Whatever tradition you follow – Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Solstice, or even that snarky Festivus for the rest of us – it’s getting to be crunch time for holiday shoppers in the Twin Cities. However, there are lots of opportunities to unwind with good music – some of which will relax, some of which will recharge. There’s a limited amount of jazz on Christmas night, but you still have two very good options. There’s also a third Christmas Night music option for those who really want to let their hair down. Whether your holiday tradition includes toy trains, ice skates, or going to the movies, here’s a wish for a good one.
Wednesday, Dec 21
Nick Haas Trio @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm. (No cover) Nick is a pretty versatile guitar player, who uses clean lines and an active imagination to create music that ranges from ethereal to earthy.
George Maurer Big Band Celebration @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($12) From the Grinch to Linus & Lucy, Louis Armstrong, and Eartha Kitt, pianist Maurer, with the help of his nine piece group, swings the holidays with both verve, and just a bit of irreverence. The show is sold out, but seats often open after the first set at the Dakota.
Friday, Dec 23
Artists Quarter Holiday Bash w/Phil Aaron Trio @ The Artists Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Special guest. Free CD with paid admission. Phil’s taste and grace on the piano make him a vocalist’s favorite. It’s also why he’s so good as a leader. It’s the night before the night before Christmas. Isn’t that a good reason to get out and celebrate the season?
Friday, Sun, Mon, Dec 23, 25, 26
Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm ($40) The audacious trio is back for their holiday appearance at the Dakota. This New York by way of Minneconsin group (one of drummer Dave King’s many) has garnered fans around the world with their seemingly irreverent approach to jazz. Some might call it chamber jazz. Others say it’s jazz with a rock attitude, and though they are fond of covering post-punk rock tunes, their inventiveness and compositional skills are a larger part of their appeal. Check out their music with this video.
Fri, Sat, December 24
Benny Weinbeck Trio @ D’Amico Kitchen, Chambers Hotel, downtown Minneapolis. 7:30 (No Cover) Treat yourself to a frothy cocktail from the bar. Then listen to music with substance from pianist Weinbeck, bassist Gordy Johnson, and drummer Phil Hey.
Sunday, Dec 25
Zacc Harris Trio @ The Riverview Wine Bar, Minneapolis. 7:30pm (No cover) Harris is a busy guitar player who is not only a fine player but can market himself, and surround himself with equally talented players, such as Matt Peterson on bass and Pete Hennig on drums. They are a regular feature of Sunday nights at the Riverview, and provide a graceful end to the day.
Tuesday, December 27
Vicky Mountain @ The Nicollet, Minneapolis. 7pm. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Jazz at the Nicollet. Vicky can scat with the best of them, and perform tongue-twistin vocal bebop with elan. And let’s not forget that the vocal instructor can handle ballads with grace, and a bit of old school R&B with good humor. And there’s a good dance floor, often filled with swing dancers and others.
Roots, Blues, Other…
Thursday, December 22
Nikki & the Rue-mates @ Amsterdam Bar & Hall, 6th & Wabasha, Saint Paul. 5pm. A Happy Hour appearance by Nikki & the crew only a few blocks from where I live? I’m on it. You should be too, if you like country blues, psychedelic folk-rock, and reduced prices on Heineken beer and Belgian Frites.
Louisiana Music Christmas Show @ The Eagles Club #34, 25th & 25th, Minneapolis. 8pm. ($TBD) Ho, Ho, Ho, Beaudreaux, It’s Christmas time, doncha know, and down in the bayou, Santa uses Alligators to pull his bateaux. This is billed has having special guests all night, so I guess that means various and sundry from the area’s Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop bands will be on hand. If you’re a fan, you’ll have fun. Heck you’ll have fun even if you no nothing about the music.
Alexander O’Neal @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm ($35) Called “one of the great singers in pop” by the NY Times, O’Neal was the original singer in Flyte Time (before Morris Day). After seducing the audience with his soulful crooning and funky tunes last year, he returns for another Christmas show.
Dee Miller @ Hollihans Pub, White Bear Lake. 8pm (No Cover) Miller doesn’t play out a whole lot, and that’s a shame, because she has pipes that can grab you by your collar and shake the blues from your bones. She’s got a tight band that’s just right for her brand of barrelhouse-shoutin’ blues.
Friday, Dec 23
Trashy Little X-Mas @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm ($12) For the eve of Christmas Eve, check out your last chance to catch the 2011 edition of Trailer Trash’s fun, danceable, off-kilter paen to the holiday. It’s a tradition.
Worldwide DiscoTech @ Club Jager, Minneapolis. 10pm. Grab the out-of-towners and dance to funk and boogie from around the world, as Brian Engel (Hipshaker, Hotpants) and DJ Steely (Kinda Cloudy Radio) spin vinyl on the wheels of steel.
Sunday, Dec 25
Cadillac Kolstad & The Flats @ The Nomad, Minneapolis. 8:30 (Free) It’s the Sunday Night Dance Party! Calamity and the Owl come on at 8:30pm, followed by The Union Suits at 9:30, and for the late night crowd that probably has Monday off, the hip-shakin, hair tossin, piano poundin’ talent – Cadillac Kolstad & the Flats. Cadillac plays piano-fied rockabilly on steroids, and entertaining as can be.
For a more comprehensive listing of blues events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar.