound @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) The dancing faithful will be out, I’m sure, to hear Paul’s amalgam of funk, soul, R&B, and Caribbean rhythms.

Guitar Shorty @ Famous Dave’s BBQ, Calhoun Square, Minneapolis. 9pm ($6) Shorty was a member of Ray Charles’ band at 16, and later a member of the house band at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans, where he backed numerous R&B and blues greats. He was Jimi Hendrix’s brother-in-law and friend, and recorded for Black Top, Evidence, and Alligator, where he received a couple of Blues Award nominations. Back in the day, Shorty used to do flips to celebrate some of his solos. He’s now 73, so I doubt we’ll see flips. What you will see and hear is a guitarist who plays long, classic blues lines, and has a flair for showmanship.

Janiva Magness @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($20) Magness was here about six months ago to celebrate the release of Stronger for It, which has been called one of the best blues albums of the year. Just ask some of her many fans from the area, which she has cultivated during years of bringing her soulful vocals to town.

Friday, Saturday, August 17, 18

Hipshaker 10th Anniversary Celebration @ the Kitty Kat Club, Minneapolis. 9pm – 2am ($5) Yes, it’s true, Deejays Greg and Brian have been carrying the torch for funk n’ soul 45s for ten years, bringing out dancing crowds on the 3rd Thursday of the month. To celebrate, they’re taking two weekend nights, so those of you who usually have work on Friday morning can take part. Special guest deejays will keep the surprises coming. Bring some talc to put on the floor – it’s so helpful for those spins, you know.

Saturday, August 18

Music Festival @ Christ The King Lutheran Church, White Bear Lake, 8600 Fremont Ave, Bloomington. 3pm – 9-ish. Bring a blanket and a picnic. Jack Brass Band kicks things off at 3pm, followed by Debbie Duncan, pop singer Alison Scot, and R&B frontman Mick Sterling.

West Bank Music Festival @ Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis. 3pm. ($5) Ten stages, thirty bands, including poverty Hash, Brass Messengers, Malamanya, L’Assassins, the Belfast Cowboys, and many, many more.

Backyard Bonfire @ The Cabooze Plaza, Minneapolis. 4pm ($20/Advance, $25/Gate) Here’s a party for those of you who are into the sounds of new bluegrass and classic country, as it features Pert Near Sandstone, Dead Man Winter, Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, Cactus Blossoms, Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins, Sans Souci Quartet and the Farm House Band. There’ll be stompin’ and a’ jumpin’ and a jamboree.

A Flamenco Fiesta @ The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm – 11pm. ($5 suggested donation) For a change of pace from roots and blues, catch Sendero Flamenco as they perform the percussive and sensuous dance. There will also be an open stage to allow for collaboration and experimentation with musicians and dancers.

Sunday, August 19

Cajun Dancers @ The Rec

Al Berard @ Half-Time Rec, Saint Paul. 8pm ($10) Cajun dancers will be out in force to spin, duck, and trip the light fantastic to fiddler Al Berard, who has been nominated for a Grammy and won a half dozen or more Cajun music and fiddle awards. He’ll be backed by a variety of top-flight musicians from the Twin Cities.

Tuesday, Wednesday, August 21, 22

The Spinners. Waaay back in the day.

The Spinners @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($55 – $70), 9pm ($45 – $60) Yes, indeed, the Spinners. Though their big hits were years ago, two of the original members keep the flame going with the help of some newer, though no less polished, members. Twelve Gold Albums. Lots of hits, like It’s a Shame, Could It Be I’m Falling in Love, The Rubberband Man, and others. The soul faithful will be out.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.


Out and About in the Twin Cities: June 6 – 12

June 6, 2012

This week we have a blues festival, a vineyard concert, a couple of visiting jazz artists, and a few unique combinations. Get out and hear some live music. Hope to see you out and about.

