The Jam at the Artists’ Quarter

June 30, 2012

It was 1AM when Delfeayo Marsalis arrived. Many patrons at the Artists’ Quarter in Saint Paul had already left. After all, they’d been treated to a fiery appearance by Cuban drummer Francisco Mela and members of his band, who tore through a couple of jazz standards. I’d tell you what they were, but who had time to take notes, or do anything other than soak in the music. Young trumpeter Marquis Hill, from Chicago also stepped up, blazing through a number of solos. Young pianist Witness Matlou surprised with his imaginative playing, and a young cat whose name I didn’t get played one of the AQ’s tables as if it were a conga drum. He then did a four hand piece with Jon Weber, the pianist with an encyclopedic knowledge of tunes and piano styles. Jon served as the ringmaster. Earlier, he, Billy Peterson on bass, and Joe Felice on drums backed chanteuse Maude Hixson in a sublime set.

So, everyone was feeling good, and as I said, a number of folks packed it in, thinking it was too late for anyone else to show up. But Delfeayo surprised and delighted those of us who were left. Marquis Hill had packed up and was beginning to leave, but soon unpacked. He was joined by another young, fiery player on saxophone. And on one song, a trumpeter came up and played a fine solo using a mute. It was the only contribution from him during the evening, but it was solid. The Twin Cities’ own Mac Santiago sat in on the drums and cooked. Other players joined in. It was difficult to keep track. 

It was, as you might expect, thrilling, as each of the players brought forth their A-game. Those of us in the audience could only bask in the music. After 50 minutes, it was time to close shop, and the stage lights were shut down, but Delfeayo and Jon offered one last blast to send us into the night.

A Weekend of Festivals: Music for 6.27 – 7.3

June 27, 2012

Last year’s Jazz Festival. Always a good idea to bring your own chairs.

What a weekend! We have a Jazz Festival, a Blues Festival, and a Honky Tonk Festival in town. The Deep Blues Festival at the Bayport BBQ is sold out, so you’ll have to find someone willing to sell his or her ticket. Good luck with that. This year’s Twin Cities Jazz Festival (which really should be called the Saint Paul Jazz Festival) involves hundreds of performers and dozens of venues. It’s impossible to list every act, so go to to see the schedule. It’s an adventurous one, with jazz of many stripes, including some free improvisation at Studio Z,  MacNally Smith ensembles at the Minnesota Music Cafe, and jam sessions at the Amsterdam and Artists Quarter. Artist descriptions can be found in the festival program, which should be easily available at all venues. If jazz isn’t your thing, you may enjoy Saturday’s Honky Tonk Festival, which I’ve listed below.


Wednesday, June 27

Graydon Peterson Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Graydon on bass, Adam Meckler on trumpet, Vinnie Rose on guitar, and Adam Suarez on drums. Graydon’s originals in odd time signatures, and other tunes to be sure.

Steve Hobart, Jeremy Boettcher, and Jay Epstein @ the Nomad, Minneapolis. 10pm (no cover) Boettcher, bass; and Hobart, piano; are young players who grew up in the area, left for school and musical opportunities, and have recently returned. They are proving to be versatile musicians, and tonight they are teaming up with the veteran, and highly tasteful drummer Jay Epstein.

Thursday, June 28

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Pippi Ardennia @ Mears Park and others in venues around Saint Paul – Free!: The Amsterdam has a particularly strong line-up tonight starting at 5pm wit Ticket to Brazil, and continuing with the piano trios of Chris Lomheim at 6:30 and Mary Louise Knutson at 8pm, followed by vocalists Joyce Lyons, Nichola Miller, and a jam led by the Jazz Central all-stars.

Jack Brass Band @ The Central Library, Saint Paul. 11:30AM  (Free) Grab lunch from one of the food trucks that gather round Rice Park and enjoy the uplifting, always fun music of JBB.

Sophia Shorai @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm (no cover) With her sweet, sometimes aching voice, the brightly smiling Ms Shorai will be backed by Tommy Barbarella, piano, Jeff Bailey, bass, and Adam Suarez, drums. It’s Foodie Night, and the policy is now no cover and a $10 bottle of wine!

Friday, June 29

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Delfeayo Marsalis @ Mears Park, and more: If you want to avoid the crowds at Mears Park, check out the Hat Trick Lounge, with four strong groups, including Dean Magraw’s Red Planet.

