Summer’s End: 8.31 – 9.6

August 31, 2016

STATE_FAIR_MUSICWell, as we approach the Labor Day weekend, I’ve learned that the AFL-CIO booth at the Fair seems to have lots of jazz. You can find out the schedule, as well as what’s on other stages, here. .The Minnesota Blues Society has kindly put together a list of blues and some roots performances on a daily basis, which you can find here. If you aren’t heading to the Fair, there is plenty of other music around to help you bring the summer to an end, whether you’re looking for visiting artists or some of our own resident artists. Thanks to Tim Nyberg for his reworking of a photo of mine from a past fair. Have fun, music lifts your spirit.


Wednesday, August 31

Jane Monheit and Nicholas Payton @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7-m ($35, $45), 9pm ($25, $35) Vocalist Monheit and trumpeter Payton are calling this show Ella and Louis revisited. Since her beautiful voice vaulted her to stardom in 1998’s Thelonious Monk competition, Monheit has released nine albums and has guested on a number of others. The 39 year old still has a terrific voice, as exemplified in her latest release, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald. It was produced by New Orleans native and fantastic trumpeter Nicholas Payton, so I guess it seemed natural that they collaborate on this project. If they can have half as much fun as Ella and Louis Armstrong, it will be a great show.

Patrick Adkins @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/student ID) This Edina HS grad is currently studying piano at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. The former member of the Dakota Combo will play a solo set and then be joined by Thomas Strommen, sax; and Aidan Sponheim, trumpet, for the second set.

Steve Kenny Quartet @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 8pm ($5) Veteran Steve Kenny once again surrounds himself with some outstanding 20-ish musicians: Jabari Powell, saxophones; Ted Olsen, bass; and Rodney Ruckus, drums. Kenny will be playing his signature Flumpet, and combination fluegelhorn/trumpet.

Thursday, September 1

Thursday Night Jazz @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) It’s a guitar-lovers evening at the Reverie as Tall Tales, which includes two of the Twin Cities most adventurous guitarists takes the stage. Zacc Harris & Dean Granros, guitars; with the outstanding support of Chris Bates, bass; Jay Epstein, drums. Here’s an example of what they sound like.

Thursday, Friday, September 1,2

Barbara Morrison w/Houston Person @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30 – $40) No one else can perform jazz and blues with the verve and innate talent of Morrison, who has recorded with the Crusaders, the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, Kenny Burrell and Doc Severinson. She’s recorded 20 of her own albums and has been nominated for Grammys. Back in 2004 she appeared at the Dakota and recorded a fine album with Houston Person, that big-toned, soulful sax player who can caress a ballad or put grit on a blues. The two of them are back, for a show that will surely be enjoyable.  Here’s Person.

Friday, September 2

Jon Pemberton/Peter Kogan Quintet @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 6pm (Pemberton – no cover), 9pm (Kogan – $10) Enjoy the music of pianist/trumpeter Jon Pemberton, who may have a musical partner, from 6 to 8pm, then stick around for Kogan’s quintet, playing his original music: Kogan, drums; Pete Whitman, just back from China, sax; Phil Aaron, piano; Anthony Cox, bass.

Jason and the Q @ Hells Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (No Cover) Jason Weismann is a saxophonist and crooner whose vocals and sound harken back to the 50s, though his playing is certainly modern. Bonus: he always has stellar musicians in the Q.

Saturday, September 3

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) After two years of shows, this series has settled into a groove. The opening act is generally a young, or newer band, to give the audience a chance to discover new talent, while the headlining band is generally, but not always, a well established group of veterans who play two sets. Tonight’s opener at 7pm Lars-Erik Larson Trio: Larson, drums; Kam Markworth, bass; Aaron Hedenstrom sax; with special guest Steve Kenny, flumpet. Headlining at 8:30pm is the Paul Harper Bardo Band: Harper, saxes; Phil Aaron, piano; Tom Lewis bass; Nathan Norman, drums.

Sunday, September 4

Jazz Brunch w/James Buckley Trio @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 10am (No Cover) It’s Sunday brunch. It’s jazz. What else do you need to know? Oh yes, Buckley, bass; Nelson Devereaux, sax; JT Bates, drums

Sunday Jam Session w/Cole Mahlum @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 2pm – 4pm (Tip Jar??) Spontaneous collaboration is the essence of jazz. Todays session is hosted by guitarist Cole Mahlum, and focuses on the soul jazz sound of the Hammond B3, played by Abebi Stafford, with drumming by Jesse Simon, leader of the MN Hard Bop Collective.

Davell Crawford @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30 – $40) Pianist Crawford is often called the Prince of New Orleans. He certainly comes from a royal musical background, as his grandfather was guitarist Sugarboy Crawford, the first artist to record Jock-A-Mo (Iko Iko), and is the godson of Roberta Flack. At ten years old, he was accompanying gospel choirs in New Orleans, giving him a foundation for everything he currently plays, which can range from classic R&B to B3 Soul Jazz to jazz and ballads.

Monday, September 5

LaValle Jazz Cats Little Big Band @ Como Dockside, Saint Paul. 7pm (Free) This ten-piece little big band does music by Basie, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Miles, Sonny Rollins, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and some contemporary artists like Michael Buble, Chick Corea, and Harry Connick Jr.

Tuesday, September 6

Todd Clouser’s Future Dance @ Crooners’ Lounge and Supper Club, Fridley. 7pm – 10pm (No Cover) Guitarist Clouser has earned rave reviews in the national press for his guitar playing, which is heavily based in jazz but, as a relatively young musician, also includes influences from funk and rock. With this new trio, Clouser; Greg Schutte, drums; and from Paris, Warren Walker, sax; form a groove heavy trio performing a collection of original music and de-arrangements of artists from the Motown era to create danceable jazz. After all, jazz was originally played for dancing. Here’s Clouser with his other project, A Love Electric, showing his funk influence.

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, August 31

House Party’s 10 Year Anniversary, with the RAMM Band on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Can it really be ten years since Harold Tremblay began the House Party? The Blues and Roots show features live artists every week, followed by an appearance at the 331 Club. To Celebrate, Harold is bringing in the RAMM Band. It’s Real American Made Music, filled with classic Motown, funk, and rock n’ roll, performed by three very fine musicians: Paul Mayasich, guitar; John Iden, bass; and Donald “Hye Pockets” Robertson.

Maurice Jacox Band @ The Mill City Museum, Minneapolis. 6pm – 8pm ($5, free for museum members) Is this a cool gig or what? The courtyard of the Mill City Museum lets you be outdoors, yet surrounded by some very old stone walls. Plus, vocalist Jacox has a quartet to back him, rather than a duo, or even trio, which will make for some fine ballads, blues, jazz, and R&B. They are: Thomas West, keys; John Della Selva, guitar; Charles Fletcher, bass; and Rob Stupka on drums. Plus, your $5 ticket gets you into the museum between 4pm and 9pm.

Kari Arnett & Laney Jones and the Spirits @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) An evening of Americana at the Aster. Arnett is a guitarist and singer/songwriter who, much like Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, or Emilylou Harris, draws her inspiration from older forms of country and folk music. Her 2105 EP Midwestern Skyline has drawn praise from around the country. She’ll be accompanied by a four-piece band. Laney Jones is a 24 year old multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who was raised in rural Florida, and began songwriting while in college. She then went to Berklee, where she majored in Songwriting. Since then, she’s been featured on PBS, and named as one of Ten Country Artists You Need to Know by Rolling Stone. In March she released a self-titiled album which leans a bit more towards pop, with the dance-happy Allson as her first single, and has been touring the nation since then backed by her band The Spirits.

Thursday, September 1

Nikki Roux & Rich Rue @ Golden’s Lowertown, 275 East 4th Street, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar?) Golden’s, the little restaurant with the walk-up window across from Saint Paul’s Farmer’s Market, has a stage and small room dedicated to music, much of which covers folk/Americana, though the occasional jazz group turns up. Tonight they have the folk-rock/blues of Nikki Roux and Rich Rue, who’ve been gathering Saint Paul fans with regular appearances at the Vieux Carre.

Swamp Poppas @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 11pm ($5??) The dance floor at the Eagles Club will be filled as the Poppas perform their blend of Southern Louisiana music: R&B, Swamp Pop, and a bit of Cajun/Zydeco.

Paul Barry & The Ace Tones w/Lila Ammons @ Famous Daves, Minneapolis. 7pm – 10pm (No cover) Some west coast and jump blues from harpist Paul Barry, along with Jon Pederson, guitar; Vince Hyman, piano & vibes; Scott Soule, bass; and Doug Hill, drums. They’ll be joined by special guest Lila Ammons, who can sing the blues with verve and style.

Friday, September 2

The Pluto Trio @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm (Tip Jar) The Pluto Trio is bassist Paul Kammeyer, percussionist Josh Smith, and keyboardist John Kammeyer. They describe their music as mostly original compositions, is in the vein of Booker T and the MGs, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, or Tortoise, with a dash of new wave and electronica for good measure.

An Evening with Charlie Parr, w/Lianne Smith Opening @ the Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 9pm ($8 Advance, $10 Door) Freewheelin’ First Fridays moves to the new Hook & Ladder Lounge in the space formerly occupied by Patrick’s Cabaret. Doors open at 8pm and Lianne Smith opens. Some may remember Smith from the late 80s band Safety Last, which featured Gary Louris and Rusty Jones, among others. Nowadays she lives in Brooklyn and writes about making decisions, adventurous bicycle riding, and saying goodbye to Summer, for which this gig is highly appropriate. Duluth bluesman Charlie Parr is the star, and will undoubtedly pack the place, as he plays his stripped down Delta style blues with the conviction (and experience) of a man who can do nothing but be on the road and sing songs.

Willie Walker & the We R Band @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10?) Just returned from Brazil, our own original soul man and his band take over the MMC stage on a Friday night for your dancing pleasure. A good way to kick off the Labor Day Weekend.

Saturday, September 3

Dee Miller Band @ Schooner’s Tavern, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Ms Miller and her band will be belting out the blues in this south side neighborhood joint. The small dance floor will undoubtedly be filled, thanks to Ms Miller’s choice of material and vibrant voice.

Joe Cruz & Jennifer Grimm @ Washington Square, White Bear Lake. 9pm (Tip jar?) Vocalist/songwriter Grimm had Manitou Station hopping on Sunday nights for years, until the Station, as it’s now called, decided to stop featuring music. You can catch her tonight in a slightly more intimate duo set with well-respected guitarist Joe Cruz.

Willie Murphy & the Angel Headed Hipsters @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm (No Cover) Murphy is one of three charter members of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, along with Dylan and Prince, and he delivers rousing rock n’ roll and R&B. Though the dance floor is much smaller than many places Murphy has played, the energy is still full-on fun.

Sunday, September 4

Porktoberfest II @ Dayblock Brewing, Minneapolis. Noon – 2am ($5 advance/$10door) Music and pork products galore, including Pork Shanks, Beer Brats, Pork Belly sliders, and bacon, bacon, bacon! Music starts at 2pm, and includes Private Oates, Rolling Stoners, Marah in the Mainsail, Brass and Bodyworks, and the School of Rock. Pretzels, veggie sandwiches, and corn on the cob will also be available at this family-friendly, but no pets allowed, event.

Katy Vernon Band @ Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis. 5:30pm – 7pm (Free)  The London-raised, Minnesota-based Vernon is a singer/songwriter who creates charming folk-pop. Though her lyrics may speak of sad and melancholy topics, she surrounds them with light-hearted music, thanks in part to her use of the ukelele, as well as her ace band. Bring a picnic and a blanket, or stake out a space on the benches in front of the bandshell and get some food from the The Bread and Pickle restaurant next to the bandshell, and listen while kids frolic at the nearby beach, sailboats cross the lake, and airplanes fly overhead. A glorious way to spend part of the Labor Day Weekend.

Monday, September 5

Jose Feliciano @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40 – $55), 9pm ($35 – $45) Eight Grammys, over forty-five gold and platinum records, Feliciano is a virtuosic guitarist with a musical imagination that can rework  all kinds of songs into a blend of Latin, jazz, pop, rock, and even a nod or two to classical music. His last appearance at the Dakota a few years back was a delightful evening of mixed media, storytelling, and great music.

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 eve

Johnny Otis, Godfather of Rhythm and Blues

January 24, 2012

The Blues Saloon Interview– September 9, 1984

Johnny Otis, the bandleader, singer, drummer, vibraphonist, songwriter, talent scout, producer, club owner, disc jockey, preacher and impresario passed away last week at the age of 90. He was rightfully called the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues.”

He was born Johnny Veliotes in 1921,  the son of Greek immigrants. His father was a grocer in the black community of Berkeley, California, and as a teenager, Otis decided he’d rather be black. In a 1991 interview with the Sand Diego Union-Tribune he explained his decision, “When I got near teen age, I was so happy with my friends and the African-American culture that I couldn’t imagine not being part of it.”

Otis’s first hit was a 1946 big band version of Harlem Nocturne, a moody number featuring a film-noirish saxophone. Here’s a YouTube recording.

The drummer/vibist was a big fan of the Basie sound, but discovered, like so many other big band leaders, that the market wasn’t supporting sixteen piece bands after World War II. He pared down the band, added electric guitar, hired some singers, and became a leading proponent of a new type of music – rhythm and blues.

Along the way he discovered an amazing number of performers, often through talent shows at the Barrelhouse Club. Artists like the Robins (who morphed into The Coasters), Esther Phillips, Big Mama Thornton, Big Jay McNeely, Etta James (who also passed away last week), and others owe a large part of their careers to working with Otis.

Otis was also a songwriter, with a number of hits on the R&B charts of the early 50s, including Every Beat of My Heart, which was originally recorded by the Royals (who became the Midnighters), and was later recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips. His biggest hit was Willie and the Hand Jive the throbbing 1958 rock & roller. Here he is performing the tune on his TV show.

Otis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a producer and songwriter.