Jazz…

Wednesday, June 6

Black Heralds Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) A young band that plays mostly originals, and features trumpeter Sten Johnson, who also performs with groups like the Jack Brass Band and the Nova Jazz Orchestra. Hear what they sound like at:  http://www.myspace.com/blackheraldsquartet

Thursday, June 7

Zack Lozier @ The Harriet Brewing Tap Room, Minneapolis. 10pm.  Zack, Joey Van Phillips, and Chris Bates explore the electric jazz of the 60s and 70s.

Thursday, Friday, June 7, 8

Rachelle Ferrell @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45) & 9pm ($35) Though she got started in contemporary R&B, Ferrell has become better known for her jazz singing, ably abetted by a six-octave range.

Saturday, June 9

Wozniak, Linz, & Gravatt @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm. ($10) Whew! a high powered trio sure to have you searching for appropriate words to describe them. Brandon Wozniak is a busy sax player who brings modern ideas to whatever group he’s in. Adam Linz held down the bass chair in Fat Kid Wednesdays for years and years, earning the delighted appreciation of jazz fans both here and in France. Eric Kamau Gravatt played with Weather Report, tours with McCoy Tyner, and has been an inspiration to any number of drummers.

Ginger Commodore Quintet @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm. ($10)  For the last five months or so, Ginger has been playing Motormouth Maybelle in the Chanhanssen Theater’s version of “Hairspray.” Now she’s back to playing herself, one of the area’s fine, fine singers. She’ll be backed by GCQ –  Adi Yeshaya, piano; Mark Weisberg, bass; Kathy Jensen, sax; Daryl Boudreaux, percussion; and Bobby Commodore holding down the drumset.

Sunday, June 10

Pippi Ardennia & Barbara Leshoure @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. 5pm ($20 – $10 for students under 18 and college ID) Having attended a number of shows in this series, I can safely say that Pippi never approaches a song the same way twice. That’s part of the charm of this series, along with a welcoming attitude towards the audience and guests. Tonight’s guest is singer Barbara Leshoure, whose blues were shaped by visitors to her childhood home – folks like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. The Student Guest is trumpeter Joe Suihkonen, of Minneapolis South HS and the Dakota Combo.

Connie Evingson CD Release @ The Jungle Theater, Minneapolis. 4pm & 7:30pm ($25) Connie’s got a new album, “Sweet Happy Life,” which features the songs of Norman Gimbel. Who? Norman Gimbel, the lyricist behind the English versions of Girl From Ipanema and other bossas, not to mention Killing Me Softy and I will wait for you. She does her usual stellar job of finding nuance and harmonies that escape many listeners, not to mention other musicians. Food and drink in the lobby after each performance.

Firebell @ Barbette, Minneapolis. 10pm (No cover) Park Evans, guitar; Graydon Peterson, bass; Jay Epstein, drums. If you’re up for staying out late on a Sunday night, Barbette has good happy hour prices on wine and appetizers. But that’s just icing on the cake since this band of experience players will transport you

Sunday, Monday, June 10, 11

Roy Hargrove @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35) & 9pm ($25) Given the cost of many shows, this is an absolute steal in terms of talent per dollar.  Hargrove is an inquisitive, exciting trumpet player – among the best of the young(er) breed. He’s explored the music of Cuba, hip-hop, and post-bop jazz with grace and imagination. He always has top-notch players with him as well.

For a comprehensive listing of Jazz, go to the Twin Cities Live Jazz Calendar. For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs Jazz PoliceBebopified, and Jazz Ink.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, June 6

Papa John Kolstad @ the Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm. (Free) The Landmark Center is bringing back Music in the Cafe this season, and kicking it off with Papa John. This is a rare solo appearance, in which he’ll be playing 6 string and 12 string guitar.

Don Scott & Curtis Blake on KFAI and @ the 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI) 7pm – 9pm (331 Club – tip jar) Here we have a couple of kindred spirits having fun and letting the rest of us join in. Scott is a singer/guitarist/composer who was the guiding light behind the Dustbowl Blues Band back in the day. Lately he’s been traveling between here, Mexico, and New Orleans, playing (and gaining fans) in unlikely restaurants and coffeehouses. Blake is a WC Handy Award winner for his harpwork and is known for playing with Greazy Gravy as well as the Brothers Curtis. Fun indeed.