Patty Peterson @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12) Ms Peterson always has a stellar group of players with her, equally adept at jazz and R&B. Tonight she’ll also be joined by saxophonist Steve Cole, who records for Universal and has played with Boz Scaggs, Larry Carlton, and Brian Culbertson, among others.

Saturday, June 30

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman @ Mears Park, The Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Stage outside of the Black Dog, and a plethora of area artists playing around town:

Optimum Trajectory Jazz Quintet @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, 3036 Minnehaha, Minneapolis. 3pm – 5pm (no cover) Here’s a pleasant way to wile away an afternoon. Check out the brews at the Tap Room, where you can hang outside if the weather’s nice and enjoy the sounds of Ira Adelman, sax; Steve Hillson, trumpet; Margo Vreivik, bass; Garth Anderson, drums; and Tim McNamara, guitar. There may even be a food truck present.

Lulu’s Playground @ The Red Stag, Minneapolis. 10:30pm (no cover) Interesting textures and timbres from Evan Montgomery, guitar; Adam Meckler, trumpet; Steve Hobart, accordion; and Cory Grossman, cello.

Sunday, July 1

Dos Dinos @ The Amsterdam, Saint Paul. 11am (no cover) Dean Harrington and Dean Mikkelson, Two of the area’s most underrated guitar players, team up during the Amsterdam’s brunch hours, which features a Hash Menu and special Bloody Mary. Expect swinging standards and gypsy jazz, as Dos Dinos trade off licks and rhythm.

Sunday, Monday, July 1,2

Bill Frisell: the Music of John Lennon @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40 – $45) Perhaps the most exquisite guitarist on the planet, Frisell, whose spare, atmospheric playing has been applied to numerous genres, gives us his unique take on Lennon.

Monday, July 2

Clay Pufhal @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (donation) Jazz Central is the place to see some of the best musicians in the area playing outside of their normal groups. A regular member and composer for the X-Tet, tenor sax player Pufhal plays around town with a variety of groups.

Firebell @ Red Stag, Minneapolis. 9pm. (no cover) Park Evans, guitar; Graydon Peterson, bass (his name is popping up alot lately); and Jay Epstein on drums.

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 27

Mother Banjo @ Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm. (Free) Bring a lunch, or get one at Anita’s Cafe in the Landmark, and sit down to hear a little alt country, alt banjo, and alt gospel from Mother Banjo, aka Ellen Stanley (of Red House Records and KFAI’s Womenfolk show) who’s been making fans around the nation with her picking, composing, and singing.

Thursday, June 28

Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, 3036 Minnehaha, Minneapolis. 7pm. (No cover) Down, dirty, and raw blues, played in an intimate spot. You’ll have to go around back.

Friday, June 29

Mystic Order of Reverb & Twang @ Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis. 7:30pm (free) Rockabilly, Surf, 50s & 60s rock n’ roll, and even some classic country will be reverberating the bandshell. Bring a picnic, buy an ice cream cone from the bandshell’s kitchen, and enjoy a summer’s evening by the lake.

Ron Thompson with the Butanes @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm. ($8) Back in the day, Ron Thompson would play high energy blues for hours without a break. For this show, he’ll be backed by the Butanes, who may be the only band in town that can keep up with him.

Motown Throwdown with Big Villain and Toussaint Morrison @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 10pm. ($5) 18+ show. Toussaint will be singing songs from The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and others of that era. Reid Kennedy, better known as a jazz drummer about town, has put together a live hip hop band to do the backing. Sounds like fun. Dichotomy also appears.

Saturday, June 30

Honky Tonk Fest @ Grumpys Northeast, Minneapolis. 2pm – 9pm This is a benefit, with all proceeds going to the Minnesota Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Featuring a bevy of talent, including: Trailer Trash, Lazy Ike & the Daredevils, Jennifer Marky & the Tennesee Snowpants, Cactus Blossoms, The Ditchlilies, Sister Shaw. Photo Booth, pulled pork sammies and more.

Saturday Sock Hop w/Steve Clarke & The Working Stiffs, with The Bad Companions @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($7). This Saturday Sock Hop is presented by Freewheelin’s Jackson Buck and features Dance Instructor Extraordinaire, Miss Shannon. You can catch her free dance instructions weekly at Lee’s, Famous Dave’s and other venues around town, generally an hour before the music starts. Same thing tonight, with a little extra. Dance lessons start at 8:30, and a special Rock-A-Billy Stroll Dance lesson will occur about 10:15, after the Bad Companions open.

