Music Ideas for December 14 – 20

We have a weekend of adventurous jazz in the Lowertown portion of downtown Saint Paul, a bevy of vocalists appearing in the area, and some fine blues and roots music for your listening (and maybe dancing) pleasure. Not to forget a couple of holiday specials. The weather has been mild, so that’s not an excuse to stay home, though I understand that holiday activities can be tiring. Choose from this weeks artists to either relax or recharge. Fact is. it’s all good.


Wednesday, Dec 14

Jose James @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm ($20) Now based in London, James returns home for the holidays and a chance to show why the jazz world has embraced his inventive vocals. He’s got a smooth baritone that can caress a ballad, yet he’s adventurous enough for some serious scatting, and fearless in taking on a John Coltrane tune.

Friday, Dec 16

Todd Clouser’s Love Electric @ Studio Z, 275 East 4th St. Saint Paul. 8pm ($10) Former Minneapolitan Clouser and his band have been steadily touring the US, Spain, and Mexico, with occasional stops back here in the Twin Cities. His guitar playing draws on Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield, among others, and brings an electric intensity to classic jazz (i.e., Gillespie’s Manteca) as well as originals. Tonight’s performance includes live painting to the group’s music by Tim Nyberg. Clouser, guitar; Adam Meckler, trumpet; Chris Bates, bass; Jaxon Craft, B3, and Greg Schutte, drums.

Brad Bellows/Donald Washington Quartet @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm (tip jar) Bellows on valve trombone, and Washington on sax, together with Brian Roessler, bass, and Pete Hennig, drums. This quartet is fearless in playing and faultless in technique. What with Clouser (above) and Nichols (below) appearing at Studio Z this weekend, Lowertown may well be the hippest couple of square blocks in the nation this weekend.

Friday, Saturday, Dec 16, 17

Debbie Duncan @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm The Twin Cities First Lady of Song is equally at home with a ballad, scat singing, or a slightly bawdy blues. She’s released five CDs, and has thrilled audiences from here to Italy, Russia, and back. On the slight chance you’ve not heard her, here’s a videio.

Saturday, Dec 17

Bryan Nichols’ We Are Many @ Studio Z, 275 Ease 4th St, Saint Paul. 7pm. ($10) Pianist Nichols leads a nine piece group, including Mike Lewis, Brandon Wozniak, Erik Fratzke, Jeremy Ylvisaker, JT Bates, and more. Wow. This is part of the Jazz at Studio Z series.

Sunday, December 18

Lee Engele Christmas CD Release @ The Aster Cafe at Saint Anthony Main, Minneapolis. 6pm ($tbd) The CD is called “A Hot Christmas.” As might be expected, it’s a swingin’ little affair, with help from Reynold Philipsek and Gary Shultte, among others.

A Peterson Family Christmas @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 4pm & 7pm. ($23) Seven of the fabled music clan join matriarch Jeanne Arland Peterson to present Christmas favorites and more.

Tuesday, December 20

Rhonda Laurie and Maryann Sullivan @ The Nicollet Cafe, Franklin & Nicollet, Minneapols. 7pm (tip jar) The two singers that are curating Tuesday Night Jazz at the Nicollet join forces. Given their lovely voices, and ability to tease the rhythm from a song, this should be a delightful evening.

Blues, Roots, Other….

Wednesday, Dec 14

Dean Harrington Hot Club and Jake Manders and Alyssa Bicking @ the 331 Club, NE Minneapolis. 7pm (Harrington) 9:30 pm (Manders/Bicking). Guitarist Harrington has a new CD out, with a Hot Club Quintet performing acoustic swing. He’s got taste, technique, and verve, all of which are needed for the Django Rheinhardt-inspired music. He’ll be on the House Party (KFAI – 90.3 or 106.7FM) during the 5pm hour and start at the 331 at 7pm. Then, stick around for the folk/roots sound of Jake Manders and Alyssa Bicking. Jake is known for his work with the Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins, and he’s found a complementary voice in Alyssa.

The Soulman & the Storytellerl

Paul Metsa & Willie Walker @ Nye’s, NE Minneapolis. 9pm. Paul & Willie work well together, with Paul’s guitar providing sympathetic backing to the slightly raspy, urbane voice of soulman Willie Walker. They’re in the old bar tonight.

The Lucy & Charlie Show @ Barbette, Uptown Minneapolis. 10pm. Jazz and old country standards from Lucy Michelle, of the Velvet Lapelles, along with her friend Charlie and others. Lucy has an alto voice that’s perfectly suited to songs of loss and regret, many of which can be found in the genres she’s exploring tonight.

Thursday, Dec 15

Benefit for Lynwood Slim @ Whiskey Junction, West Bank, Minneapolis. 7pm – Close ($10). Blues harpist and former Twin Citizen Lynwood Slim needs help with medical expenses, and as per usual, the music community is closing ranks to help out. Pat Hayes, Cool Breeze, Big Walter Smith, Big Bob Scoggin, JImi “Prime Time” Smith and more will be on hand to play as a means of raising funds.

Friday, Dec 16

Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 8pm. ($10) For all the prominence of the saxophone as a symbol of the blues, there are very few of its players who have risen above anonymity as sidemen. Shaw is one of them. The Chicagoan played in Howlin’ Wolf’s last band, doing arranging and generally keeping things under control, and took over the band upon the Wolf’s passing. He’s become a star in his own right, with a sound on the saxophone that’s as raspy as his own voice. With the recent transition of Hubert Sumlin, Shaw remains among the few who go back to the fifties and sixties. If you want to hear what he sounds like, click here.

Singer/Songwriter Series @ Patrick’s Cabaret, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) Drew Peterson is serving as host tonight, with a sterling bunch of bluesy/rootsy folks as his guests, including legendary pianoman Cornbread Harris, Kim & Quillan Roe (of the Roe Family singers), Nick “The Feelin'” Mrozinski, and high-energy one-man band, Crankshaft.

Saturday, Dec 17

Papa John & the Cool Club @ Merlin’s Rest, East Lake St, Minneapolis. 8pm. (tip jar). Part of the charm of this fairly regular gig for Papa John is the semi-revolving cast of musicians that are part of the Cool Club. Sam Fiske on trumpet, and the guitar Deans – Mikkelson and Harrington, on guitars, of course. But then the bass player might be Tom Lewis, or Liz Draper, or someone of equal skill, and there may or may not be a drummer. Other musicians will sit in, or sing a song or two. Carrying it all is Papa John himself, a product of the West Bank 60s. John is equally at home with the blues as he is with the acoustic swing of the Cool Club. Then there’s his sly, politically oriented humor. And did I mention Merlins has a good beer selection and  no TVs?  It all makes for a fun evening. Listen to Papa John play some blues here.

Jennifer Markey & the Tennesee Snowpants @ The Driftwood Char Bar, 44th & Nicollet, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip jar) If you have ever wondered what country music would be like today if it hadn’t been “cosmopolitaned” wonder no more. Check out Jennifer Markey, who creates perfect country/Americana tunes. She’s got a band, including tasteful guitar slinger  Clay Williams, that perfectly complements her style. Check out her MySpace to hear some of her music.

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