Friday, June 8

Charlie Parr @ Falconer Vineyards, Red Wing. 7pm ($15) Taste some wines from Falconer Vineyards, order a wood-fired pizza, and enjoy the rootsy blues of Mr. Parr performing on the vinter’s covered deck overlooking their vineyard. Cool.

Willie Murphy & the Angel Headed Hipsters w/Willie Walker @ The Minnesota Music Cafe. 9pm ($10?) Not sure on the price, you’ll have to contact the club. At any rate, Murphy & Walker go way back, I think to a group called the Valdons, though I may be mistaken.  Nevertheless, you’ve got a great band with Murphy, and a terrific soul singer with Walker, and a big dance floor at MMC. The combination seems unbeatable.

Bethany Larson & the Bees Knees @ Dakota Late Night, Minneapolis. 11pm. ($5) Larson is a preacher’s kid who studied classical music in college. She sings with a country-ish voice leavened with a touch of pop. The Bees Knees provide just the right backing. Here’s a video.

Saturday, June 9

Famous Dave’s BBQ & Blues Festival @ Nicollet, between 3rd & 4th St, Minneapolis. Noon – 10:30pm. The festival is moving riverward for this year, but you still get ten acts on two stages. Charlie Parr plays twice (6:30 & 8:30) at the Juke Joint Stage. Other acts to be sure to see include Johnny Rawls at 3pm, Davina & the Vagabonds at 5pm, and Charlie Musselwhite at 7pm. For complete schedule, etc., go here.

Doug Otto & the Getaways @ Dakota Late Night, Minneapolis. 11pm. ($5) Americana, including early blues and country. Otto’s way with a song will have you believing he’s lived every downtrodden word he sings. The Getaways bring intensity, space, and depth to each song. Listen to some of their songs here.

Sunday, June 10

Howlin’ Wolf’s Birthday, with Fattenin’ Frogs @ Palmers, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5)  The Frogs take traditional American music from country, blues, R&B, bluegrass, etc., and turn it up a notch. You can say that’s how rock n’ roll got it’s start, and you’d be right. You’ll be stompin’ your feet, clapping your hands, and singing along.

Tuesday, June 12

Mayasich, Kolstad, & Schulte @ Manitou Station, White Bear Lake. 8pm (Free) Now, this is a combination you’ll rarely see. Uber guitarist Paul Mayasich holds forth at the Station on a weekly basis these day, bringing in different guests each week. This week’s guests are Papa John Kolstad and violinist Gary Schulte, bringing a taste of swing to Paul’s slide and dobro playing.

Wednesday, June 13

Cadillac Kolstad @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm. Another early notice. The natural echo of the Landmark’s Cortile will reverberate with Cadillac’s pounding piano.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.


Jazzy Women, Rootsy Men. Music for 3.7 – 3.13

March 7, 2012

Well, it wasn’t planned, but it seems that in the jazz world at least, I’m highlighting a number of women performers this week, and International Women’s Day is Thursday, March 8. Hence the above picture of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a pioneering big band of the 40s.

Fact is, you don’t need a special day to appreciate the role of women in jazz or any of the other arts. Just support their efforts. As for the guys, well support them too. Art in all its guises enriches our lives and gives us a different way of looking at the world.

Ed note: I now have a page with addresses, phone numbers, and short descriptions of most of the venues i cover in the Twin Cities. Access it above. I’ll be adding to the list as I can. Now to this week’s suggestions.

Jazz

Wednesday, March 7

Benny Golson Quartet featuring Nnenna Freelon @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm. ($35) Golson, at 83, is one of the last of the hard bop generation. He played with Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, and co-founded the Jazztet. He’s responsible for such jazz standards as Stablemates, Along Came Betty, Killer Joe, and almost 300 more compositions. Nnenna Freelon is simply a terrific jazz singer – she’s been nominated for six grammys. Here’s Golson performing Killer Joe.