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.

It’s Officially Summer. Music for 6.20 – 6.26

June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice is upon us. Heat is upon us. Rains are upon us. And we have a new music venue in town. The Icehouse in the Whittier neighborhood is presenting jazz late night on Mondays, and from 8:30 – 10:30 weekends. Other nights feature soul & funk deejays, and acoustic, rootsy music. Around the corner, The Eat Street Social is beginning to have afternoon music on Saturdays. We have some stellar artists performing this week. The Twin Cities Jazz Festival is next week. Life is good.


Wednesday, June 20

Off the Map @ The Clown Lounge. Photo by Howard Gittelson

Off The Map @ The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm. (Tip jar) Brandon Wozniak, alto; Bryan Nichols, keyboards; and Jay Epstein, drums. This bass-less trio used to perform more often, but each of them is so busy with other projects that this is a rare appearance.

Maude Hixson and French 75 @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm (No Cover) Maude and her sextet perform “foreign-born offerings from 20th Century songwriters.” Maude’s cool, inviting voice is the perfect vehicle for evoking smoky clubs with a distingue clientele.

Friday, June 22

Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric and Adam Meckler Orchestra @ The Ritz Theater, NE Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) This is a CD Release Party for A Love Electric’s 2nd CD on Royal Potato Records. The Adam Meckler Orchestra is proving to be an exciting aggregation, playing Meckler’s original compositions and premiering his arrangement of one of Clouser’s tunes.

Jeremy Boettcher and Phil Aaron @ The Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet, Minneapolis. 8pm (No Cover) Boettcher is a young, up and coming bassist. Aaron is a seasoned piano player with exquisite taste. The Icehouse is a new restaurant/music venue.

Friday, Saturday, June 22, 23

Dave King Trucking Company @ The Artists Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) This group was originally put together for the celebration of drummer King’s music at the Walker a couple of years ago. They’ve proven to be popular enough to play and tour regularly, adding another component to King’s plethora of groups. Erik Fratzke, guitar; Adam Linz, bass, Brandon Wozniak and Chris Speed, saxes.

Saturday, June 23

Linda Peterson @ The Lexington, Saint Paul. 6:30 – 10:30pm (No Cover) Another talented member of the Peterson clan, Linda is an accomplished composer and pianist with slightly smoky vocals.

Monday, June 25

Fat Kid Wednesdays @ the Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30 & 11:30 ($5) Wow, it’s been a long time since Mike Lewis, sax; Adam Linz, bass; and JT Bates, drums, performed at the Clown Lounge. This time around they’re playing a venue with a wide variety of drinks and an appealing bar menu. If you’ve never seen FKW, expect adventurous forays into originals and jazz standards. For a review of a NYC appearance of a few years ago, click here.

Tuesday, June 26

Clouser & Buckley @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis. 7:00pm (No Cover) Todd Clouser is the inventive guitarist who has been touring both nationally and internationally with his band A Love Electric. James Buckley plays bass in a number of aggregations, including some whose music strays far from jazz. If you’re going for music, get there early to find a seat at the bar. If you want to eat at this popular neighborhood bistro, make sure to get reservations and ask to be near the music.

Emily Singin’ for Swing Dancers

Emily Green @ The Nicollet, Minneapolis. 7:30pm (Tip Jar) Green is a nuanced vocalist with an easy way with swing. Just right for the couples that come out to dance at this coffeehouse. Hear examples of Emiy’s singing on her myspace page.

Magraw, Nichols, Peterson, & Horst @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) The AQ continues to find new combinations of musicians. This time the “house rhythm section” of Billy Peterson, bass; and Kenny Horst, drums; is joined by guitarmaster Dean Magraw and ever-busy pianist Bryan Nichols.

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 20

Dustin Hatzenbuhler @ Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm (free) Hatzenbuhler goes for the nerdy look, which you’ll forget once he starts singing, as he has a soulful voice and is a good songwriter, with a penchant for covers of Marvin Gaye and Adele, among others.

Cactus Blossoms on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, NE Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI), 7pm – 9pm (331 Club – tip Jar). With their brotherly harmonies (think of the Everlys or the Delmore Brothers), and ability to write country tunes that sound 60 years old, I’m thinking the patrons at the 331 may do some waltzes and two steps among the tables. You may dance at home as well when they play live on KFAI (90.3 & 106.7FM).

