Russell Malone: Being Himself

June 24, 2016
Russell Malone between sets

Russell Malone between sets

Self-taught guitarist Russell Malone has a very clean, elegant style, and is equally at home playing ballads or swinging. When he was in his 20s, he joined the band of organist Jimmy Smith, and went on to join Harry Connick Jr.’s big and. He then worked with Diana Krall during much of the 90s and early 2000s, appearing on three Grammy winning albums with her, as well as on Roy Hargove’s Grammy winner Crisol, and on a couple of albums with pianist Benny Green. Malone most recently appeared in the Twin Cities with Ron Carter last Fall. He’s released a dozen albums of his own since 1992, all of which have been well received.

As part of the 2016 Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Malone will bring an all-star quartet to Mears Park on Saturday, June 25th, at 6:30pm — Rick Germanson, a frequent visitor to our town on piano, Luke Sellick on bass, and acclaimed drummer Willie Jones III. I had a chance to see Malone and his quartet during the 2015 Jazz Cruise, where he was sitting in with a number of groups in addition to leading his own. He was gracious enough to grant me a few minutes time in between sets. This is a lightly edited version of the interview.

LE: What was your very first musical memory?

RM: Growing up in the church, hearing church music. That was the first music I heard before I got into jazz. My mother had records by groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds, Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, and just hearing the people in the church sing those songs. It was very moving music. Not sophisticated, but very moving.

LE: What drew you to the guitar?

RM: Hearing the gentleman in my church perform. This old man, that I never got to meet, but I saw him (regularly). Keep in mind that I already had a love and a fascination with music. Even at the age of 4 years old I was aware of the different types of emotions and feelings and reactions that you could get from people through playing music. I was aware of that, which always fascinated me. You could play music and you could connect with total strangers. Somebody you don’t know would hear you and then they laugh, they cry, you get these different types of reactions. That’s so powerful.

The gentleman brought the guitar to church, and I was fascinated by the way that it looked, going to church one Sunday and seeing it perched against one of the pews. This interesting looking object that was totally foreign to me at the time sitting there perched up against the bench, And then there was this cable that extended from the guitar into this box, which was the amplifier. The whole getup was just so fascinating, and then when he started to play and I heard the sound and knew that whatever I was thinking musically, or feeling musically, that would be the vehicle that I would use to express those thoughts or feelings. That’s how I became fascinated with the instrument.

LE: You’ve talked about being a young man and transcribing and playing other people’s solos to learning how to play chords. How did you know you had a sound that was yours?

That’s a good question. I think everybody has their own voice, their own identity. They may not know that when they’re younger, but when you’re younger you want to be validated and you want to be liked. I’ll use myself as an example. There was a period when I felt I needed to play certain types of songs and play things a certain way because I wanted the approval of other people. I wanted them to like me.

After a while, this happened when I reached my mid-thirties, I came to the conclusion that no matter how much I loved my mentors like Wes Montgomery and George Benson, and all the people I grew up listening to, no matter how much I loved them, when it came to being Russell Malone, I’m the best there is. No one can outdo me at being that.

It’s kind of like getting to the point of realizing your parents aren’t perfect. You don’t have to make the same choices that they made. You don’t have to like everything about them. You don’t have to like everything about your heroes. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or respect them, but you don’t have to make the same choices in life that they made. That same thing applies to music. You find yourself on stage with some of the guys you came up listening to, like Kenny Burrell or George Benson, if you’re on stage playing with them, what are you going to do, play like them or play like you? Nobody wants to hear that.

LE: How did you know you had reached that point where it was your sound, where it was distinct from others?

RM: Well, once I realized I didn’t have to make the same musical choices, I learned to accept myself. You have to accept yourself warts and all. If anybody else doesn’t like it, that’s not your problem. You can’t let that be your problem. You have to let that be their problem.

LE: Were you doing things in terms of the use of your instrument?

RM: Just playing like me. Just accepting my sound. I’m never going to sound like those guys. You have to accept that. I’m never going to be them, but I am going to be me. I’m the best there is at being me.

LE: Thank you very much for your time. I know you have a full schedule here on the ship.

RM: My pleasure.



Indoor Music: 10.10 – 10.16

October 10, 2018

Well Fall is surely here with temps in the 50s and lots of dreary days, so our thoughts turn to indoor events such as the Fall Jazz Fest and a Women’s Composers Festival, both of which are on Sunday afternoon. We’ve some notable visiting artists in jazz and roots music, and of course, great resident artists to see and hear. Music Lifts the Spirit!


Wednesday, October 10

Russell Malone @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm $30, $35), 9pm ($25) Chicago guitarist Malone can swing like crazy or caress a ballad. You can read an interview I did with him a few years ago here.

House on Fire @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Here’s an intriguing evening featuring a collection of songs inspired by these times and written by Chris Hepola, keys; with Paul Fonfara, clarinets; Spencer Roth, trumpet; and Eric Shruve, bass.

Thursday, October 11

Joey Alexander Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40, $45, $50), 9pm ($35, $40, $45) You may have seen this young piano player a few years ago at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, but he’s now 15, and still the brightest star in the jazz firmament.

Fat Kid Wednesdays @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul.11:30pm – 1am ($20) FKW  as been together for almost twenty years, but don’t play too often these days. The 9pm show is sold out, and this show may be sold out by the time you get this, but is a rare chance to hear the trio of: JT Bates, drums; Adam Linz, bass; and Michael Lewis, sax. You can read a New Yorker review of their show from a few years ago here.

Friday, October 12

Miss Myra & the Moonshiners @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm ($10) Traditional jazz and blues still has the power to uplift folks, at least as practiced by vocalist/guitarist Miss Myra and her merry band of Moonshiners. Sure to be a hit with the Friday night crowd at Crooners.

Tribute to Bird & Dizzy @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID)  Saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom & trumpeter  Omar Abdulkarim bring Dizzy & Bird into the 21st Century.

Saturday, October 13

Saturday Night Jazz @ the Blackdog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm: JazzInk Showcase with the Eli Zukor-Zimmerman Quartet.  At 8:30pm, the Ted Olsen Quartet headlines, with Ted Olsen, bass; Aaron Hedenstrom, saxes; and others TBD.

Steve Hobert & Marcus Wise @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 9:30pm. ($10, $5w/Student ID) Pianist Hobert  as been playing to his strengths in collaborations that often have world music influences. Tonight he teams up with veteran tabla player Marcus Wise.

Sunday, October 14

Twin Cities Fall Jazz Festival @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 1pm – 8:30pm ($35 – $90) It’s eight shows on two stages. Vocalist Nayo Jones was a sensation at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival last June, receiving five standing ovations during the course of her show. She’s the headliner today, appearing from 2:30 – 4pm in Crooners’ Lounge and then from 7:30 – 8:30 in the Dunsmore Room. Also on the bill are the Southside Aces w/Butch Thompson, The Acme Jazz Company featuring Butch Miles, The TannerTaylor Trio, Connie Evingson and Debbie Duncan with Dave Karr, Butch Miles, and Andrew Walesch, and Lucia Newell’s Brazilian Trio.

Monday, October 15

Thomasina Petrus Sings Lady Day @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. ($25) Petrus channels Holiday like no one else.

For more listings, KBEM has a calendar of jazz and roots events, while the Jazz Police features commentary, reviews, and previews of jazz in the Twin cities and beyond.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, October 10

Ian Alexi and the Deserters on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Longtime listeners of Harold’s House Party will recall Ian Alexi from his days with the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, and other visits to the House Party. Now, however, Alexi’s music has taken a turn from the bluegrass/Americana Nephews to a more rockin’ style. He still writes about misfit characters, but the music was inspired by vinyl recordings of folks like the Pretenders, Thin Lizzy, and Tom Petty. Tune in, and head to the 331 if you’re inspired by what you hear.

Dee Miller Band @ Mancini’s, Saint Paul. 7pm – 10pm (No Cover) The old-school lounge of Mancini’s has been rockin’ on Wednesdays this fall. Tonight they feature the Dee Miller Band  which has been raising the roof themselves since vocalist Miller was recently named Performer of the Year by the MN Blues Society, and the whole band was chosen to represent MN at the International Blues Challenge in January.

Amy Helm @ Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($20 Advance/$25 Door) The daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm is making her own musical way quite nicely, singing Americana, gospel, and blues. Helm just released This Too Shall Light, on Yep Roc Records.  It was produced by Grammy-winning Joe Henry, and features a wide variety of songs, from Rod Stewart’s Mandolin Wind, to Allen Toussaint’s Freedom for the Stallion, a pre-Band song of her father’s, and a reflection on Blossom Dearie.

Thursday, October 11

RAMM Band @ Moe’s, Moundsview. 6:30pm – 10pm (No Cover) Every Thursday night is BBQ & Blues night at Moe’s. Tonight its The RAMM Band: Real, American Made Music f(Motown, Blues, R&B) from guitar master Paul Mayasich; John Iden, bass; and Donald “Hye Pockets” Robertson.

Forro Night w/Samba Meu @ Can Can Wonderland, Saint Paul. 6pm – 8pm  ($2) Brazilian country dancing is easy enough if you can do a two-step or are willing to take part in a multi-culti square dance. Dance instructors will be on hand and Samba Meu will provide the music. Afterwards you can take part in the many diversions at Can Can Wonderland, including mini-golf.

Saturday, October 13

Craig Clark Band @ Schooner Tavern, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) Blues guitarist Clark grew up singing gospel music and listening to groups like the Mighty Clouds of Joy, which undoubtedly influences to his soulful singing. He’s a spark plug, whether playing in the Dee Miller Band or heading his own group, as he does tonight.

R-Factor’s Prince Tribute @ Birch’s Brewhouse, Long Lake. 8pm – 11:30 (No Cover) With six singers and eight musicians and a repertoire that makes them a popular wedding band, the R-Factor has both the vocal chops and musicianship to do right by Prince songs. Birch’s is a bit West, but for those of you in the Western ‘burbs, and others wailing to make the drive, this will be a fun evening.

Sunday, October 14

Women Composers Festival @ The Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis. 3pm-4:30pm ($?) An afternoon of music by women composers, including Maura Bosch, Kari Tweiten, Sarah Houle, Missy Mizzoli, Shulamit Ran, & Julie Sweet. Flutist Julie Johnson will be performing an excerpt from  her composition “Crocus Hill Ghost Story,” with narration by KrisAnne Weiss.

Eric Gales Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40) When guitarist Gales released his first album at the age of 16, he was  already being compared to Hendrix. That was in 1991, and since then he’s released 15 albums. Though often called an average singer, he more than makes up for that with electrifying playing, drawing on influences from the psychedelic blues-rock of the 70s, while staying grounded in modern times.

Monday, October 15

Steve Clarke & The Working Stiffs @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 7pm (No Cover) It’s Monday, so its another swing dance night at Famous Dave’s. Tonight saxophonist about town Steve Clarke brings hard charging Working Stiffs to the stage to inspire dancers, so of whom showed ups forth swing dance lesson at 7pm.

Tuesday, October 16

Lindsay Beaver @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 7pm Free Dance lesson, 8pm show. ($10) If ducktails, ponytails, Betty Page dresses, & leather jackets are your idea of dressing up for a night out, then you’ll likely get crazy, man, crazy over stand-up drummer/vocalist Lindsay Beaver and her band. Heck, even if you aren’t a 50s fashionista, you may appreciate the way Beaver and her band mine old school rock n’ roll and R&B with the fire and fury that brings dancers to Lee’s dance floor.

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.

A Short Guide to The 2016 Twin Cities Jazz Festival

June 22, 2016

3946f1e9-70cb-408a-b402-d6e32360bd80As in the past, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival continues to add stages, notably the Kellogg Stage on Kellogg Boulevard just outside Lowertown, as well as around Saint Paul. This presents the best kind of problem – one of figuring out where to go, so I’ve put together this short guide to a few of the different kinds of performers at the fest. If a band isn’t listed here, it’s not because they aren’t worth seeing. It’s just that with so many bands to choose from, it’s as daunting for me as it is for you. Besides the styles that I listed, you’ll find brass bands, traditional jazz, and post-modern bands.  Look for a copy of the official program at venues around town. It lists performances by stage and time to further help you decide. Don’t be afraid to check out any of the other performers on the bill.  That’s the way you discover someone new.

Blues, R&B, and Funky Jazz

Thursday, June 23


8:00pm – No Limits The B-Side Band @ The Hat Trick Lounge

10:30pm Smooth & Groove Jam Session @ The Bedlam Theater

Outside Downtown

7pm – The Groove Merchants @ Langfod & Karls Chiropractic, Highland

Friday, June 24


5:00pm – Pho @ Kellogg Park Stage

5:30pm – New Sound Underground @ Union Depot Stage

6:30pm – Hornucopia @ Kellogg Park Stage (Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire tribute band)

7:00pm – LP Music @ Union Depot Stage (Eric Leeds & Paul Peterson from Prince, etc.)

7:30pm – Nooky Jones @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall

8:00pm – Sonny Knight & the Lakers @ Kellogg Park Stage

8:00pm – No Limits The B-Side Band @ The Hat Trick Lounge

10:30pm – Smooth & Groove Jam Session @ The Bedlam Theater

Saturday, June 25


2:00pm – Apple Valley R&B Band @ Union Depot Stage

5:00pm – Jack Brass Band @ 6th Street Stage

7:00pm – JT Bates’ Grain Trio @ Amsterdam Bar & Hall

8:00pm – Soul Beautiful @ Hat Trick Lounge (double bill w/Alma Andina)

8:30pm – BZ3 Organ Trio @ Amsterdam Bar & Hall

10:30pm –  Smooth & Groove Jam Session @ The Bedlam Theater

Latin and World Music

Friday, June 24


5:00pm – Jazzoneando @ The 6th Street Stage

7:30pm – Irie Sol @ Rice Park

Saturday, June 25


5:00pm  – Black Market Brass @ Kellogg Park Stage (Afrobeat)

7:30pm – Michael Franti & Speahead @ Kellogg Park Stage

8:00pm – Alma Andina @ Hat Trick Lounge

Youth Jazz

Thursday, June 23

8:00pm – Joey Alexander Trio @ Mears Park Main Stage (He’s almost 13, but a pro)

Friday, June 24

5:30pm – Pip Jazz Foundation Youth Showcase @ Bedlam Lowertown

8:30pm – Will Schmid/Adam Astrup Guitar Duo @ Golden’s Deli

Saturday, June 25

11:00am – Joe’s Jazz Camp @ Union Depot Stage

12:00pm – JAM (Jazz Around Minneapolis) @ Union Depot Stage

2:00pm – Apple Valley R&B Band @ Union Depot Stage

2:00pm – Walker West Music Academy @ Mears Park Main Stage

3:00pm – Iowa Jazz Ambassadors @ Union Depot Stage

4:00pm – Dakota Combo @ Union Depot Stage

5:15pm – Twin cities Honors Vocal Ensemble @ Bedlam Lowertown


Thursday, June 23 


6:00pm – Debbie Duncan @ TPT Stage

7:30pm – Singer Scat-off @ Golden’s Deli

Outside Downtown

8:30pm – Wolverines with Maud Hixson @ Mancini’s

Friday, June 24


4:00pm – Patty Peterson hosts Jazz Women All-Stars @ Mears Park Main Stage

6:00pm – Kate Lynch & Her Most Excellent Fellows @ Amsterdam Bar & Hall

8:00pm – Pippi Ardennia Hosts Women of Jazz @ Bedlam Lowertown

Outside Downtown

2:00pm – Andrew Walesch Quartet @ Episcopal Homes Stage

Saturday, June 25


5:15pm – Twin Cities Honors Vocal Ensemble @ Bedlam Lowertown

6:30pm – Lee Engewle & Reynold Philipsek @ Golden’s Deli

7:00pm – JoAnn funk @ Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar

7:00pm – Pete Whitman X-Tet w/Lucia Newell @ Union Depot Stage

Mainstream Jazz

Thursday, June 23


4:00pm – Dave Brattain Trio @ The Black Dog

6:00pm – Delfeayo Marsalis Quartet @ Mears Park Main Stage

7:00pm – Chris Lomheim Trio @ Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar

7:00pm – Jon Pemberton Quaret @ SW Craft Bar

8:00pm – Joey Alexander Trio @ Mears Park Main Stage

8:30pm – Jon Wever Trio @ Vieux Carre

10:00pm – Solomon Parham Group @ Bedlam

10:00pm – Jam Session Hosted by Jon Weber @ Vieux Carre

Friday, June 24


4:00pm – Dave Karr Quartet @ Union Depot Stage

4:00pm – Jazz Women All Stars, Hosted by Patty Peterson @ Mears Park Main Stage

7:00pm – Chris Lomheim Trio @ Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar

7:00pm – Larry McDonough Quartet @ SW Craft Bar

8:00pm – Pippi Ardennia Hosts Women of Jazz @ Bedlam Lowertown

8:30pm – Ellis Marsalis Quartet @ Mears Park Main Stage

10:00pm – Jam Session Hosted by Jon Weber @ Vieux Carre

10:30pm – Adam Booker Quartet @ SW Craft Bar

Outside Downtown

2:00pm – Andrew Walesch Quartet @ Episcopal Homes Stage

Saturday, June 25


6:00pm – Chris Lomheim @ Vieux Carre

6:00pm – Russell Malone Quartet @ Mears Park Main Stage

7:00pm – JoAnn Funk Trio @ Saint Paul Hotel

7:15pm – Jon Weber, Francisco Mela & Friends @ 6th Street Stage

8:00pm – Lucia Sarmiento Group @ The Black Dog

8:30pm – John Pizzarelli Quartet @ Mears Park Main Street Stage

10:00pm – Jazz Central All-Stars @ Bedlam Lowertown (two sets)

10:00pm – Kevin Washington Quintet @ Amsterdam Bar & Hall

10:00pm – Steve Kenny Quintet @ the Black Dog (two sets)

10:30pm – Jam Session Hosted by Jon Weber @ Vieux Carre

11:00pm – Phil Hey Quartet @ SW Craft Bar

Guitar Jazz

Thursday, June 23


6:00pm – Joel Shapira @ Big River Pizza

10:00pm – Dean Magraw & Steven Hobert @ Golden’s Deli

Friday, June 24


6:00pm – Gypsy Mania Hot Club @ Heartland Restaurant

7:15pm – Clearwater Hot Club @ 6th Street Stage

8:30pm – Will Schmid/Adam Astrup Duo @ Golden’s Deli

9:00pm – Zacc Harris Trio @ Public Kitchen & Bar

Saturday, June 25


6;00pm – Russell Malone Quartet @ Mears park Main Stage

8:00pm – John Penny Trio @ SW Craft Bar

8:30pm – John Pizzarelli Quartet @ Mears Park Main Stage

9:30pm – Cory Wong @ SW Craft Bar

For more listings, KBEM provides a calendar of jazz and roots music.   For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs, Jazz Ink.

Awash in Music: 6.22 – 6.28

June 22, 2016

imagesIt’s once again time for Saint Paul’s Twin Cities Jazz Festival  Executive Director Steve Heckler and his staff and volunteers have  put together a great weekend of music that will appeal to a wide variety of listeners. It features a number of great headlining musicians: Delfeayo Marsalis and piano phenom Joey Alexander on Thursday, Ellis Marsalis on Friday, and Russell Malone and John Pizzarelli on Saturday. Additionally, over 300 musicians from the area will perform in over a dozen venues and four outdoor stages, and best of all, it’s free. I will be sending out a short guide to the Festival in a separate e-mail, but you can get more information, including the whole schedule here. In the meantime, here’s a listing of other music ideas for the coming week. Music lifts the spirit.


Wednesday, June 22
Kate Lynch & Her Most Excellent Fellows @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm (Free) Vocalist and bassist Ms Lynch is building a following as she makes her way through a number of venues in the area. She’s backed by some truly excellent musicians, including guitarist Chris Beaty, trumpeter Greg Lewis, and trombonist Michael Nelson. Kate & the Fellows play music from the 30s to the 60s, and it’s always an entertaining performance.

Katia Cardenas EP Release @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Advance, $12 Door) Ms Cardenas will be backed by her working trio: Ted Godbout, piano; Ted Olsen, bass; and Zach Schmidt, drums. At 10pm it’s  Jazzoneando, a Latin Jazz Trio from Mexico: Alberto “Yamil” Vazquez, piano, leader, arranger; Aaron Romo, bass, vocals; Kimani Carranzana, percussion, vocals. PS: If you want to hear a couple of tunes from the EP, you can listen to an interview I did with Katia this past Saturday (the 18th) by going here and clicking on one of the listen icons for June 18. The interview starts about 20 minutes into the show.

David Hazeltine & Billy Peterson CD Release Party @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($20, $50 w/Dinner), 9pm ($15, $45 w/Dinner) Here we have the 3rd of three special nights at the Dunsmore Room, where two musicians who have a 40 year musical history release their first CD, NEXT DOOR. Pianist Hazeltine is a major player, and is especially well regarded in NYC and Japan. Raised in Milwaukee, he was encouraged by Chet Baker to go to NYC, where his Charlie Parker-influenced playing was welcomed. He’s well known as a composer and arranger, and for taking contemporary tunes and making them into “standards.” Our own Billy Peterson is equally at home with R&B and rock music as he is with jazz, having toured for decades with the Steve Miller Band. He received notable praise for his appearance with Bill Carrothers and Dave King at the Village Vanguard a few years back, and regularly tours with Ben Sidran. This CD release party will include a few well-chosen covers as well as some originals. Here’s an example of Hazeltine’s work.

Balluff/Pikal/Thompson Trio @ The Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 8pm ($8) Traditional jazz, well served by Tony Balluff, clarinet; Steve Pikal, bass; and Butch Thompson  piano and clarinet. It’s a new combination that’s hard to beat.

Thursday, June 23
Chris Bates’ Red5 @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 10pm (Tip Jar) Two late night sets from bassist Bates and his crew, doing originals by Bates. Chris Bates, basses; Thomas Nordlund, guitar; Jt Bates, drums; Jake Baldwin, trumpet; Brandon Wozniak, tenor; Chris Thomson, tenor and soprano. Check them out after the Mears Park main stage performances.

Friday, June 25
Dennis Spears Quartet @ Crooners’ Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7pm (No Cover) Spear’s smooth baritone is a pleasure to hear, whether he’s performing R&B, pop, or jazz.

Saturday, June 26
Brad Bellows & Friends @ Boom Island Brewing Tap Room, 2014 North Washington, Minneapolis. (No Cover) If you don’t want to head to downtown Saint Paul for Jazz Fest, this is a chance to hear some jazz while taking in the current taps at Boom Island Brewing. Valve trombonist Brad Bellows can be depended on for having talented friends and creating great music.

Sunday, June 26
Paula Lammers @ The Eagan Art Festival, Central Park, Eagan. 2:30pm (Free) Ms Lammers and her supple voice close out the entertainment at this community art fair. And with accompanists such as  Mary Louise Knutson, piano; Greg Byers, bass; and Jay Epstein, drums, you may even be inspired to make a last minute purchase.

Zacc Harris Trio @ The Riverview Wine Bar, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 9:30pm (Tip Jar) After three days of crowds at the TC Jazz Fest, you may want the comfort of a small wine bar to take in the tasty sounds of guitarist Harris and his trio. Here he is with his quartet.

Monday, June 27
Charmin Michelle & Rick Carlson @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($10, $35w/Dinner) This is part of a series called In the Crook, whereby a vocalist is situated in the “crook” of a piano. In this case, you have the buttery, elegant singing of Charmin Michelle, accompanied by the spare, ever tasteful piano stylings of Rick Carlson.

Jazzoneando @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5/w student ID) If you missed them at the Icehouse Wednesday, or the Jazz Fest on Saturday, you can still catch this trio from Mexico, as they apply all sorts of Latin rhythms to jazz.

Monday, Tuesday, June 27, 28
The Rad Trads @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($20) The Rad Trads: Take a three horn front line, add a rock rhythm section, and an additional drummer/percussionist, stir with music that ranges from traditional jazz to blues from Chicago and the Delta, add in a touch of New Orleans R&B, and season with a bit of rock n’ roll, and you get lively, celebratory music.

For more listings, KBEM provides a calendar of jazz and roots music.   For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs, Jazz PoliceJazz Ink, and Bebopified.

Blues, Roots, Other…
Wednesday, June 22
The Beavers on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) This all-female Americana group started as a jam band, but whether they’re covering John Prine or performing one of their originals, their light-hearted approach to folk and country (or whatever) is sure to bring a smile to your face.

Samba Meu @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7:30pm (Tip Jar) A bit of Brazil comes to the newly expanded Black Dog. The party starts with a dance lesson after which you can dance to sambas and forros from Karen Quiroz and Samba Meu, and be entertained by SnapFrost!, a group of women with Shakeres, that beaded gourd that, in the hands of this group, creates irresistible rhythms.

Thursday, June 23
Rockin’ Pinecones @ the Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 10pm. The Pinecones will fill the wonderful dance floor at the Eagles Club with folks twirling, spinning, and two-stepping to the R&B of New Orleans R&B, as well as some Cajun and Zydeco.

Friday, June 24
Nachito Herrera @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($15) It’s always difficult to know where to place Nachito in these listings, as he is equally conversant in Classical, pop, jazz, and Cuban music (he is, after all, from Havana). Whatever he plays, it will leave the audience breathless.

Fathom Lane @ The Warming House, 4001 Bryant Ave So, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12 – $15) The Warming House is a new basement listening room in South Minneapolis, just right for the ethereal and fragile-seeming music of Fathom Lane. They released two well-recieved albums, which reveal a hard -to-define sound, that implies influences ranging from Gram Parsons to The Velvet Underground. Seth Michael Davin opens.

Dee Miller Band featuring Jimi “Prime Time” Smith @ Schooner Tavern, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) With strong vocals, dynamite guitar courtesy of “Prime Time” and a driving rhythm section, Ms Miller and her compradres offer up a blast of the blues.

Mary Cutrufello Band @ The Viking Bar, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($5) This FedEx driver has a voice that’s been honed with sandpaper, a Telecaster that she rocks with abandon, and a predilection for Texas twang and country tales. In short, Cutrufello goes against all the stereotypes a Yale graduate from Connecticut might engender.

Saturday, June 25
Honky Tonk Fest VI @ Grumpy’s Northeast, 2200 4th St. NE, Minneapolis. 1:30pm – 10pm Sixth annual country music benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Minnesota, featuring six bands, a ticket raffle, cakewalk, and Hee-Haw photo booth! 1:30 PM sound check by Country Mike; 2:00 Trailer Trash; 3:15 The Beavers; 4:30 Katy Bellville & The Sonsabitches; 5:45 The Hillions; 7:00 Doug Otto & the Getaways; 8:15 Leo Rondeau (from Austin, TX)

Charles Lawson & the Crazy Snakes All-Stars @ Barely Brothers Records, Saint Paul. 2pm – 4pm (Free) Waay back in the day, Lawson fronted a blues band called the KingSnakes, which would cover under appreciated songs to incite dancing wherever they played. Then, he and Ed Pesche held down a weekly gig at the old incarnation of the Viking for a few years. I don’t know who he’s got with him today, but it will be fun. And, if you can’t make it to this gig, he’s got another at the Dubliner tomorrow from 5-7pm with the Slender Men.

Cactus Blossoms & Eelpout Stringers @ Franconia Sculpture Park, Franconia. 2pm – 6pm (Fee – $5 to park) Looking for a short road trip to an interesting place? The Franconia Sculpture Park might be just the ticket. Pack a picnic and listen to the acoustic string tunes of the Eelpout Stringers, followed by The Cactus Blossoms, purveyors of modern songs inspired by the classic Country & Western performers of the 50s.

Erik Koskinen Band @ The Viking Bar, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8 Advance/$12 Door) Koskinen is a fine guitarist and writer/composer of tales from America’s main street, sung with much affection for traditional C&W.

Céu @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40 – $45) Céu is a singer/songwriter with a voice as sensuous as the rhythms of her country. She creates beautiful Brazilian electro-pop, encompassing Afrobeat, jazz, and, as might be expected, a number of Brazilian rhythms. Kauf, a Los Angeles singer/songwriter who uses electronics to good effect, opens.

Sunday, June 26
Captain Gravitone @ The Underground Music Cafe, Saint Paul 11am – 1pm (Tip Jar) Banjo-led Americana, along with a touch of humor while you have brunch, and after all, isn’t the banjo an easy punch line for many jokes. Consider just a couple of the songs of Captain Gravitone: “Daydreaming Out of the 9 to 5 Corporate Office Window,” and “Hula-hoop Girl on Bourbon Street.”

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.

Bossas, Blues, Bebop, and More. 10.24 – 10.30

October 24, 2012

Photo by Pat Cameron

It may be a gray day outside as this is being written, but the opportunities for listening to music provide a sunny outlook. I know that figure of speech is a stretch, but work with me here. Halloween celebrations will be in full force this weekend, and I’ll let others give you the lowdown on where to see the most outrageous/sexiest/goriest/funniest costumes. Anyway, ffrom large orchestras to duos; from Desert Blues to elegant bossas, you have many choices when it comes to stimulating your brains with music. Have a good week.


Wednesday, October 24

Phil Hey Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Here’s a mid-week pick-me-up for jazz fans; just the thing to get you over “hump day.” Drummer Hey leads a group of highly accomplished musicians, whose long-term relationship allows them to communicate almost telepathically to the twists and turns of songs by Bobby Hutcherson, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and more. Besides Phil Hey on drums, there is Phil Aaron on piano, Dave Hagedorn on vibes, and Tom Lewis on bass.

Friday, October 26

Lila Ammons Quartet @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (No cover) Ammons is a vocalist with a strong pedigree – her uncle was Gene Ammons, and her grandfather was pianist Albert Ammons. Lila Ammons, however studied and performed classical music before turning to jazz. Read an interview I did with her earlier this year here. She’ll be joined by saxman Dean Brewington, among others.

