Well, the big day is upon us. Hopefully, you’ve survived shopping, cooking, office parties, and the like to remember this as the only time of year when we unabashedly wish people well. There are, as may be expected few choices for music on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you don’t celebrate the day, you’ll likely end up at a movie and eating Asian food. However, the rest of the week holds plenty of promise, not to forget New Year’s Eve. I’ve included a few options for next Wednesday, just to give everyone a chance to plan.
So, though it’s likely to be a brown Christmas here in the Twin Cities, it’s a White Christmas somewhere, even if it’s a holiday train display, as shown. So, to wish you a Happy Holiday, here’s a song written 1940 by a Russian Jewish composer living in Los Angeles, performed in 1954 by a group of African Americans, and animated in 2007 by someone who loved this version of White Christmas.
Have a great day. Remember Music can lift the Spirit
Wednesday, December 24
Bob Bowman Christmas Spectacular @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Bowman is a Kansas City bassist who is perhaps best known in these parts for his recording and touring work with Karrin Allyson. In the 70s he was a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Leis Orchestra and the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. He’s toured with Carmen McCrae and performed with Freddie Hubbard, Bud Shank, and others. After playing at the Dakota with Allyson on Sunday and Monday, Bowman will be joined tonight by Brian Roessler, bass; Brandon Wozniak, sax; and Peter Hennig, drums; to play originals and some promised surprises. Here he is with a trio.
Thursday – Sunday, December 25 – 28
The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($40) The Bad Plus are Dave King, drums; Ethan Iverson, piano; and Reid Anderson, bass. They have been playing the Dakota at Christmastime for about 15 years now. They were unknowns when they started this tradition and now command headline status at festivals and clubs around the world. Their music is hard to describe to casual music listeners: It’s jazz, but more than that. They turn pop songs upside down and inside out; they tackle classic compositions with an indie-rock attitude; and they create often humorous, intelligent originals.
Friday, December 26
Good Vibes Trio @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Chris Bates, bass; Dave Hagedorn, vibes, and Phil Hey, drums released a wonderful CD early this year, featuring originals as well as tunes from Mingus, Coltrane, David Berkman, and Freddie Hubbard. Here’s a chance to hear them in the intimate confines of Jazz Central, where the shimmering sounds of Hagedorn’s vibes, the snap of Hey’s cymbals, and the warmth of Bates’ bass can be readily enjoyed.
Saturday, December 27
Aaron Hedenstrom CD Release @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 5:30pm workshop, 7pm concert ($10) Saxophonist and composer Aaron Hedenstrom has been composing, arranging, and performing music professionally for over a decade. He has recently recorded his first album as a saxophonist, “A Moment of Clarity,” on Shifting Paradigm Records, the new Twin Cities label. The album features Aaron’s elaborate but heartfelt compositions and includes some of the most talented young musicians in the country. Come early for a free master class with Aaron Hedenstrom, and stay for the concert with Zacc Harris, guitar; Bryan Nichols, piano; Graydon Peterson, bass; and Brian Claxton, drums. I will have Aaron on my show Saturday morning (90.3 & 106.7FM – 10:30am – Noon)
Fat Kid Wednesdays @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation) Saturday Jazz at the Black Dog continues with this post-Christmas gig by FKW, whose members are so busy with other projects that they no longer play regularly. Enjoy their inside/outside approach to familiar and original tunes. Mike Lewis, sax; Adam Linz, bass; JT Bates, drums. The evenings bonus: an opening set by the Steve Kenny Trio.
James Wallace @ Ngon Vietnames Bistro, University & Avon, Saint Paul. 7pm – 11pm. (No Cover) Saxophonist James “Jimmyapolis” Wallace has been playing around the Twin Cites for decades. Lately he’s been showing up at the Ngon and other unlikely venues to play standards and more with a small group of mostly veteran players.
Laura Caviani & Bob Bowman @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Caviani is a delightfully inventive pianist who has often played and occasionally toured with Karrin Allyson, where she met bassist Bob Bowman. This promises to be a very different, if equally enjoyable show, the Bowman’s show at Jazz Central on Christmas Eve.
Sunday, December 28
Connie Evingson @ The Jungle Theater, Minneapolis. 4pm, 7:30pm ($25) Some more holiday music for you. This time it’s a Holiday on Golden Pond, as Ms Evingson performs a jazz concert of holiday songs with the cabin set of On Golden Pond as a backdrop. Selections will include some lesser known holiday gems like the “Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing,” from the film White Christmas, as well as one of my favorites, her own “Nutcracker Petite Suite.” She’ll be accompanied by Tanner Taylor, piano (visiting from Iowa); Dave Karr, sax; and Gordon Johnson, bass.
Monday, December 29
Wozniak, Nichols, & Bates @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8) That’s Brandon Wozniak, sax; Bryan Nichols, piano, and JT Bates, drums. They’ve worked together in many different configurations, so tonight should feature some pretty seamless, and outstanding, music.
Rhonda Laurie & Robert Bell @ Barbette, Minneapolis. 10pm (No Cover) Laurie’s sophisticated vocals go well with Bell’s understated guitar work. When you add in an outstanding happy hour, you end up with a relaxed, enjoyable evening.
Tuesday, December 30
KC Gospel Orchestra @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) The KC Gospel Orchestra (KCGO) has been swinging in the Twin Cities since the summer of 1995, under the direction of leader/writer/arranger Kevin Mills. Expect some Christmas Big Band arrangements by Kevin Mills and KCGO bassist Pete Karstad, plus selections from the great Los Angeles arranger Tom Kubis of LA.