Dale Watson @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($15) Watson is a huge honky-tonk hero in Europe and pockets of the US, deplores the current state of country music, and loves Lee’s enough to have written a song about the place. Rachael and the Ranch Hand Resistance open, with dance lessons at 8pm. Here’s an example of his honky-tonk/Bakersfield country music.

Thursday, June 21
Booker T. Jones @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45) 9pm ($30) With the recent passing of “Duck” Dunn, we won’t be seeing Booker T with the MGs anymore. Nevertheless, Jones is an architect of American soul music, and has released two well-received solo projects in recent years, collaborating first with the Drive-By Truckers ( Grammy winner), and then with the Roots band. A genuine, soulful force on the Hammond B-3.

Friday, June 22

Old Californio and Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm. ($6) Old Californio is a Pasadena quintet with a sound that evokes a number of country-rock, slightly psychedelicized bands, from the New Riders of the Purple Sage, to Canned Heat and the Byrds. Yet their recent release, Sundrunk Angels, shows they’re more than throwbacks. They’ll appeal to today’s young audience for Americana and roots as well as to those of a certain age. Steve Kaul and the boys (correction: they’ve added fiddler Jillian Rae) explore Americana in highly unexpected ways, weaving jug band music into ragas and back again.

617 Band @ Manitou Station, White Bear Lake. 9pm (No Cover) A versatile quintet of seasoned musicians that have fun playing originals and dance tunes from a variety of genres – Latin, Rock, R&B, and more. They’ve got the grooves that will free any aversion to dancing.

Sunday, June 24

Henry’s Funeral Shoe @ The Bayport BBQ, Bayport. 8pm ($10) This UK brothers act plays blues that’s been re-filtered through the Who and The Clash, among others. One of their songs is featured in a funny commercial from Fiat. Reservations: 651-955-6337

Saturday, June 23

Hootenanny VI @ Tuttles, 107 Shady Oak Rd, Hopkins. 2pm – 2AM. ($15 Suggested donation) A benefit for the wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, MN, an organization that provides homes for wild animals that had previously been held as pets. It’s not a zoo, but a place where wild cats can live out their days. It’s a day filled with Americana, Bluegrass, and jamgrass stylings. String Theory starts the proceedings at 2pm. Other bands include: Shotgun Ragtime Band  (A Grateful Dead tribute band), Brady Perl, Boys N’ the Barrels, Moss Piglets, and Drew Peterson, among others.

Sunday, June 24

Havana Hi-Fi @ the Aster Cafe, St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) The Aster has a tiny dance floor, but the joyous sensuous Latin sound of this group will undoubtedly move listeners to squeeze into the space. Don’t dance? Then simply enjoy the food, wine and tea list, and view of DT Minneapolis across the river.

Tuesday, Wednesday, June 26, 27

Les Nubians @ the Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45) This sister act from Paris sings pan-global music in a variety of languages, both aural and musical. Expect elements of Afrobeat, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf, soul, and hip-hop. Here’s a video.

Wednesday, June 27

Mother Banjo @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm (free) Early warning for this untraditional traditionalist.

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.

Father’s Day and More – Music Ideas for 6.13 – 6.19

June 13, 2012

Aside from the fact that we’ve some great weather coming up, and school is almost out, it’s Father’s Day on Sunday. Whether you rebelled against your father’s music or embraced his musical tastes, your appreciation of music was inspired in part by him. There are many opportunities to acknowledge that this week in the Twin Cities. Here are but a few.


Wednesday, June 13

Lisa Brimmer & High Society @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm (tip jar) Lisa Brimmer is a smart, assured poet, playwright, and collaborator. She’ll be performing spoken word while Chris Bates, bass; Evan Montgomery, guitar; Greg Schutte, drums, play behind her. Guest shots by Cory Grossman, cello; and Ben Doherty, baritone sax.

Thursday, June 14

Dave Brattain Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Saxophonist Brattain teaches at Wayzata High School and has played with the Cedar Avenue Big Band for 20 years. At a recent Jazz Central appearance with Dave Karr, Brattain was on his game in a big way, throwing notes out in a melodic, thoughtful, yet highly expressive way.