Connie Evingson @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12) There’s a reason she’s one of the area’s favorite vocalists. Whether she’s singing standards, the Beatles, Peggy Lee, or the music of Norman Gimbel, Evingson swings. Tonight she’s backed by a terrific group of musicians: Tanner Taylor, piano; Dave Karr; sax & flute; Terry Burns, bass; and Mac Santiago, drums.

Friday, Saturday, October 26,27

Eric Kamau Gravatt & Source Code @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) Drummer Gravatt turned down Miles Davis to play with Weather Report. He’s also played with Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, and other illustrious jazz folk. Lucky for us he lives in the area, though that doesn’t mean he’s a ubiquitous presence on our jazz scene. He’s joined by Dave Hagedorn, vibes; Ron Evanuik, bass; and Gene Rush on piano.

Saturday, October 27

Maurice Jacox @ Eat Street Social, Minneapolis. 1:30 – 3:30pm (free) Take a break this afternoon to hear Jacox apply his considerable vocal skills to soul standards and the Great American Songbook. It’s an intimate affair, and if you’re not going to have a cocktail, you may want to try an egg cream. Just ask that they don’t use ice, in order to get the true flavor.

Benny Weinbeck Trio @ D’Amico Kitchen at Chambers Hotel, Minneapolis. 7:30 – 11:30pm (free) Well, it would be good if you ordered a drink or food, which are bound to be well-crafted. Of course the music is well-crafted as well, as Weinbeck, piano; Gordy Johnson, bass; and Phil Hey, drums; provide music that goes way-beyond the cocktail lounge.

Sunday, October 28

Donald Thomas Birthday Bash & Benefit @ Baystreet Grill and Pub, 731 Randolph, Saint Paul. 3:00pm – 7:00pm ($10 Donation)  The donation includes a free drink and a free taco bar. Lincoln Berry on organ will be leading a trio. Thomas had open heart surgery this summer, so this is the perfect time to celebrate the singer and drummer and help raise some funds to help him through his recovery.

Monday, October 29

Chris Bates Red5 @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($5) It’s the Jazz Implosion at Icehouse, tonight featuring the music of Chris Bates, notably from the group’s CD, New Hope. The group features Zack Lozier, trumpet; Chris Thomson tenor and soprano sax; Brandon Wozniak, tenor and alto sax. Brother JT on drums rounds out the group.

Tuesday, Wednesday, October 30, 31

Maria Schneider Orchestra @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($60 – $40) Nineteen musicians on the Dakota stage, with two Grammys and nine nominations. Whatever I can say about Schneider, who is originally from Windom, would pale in comparison to the raves she has received for her compositions.

More listings for Twin Cities jazz can be found at KBEM and at Jazz Police. Jazz Police also features jazz commentary as well, as do Bebopified, and Jazz Ink.

Roots, Blues, Other

Wednesday, October 27

Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric Does Brian Eno @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis 7pm – 10pm. (No cover) Wow! Clouser’s electric guitar playing has enthralled audiences from Prague to New York to our own Twin Cities. Tonight he’s interpreting the music of Brian Eno, from ambient scores to the Talking Heads and way beyond. Good food and cocktails as well. Just be sure to ask for a table near the music.

Friday, October 26

Trio Bossa Nova @ 318 Cafe, Excelsior. 8pm ($10) For those of you in the Western suburbs, the tiny 318 Cafe offers a chance to hear music up close and personal. Guitarist Pavel Jany leads this subset of Ticket to Brasil in a program of sultry bossa novas and originals. You may want to get a reservation.

Mother Banjo @ Dakota Late Night, Minneapolis. 11pm ($5) Charmingly dark songs, along with some bluegrass gospel, make up the repertoire of Mother Banjo, aka Ellen Stanley of KFAI’s Womenfolk.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, October 26, 27, 28

Barebones Puppet Extravaganza @ Hidden Falls Park, Saint Paul 7pm. (donation) Spectacle. Larger-than-Life Puppets. Stilting, Fire, Song & Dance. The annual extravaganza is equal parts entertaining and thoughtful, including a public naming ceremony, where the audience is invited to honor the memories of those who have passed by saying their names out loud. The Brass Messengers will be playing afterward on Friday and Sunday. A Ukranian band will play on Saturday.

Saturday, October 27

Everett Smithson Band @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 6pm. ($?) Everett & Kathy Smithson and their band play the kind of party music you might hear in Southern Louisiana: a bit of swamp, zydeco, blues, and rockabilly. Backing them up is a team of veteran Twin Citizens: Phil Schmid on guitar, Jeremy Johnson on drums, and Bill Black on upright bass. Early birds may want to take advantage of Wilebski’s free buffet from 5pm – 7pm.

Tinariwen @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($35) Formed in the Southern Sahara Touareg rebel camps about 30 years ago, this Grammy-winning group uses electric guitars to create trance-like, blues-laden sounds to back their poetic lyrics about he lives of Touareg refugees. Tinariwen has earned praise from Elvis Costello and Carlos Santana, among others. Call it Desert Blues or Desert Rock, their hypnotic sounds will draw you in and have you clapping along. Here’s a video of them.

Sunday, October 28

Malone Brothers @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35) Dave Malone (of the Subdudes) and Russell Malone (of the Radiators) are touring together after the Radiators have broken up and while the Subdudes are on hiatus. This is New Orleans rock at it’s best – a mixture of blues, zydeco, and country roots.

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.

Variety and Quality: 3.8 – 3.15

March 8, 2017

We’ve some wonderful visiting artists, and a surfeit of outstanding resident artists this week, giving us many opportunities to share a communal moment around music. Remember, the audience is as much a part of the performance as those who are on stage. We all gain energy from each other. And of course, it remains true that such an experience lifts our spirit.


Wednesday, March 8

Monty Alexander Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40), 9pm ($30, $35) Jamaica-born pianist Monty Alexander  began playing at age six, and by the time he was a teenager, had a popular band called Monty and the Cyclones. He moved to NYC in 1962 and began playing with folks like bassist Ray Brown and vibist Milt Jackson, and recorded his first album in 1964, when he was 20. With a soulful approach, some hints of Oscar Peterson, and a hard swinging style. He’s recorded over seventy albums since 64, but aside from occasionally using calypso rhythms, didn’t embrace his Jamaican heritage on record until the 90s. Since then he’s recorded a half-dozen or so albums using Jamaican musicians to record reggae, rock steady, and calypso tunes. He’ll be appearing with a trio tonight, which lately has included JJ Wiggins on bass, and Jason Brown on drums, so you can expect that he’ll be drawing on all parts of his vast repertoire.

Chris Bates’ Trio Explorations @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Hard-working bassist Chris Bates will be joined by Nathan Hanson, sax; and Pete Hennig, drums. They’ve played with each other in a number of different contexts, and now will use that experience to find new ways to express their respective musical ideas.

Thursday, March 9

Joel Shapira, Paul Renz Trio @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6pm (Shapira – No Cover) 9pm (Renz-$5) It’s a night of double guitar gigs at the Vieux. Joel Shapira will play acoustic guitar during the dinner hour from 6:30 – 8:30pm. Then guitarist Paul Renz and his trio take the stage. Renz graduated from Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory, where he studied with jazz greats Herb Pomeroy and George Russell. Though his Twin Cities activities revolve mainly around teaching, he’s recorded a half dozen well received, chart-topping albums and has built a fan base on the East Coast where he tours every once in a while.

Gypsy Mania @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm (Tip Jar) This is definitely Hot Club music – acoustic, swinging jazz, under the direction of bandleader and world-beat guitarist Glen Helgeson. Other members of Gypsy Mania include additional outstanding musicians: Gary Schulte, violin; Steve Pikal, bass; and Jay Epstein, drums. Be sure to sit relatively close to the stage, as the noise level can be quite high at Hell’s Kitchen.

Sarah M. Greer & Dean Magraw @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Greer is an under-appreciated vocalist who has the chops and skill to teach others, yet is not as well known as some of her contemporaries and students. Magraw, as those of you who have received this newsletter for a while know, is a versatile guitar player who is equally at home in a fusion trio, world music group, or accompanying a singer such as Ms Greer.

Thursday, Friday, March 9,10

Victor Wooten Trio @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $42), 9pm ($25, $32) Bassist Victor Wooten has won five Grammys, and every major award given to a bass guitarist. He’s a member of the pioneering bluegrass/jazz fusion group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, but regularly puts out his own solo recordings. For these two nights of appearances, he’ll lead a trio with Bob Franceschini on sax; and Dennis Chambers on drums.

Friday, March 10

Cannonball Collective @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Even with so many colleges featuring jazz programs, when it comes down to it, graduates of such programs should also embrace the “old school” form of learning – playing with older, established musicians. The Cannonball Collective brings several generations of Twin Cities musicians together to celebrate the music of Cannonball Adderley. The last time they performed, the group included:  Mac Santiago, drums; Zack Lozier, trumpet; Joe Strachan, piano; Keith Boyles, bass; and Doug Haining, sax. This will definitely be a fun gig.

Friday, Saturday, March 10, 11

Dave King’s Vector Families @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) Vector Families is one of a dozen or so projects that drummer Dave King is part of, including the Bad Plus, and Dave King’s Trucking Company. For this group, he’s joined by Brandon Wozniak, sax; Dean Granros, guitar; and Anthony Cox, bass/cello. This is a group that can swing while still exploring the outer reaches of chord changes and melodies. I believe they are celebrating the release of a new album.

Saturday, March 11

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Opening set: Post Atomic Trio, with David Hamilton, piano; John Croarkin, sax; and Derrin Pinto, drums.  8:30pm, Central Standard Time; Javi Santiago – Piano, Dave Brattain – Saxophones, Steve Kenny – FLUMPET, Ted Olsen – Bass, Eric Kamau Grávátt – Drums

Davu Seru’s No Territory Band @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 6pm Master Class, 7pm Concert ($10 Advance/$15 Door) This is another in the very excellent Jazz at Studio Z series. Tonight drummer/percussionist Davu Seru is featured, along with the band, featuring Jake Baldwin, trumpet; Pat O’Keefe, clarinets; Nathan Hanson & Scott Fultz, saxes; and Levi Schwartzberg, vibes. There will be a master class at 6pm, and two sets of music.