Thursday, Mar 8

Dakota Combo @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 7pm (No cover). The Twin Cities Jazz Society presents another in its Young Artists Series, featuring high school students that will surprise you with their jazz chops. Tonight it’s the Dakota Combo. This group changes every school year as students audition for the opportunity to study with Adam Linz at the MacPhail Center. Afterwards, stick around for Peter Schimke, Billy Peterson, and Kenny Horst at 9pm.

Friday, Mar 10

Lee Engele and James Allen @ The Wine Market in The Village, Mendota Heights. 5:30 – 7:30pm (Free) Well, it’s free as long as you don’t succumb to temptation and buy wine. This unusual gig is part of a wine tasting and sale taking place at the market. Allen is an accomplished guitarist, who has become an in-demand accompanist for vocalists, especially those who know how to swing, as Ms Engele so ably does.

Joe & Roxy Cruz @ Ingredients, White Bear Lake. 7pm – 10pm. Jazz standards and good food. Joe’s been pickin’ his guitar around the Twin Cities for 15 years or so. Roxy sings with the Minnesota Opera, but is flexible enough to handle bossas, swing, and bop, with a bit of scatting along the way.

Friday, Saturday, Mar 9, 10

Manhattan Transfer @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($75) & 9pm ($50) Not sure what I can say about this legendary group that hasn’t already been said. If you’ve not listened to any music for the last 40 years or so you may have missed them. With two females and two male singers, this quartet has the flexibility and vocal chops to bring four-part harmonies to  bebop, doowop, Latin, pop, and more.

Saturday, March 10

Charmin Michelle @ The Lexington, Saint Paul 6:30 – 10:30pm (No cover) The wood lined walls of the Lex’s Williamsburg room are the perfect setting for Ms Michelle’s cool, yet swingin’ vocals. She’ll be accompanied by Phil Mattson on piano and Bruce Heine on bass. Belly up to the bar or get a close-by table and order some of the Lex’s fabled food.

Sunday, Mar 11

PipJazz Sunday @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul 5pm – 7pm.  ($20). Pippi Ardennia starts up a new season of monthly concerts in the Weyerhauser Auditorium. Each concert features Pippi as singer/host and a special guest as well as young musicians. Today’s special guest is saxophonist Jason Delaire, from L.A., while high school sax player Devante Jackson will be the young guest. Also on hand will be M-Theory, a vocal ensemble from MacNally Smith College of Music. I interviewed some of these young artists last Saturday (March 3). You can hear the interview here. It starts about 15 minutes into the program. BTW, Student tickets are free. Check out the link above for details.

Monday, March 12

Regina Marie Williams CD Release @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($10)  Besides acting at at the Guthrie, Mixed Blood, Penumbra, and in New York, Williams successfully portrayed Dinah Washington in Dinah Was at the Ordway. None other than Angela Basset called her “the best singer you’ve never heard.” Well here’s your chance. The new CD is called When A Woman Loves A Man. In it, Williams renders her own effective renditions of well-known standards and a surprise or two. I’ll have her as a guest on my show Saturday, March 10, at 10:45.

Tuesday, March 13

Framework @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7:30pm (tip jar) Framework is Chris Olson, guitar, Chris Bates, bass; and Jay Epstein, drums. Pretty tasty stuff.

For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz check out the blogs Jazz PoliceBebopified, and Jazz Ink.

For a comprehensive listing of Jazz in the Twin Cities, go to the Bebopified Calendar, here.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Thursday, Mar 8

Joe & Vicki Price @ Neumann’s, North Saint Paul. 7pm (tip jar) The Iowa blues duo are coming North once again. This time they’re joining Harold Tremblay as part of Harold’s All Stars. It’s an early show at the oldest continually operating bar in the state. If you miss ‘em, they’ll be at Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis for another early show on Saturday (6:30pm).

Hipshaker @ The Kitty Kat Club, Minneapolis. 9:30pm (No Cover) Rare funk n’ soul. Head hipshaker DJ Greg won’t be there, but DJ Steely of KFAI’s Kinda Cloudy will step up to help DJ Brian, along with special guest Ryan Cameron, owner of the late, lamented Let It Be Records.