Friday, June 15

Parker Paisley @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) This group is led by Park Evans on guitar, and includes Brandon Wozniak, alto; Brian Wozniak, bass; and Pete Hennig, drums. Their recent album, “Sartori for a Hungry Ghost,” is full of jazz for the 21st Century, with modern beats, a nod or two to hard bop, and a lovely album closer that incorporates the traditional hymn, “O Come Emmanuel.”

CéU @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45) Ceu is a Brazilian singer who delivers a new take on the music of her homeland. She delivers breezy, sway-inducing melodies that incorporate electropop, afrobeats, and more into a stunning set. Here’s a video.

Friday, Saturday, June 15, 16

Paul Bollenback @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) The guitarist and composer has played with Jack McDuff, Stanley Turrentine, Joey DeFrancesco, Paul Bley, and David Newman, among others. He can groove with the best of them, and has a particularly beautiful tone on ballads, such as “Everything Must Change.” I did an interview with him back in 2010, which you can read here.

Adam Linz & Tommy O’Donnell @ The Ice House, Minneapolis. 8pm (free) This new venue, located at 2540 Nicollet, is nicely laid out, with a large center stage surrounded by tables. They are having all kinds of music, including jazz on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Tonight, bassist Adam Linz and pianist Tommy O’Donnell take the stage. Food looks very interesting (after all, the place was opened by the owners of B’Witched), and they have “shooter cocktails,” which include a shot of alcohol with a little extra, like a bit of juice or bitters.

Saturday, June 16

Lucia Newell & Zacc Harris @ Eat Street Social, Minnenapolis. 2pm – 4pm. This is part of the Social’s Brazilian Afternoon. Located just west of Nicollet on 26th Street, The Eat Street Social has quickly garnered a good reputation for its food and craft cocktails. Newell spent a couple of years in Brazil during her “boho” period, and is uniquely qualified to sing Brazilian songs. Harris is the guitarist about town whose versatility extends to accompanying vocalists in a variety of settings. Sounds like a great way to spend a portion of your Saturday.

Monday, June 18

Laura Caviani @ Jazz Central, NE Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Donation) Oddly enough, Jazz Central hasn’t had many female jazz musicians in its lineup, but then again, there isn’t an overabundance of them in town either, so it’s nice to see Caviani in the guest chair. As a pianist and composer, the unassuming Caviani is graceful, lyrical, and imaginative. She leads her own group, makes major contributions to Pete Whitman’s X-Tet, and is a superb accompanist to vocalists such as Lucia Newell and Karrin Allyson.

Monday, Tuesday, June 18, 19

Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($60-$50) & 9pm ($50-$40) Keyboardist Duke was last in town for the Zoo series last summer. You can read my interview with him here  Bassist Clarke has visited a couple times, most recently with pianist Hiromi in tow. Both are multi-faceted musicians with  long histories playing jazz in various settings. Back in 1984, they worked together as the Clarke/Duke Project and decided to do so once again.

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.

Roots, Blues, Other…

Wednesday, June 13

Cadilac Kolstad @ Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm. Talk about taking a lunch break. This noontime concert will deliver more energy than a Gatorade & Power Bar combined. Kolstad pounds the piano, throws back his hair, and generally raises the roof with old time rock n’ roll and rockabilly. Considering the roof of the Landmark’s Cortile is four stories up, that’s quite the feat.

RJ Mischo

RJ Mischo w/Jeremy Johnson on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI), 7pm – 9pm (331 Club – Tip Jar). Harold Tremblay continues to bring in outstanding musicians for his weekly “House Party.” This time up its the “Super Reverbs,” former Twin Citizen RJ Mischo on harp and vocals, accompanied by the talented Jeremy Johnson on guitar. There’ll be plenty of reverb rockin’ the 331 tonight.

Flatlanders 40th Anniversary @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($31) Without a doubt, the (alt) country gig of the week, as Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Joe Ely perform. The three are highly respected singer/songwriters from Texas, each with his fair share of songs in the alt country songbook. They first formed in the early 70s, and eventually split up, each becoming a cult hero in his own right, and influencing artists such as Uncle Tupelo and The Clash. Early in this century they recorded a song for the Horse Whisperer, and it went so well they reunited and toured, recording 3 albums since then. Here they are on Austin City Limits.

Thursday, June 14

Hipshaker @ The Kitty Kat Club, Minneapolis. 9pm (free)  The first of two opportunities to dance to 45s this week. This mid-week late night dance attracts many folks under 30, who have a good time dancing to rare soul and funk.