Kate Lynch & Her Most Excellent Fellows @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) Bassist/Vocalist Kate Lynch always delivers a bit of history with the songs she and Her Most Excellent Fellows perform. Not so much about the song itself, but about the era in which it was popular. She says that about 1/5 of the presentation is about history, which is about right, from what I can tell. The rest is swinging, danceable music, from early to mid 20th Century.

Monday, March 13

Andrew Tomten Trio @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Tomtem is a young saxophonist who’ll be leading a trio tonight, playing mostly his own compositions.

Tuesday, March 14

Chris Lomheim @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6pm (No Cover) Pianist Lomheim has been inspired by Bill Evans, but has his own sound – one that is imaginative and often contemplative, yet he can swing mightily, and serve as the foundation for larger groups. Tonight he’s by himself, providing first class music for diners.

Sam Miltich & Charmin Michelle @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($10, $35/Dinner) This is a very promising combination, one that will work well in Crooners’ listening room. Sam Miltich is an extraordinary jazz guitarist who comes from the northern woods of Minnesota. He plays gypsy jazz with the Clearwater Hot Club, but is also enamored of traditional jazz, Brazilian fork music, French Musettes and other world musics. He’ll be playing with Charmin Michelle, whose creamy dreamy voice, perfect diction, and great sense of time have made her popular both here and in Europe (especially Spain), and its jazz musicians. They’ll have added help from bassist Chris Bates, and drummer Jay Epstein.

Explosion Big Band @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Dough Haining, sax; and Scott Agster, trombone, lead this 17 piece aggregation in the classic sounds of Ellington and Basie, as well as Thad Jones, Clare Fischer, and others.


For more listings, KBEM provides a calendar of jazz and roots music.   For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs, Jazz Ink, and Bebopified.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, March 8

Rockin’ Johnny Burgin @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 7pm (Tip Jar) though Rockin’ is part of his name, don’t be fooled. Guitarist Johnny Burgin is no blues rocker, but rather an effective acolyte of traditional Chicago blues. He grew up in Mississippi and South Carolina, but got his start in Chicago playing with Taildragger, and touring with folks like Pinetop Perkins and drummer Sam Lay. He’s doing a mini-tour of the Twin Cities, playing in Holihans’ The Schooner, and Shaw’s over the next few days. Usually, he would appear on Harold’s House Party first, but the show is pre-empted today for International Women’s Day programming.

David Lindley @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($20 Advance, $25 Door) During his time as featured accompanist with Jackson Browne and leader of his own band El Ray-X, multi-instrumentalist David Lindley often drew inspiration from, and played, music from around the world. He often includes elements of African, Arabic, Asian, Turkish, and Malagasy music, and, when combined with his many stringed instruments, colorful outfits, unique sense of humor, and elfin looks, creates a wholly satisfying and enjoyable music experience for listeners.

Thursday, March 9

Jeff Ray & the Stakes @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (Tip Jar) Ace bottleneck guitar player Jeff Ray can be depended upon to take traditional or well-known songs, and recast them, sometimes with Eastern influences, sometimes creating an old-timey song out of a rock n’ roller. The Stakes are usually Mikkel Beckman  on percussion and Hurricane Harold Tremblay on harmonica. Though this video is titled as Hurricane Harold, it’s essentially Jeff & the Stakes.

Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($25 Advance, $30 door) Thanks to help from many volunteers, The Cedar Cultural Center can keep expenses low enough to bring in a wide variety of music from around the world. Tonight they are featuring the duo of Ballake Sissoko, a Malian master of the traditional 21-stringed kora, a harp-like instrument, and French cellist Vincent Segal, who has a background in trip-hop. Their collaboration results in hauntingly beautiful chamber music, which, by the way, is the name of their album.

Friday, March 10

Willie Walker @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm (No Cover, $10 reserved table) Walker’s regular appearances at Crooners are always happy affairs, with a full house, and people finding space to dance amongst the tables. Walker is an original soul man, who recorded for both Goldwax in Memphis, and Chess records in Chicago. His latest recording, If Nothing Ever Changes, won a Blues Music Award as Best Blues Album of 2015 in the New Recordings/Southern Soul Category. He also won an award as Comeback Artist of the Year.

Grant Hart’s Birthday @ Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm ($7 Advance, $10 Door) Grant Hart was a founding member of the influential post-punk band Hüsker Dü. In fact, this year marks the 30th Anniversary of their album Warehouse Songs and Stories. Hart is turning 56, and he’s celebrating at the Hook, along with his friends The Fury Things, a trio that plays fast, loud songs, much in the spirit of Hüsker Dü, and The Rank Strangers, a band that has won numerous awards over its 27 year history.

Saturday, March 11

Cajun Cats @ Como Dockside, Saint Paul. Noon – 2pm (No Cover) Get yourself some lunch from the Cajun/Creole menu at Como Dockside and listen to music from Southern Louisiana, as performed by Shawn Gidden, Gary Powell, and John Terr on violin, button accordion, and guitar.

Saturday Salon: Bach to Bruch @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley 3pm ($20) Here’s another performance in Crooner’s Saturday afternoon series of chamber music, curated and hosted by Maria Jette. Today, Mark Mazullo (piano), Tom Rosenberg (cello), Rena Kraut (clarinet), perform pieces by Bach, Schumann, Beethoven, and Max Bruch.

Hurricane Harold @ Vieux Carré,  Saint Paul. 6:30pm (No Cover) Harpmaster Hurricane Harold is joined by guitarist/vocalist Doug Otto for some dinnertime blues.

SubDudes @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40, $50, $60) This New Orleans group has released ten albums over the course of 25 years, drawing on the roots of R&B, gospel, jazz, and rock n’ roll that exemplify so much of the music coming out of the Big Easy. They are led by Tommy Malone on guitar; and John Magnie on accordion; and include Steve Amendee on tambourine and Tim Cook on bass.

Malamanya @ The Uptown VFW, 2916 Lyndale Ave So. Minneapolis. 8pm ($8 Advance, $10 Door) Here’s a group that mines vintage Cuban music as well as current salsa, to create music that will have folks getting out their dancing shoes. The Uptown VFW has plenty of space to twirl and spin.

Prohibition Swing Night @ The Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10 advance/$12 Door) It’s a celebration of old time swing music, featuring the Mississippi Hot Club and the Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League. The Mississippi Hot Club will draw their performance from the hot club sound of the 30s, while incorporating romantic ballads, European folk music, and American jazz into their set. The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League draws their inspiration from the early 20th Century, but adds a modern sensibility to their compositions. Swing era costumes are encouraged and swing dance lessons will be provided at 8:30pm.

Sunday, March 12

Charanga Tropical @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 3pm (No cover) Charanga Tropical was founded in 2006 by saxophonist/flautist Doug Little, who, in the course of a decade, studied for about a year with master musicians and musicologists in Cuba. This is a traditional Charanga group, with a vocalist, violins, flute and full Latin percussion. The play danzons, that stately dance created in Cuba when French immigrants from Louisiana and Haiti settled in Cuba. Their latest album, In Cuba, was recorded in the legendary Egram Studios in Havana. They also play salsas and other Cuban music as well, so dancers will be out in force for this Sunday matinee.

Eric Gales @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25) This blues rock guitarist has been called “the best guitarist in the world today” by none other than Joe Bonamassa. Gales grew up in a musical family and released his first album to raves in 1991, when he was only 16. Three years later he played with Carlos Santana at 1994’s Woodstock. Gales has released 17 albums, and has performed as a sideman on dozens of others. Though right-handed, he was taught to play a right-handed guitar upside down by his left-handed older brother. He’s fleet-fingered, tasty, and just as likely to play something by Cream, Hendrix, or Stevie Wonder as he is to play straight blues. Here’s a song from his latest album, to be released March 24th.

Monday, Tuesday, March 12, 13

Judy Collins @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($60 – $75) The New York Times calls her a “Folk Goddess,” but folk music is only one part of her repertoire, which has included art songs since she began recording. Collin’s crystalline voice helped bring Steven Sondheims Send in the Clowns to the masses, and introduced many fans to the main song from the musical Marat/Sade. She was one of the first singers to record songs by Leonard Cohen, and had a huge hit with Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. Her appearance at the Dakota a few years back was absolutely charming. Given that she has a new album coming out called A Love Letter to Steven Sondheim, this show has been dubbed Sondheim and Hits. Special guest Kenny White opens.

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.

May and Music are Upon Us: 5.5 – 5.10

May 5, 2016
Trees are flowering. Photo from Bill Lindeke's blog

Trees are flowering. Photo from Bill Lindeke’s blog

I’m a day late in posting this. Sometimes life gets in the way of what we’re doing. Anyway, we have a week filled with music coming up, only a portion of which I’ve listed. We have visiting artists from Malaysia, Atlanta, and Chicago, in addition to shows by a number of our own outstanding resident artists. Music lifts the spirit.


Thursday, May 5

Dorothy Doring @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10, $5 w/studentID) Versatile vocalist Doring will be performing various jazz favorites, including, I imagine, some from her 3 excellent albums. She’ll be accompanied by pianist March Ziegenhangen on piano.

Friday, May 6

Rio Nido @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35), 9pm ($25) It may be nigh unto impossible to score tickets to see this beloved vocal trio  They rose out of the West Bank music scene in the 70s to become Twin Cities favorites through the mid-eighties by performing classic jazz from the 30s and 40s. After successful solo careers, Prudence Johnson, Tim Sparks, and Tom Lieberman had successful solo careers, and recently rediscovered the joys of performing together again. Here’s what they sound like.

Peter Kogan’s Monsterful Wonderband @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Kogan  former tympanist with the Minnesota Orchestra, has been bringing his jazz chops to the fore since his retirement last year. He’s already released two fine albums, with music that touches on many aspects of the jazz continuum. The drummer’s band includes: Goeff Senn, Trumpet; Pete Whitman, Sax; Scott Agster, Trombone; Chris Olson, Guitar; Sean Turner, Piano; Graydon Peterson, Bass


Saturday, May 7

The MN Hard Bop Collective @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7pm ($10) Saxophonist Andrew Schwandt is relocating from the Twin Cities, so this group is playing a farewell concert for him. Besides Schwandt, members include: Ryan Nyther, trumpet; Javier Santiago, piano; Graydon Peterson, bass; and Jesse Simon, drums. They’ll be playing a classic hard bop repertoire, that music popularized by Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, and Lee Morgan, among others. It’s a style that has both gospel and R&B influences, yet never strays from jazz.