Friday, March 9

Swamp Kings @ Shaws, NE Minneapolis 9pm (No Cover). The Swamp Kings successfully channel Louisiana rhythms into a three-piece format. Shaws may not have a lot of room in front of the stage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time there.

Saturday, March 10

Hot Tuna @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 5pm and 9pm Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady started Hot Tuna as an acoustic spinoff of Jefferson Airplane back in the heady days of the 70s. Their rootsy approach to music struck a chord before anyone called it roots music. They are now touring in support of “Steady as She Goes,” their first studio album in 20 years.

Tab Benoit’s Swampland Jam @ The Cabooze, Minneapolis. 9pm ($20) Guitarist Benoit was born on the bayous and has been recognized and praised for his work to protect the wetlands of his native Louisiana. His playing respects tradition, but also acknowledges modern influences. Tonight, he brings along Michael Doucet of Beausoleil as well as Chubby Carrier to create a foot stompin’ propulsive evening of tunes.

Sunday, March 11

Paul Manske Tribute @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 1pm doors, music: 2pm ($10) The late bassist Paul Manske was well loved by all in the local music scene. He played with The Boogiemen, Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls, and others, and was a booking agent and manger for many bands. His sudden death was a shock to all. There will be a surfeit of his musical friends appearing, from the Swamp Twisters and the Dough Bros, to the Butanes, Jack Brass Band, and Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls. Proceeds to his wife Karen to defray medical expenses. Exciting music for a good cause.

John Oates @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($50-$40) The mustached half of Hall & Oates has long left his facial hair behind and has been releasing solo material for ten years or so. His latest is “Mississippi Mile,” an exploration of his early influences, as well as pop music.

Monday Mar 12

Peter Hennig and His Bluegrass Bandits @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm. (tip jar) Peter is a busy jazz drummer around town. Who knew that he also had inner yearnings for the high lonesome sound of bluegrass? Or that he played banjo? Find out tonight.

Tuesday, Mar 13

James Blood Ulmer Solo @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25) Guitar geeks will be filling the Dakota to catch this 70 year old performer, who started out playing in organ combos, eventually blazed a trail with Ornette Coleman, played with Pharoah Sanders, led Punk-jazz groups, and generally creates blues so greasy you’ll be looking for that dinner napkin you were using with your chicken wings.  Check out this video.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar.

For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.


Drummer Johnathan Blake

January 25, 2011

Interview from December 4, 2010

Johnathan Blake at the Dakota. Photo by Andrea Canter

Johnathan Blake is a grammy-nominated drummer and composer, who regularly works with musicians such as Tom Harrell, Oliver Lake, and Russell Malone, as well as with his own group. He came to town to work with the Dakota Combo, a group of high school students in a program co-sponsored by The Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education and The MacPhail Center for Music. This year, the combo is working on the music of Charles Mingus. Given that Blake spent ten year’s  as the drummer for the Mingus Big Band, he was brought in to work with the combo. Blake appeared on Rhythm and Grooves the snowy morning of December 4, before heading out to a workshop with the combo and other students, and an evening performance with the combo at The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis. This is a lightly edited version of our discussion that morning.

LE: Good morning, Jonathan

JB: Good morning.

LE: You arrived in spite of the snow.

JB: In spite of the snow. Got in just before it started.

LE: Let’s explain to the audience a bit of your background and how you’ve come here to work with the Dakota Jazz Combo.

JB: Sure. I guess I was exposed to music even before I was born. My father was a jazz musician. A jazz violinist named John Blake. When I was born, he was actually performing regularly with Grover Washington, Jr.  He stayed with him for about three years from 1976 until 1979. In ’79 he was asked to join the McCoy Tyner group and he stayed with McCoy for about five years. So I was really exposed to it at a young age, which was amazing. My father, being a traveling musician, when times allowed, would take me with him. So I was able to meet a lot of musicians at a young age, like McCoy, and a great saxophonist Joe Ford, even in Grover’s band at the time was Tyrone Brown a great bassist who went on to work with Max Roach, Sid Simmons, and Pete Vincent, the drummer. So it was great to be around those musicians at a young age. It really made a lasting impact on me.