Friday, June 15

Bryan Lee @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 7pm ($10) If I remember correctly, Lee is originally from Wisconsin, but has lived in New Orleans for decades, playing the JazzFest for 25 years. The “Braille Blues Daddy” has been blind since he was eight, and has played guitar since he was thirteen. He’s got a sharp attack, and a more than serviceable voice, and is back on the road after back surgery in January. Wilebski’s is certainly the place to see him.

Saints of Circumstance @ The Driftwood Char Bar, Minneapolis. 9pm (tip jar)  The Saints play Grateful Dead music, bringing a trippy vibe to this beer and wine joint at 44th & Nicollet.  Good bar food, for those who get the munchies.

Deano and the Dinosaurs @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) Here’s the rundown. Dean Mikkelson and Dean Harrington on archtop guitars; Bill Greinke on bass; and Dell Gallagher on drums. Vocalist Mary Leinfelder will sit in for a few tunes. Top notch players doing standards, latin jazz, a bit of blues, and some Django. A bit laid back… maybe. Exciting… definitely.

Saturday, June 16

Flatt Foot Rollers @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10)  The MMC has been bringing in a number of old school R&B bands of late, just right for getting folks up onto the large dance floor. With their mix of Temptations, Albert King, The Gap Band, and more, the Rollers keep the grooves coming.

Hot Pants 45RPM Dance Party @ The Nomad, Minneapolis. 9pm. ($5) Over in the Emerald City, there’ll be a bit of talc on the floor, gaggles of younger men and women twirling about, lots of beer from the bar’s many taps, and trips to the courtyard to cool off after dancing.

Sunday, Monday, June 17,18

The Combo Celebrates 25 years @ Bunker’s, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($10) What started out as a Monday night opportunity to play has morphed into an institution of sorts. The group packs them in each Sunday and Monday night, playing old school soul, a bit of funk, and some soulful rock n’ roll. Members of the Combo have played with Mick Sterling, R Factor, The AQ’s Tuesday Night Band, Jesse Johnson, Doug Maynard, Patty Peterson and a host of other Twin Cities luminaries. In fact, drummer Michael Bland was picked up by Prince for a few years, and now plays with Soul Asylum, though he’s on stage here every Sunday and Monday he’s in town. Visiting artists will stop by and sit in for a tune or two. For now, its time to celebrate 25 years of playing.

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.

Interview with Paul Bollenback – 10.30.10

June 12, 2012
Paul Bollenback

Ed Note: This interview was first published in Bebopified on November 11, 2010, before I started this blog.  Since Paul is coming back to play at the Artists’ Quarter on June 15 and 16, I thought this would be a good time to re-publish the interview here:

Like every young guitarist of the 60s and 70s, Paul Bollenback was enamored with rock and roll. Then he heard Miles Davis and delved into fusion.

While living in Washington, DC, he was exposed to more traditional jazz, as well as organ jazz, and studied composition and performance. He made his first record with Gary Thomas in 1987 and met Joey DeFrancesco in 1990, establishing a relationship that lasts to this day.

After being named Musician of the Year for the Washington Area in 1997, he moved to New York City, where he now resides.

Paul dropped by KFAI on Saturday morning, October 30. This is a slightly edited version of the on-air discussion we had.

LE: How are you? 
PB: I’m great. It’s great to be here in the Twin Cities.

LE: You’re kind of a regular visitor.
PB: The gentleman who’s responsible for first bringing me here brought me to the studio today. John McCauley was Jack McDuff’s manager, and he’s responsible for first bringing me here. We calculated that I first came here, I think it was 18 years ago last night, to play a show with Jack and Joey DeFrancesco. I was in Joey’s band. It was a two-organ show. I met John and he was kind enough to bring me back to play at the Hotel Luxeford, for those of you who remember when they had jazz in there. I’ve been coming back ever since. I love it here. Great people and wonderful audiences, and there’s some really great musicians playing here. Tonight I’m playing at the Artists’ Quarter with Billy Peterson on bass and Kenny Horst on drums. You’ve got the Peterson family dynasty – it’s great.