Sophia Shorai @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley 7:30pm (No Cover) Here’s a date night opportunity if their ever was one. Shorai  s a singer who can go from sweet to heartbroken with ease. She has been performing in the area for over 10 years, producing five self-released albums covering bossa nova, the Great American Songbook, some modern classics, and her own compositions. She has a knack for picking stellar sidemen as well. Here’s a clip that showcases her way with a ballad.

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Tonight’s opening act is the Plus One Trio, with Anthony Bloch, drums; Nate Baumeister, saxophones; Benjamin Allen, trombone; and Jason Mclean, bass. At 8:30, it’s Witch Hunt, a tribute to Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil album. Members include: Adam Nussbaum, drums; Joy Mayo, saxophones; Steve Kenny, Flumpet; Ted Godbout, piano; and Ted Olsen, bass.

Phillip Greenlief @ Jazz at Studio Z, Saint Paul. ($10 Advance, $15 Door) The San Francisco-based saxophonist comes to town to play with Nathan Hanson, sax; Chis Bates, bass; and Davu Seru, drums. Greenlief has been making a name for himself since the 1970s, performing and playing with a varied group of musicians in the post jazz, improvisational community, including Fred Firth, Meredith Monk, and They Might be Giants. As always, there is a free master class at 6pm. Those who come for the master class and stay for the concert only pay $10. Here’s an example of his approach to playing.

Sunday, May 8

Hanging Hearts – Chris Weller @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5 w/student ID) This Chicago based trio integrates jazz, rock, and experimental music into their performances. They’ve toured internationally, appeared at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and will be heading into the studio in June with Dave King producing. Chris Weller, tenor; Cole DeGenova, keys; Devin Drobka, drums & percussion. Here they are performing in Slovakia.

Monday, May 9

Joe Mayo & Dave Brattain @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5 w./student ID) Two heavy hitting saxophonists in town get together to play music they don’t usually play in big bands.

Jazz Implosion @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($10) 1st set – JT Bates,  2nd set – Hanging Hearts (Chicago). If you didn’t get to see them yesterday at Jazz Central, here’s another chance:  Chris Weller, sax; Devin Drobka, drunms; Cole DeGenova, keys.  While Chris and Cole grew up in Chicago, playing professionally in jazz and blues clubs by the age of 15, the trio was completed at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where all three members graduated. The trio’s repertoire consists of their original compositions.

Tuesday, May 10

Stu Katz and Friends @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($10, $35 Dinner) 1st set solo, 2nd set with son Steven, bass & vocals; Jay Epstein, drums. Over his long career, Chicagoan Stu Katz has performed in numerous public venues with young and old bebop luminaries including Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, Joey DeFrancesco, Dexter Gordon, Bunky Green, Roy Haynes, Milt Jackson, “Philly” Joe Jones, Clifford Jordan, Russell Malone, James Moody, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Ira Sullivan and Phil Woods. Here he is back in 1985 at the Chicago Jazz Festival with Doc Cheatham.

For more listings, KBEM provides a calendar of jazz and roots music.   For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz, check out the blogs, Jazz PoliceJazz Ink, and Bebopified.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Thursday, May 5

Rare Medium @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 9pm ($8) Is it jazzy funk or funky jazz? I’m never quite sure where to list this six-piece band that crosses genres to get people shaking their booty while using appealing jazz harmonies.

Walter Trout @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 7pm ($15) As fans of this master of rockin’ blues guitar know, Trout was diagnosed with life-threatening liver failure and hepatitis C in 2013, and received a liver transplant in 2014. His last album, Battle Scars, was filled with stories of his fight to stay alive, while the soon-to-be-released Alive in Amsterdam, is a celebration of his return. Expect some blues-filled fireworks. The under-appreciated guitarist Ken Valdez, who has played with everyone from Dr. John and Michael Franti to The Wallflowers, Marshall Crenshaw, and Maceo Parker, opens at 7pm.

Friday, May 6

Bruce Hamm & Marcus Wise @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5 w/student ID) Hmm, we have here the first presentation of North Indian classical music at this jazz venue. Many in the Twin Cities know tabla player Marcus Wise for his work with the likes of Dean Magraw, Anthony Cox, and Peter Schimke. He’s also worked with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, John Densmore of the Doors, and Steve Tibbets. Tonight he’s working with Hamm, one of America’s top sarod players, with whom he’s performed many times. Here’s a short video of the two of them in a trio setting.

The Butanes @ Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm – 10:30pm (No Cover) Often named the Best Blues Band in the Twin Cities, this four-piece tears it up, and will no doubt create a lively scene in the supper club’s lounge. Check out their instrumental chops.

Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm ($8) With a style that heavily rooted in blues, country, and soul, and propelled by the energy of early rock n’ roll, Alex “Crankshaft” Larson and his band deliver hard driving deep blues and roots music.

Boom Boom Stevie V & the Knockouts @ Schooner’s Tavern, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Boom Boom delivers emotion-fueled harmonica blues, and with the Knockouts, provides an evening of fun.

Saturday, May 7

Hurricane Harold Duo and Lisa Wenger @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 6pm (Hurricane – No Cover), 9pm (Wenger – $8) It’s a double dose of bluesy roots at the Vieux tonight. Harmonica whiz Hurricane Harold Trembley always has interesting partners in his duos, and will provide great music while you dine on the room’s New Orleans-inspired food. Then at 9pm Blueswoman Lisa Wenger will bring her gritty-yet-sweet soulfully inspired vocals to the room.

Classic country, classic duds

Classic country, classic duds

Saddle Sores @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($5?, $10?) Classic country from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The Saddle Sores are: Jenny Russ, vocals; Jimmy Kennedy, guitar & vocals; Randy Venaas, bass; Mo Engel, drums; and Tyler Christenson on pedal steel guitar.


The awkwardness of finding a date for the prom

The awkwardness of finding a date for the prom

Opening: A Night in Olympus @ Illusion Theater, Cowles Center for the Arts, Minneapolis. 8pm ($25 – $42) Runs through June 4 (Sundays at 7pm) After their success with the musical Glensheen, Chan Poling is once again partnering with playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and writer Bill Corbett for A Night in Olympus, a musical about an awkward teenager who gets her wish to become so beautiful that she scores a date with the hottest guy in school. As might be expected, things don’t work out as planned in what promises to be a musical evening filled with silliness, though rest assured, there’s a happy ending. Poling is a founding member of the Suburbs and tours with The New Standards. Hatcher’s plays have been seen on Broadway and he’s done the screenwriting for Mr. Holmes, the Duchess, and Casanova. Corbett is one of the writers and performers of Mystery Science Theater 3000.   BTW, I’ll have Chan Poling as my guest on Rhythm and Grooves on Saturday, May 7. The show runs from 10:30am – Noon. Poling will be out in the latter part of the 11am hour. Find out more about the production here.

Joey Ryan & the Inks CD Release @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 9pm ($8) Ryan crafts pop songs that recall the “sunshine pop” of California, though he leavens his music with a bit of sadness. The new CD, Young Afternoon, was crafted during a period when all members of the band welcomed additions to their family, and the songs reflect that new responsibility. Opening acts are BBGun, with Al Church, Neal Perbix, and drummer Jeremy Hanson, and solo singer/songwriter Eric Mayson.

Sunday, May 8

Yuna, with BOSCO @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7pm ($18 Advance/$20 Door) Yuna is an R&B singer from Malaysia, whose 2012 breakthrough hit, “Live Your Life” was produced by Pharrell Williams, the guy behind “Happy” and Daft Punk’s last album. Her new album, “Nocturnal” is being released on Verve Records. Opening is Atlanta’s BOSCO, another up and coming female R&B artist.

Monday, May 9

Paul Mayasich & The RAMM Band @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7pm (No Cover) Get a dose of Real American Made Music, i.e., Motown, rock n’ roll, R&B, funk, and more from Mayasich and his bandmates. Here they are in an acoustic setting.

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.


The Good Life in Music: Feb 22 – 28

February 22, 2012
From a visiting iconic band leader/television personality, to resident artists that are A-list players on a national basis, to a couple of new groups with established players, the coming week offers a rich pool of possibilities for the Twin Cities music lover. Those of us who reside here are lucky to live among such a creative community. Those of you who are visitors are welcome to sample our musical version of the good life.

Wed, Feb 22

Sue Oatts & the Wolverines Trio @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis.  6pm (No Cover) If you’ve been interested in Twin Cities jazz for more than six years or so, you may seen or heard Sue, who used to go by the name Sue Tucker. Her 2006 release Back Home, is a fine example of jazz singing, wherein she tackles standards and some choice lesser known songs. She is well suited for swiinging along with the Wolverines Trio.

Anthony Cox Group @ The Nomad, Minneapolis. 9pm (No Cover) Always an A-list bassist, whether in NYC or the Twin Cities, Cox is definitely worth seeing.

Wed, Thurs, Feb 22, 23

The Often Colorful, Always Dapper Doc

Doc Severinson Big Band @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($60) 9pm ($40) A big band at the Dakota? Well if sixty year music veteran and former leader of the Tonight Show Band wants to do it, the good folks at the Dakota will accommodate him. Sure, it’s a bit of cash, but outside of this appearance, I don’t know when else you’d get to see Doc and his Big Band outside of a large hall or theater.

Thurs, Feb 23

Chris Bates Good Vibes Trio @ The Artists Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Chris will be joined by Phil Hey on drums and Dave Hagedorn on vibes for what will surely be an evening of enjoyable, exciting music.

Friday, Feb 24

Debbie Duncan and Dennis Spears @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) Whether Spears is singing in Moore by Four or portraying Nat King Cole in a theatrical production, he entertains. Duncan is equally at home singing blues or jazz and is an artist other artists come out to see.

Friday, Saturday, Feb 24, 25

Patty Peterson and Friends @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Another A-list singer for the Twin Cites. Patty has received the Minnesota Music Award seven times, and has released four CDs with the likes of Sheila E. and Ira Sullivan, among others.