I was lucky enough to see Otis twice. The first time was at the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in 1973, where his revue included Cleanhead Vinson and the great Joe Turner. Even from a far-off vantage point, his delight in showcasing the musicians was evident. In 1984, he brought the Johnny Otis Show to Wilebski’s Blues Saloon in Saint Paul, where I was able to get a short interview with him before doing my radio show later that night.

LE: How did you come up with the idea of presenting a revue, with a number of different acts?

An old poster, found on the blog Guitar Snob

JO: I was always impressed with the variety show method of presenting acts. That is like at the big Orpheum theater with a girl singer, and then a vocal group and a tumbling act. I liked that because of its variety. And then the minstrel shows had a lot of fun, and a lot of blues and a lot of boogie, and a lot of comedy. And when I got in a position, I got my first hit record, I said I’m gonna try that, cause I have a feeling that the public likes that, and I did it in a blues context, a blues jazz context.

LE:  That first hit, was that was Harlem Nocturne?

JO: Yeah

LE: Didn’t you have some of Count Basie’s people playing on the session?

JO: Basie was always paternal, and he knew how much I loved him and he always helped me. He gave me arrangements out of his book. He loaned me his men, like Preston (ed note: Preston Love, alto sax) and I were childhood buddies but he was playing with Basie at the time. Eli Robinson, the trombone player. Jimmy Rushing, the singer, he loaned them to me to make a record date. But you know I though all those elements were going to make me a hit, and they didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. It was Harlem Nocturne that made the hit.

LE: Wasn’t that was something that you had to pull out of the air, because you had extra time?

JO: You know, it was my first record date, and when we finished the three sides I had prepared I said, Hey, Rene (ed note: Otis Rene, label owner) we’re through and we have twenty whole minutes left. He said, “Wait a minute, what do ya mean.” I said we did three sides in quicker than four hours. He said, “No, it’s four sides in three hours, so hurry and get out there and do something else.” So we had that in the book, and we recorded it and it was just a happy accident.

LE: Your R&B revue has served as a proving ground for a lot of young artists and a lot of people who’ve become stars. How did you find the folks that you used in the revue?

JO: Oh, Little Esther (Phillips) I found in my back yard in Watts. I was the Chicken Man, and she used to come and help me catch chickens. One day we were laying under a tree sipping some lemonade, after she’d caught the chicken sfor me, and she started singing. It just shocked me, so I took her to my club, The Barrelhouse, that night, and she won first prize, and I wrote a song, we went to the studio and recorded it and she became a hit.

Etta James I found, my manager called me one afternoon. We were in San Francisco and he said there’s a girl down here wants to sing for you. I told him “Tell her to come tonight.” She grabbed the phone and said (imitating her), “I want to sing for you now.” She came up to the room with two other young ladies, and she sang and it was so pretty I took her home with me and we recorded Roll With Me Henry, it became Dance With Me Henry and was a great hit.

And then one afternoon in Detroit we did a talent show at the Paradise Theater, and during that show I found Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, and the Midnighters (See previous post for a Hank Ballard interview), and a lot of other marvelous acts, but you couldn’t record them all. Big Mama Thornton I found in Texas, and Ernestine Anderson I found in Los Angeles, and Linda Hopkins I found in Oakland, California. I, I remember them pretty well right now, because we’re about to do a big reunion, a Johnny Otis Reunion at the Monterrey Jazz Festival this month, on the fifteenth. I had all these people signed and sadly, Esther Phillips and Big Mama Thornton both passed away. They won’t be with us, but all the rest of the people will be there.

LE: So you’re just continuing the process of keeping the traditions alive and finding new talent.

JO: I was involuntarily retired for ten years, because the music died out. That is, the music will never die out. The demand, the commercial demand for it dried up. And then, about a year and a half ago, it got good again, so we all got together, and we’re all traveling, and I’m really thankful to be back in the game.

LE: I’m aware, personally, I’m a little bit younger, of three, rather four phases in your career, I guess now. One was the hit of Willie and the Hand Jive.

JO: 1958

LE: And then there was the record of the Monterrey Jazz Festival

JO: 1970 – fourteen years ago

LE: And then there was the series of albums that you’ve done with people such as Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan.

JO: Yeah, Louis Jordan, Cleanhead Vinson

LE: How did that come about?

JO: Well, I had a recording studio. I had just built a fine studio. In fact, Columbia built it for me, and I thought, “Look at my old partners, living here in LA, and nobody’s recording them.” So we made records and I’d supply them with records and they go out and sell them on their gigs. You know, records keep you alive, and it was thrilling for me to word with Cleanhead Vinson and all those great men.

LE: Well, it’s good to see you back recording again and on the road again.

JO: It’s good, I’ve got my son Shuggie Otis, and Nickey Otis with me, and Miles with the West Coast Drifters, and Preston Love and Charles Williams, and Barbara Morrison and Delmar Mighty Mouth Evans. We’re having some fun

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