LE: Tell us a little bit about how, as a guitar player, you decided to get into jazz.
PB: I was basically a rocker. I really liked Carlos Santana, and at a certain point I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, all those early heavy metal groups. I really liked the groove and power and the energy of it. A friend turned me on to the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin. That was a thrill because I’d never really heard anybody play guitar like that. I’d heard all these soulful, really good guitar players, but John was a different scene. That kind of led me to Big Fun, which is an electric Miles Davis record which had John McLaughlin on it, if I’m not mistaken, which led me to Bitches Brew, which kind of at the same time got me into fusion – Return to Forever with Chick Corea, Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House.

At some point in this, my family moved from New York to Washington, DC, and that’s where I really got turned on to more traditional jazz. The first person I met when I got to DC is a great bass player named Edward Howard. Probably the thing he’s most well known for is playing bass with Roy Haynes for about 15 years, through the 80s up into the 90s. We had a friend who had a room full of records, a 10×12 room, three sides of which were covered in vinyl – all kinds. We’d go there and play and hang out and listen to music all day. That was really my first exposure to jazz other than the fusion stuff.

LE: How did that appeal to you as a guitar player who grew up in rock? What was it about jazz that appealed to you?
PB: Well, it intrigued me. When I was in high school, must have been 9th grade, there was a jazz band in the school I went to in Tarrytown, New York. It always amazed me that these young guys would come in, and they’d have music in front of them and play this stuff. I didn’t know what it was. “What is this that they’re doing?” I couldn’t do it. I was playing blues licks and trying to make my way through it. But I think that was one of the things.

Another was that my dad was a huge fan of the big bands. He really liked Benny Goodman in particular. He liked Stan Kenton a lot, and we had Harry James records and Benny Goodman records lying around the house. I’d put them on now and again, just out of curiosity. I’d be listening to one of my Beatles record and see one of these records and think, “What is this thing?” and put it on. I’d hear this “du did-it dee” and think wow, that’s interesting. But, I didn’t really like it when I was nine [laughs]. So it’s been kind of a progression.

LE: And you seem to have spent a lot of time in B-3 organ groups.
PB: Some people plot their path, and for other people it just happens. When I was 18 and living in DC, my friend Ed introduced me to a great piano player and composer named Lawrence Wheatley, who turned out to be a great mentor for me. Once I actually got a place of my own, I lived a couple of blocks from him. I used to go and play with him all the time. He was quite a bit older than I was. But he was one of those guys in DC who had played with everybody when they came through town. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had played with Charlie Parker. He was of that era.

Anyway, the summer I was 18, he had this regular three-nights-a-week gig. It was an organ gig – organ, saxophone, drums. And he’d say, “Why don’t you come down and play?” Of course, I was thrilled. I wasn’t getting paid, but these guys were top-notch players in DC. So I learned a lot playing with them. And I got my first taste of an organ group. I also really liked that record George Benson had done, Willow Weep for Me. I think it might have been Lonnie Smith on the organ. [LE: It was.]  It’s funny because it was on vinyl and I don’t even remember the cover. But that was the first jazz guitar that I heard and I thought, “That’s what I really like, what is that?” And the organ, too, the way it was in there. Needless to say, a few years later, when I met Joey DeFrancesco and he was looking for a guitar player, it worked out.

LE: As a teacher, you talk about the importance of musicians knowing how to sing the melody. Can you explain that a bit?
PB: There are a couple of things. Certainly, if you can’t sing, and I don’t sing well [coughs], you can still hear. The idea is that you can’t really play a song unless you know the entire song, which includes the melody. I think that educationally, in the 1970s and early 80s, I feel that what was being taught in schools was a lot of harmonic knowledge. Here’s the chord that you’re playing and the scale that you play over it, and that’s how you make it work. But, in actuality, if you take that approach every time, all of your music is going to sound exactly the same. And you really don’t want that.

If you know the melody, you know what the tune is about, and if you know the lyric –  especially if it’s a standard, you’re obliged to know the lyric – you know at least what the song is about. And if there’s a backstory on the song, that’s even better, because it informs how you would play it and what the song means to you when you play it. If you have a choice in what you play, and if you’re a leader you do, then you make your choice based on how you relate to the tune, and if it says something to you then you can actually create something with the audience in terms of the ambience of the tune. If you don’t know the melody and you don’t know the lyric, then there’s no way you can play the tune. So being able to sing it helps to solidify it in your mind.