Saturday, Feb 25

Richard Johnson: The Frank Sinatra Songbook @ St. Michaels Lutheran Church, Roseville. 7:30pm ($12) Johnson is a major talent as a piano player, having held down that spot in the bands of  Irvin Mayfield, Russell Malone, and Wynton Marsalis. His interpretation of West Side Story at the AQ last month was imaginative and melodic. this is the second in his “Jazz Alive” series.

U of M Jazz Festival @ Ted Mann Concert Hall, Minneapolis. 7:30 – 9:30pm (FREE)  Jazz ensembles from the University will be workshopping all day in order to present this concert with the Hornheads.

Photo by Marsha Walker

Jeremy Walker’s Boot Camp @ The Dakota (Late Night), Minneapolis. 11pm ($5) Check out Jeremy Walker’s new project with Walker on piano; Chris Thomson, sax; Chris Bates, bass; and Jay Epstein, drums. Walker is back from his NYC sojourn, and his creative juices are flowing. Expect a brace of originals as well as some timeless tunes.

Monday, Feb 27

A wind instrument for Latin Jazz? Of course!

Latin Jazz All-Stars @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30), 9pm ($20)  This band features a hot group of players conversant in many Latin styes. This is a group effort between Steve TurreRay Vega, Chembo Corniel, Yunior Terry, Benito Gonzales and Diego Lopez. Turre is in the Saturday Night Live Band, and has won Downbeat awards for Trombone and Miscellaneous instrument (conch shells). Vega was the lead trumpet for Tito Puente and the Bronx Horns. Other members of the band are equally well versed in Latin rhythms. I have a feeling the Dakota will be jumpin’.

Tuesday, Feb 28

Minnesota Youth Jazz Band @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 6:30 – 8:30pm. (FREE) Another chance to see young jazzers. This time it’s 19 talented high school students performing arrangements of tunes by Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Charles Mingus and Pat Metheny.

For a comprehensive listing of Jazz in the Twin Cities, go to the Bebopified Calendar, here.

For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz check out the blogs Jazz PoliceBebopified, and Jazz Ink.

Roots, Blues, Other…

Wed, Feb 22

Phil Heywood @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis. 7pm (No Cover)  There’ll be some prime fingerpicking going on while folks are dining at the South Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant. Reservations are smart. Ask to be seated near the music.

Thursday, Feb 23

Get Gone, Brass Messengers, and Jack Klatt & The Swingers @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul. 10pm (No cover)  If you can handle a late night on Thursday, here’s where to get a triple dose of music: Rock n’ Roll,  Brass Band music, and some swingin’ roots music.

Jimi sings his heart out

Friday, Feb 24

Jeff Ray & Hurricane Harold, Jimmi & the Band of Souls @ Wild Tymes, Saint Paul. 8pm. A couple of first rate blues acts in downtown Saint Paul. There are two other bands in this line-up, so it may be wise to call beforehand for the schedule. (651) 224-8181

Saturday, Feb 25

SoulJazz Orchestra @ The Triple Rock Social Cub, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) Like the bands on Daptone Records, the SoulJazz Orchestra is a horn band with a serious jones for Afrobeat and funk from the 60s and 70s, yet they compose their own music. The four horn, no-guitar funksters from Ottowa will have Peregrine Perspective and the always-lively Brass Messengers as opening acts.

Salsa del Soul @ The Crooked Pint Ale House, 501 Washinton, Minneapolis. 10pm ($10)  The heat will be rising as fun-loving dancers take to the floor and twist, whirl, and glide to sensuous Latin rhythms of Salsa del Soul.

Sunday, Feb 26

Live Blues Recording @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. Noon ($5). Eleven different acts are taking part in this all-day recording session, sponsored by the Minnesota Blues Society, Wilebski’s and American Guitar and Band. It’s an effort to document (both with video and audio) a cross-section of the Twin Cities Blues scene. Performers include. Curtis Marlatt, Curtis Blake, Jimi “Prime Time” Smith, Bill Swanson, Paul Wigen, Tony Houle, and more…

For a more comprehensive listing of blues events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar.

The Past and the Present. Music Suggestions for January 11 – 17.

January 11, 2012

Something old, something, new, something Bach, and something blue. That more or less describes some music ideas for the coming week. From the 21st Century jazz of Schimke, Buckley, & Epstein, to interpretations of Bach and Bernstein, there is more jazz than a person can hopefully attend. The Sixties figure strongly in other offerings, from Martha & the Vandellas and Peter Asher,  to the 30s with a show about Noel Coward, and a nod to Brazil, with an afternoon performance.  All in all, a good week for live music.


Wednesday, Jan 11

Schimke, Buckley, & Epstein @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis. 7pm. (No cover) Three of the many fine musicians in the area gather to improvise at Cafe Maude, an excellent neighborhood restaurant. Peter Schimke on piano, James Buckley on bass, and Jay Epstein on drums. Expect inventive, thoughtful, jazz. The cafe has a $20 prix fixe menu to go with the music. Reservations are encouraged.

Thursday, Jan 12

Robb Henry Trio @ Merlin’s Rest, East Lake Street, Minneapolis. 9pm. ($8) Guitarist Henry has come quite a ways from his days with local rockers Fingerprints. He heads up the Parisota Hot Club and also does occasional dates with a trio, as he does tonight, with Ben Kaplan on drums and Jim Chenoweth on string bass. Bring an ID if you want alcohol. Here’s a video of a November appearance at Merlin’s. The audience noise is loud but you get a good sense of Henry’s playing.

Friday, Jan 13

Jon Weber @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) The always-enjoyable Weber is a pianist with great technique, a vivid musical imagination, and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of songs and styles. He’s been a featured artist at every Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and is host of “Piano Rising Stars” on NPR, which is beginning to be heard on KBEM on Saturday evenings.

Saturday, Jan 14

Framework + Baroque Trio @ Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Ave, Saint Paul. 8pm ($10, $15) Is there something in the air? Last weekend Laura Caviani performed Bach to Bop. Now we have a jazz trio and a baroque trio sharing a stage and compositions. Framework is Chris Olson, guitar; Chris Bates, bass, and Jay Epstein, drums. Paul Boehnke directs the baroque trio (harpsichord anyone?). Both groups will be playing the music of Bach (an early improviser) in both traditional and non-traditional ways. The jazz trio will also perform modern compositions inspired by classical composers, and the baroque trio will perform those new compositions in a traditional manner.

Richard Johnson Trio Performs the Music of West Side Story @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($12) Pianist Johnson has been a member of groups led by Russell Malone, Irvin Mayfield, and Wynton Marsalis. Johnson’s playing and Leonard Bernstein’s score should make a good combination. Sleeper gig of the week.

Sunday Jan 15

TCJS presents Bryan Nichols Quintet + 1: ” The Music of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet” @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 7pm ($10) Don’t let the long title put you off. This will be a memorable performance, as pianist Nichols gathers MIke Lewis and Brandon Wozniak (saxes); James Buckley, bass, and JT Bates and Jay Epstein (drums) to play the music of what many consider the finest small group of the late 20th Century. Opening act is a trio of high school artists, Respective Sounds Convergence Summit, led by bassist Sam Wildenauer, with Henry Misa on Keys, and Will Nelson on guitar.

Monday, Jan 16

JoAnn Funk Trio & Dave Karr Trio on Saint Paul Live! – KBEM (88.5FM) 7pm – 8pm. Both trios recorded live this past Fall at the Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar and the Artists’ Quarter respectively.

For further commentary on Twin Cities jazz check out the blogs Jazz PoliceBebopified, and Jazz Ink. For a comprehensive listing of Jazz in the Twin Cities, go to the KBEM Calendar, here.

Roots, Blues, Other….

Wednesday, Thursday, Jan 11, 12

Callin' Out Around the World...

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40 – $65) Holy Moly Rocky! The secretary turned singer turned Detroit City Councilperson/Singer is coming to town to sing “Heat Wave,” “Dancing in the Streets,” and more. With a voice that was way more powerful than Diana Ross, Reeves should have ruled the roost at Motown. She and her cohorts were responsible for songs that clearly established the Motown sound. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003, Reeves will have many boomers (and a fair amount of younger fans) enjoying soul/pop of the highest order.

Friday, Jan 13

Hubert Sumlin Tribute w/Butanes & Tail Dragger @ Famous Dave’s, Uptown Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) If anyone can do a heartfelt and valid tribute to Sumlin, the Butanes can. Butanes leader Curt Obeda used to hang with Hubert when Curt was in Chicago. Sumlin was Howlin’ Wolf’s main guitar player, and was so good that Muddy Waters hired him away, though not for long. Not only was Sumlin a hell of a player (named to the top 100 of all time by Rolling Stone), but he was also very gracious, as I learned when I ran into him at the Newark Airport about 8 or 9 years ago. Tail Dragger is an added benefit.

Saturday, Jan 14

Mariameu @ Hosmer Public Library, 347 East 36th Street, Minneapolis. 1pm – 4pm (free). Brazilian music from Tim O’Keefe, hand drums; James, Allen, acoustic guitar; David Martin, guitar and bass, and Karen Quiroz, vocals. Quiroz is a fine interpreter of contemporary Brazilian music and uses excellent musicians. Both Allen and Martin are very talented guitarists who work with other vocalists as well. What a nice way to spend an afternoon.

String Theory @ The Coffee Grounds, 1579 Hamline, Saint Paul. 8pm – 11pm. A jazz/blues/world fusion trio from the Mankato area, String Theory is Eli Hoehn, banjo & vocals; Wayne Schmidt, guitar & vocals; and Jason Helder, guitar & vocals. I know Eli from his excellent work with One Fast Move. This sounds like a trio to catch.

The Persuasions @ The Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Main Street, Hopkins. 8pm ($26) After 48 years, they “still ain’t got no band.” Theses acapella artists don’t need one, as their harmonies easily carry the day. They sing all kinds of music, from Sam Cooke and the Temptations, to Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, and the Grateful Dead.  Check this out.

Sunday, Jan 15

A Talent to Amuse: An Evening With Noel Coward @ Landmark Center, Saint Paul. 1pm. (Free) Gary Briggle has created this performance piece, appearing as the ever-witty Noel Coward. It features nearly 30 of his hilarious story songs, romantic ballads, jazzy dance tunes, and wry observations.