LE: I’m sure. And so you got into the music and became a jazz drummer. I noticed that in the last few years you went back and got a graduate degree.

JB: I did, I did. I went to William Patterson for my undergrad work. Actually, while in school I was performing a lot. I was asked to join the Mingus Band in 1998 and stayed with them for about ten years.  And so I started that and when I graduated, took some time off to tour. Then, my wife was pregnant with our first child. I thought I should take some time off to be with my wife and watch my kid grow. I thought back to when my father was in the same situation – he said, “I really have to be around for my kids.” So I knew that if I was going to be taking off from working I still had to make a living and provide for my family. I went back to school and got a full scholarship to Rutgers University. They also have a fellowship that gives you a stipend, because they realize you’re going to be taking time off from work. I went back, and really wanted to focus on composition and writing. I studied composition with Stanley Cowell, who’s a great composer and arranger and also with Conrad Herwig. It was 07 when I graduated. I started in 05.

LE: You mentioned that you had been at William Patterson. Is that where you met Adam Linz? (Jazz Coordinator at MacPhail, and teacher/mentor to the Dakota Combo)

JB: Yeah, that’s where I met Adam. I think we came in the same year, 1985.

LE: You mentioned that you were asked to join the Mingus Big Band. What goes through someone’s mind when asked, “Do you want to play the music of Mingus?”

JB: It was such an honor I was in shock when I first got the call from Sue Mingus. Apparently what happened was that I was playing a lot with another great saxophonist and composer and his big band. His name is Oliver Lake,

LE: Oh sure.

JB: Oliver and I have known each other for a long time. He and my father played together for many years. In the big band there was also a great saxophonist named John Stubblefield. Stubblefield heard me playing and recommended me to Sue Mingus.  So the next thing I know, I’m getting a phone call from Sue, asking me to come down and participate with the band. I was in awe. I was a young kid – 19 or 20. This was a big responsibility but I really wanted to step up to the plate.

LE: And at that age you really don’t have very much fear.

JB: No, I don’t think you do. You go into it blindly and learn as you go.

LE: I was fortunate enough to see the big band about six weeks ago, and what I noticed was that Ta Cumba Frank Lacy was doing a lot of directing.

JB: Oh yeah.

LE: What is it about the music of Mingus that is so inviting and so challenging at the same time?

JB: I think: one, it’s very open. There’s a lot of freedom in his music and a lot of freedom to explore, which is great for musicians in general. Jazz musicians are taught to be creative, and look at a piece of paper and take what’s on that paper and run with it. I think that Mingus’s music has a lot of that element built into it. It’s like nothing is wrong, so you really feel the freedom. Also, I think the challenge with his music is that there are a lot of intricate parts, where you really have to learn how to blend with a section. There are lots of dissonant harmonies that might not be familiar to the untrained ear. There are a lot of delicate things that you have to watch out for. You know, I learned a lot from being in that band. For me, as a drummer, I learned that it’s my responsibility to drive that band. That’s a hard job, to drive fourteen people (chuckles). It’s a big weight, but you really have to learn how to do that and grow.

LE: I understand that from here, you are going to have lunch with members of the Dakota Jazz Combo, and then you’ll conduct a workshop for them and other young musicians. The combo has been studying the music of Mingus since the beginning of the school year. Adam Linz received an NEA grant to promote the study of Mingus’ music and perform some concerts. So what kinds of things will you be looking for in working with the young people?

Student Quentin Tschofen, with Adam Linz, and Johnathan Blake Photo by Andrea Canter

JB: Well, we had a little rehearsal yesterday, which was great. It was really amazing to hear some of these kids. They’re so much further along than I was at their age (chuckles). It’s amazing. This young pianist Quentin is really amazing – just his writing, and his playing. He has such great imagination on his instrument. So basically what I look for and try to convey to the students is about blending in a section, and working together. I was mentioning to them yesterday, when we play this music, or any kind of music, the main thing is to use our ears and listen. Not to try to outdo one another, but to play together. I was telling them there is no “I” in band, and to come together as a unit, and really listen, thinking “how can I make this performance better.” I want to instill that into them and work with them more.