LE: I’ve heard or read similar statements before, but mostly from older saxophone players, so you’re the first guitarist I’ve heard say that. It certainly makes perfect sense, even if a musician can’t sing.
PB: Absolutely, I’ve got this whole thing that I learned from a guy I studied with in Baltimore when I lived in DC. His name was Asher Zlotnik. When I studied with him, he must have been in his late sixties. He was pretty brilliant in terms of ear training. His whole thing was, if you can’t sing it, you shouldn’t be trying to play it. So he had me working on all these basic things in terms of being able to outline chords, outline harmony, being able to sing bass lines, and it helped my understanding of music as a language, and so I try to teach that to my students.

It takes a while to really have the whole thing come into play. I’ve found that most of the people I work with as a sideman have incredible ears. They have great pitch. The only way to develop that, if you don’t have that naturally, is to work on singing these different things.

LE: So when you hear someone playing something, you can think, “That’s an A-flat and I can play this with an A-flat.”
PB: Yeah, in a general sense.

LE: You’re a pretty busy guy.
PB: Fortunately, yes.

LE: That’s always a good thing for musicians. Is the Tuesday night gig at Smoke [in New York City] a regular thing?
PB: Well, it’s not really my gig. Organ player Mike LeDonne has been doing it for quite a while. He’s got a regular band that he uses, with Pete Bernstein, but Pete, of course, is very busy playing guitar with everyone, including Sonny Rollins, and a lot of time he can’t make it, so Mike will call me to come in. Since it’s about eight short blocks from where I live, I can walk to the gig. And I’ve been doing that a lot lately. That’s been nice. He’s had Vincent Herring playing alto saxophone, and a variety of drummers. McClinty Hunter, Rodney Greene, sometimes Joe Farnsworth will be there. It’s always fun to play with Mike. He’s another great organ player.

Paul Bollenback and Chris McNulty

LE: I’ve been aware of him for a number of years. He put out an album some years back that I believe was recorded live at Smoke. You also do gigs on your own and with Chris McNulty.
PB: Yes, we’ve had a…    Well, I should say, we’re married. I usually don’t put it out there just because, “Oh, it’s his wife,” or “That’s her husband.” We do quite a bit of work together. Chris just got done with a month-long tour of Australia, then went directly to ten days in Russia. I did a portion of the Australian trip with her and then we were doing a trio with Andrei Kardokov, a great piano player, all over the Eastern part of Russia, the Finnish area.

LE: For those folks who travel to New York, or elsewhere, where can they find out about your schedule?
PB: Best thing is to check my website, which just my name, Paul Bollenback, dot com.

LE: And if they can’t find your CDs in the local record shop, they can go there.
PB: Chris and I actually started our own small label. It’s not signing anybody, for all those hungry musicians out there looking for a label. We did it for us because we wanted some control over our product, and to be able to move it in the way we wanted. It’s called Elefant Dreams and you can link to Elefant Dreams Records from my website. You can order both of our CDs through that.

LE: Well, you’re at the Artists Quarter tonight. Starts at nine. Two sets?
PB: Nine and elevenish. The music is not ish, it’s very strong.

LE: It’s with Billy Peterson on bass and Kenny Horst on drums.
PB: We’re having a ball. Lots of interaction. I mean we’re really stretching it out, playing a variety of tunes. Lots of standards. Makes the idea of rehearsing easier. We’re taking different treatments to them, different styles.

LE: And are you doing some of your originals?
PB: We may do some tonight. I brought some with me. Really, as a leader, I don’t plan a set. I know a lot of guys prepare a set list. Joey DeFrancesco never had a set list. We’d never know what he was gonna play – he’d just start playing and you better know the tune.

LE: That’s where that ear training comes in.
PB: That’s right. Gary Bartz was the same way, and Gary Thomas as well. We’d rehearse five or six hard tunes that he had written, and then he would never tell you what he was going to play. He’d just start and you jump on [chuckles]. I like it because it keeps it fresh.

LE: Let’s close off with something from your albumDouble Gemini.
PB: That’s my second album. It came out in 1997. This particular tune, “Open Hand,” was written here in the Twin Cities when I was playing at the Hotel Luxeford, it was probably 1996. I had such a nice time. People were so nice that I just wrote this tune. So this has a relation to your town. It features Joey De Francesco and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.

LE: Thank you so very much for stopping by. I understand you’re off to do some recording now.
PB: Yes, something having to do with the Peterson dynasty, but first, breakfast. More coffee.

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.


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:

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.

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