Monday, Tuesday, Jan 16, 17

Peter Asher @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40) So much more than half of Peter and Gordon, Asher has been a record executive at all levels, and was a regular Zelig of mod Britain: Paul McCartney dated his sister; he introduced Yoko to John; and Mick to Marianne Faithful, not to mention signing and producing James Taylor and a host of others. This multi-media performance is titled: A Musical Memoir of the 60s and Beyond.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar.

Drummer Johnathan Blake

January 25, 2011

Interview from December 4, 2010

Johnathan Blake at the Dakota. Photo by Andrea Canter

Johnathan Blake is a grammy-nominated drummer and composer, who regularly works with musicians such as Tom Harrell, Oliver Lake, and Russell Malone, as well as with his own group. He came to town to work with the Dakota Combo, a group of high school students in a program co-sponsored by The Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education and The MacPhail Center for Music. This year, the combo is working on the music of Charles Mingus. Given that Blake spent ten year’s  as the drummer for the Mingus Big Band, he was brought in to work with the combo. Blake appeared on Rhythm and Grooves the snowy morning of December 4, before heading out to a workshop with the combo and other students, and an evening performance with the combo at The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis. This is a lightly edited version of our discussion that morning.

LE: Good morning, Jonathan

JB: Good morning.

LE: You arrived in spite of the snow.

JB: In spite of the snow. Got in just before it started.

LE: Let’s explain to the audience a bit of your background and how you’ve come here to work with the Dakota Jazz Combo.

JB: Sure. I guess I was exposed to music even before I was born. My father was a jazz musician. A jazz violinist named John Blake. When I was born, he was actually performing regularly with Grover Washington, Jr.  He stayed with him for about three years from 1976 until 1979. In ’79 he was asked to join the McCoy Tyner group and he stayed with McCoy for about five years. So I was really exposed to it at a young age, which was amazing. My father, being a traveling musician, when times allowed, would take me with him. So I was able to meet a lot of musicians at a young age, like McCoy, and a great saxophonist Joe Ford, even in Grover’s band at the time was Tyrone Brown a great bassist who went on to work with Max Roach, Sid Simmons, and Pete Vincent, the drummer. So it was great to be around those musicians at a young age. It really made a lasting impact on me.

LE: I’m sure. And so you got into the music and became a jazz drummer. I noticed that in the last few years you went back and got a graduate degree.

JB: I did, I did. I went to William Patterson for my undergrad work. Actually, while in school I was performing a lot. I was asked to join the Mingus Band in 1998 and stayed with them for about ten years.  And so I started that and when I graduated, took some time off to tour. Then, my wife was pregnant with our first child. I thought I should take some time off to be with my wife and watch my kid grow. I thought back to when my father was in the same situation – he said, “I really have to be around for my kids.” So I knew that if I was going to be taking off from working I still had to make a living and provide for my family. I went back to school and got a full scholarship to Rutgers University. They also have a fellowship that gives you a stipend, because they realize you’re going to be taking time off from work. I went back, and really wanted to focus on composition and writing. I studied composition with Stanley Cowell, who’s a great composer and arranger and also with Conrad Herwig. It was 07 when I graduated. I started in 05.

LE: You mentioned that you had been at William Patterson. Is that where you met Adam Linz? (Jazz Coordinator at MacPhail, and teacher/mentor to the Dakota Combo)

JB: Yeah, that’s where I met Adam. I think we came in the same year, 1985.

LE: You mentioned that you were asked to join the Mingus Big Band. What goes through someone’s mind when asked, “Do you want to play the music of Mingus?”

JB: It was such an honor I was in shock when I first got the call from Sue Mingus. Apparently what happened was that I was playing a lot with another great saxophonist and composer and his big band. His name is Oliver Lake,

LE: Oh sure.

JB: Oliver and I have known each other for a long time. He and my father played together for many years. In the big band there was also a great saxophonist named John Stubblefield. Stubblefield heard me playing and recommended me to Sue Mingus.  So the next thing I know, I’m getting a phone call from Sue, asking me to come down and participate with the band. I was in awe. I was a young kid – 19 or 20. This was a big responsibility but I really wanted to step up to the plate.

LE: And at that age you really don’t have very much fear.

JB: No, I don’t think you do. You go into it blindly and learn as you go.

LE: I was fortunate enough to see the big band about six weeks ago, and what I noticed was that Ta Cumba Frank Lacy was doing a lot of directing.

JB: Oh yeah.

LE: What is it about the music of Mingus that is so inviting and so challenging at the same time?

JB: I think: one, it’s very open. There’s a lot of freedom in his music and a lot of freedom to explore, which is great for musicians in general. Jazz musicians are taught to be creative, and look at a piece of paper and take what’s on that paper and run with it. I think that Mingus’s music has a lot of that element built into it. It’s like nothing is wrong, so you really feel the freedom. Also, I think the challenge with his music is that there are a lot of intricate parts, where you really have to learn how to blend with a section. There are lots of dissonant harmonies that might not be familiar to the untrained ear. There are a lot of delicate things that you have to watch out for. You know, I learned a lot from being in that band. For me, as a drummer, I learned that it’s my responsibility to drive that band. That’s a hard job, to drive fourteen people (chuckles). It’s a big weight, but you really have to learn how to do that and grow.

LE: I understand that from here, you are going to have lunch with members of the Dakota Jazz Combo, and then you’ll conduct a workshop for them and other young musicians. The combo has been studying the music of Mingus since the beginning of the school year. Adam Linz received an NEA grant to promote the study of Mingus’ music and perform some concerts. So what kinds of things will you be looking for in working with the young people?

Student Quentin Tschofen, with Adam Linz, and Johnathan Blake Photo by Andrea Canter

JB: Well, we had a little rehearsal yesterday, which was great. It was really amazing to hear some of these kids. They’re so much further along than I was at their age (chuckles). It’s amazing. This young pianist Quentin is really amazing – just his writing, and his playing. He has such great imagination on his instrument. So basically what I look for and try to convey to the students is about blending in a section, and working together. I was mentioning to them yesterday, when we play this music, or any kind of music, the main thing is to use our ears and listen. Not to try to outdo one another, but to play together. I was telling them there is no “I” in band, and to come together as a unit, and really listen, thinking “how can I make this performance better.” I want to instill that into them and work with them more.

LE: Now, the workshop is this afternoon and it’s open to any youngsters that want to come by at 2:30 at MacPhail Center for music. And tonight at 6 o’clock you’ll be at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant with them. Will you be playing with them?

JB: Yes I will. They’ll be playing a bunch of Mingus songs, and I was invited to come and play some of the music.

LE: Will you be replacing their drummer, or will there be two drummers?

JB: Emerson, their drummer, will play a few tunes, and then I’ll play a few tunes.

LE: You will be performing with the Dakota Jazz Combo this evening at six o’clock at the Dakota. You will also be conducting a jazz workshop for any high school students that are interested at MacPhail at two-thirty. And you are currently playing in at least three different kinds of groups, a trio, a quartet, and a quintet. You just had an album come out with the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet. How does the role of the drummer differ in each of those configurations?

JB: I think it’s really based on the individuals writing. A lot of Oliver’s music is somewhat similar to Mingus’ in that he has a lot of inner textures, and a lot of different tempo changes. He’s one of the only people I know that, for the drummer, writes out specific charts.

LE: Wow.

JB: Which is really amazing because I don’t get to see that. It’s usually a lead sheet or a piano sheet. So it’s really amazing. You really have to be aware of what he wants. There are specific snare drum hits that he needs to hear. So my role in that is trying to take what he’s written and make it my own. So it does have specific things that are written that I have to play.

I play in a few different trios. There’s one with a great saxophonist, Donny McCaslin, and also with Kenny Barron’s trio. With Donny’s music, it’s kind of intricate. He really has a lot of different things like metric modulations and things. I think you really have to be aware of what’s going on there. He has some vast dynamic changes. With Kenny, Kenny’s music is really based in the bebop tradition. The thing that I really admire about someone like Kenny Barron, is even though his heart is in bebop, he’s really an open-minded individual. And he really wants the drummer to play not just what Philly Joe Jones would play, or Max Roach. He really wants the drummer to be experimental and really play the more modern things so he can pick up and that and play to what you’re doing. It’s really amazing that he allows the drummer to have that much freedom to do that. I’ve learned a lot from being in that band with him for the last two years.

LE: That is an important part of the jazz tradition – younger musicians play with older players and learn from them.

JB: Totally, totally. I think that about 75% of what I know now is through being on the road with older musicians. Now, for the past five years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play with the great Tom Harrell. Tom is just amazing person in general. He’s diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and for anyone who doesn’t know, that disease can really limit a lot people. He marvels not only musicians – fellow musicians, but also doctors, because they can’t understand how a person with his condition can travel, and be in front of an audience and play, just play beautifully. Not only that, he just writes such great music. I watch him sometimes when we’re on a plane. He writes anywhere. He has these little notebooks that he takes out and just writes. It’s very inspiring for me to be around somebody like that. He doesn’t really say very much. He just wants you to take what he’s written down and make it your own. Maybe he’ll say, maybe you could try this, but it’s really up to the individual. I think he puts all his trust into the musicians that he hires. I can’t say enough about him; he’s just a beautiful person.

LE: That’s great. If somebody wanted to know more about you and where you’re appearing, do you have a website?

JB: I do. It’s It has an up to date schedule and everything. I have a recording coming out and it talks about that.

LE: When is that expected?

JB: the second week in January.

LE: And who do you have playing with you?

JB: My regular working quintet, which is Mark Turner, a great saxophonist, Jaleel Shaw, whom I’ve known for more than half of my life. We grew up in Philadelphia together. He’s playing alto saxophone. Kevin Hayes is playing piano, and Ben Street is playing bass. Then I have special guests. I have Tim Warfield on one song, tenor saxophone. Tom Harrell plays on two songs. Robert Glasper and a great harmonica player

LE: Well, I look forward to hearing that when it comes out. Thank you very kindly for stopping by and taking time out of your schedule while you’re here. It’s great.

JB: Thanks for having me.

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