Wednesday, December 31
Early New Year’s @ the Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 5pm – 8pm (Tip Jar) This is a family-friendly event designed to let you celebrate the arrival a New Year and still get home in time to put the kids to bed and avoid tipsy revelers on the road. w/Todd Harper, piano; Nathan Hanson, sax; Brian Roessler, bass; & Davu Seru; drums.
Tribute to Sinatra @ The Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm – Midnight (No Cover) JoAnn Funk and her husband, singer Steve Marking present a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes, himself, with bassist Jeff Brueske and drummer Nathan Norman joining in the fun.
Davina & the Vagabonds @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 6pm ($102), 10:30pm ($82) Yes, it is spendy, but Davina and her band put on a rousing show, to say the least, and at the 6pm show you get a five-course dinner (vegetarian option available), and at the 10:30 show you get a complimentary champagne toast and $20 voucher good for food or drinks.
Blues, Roots, Other…
Thursday, December 25
The Butanes @ Shaws, NE Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar). Okay, so I found out about this late, so you do have a place to escape if you’re looking for something other than a movie. Heck, this weekly gig is fun no matter what the time of year. So go hear some blues, dance a bit, and meet old and new friends.
Friday, December 26
Rena Haus Trio @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 10am – 1pm (No Cover) Let someone else serve you brunch today, while you listen to Ms Haus, her brother Bob, and guitarist Ed Petsche, as she sings blues from the heart as all as the head. Here she is doing an atypical tune for her.
Boogie Wonderland @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Get your 70s disco on, with this six piece band that channels Earth, Wind, and Fire, Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, et al. A good way to dance off the calories from your holiday meals.
Friday, Saturday, December 26, 27
Paul Metsa’s Blue Guitar Highway – The Musical @ The Phoenix Theater, 2605 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. 8pm ($15 – $25, $10 Students) Since publishing Blue Guitar Highway in 2011, Paul has worked with Jim Stowell to turn some of the stories in the book into musical theater. He’ll be joined by musicians Willie Walker, Sonny Earl, Mari Harris, Randi Starr Hudson, and Dave Maslow at the old Brave New Workshop on Hennepin.
Saturday, December 27
Papa John Kolstad & Clint Hoover @ The Gingko Coffee House, Saint Paul. 8pm ($14) Harpmaster Clint Hoover is fluent in a number of styles using both the Diatonic (Blues Harp) and the Chromatic Harmonica. He’s back in town for the holidays and his hooking up with his long-time playing partner, Papa John The two recorded “Alive and Well at the Gingko” here, showcasing their musicality in jazz, blues, and folk music. Then too, you have Papa John’s way with a story to entertain you as well. Seating is limited, so you may want to consider buying tickets in advance. Here’s Papa John by himself.
Armadillo Jump @ Shaw’s, NE Minneapolis. 9pm (No Cover) So how much have you overeaten during the last few weeks? You can burn off lots of calories with the rockin’ sax and guitar driven blues of Armadillo Jump even if the dance floor at Shaw’s is tiny. Just move a few of the tables.
Sunday, December 28
Who Nu @ Jimmy’s Food & Drink, 1132 County Rd E, East, Vadnais Heights. 2:30pm. Some highly danceable R&B for a Sunday afternoon.
Gang of Mischief @ Neumann’s Bar & Grill, North Saint Paul. 4pm (Tip Jar) Papa John Kolstad leads this motley crew of excellent players. The number and the members may change from time to time, but Hurricane Harold and Doug Otto are two of the regulars that Papa John calls on to perform various and sundry mostly acoustic blues.
Monday, December 29
Willie Murphy Blues Jam @ The Richfield American Legion, Richfield. 7pm (Tip Jar) You never know just who will show up to jam with Willie It might be someone with a washtub bass, or a trumpet, or guitar. Doesn’t matter. Willie certainly knows how to make the best of an ever changing situation, and his listeners benefit. Check out this video from one of his jam sessions.
Jumbo Ya Ya @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($5?) There’s nothing quite like Cajun and Zydeco dancing to get the heart racing, what with their twirls, spins, and dips, and Jumbo Ya Ya is just the group to provide the music.
Wednesday, December 31
The Eddies on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) It’s become a tradition, as Saint Paul’s Eddies cross the river to bring sea chanties, work songs, and death ballads to the young and the restless (as well as the old & sedentary) that often inhabit the 331 on early Wednesday evenings. Start your NYE partying by tuning in the the House Party on KFAI and then heading over to the 331.
Nikki & the Ruemates @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (No Cover) Another way to start off your New Year’s celebration is with Nikki & the Ruemates, bringing Nikki’s wonderful vocals, and Rich Rue’s imaginative guitar to the unique downtown restaurant. As I often warn, try to get a table near the stage, since the boisterous activity throughout the restaurant can make listening a bit difficult.
Tim Sparks, Phil Heywood, & Tim O’Keefe Dinner Set @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 6:30pm – 8:30pm (No Cover) Another dining while listening option is the Icehouse, where guitar wizards Tim Sparks and Phil Heywood will hold forth. They’ve been playing together quite a bit lately, but tonight they’re joined by multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Keefe, whose presence will undoubtedly create some aural surprises.
Hipshaker Dance Party @ The Kitty Kat Club, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) So you’re looking for a celebration that’s festive yet inexpensive. Look no further, as the Hipshaker Deejays bring rare funk n’ soul into your life from those little 7 inch records. It’s a relatively young crowd, but dancers of a certain age will certainly find plenty of musical reasons to have fun.
For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the MN Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar. Dancers might want to check out the U Wanna Dance Calendar.