LE: Now, the workshop is this afternoon and it’s open to any youngsters that want to come by at 2:30 at MacPhail Center for music. And tonight at 6 o’clock you’ll be at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant with them. Will you be playing with them?

JB: Yes I will. They’ll be playing a bunch of Mingus songs, and I was invited to come and play some of the music.

LE: Will you be replacing their drummer, or will there be two drummers?

JB: Emerson, their drummer, will play a few tunes, and then I’ll play a few tunes.

LE: You will be performing with the Dakota Jazz Combo this evening at six o’clock at the Dakota. You will also be conducting a jazz workshop for any high school students that are interested at MacPhail at two-thirty. And you are currently playing in at least three different kinds of groups, a trio, a quartet, and a quintet. You just had an album come out with the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet. How does the role of the drummer differ in each of those configurations?

JB: I think it’s really based on the individuals writing. A lot of Oliver’s music is somewhat similar to Mingus’ in that he has a lot of inner textures, and a lot of different tempo changes. He’s one of the only people I know that, for the drummer, writes out specific charts.

LE: Wow.

JB: Which is really amazing because I don’t get to see that. It’s usually a lead sheet or a piano sheet. So it’s really amazing. You really have to be aware of what he wants. There are specific snare drum hits that he needs to hear. So my role in that is trying to take what he’s written and make it my own. So it does have specific things that are written that I have to play.

I play in a few different trios. There’s one with a great saxophonist, Donny McCaslin, and also with Kenny Barron’s trio. With Donny’s music, it’s kind of intricate. He really has a lot of different things like metric modulations and things. I think you really have to be aware of what’s going on there. He has some vast dynamic changes. With Kenny, Kenny’s music is really based in the bebop tradition. The thing that I really admire about someone like Kenny Barron, is even though his heart is in bebop, he’s really an open-minded individual. And he really wants the drummer to play not just what Philly Joe Jones would play, or Max Roach. He really wants the drummer to be experimental and really play the more modern things so he can pick up and that and play to what you’re doing. It’s really amazing that he allows the drummer to have that much freedom to do that. I’ve learned a lot from being in that band with him for the last two years.

LE: That is an important part of the jazz tradition – younger musicians play with older players and learn from them.

JB: Totally, totally. I think that about 75% of what I know now is through being on the road with older musicians. Now, for the past five years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play with the great Tom Harrell. Tom is just amazing person in general. He’s diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and for anyone who doesn’t know, that disease can really limit a lot people. He marvels not only musicians – fellow musicians, but also doctors, because they can’t understand how a person with his condition can travel, and be in front of an audience and play, just play beautifully. Not only that, he just writes such great music. I watch him sometimes when we’re on a plane. He writes anywhere. He has these little notebooks that he takes out and just writes. It’s very inspiring for me to be around somebody like that. He doesn’t really say very much. He just wants you to take what he’s written down and make it your own. Maybe he’ll say, maybe you could try this, but it’s really up to the individual. I think he puts all his trust into the musicians that he hires. I can’t say enough about him; he’s just a beautiful person.

LE: That’s great. If somebody wanted to know more about you and where you’re appearing, do you have a website?

JB: I do. It’s Jonathonblake.com. It has an up to date schedule and everything. I have a recording coming out and it talks about that.

LE: When is that expected?

JB: the second week in January.

LE: And who do you have playing with you?

JB: My regular working quintet, which is Mark Turner, a great saxophonist, Jaleel Shaw, whom I’ve known for more than half of my life. We grew up in Philadelphia together. He’s playing alto saxophone. Kevin Hayes is playing piano, and Ben Street is playing bass. Then I have special guests. I have Tim Warfield on one song, tenor saxophone. Tom Harrell plays on two songs. Robert Glasper and a great harmonica player

LE: Well, I look forward to hearing that when it comes out. Thank you very kindly for stopping by and taking time out of your schedule while you’re here. It’s great.

JB: Thanks for having me.


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