Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a Joyous Kwanzaa. And a happy late December season to everyone else, whether you are people of faith, agnostics or atheists. The arrival of Christmas means there is little public music on Saturday and Sunday, but there are still some pre-Christmas holiday shows, as well as some first rate music for you to enjoy. Music lifts the Spirit.
Wednesday, December 21
Nachito Herrera & The Universals @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35 – $45) As I wrote last week, even if you’ve seen the dazzling Cuban American pianist Nachito Herrera before, you likely haven’t seen him in this setting, with a group of musicians that can match his energy and wide-ranging musical interests. Violinist Karen Briggs has worked for many years with Yanni, and can go from classical music to gypsy jazz on a dime; Saxophonist Mike Phillips has worked with Prince and Steve Wonder; while Cuban drummer Raul Pineda and Senegal bassist Cheikh Nkoye provide the groups’ thundering heartbeat. All have deep resumes, are supremely conversant in a number of styles, and will no doubt create exhilarating music. You can hear a phone interview I did with Nachito here, just click on the link for December 17. The interview occurs in the third (last) half hour of the show.
Retro Swing Sister’s Jingle Bell Ball @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($7) Swing dancing is the order of the day as the charming and sophisticated vocal stylings of Maryann Sullivan and Rhonda Laurie bring dancers to the floor to help ring in the holidays with the help of Bob Byers, sax; Tom Lewis, bass; Robert Bell, guitar; and Trevor Haining, drums. They and the band will be swinging through some standards and some holiday music, and as an extra special attraction, they are encouraging folks to dress up in their best holiday duds, with prizes for the best outfits.
Thursday, December 22
Thursday Night Jazz @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Though the Twin Cities seems to be teeming with great jazz groups, as evinced by the recent release of the 14 track Twin Cities Jazz Sampler Vol. 2, there are some up and coming musicians who are currently off in college and playing on their return for the holidays. Case in point: Hoaxer, with Will Kjeer, piano; Charlie Lincoln, bass; Peter Goggin, alto; and Edmund Catlin, drums.
Katia Cardenas @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($8 Cash only) High energy vocalist Cardenas was recently in Colorado, where she sang as part of her mom’s CD release. Her father is also a musician, so she was surrounded by music growing up. For the last couple of years she’s been performing throughout the Twin Cities area, using a combination of R&B and Jazz to reach a wide audience. She’ll be celebrating the season with jazz, Latin, and holiday favorites.
Will Schmid Quartet @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7:30 – 9:30pm (Tip Jar) This is the debut of another group of up and coming players on holiday leave from college, featuring Schmid, guitar; Patrick Adkins, piano; Alma Engebretson, bass; Jesse Thorson, drums.
Thursday, Friday, December 22, 23
The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) It’s Christmas week, so the Bad Plus must be back at the Dakota, for what is now their 15th or 16th annual show, the first one occurring just before they broke on the worldwide jazz scene. Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; and Dave King, drums are all from Minnesota and Wisconsin, though Iverson and Anderson make their homes in NYC. Their collective approach to performing crosses boundaries and genres in unexpected ways, whether doing originals, classical music, or new interpretations of tunes by artists such as Johnny Cash or Peter Gabriel. Rolling Stone calls them “about as badass as highbrow gets.”
Friday, December 23
King Baron Hot Several @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10 Cash only) This band seems to be an outgrowth of the Jazzland Wonderband, with an additional singer and a new drummer. It’s a New Orleans inspired band, with a bit of second-line, a bit of trad jazz, and a contemporary sound of their own. You get powerful vocals from Cameron Kinghorn, who also plays trumpet; and Abbie Mills; with the versatile Nelson Devereaux on reeds; Keith Hilson trombone; Evan Clark, tuba; and Lars-Erik Larson on drums. Here they are in the older configuration.
Saturday, December 24
No jazz on Christmas Eve.
Sunday Monday, December 25, 26
The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) This is the second part of a four night stand over Christmas for the Bad Plus performing what is now their 15th or 16th annual show. Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; and Dave King, drums are all from Minnesota and Wisconsin, though Iverson and Anderson make their homes in NYC. Their collective approach to performing crosses boundaries and genres in unexpected ways, whether doing originals, classical music, or new interpretations of tunes by artists such as Johnny Cash or Peter Gabriel. Rolling Stone calls them “about as badass as highbrow gets.”
Monday, December 26
Andrew Schwandt @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Schwandt is a saxophonist with a big, warm sound, who can be heard with Fuzzy Math, the MN Hardbop Collective, and Steeling Dan, among others. As usual, Mondays at Jazz Central give musicians a chance to play new music, or whatever they want. In the past he’s appeared with Ted Godbout on piano, and Graydon Peterson on bass, though I’m not sure who’ll be with him tonight. Here he is with a group called Story City.
Tuesday, December 27
Nancy Harms & Jeremy Siskind @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($22, $47), 9pm ($15) After two sold-out shows in April, Ms Harms returns to the Dunsmore Room along with pianist Jeremy Siskind The Clara City, MN born Harms lived in the Twin Cities at the beginning of her journey as a jazz singer, impressing jazz fans from throughout the area. Since moving to NYC in 2010, she’s appeared at a number of the Big Apple’s more famous nightclubs, but more importantly, has established herself in Europe, often spending weeks in Denmark, France, London, and elsewhere. She’s an expressive, yet reserved singer, who puts herself into every song, bringing knowing nuance to old chestnuts and new songs alike, as amply demonstrated on her album Ellington at Night. Famed jazz critic Walt Friedwald, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, “…after hearing her just once, you’ll never want to let her go.” If you’ve any interest in vocal jazz, you will want to see Harms perform. Here she is at what I believe is a French radio station.
Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5 w/Student ID) This is more or less an open rehearsal, but don’t fear, there’s more rhythm and kicking’ horn lines than there is talking. Plus, you’re pretty much surrounded by the musicians, for an immersive listening experience.
Tuesday, Wednesday, December 27, 28
Rio Nido @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35 Tues, Wed), 9pm ($25 Wed) A beloved trio, Rio Nido came out of the West Bank music scene of the late 70s, with their unique blend of voices and a repertoire of songs from the 30s and 40s. After a decades long hiatus, they started returning to performing a year or so ago, welcomed so much that a third show was added for this gig. Prudence Johnson, Tom Lieberman and Tim Sparks are successful performers in their own right:, Johnson as a singer with more than a dozen recordings to her credit, as well as extended appearances on Prairie Home Companion; Lieberman as a producer and songwriter, and Sparks as an award-winning guitarist who’s equally at home with folk, jazz, country blues, and gospel. You can hear an interview I did with Sparks and Lieberman here, just click on the link for December 17. The interview occurs in the first half hour of the show. Here they are many years ago/
Blues, Roots, Other…
Wednesday, December 21
Pat Donohue & Friends on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Guitarist Pat Donohue won the 1983 National Fingerpicking Contest, and was part of the house band on Prairie Home Companion for about 20 years, a gig which had him bringing a new song to the show each week. He also got to play with folks like Doc Watson, Brad Paisley, and others, including Chet Atkins, who inspired his song, Stealing From Chet. Though Donohue considers himself a folk guitarist, his fingerpicking style encompasses old blues, swing, R&B, and often-witty originals, such as Rubs Me the Right Way, filled with playful puns about getting a massage. Tune in and then head over to the 331 Club to hear more.
Erica West Band @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7pm (No Cover) A tight band and soulful, strong vocals make for an entertaining evening of music. Erica West is a silky, sensuous, and powerful singer. Her husband Kevin Anderson is the guitarist and leader of the band, creating a band that’s in deep sync with West.
Thursday, December 22
Dumpstaphunk @ The Hook & Ladder Theater and Lounge, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($25 Advance, $30 Door) If the New Year is near, Mardis Gras season is not far behind, and Dumpstaphunk is bringing the New Orleans groove and funk to Minneapolis to help us prepare. This group has great lineage, being led by Ivan Neville on keys; with Ian Neville on guitar; the double bass attack of Tony Hall and Nick Daniels; and drums by Alvin Ford Jr. They started in 2003 with a one-off gig at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and since then have played at some of the world’s largest music festivals, including Bonnaroo. We no longer have The Meters, James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, and Booker T and the MGs, but we do have Dumpstaphunk, a group that’s as funky as you can get, as you can tell from this video.
Friday, December 23
Katie McMahon’s Celtic Christmas 2016 @ The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($28) Soprano Katie McMahon was the featured soloist with Riverdance, that worldwide touring hit of the 90s. Each year since 2000, when the Irish native settled in the Twin Cities, she has presented her family-friendly Celtic Christmas show of traditional Christmas songs, Gaelic Carols, English Carols, stories, and Irish dance. This year’s show features the Kantorei Choral Ensemble, singing German and Austrian music, as well as the Corda Mor Dancers, a troupe of about 20 young people, three backup singers, and her long time band: Karen Mueller, autoharp, guitar, and hurdy-gurdy; Zack Kline, fiddle; Marc Anderson, percussion: and new member Jane Cords O’Hara on cello. It’s often sold out, so call the auditorium at Saint Catherine University to check for seats.
Ronn Easton & Friends @ Famous Daves, Minneapolis. 9pm ($8) Ronn Easton is a musical entrepreneur and fine R&B singer who has been responsible for some great Revues at the Parkway. Tonight he’s joined by Deb Brown and Aisha Baker on vocals; Kenyari Jackson, drums; Will Glasper, bass, Deevo Dee, guitar; Brian Neilsen, keys; and Walter Chancellor Jr, saxophones. Expect some Funky Jazz & R&B Classics, along with plenty of room for dancing.
Patty & The Buttons Holiday Show @ The Aster Cafe River Room, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) Patty & the Buttons play for brunch-minded swing dancers at the cafe every Sunday. Tonight they bring their hot rhythm, trad jazz, Western Swing, ragtime, and other rollicking music to the River Room. There are only 40 seats, but there is also standing room. So make a reservation or get there early if you aren’t dancing. BTW, the River Room only has bar service.
Saturday, Sunday, December 24, 25
Deano & the Dinosaurs @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8:30 – Midnight. (Tip Jar) This is certainly a comfortable gig for listeners and band members alike, with guitarist Dean Mikkelson leading a different group of musicians each evening. I’m not certain, but this may be the only music event on Christmas Eve, but it would be a great gig to see anytime. As for Sunday, it’s only one of two events that I’m aware of.
Sunday, Monday, December 25, 26
The Combo @ Bunker’s, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($7) Bring out your visiting relatives and friends to hear the Combo tear through R&B dance jams from the 70s, 80s, and now. If your friends and relatives need convincing, let them know that Prince used to show up, bringing potential band members to learn from watching the Combo, aka Mombo’s Combo. After all, they’ve been at it for decades, and yet the group is always exciting, and always fun. Added attraction: you never can tell who will show up to sit in.
Monday, December 26
Merry Cajun Christmas @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 10:30pm ($?) If you’ve been gathering calories over the weekend, here’s a chance to work them off, and still be home relatively early in case you have to work in the morning. The insistent, irresistible beat of Cajun music will have you up and dancing, as the twin fiddles of Eric Mohring and Gary Powell; along with the stomach steinway of Shawn Glidden; provide the impetus for moving, ably abetted by Karen Kleinspehn, guitar; Karl Smelker, bass; AJ Srubas, steel guitar; and Andre Mohring, drums.