Visitors and Special Events: 2.15 – 2.21

February 15, 2017

unknown-1There are lots of interesting gigs this week, some of which required a long explanation, while I’ve covered others with just a few sentences. We’ve a couple of high-profile visitors and a few special events to pique our interests and bring us musical pleasure. Whatever you choose, just remember that music lifts the spirit.

Jazz

Wednesday, February 15

Ambrose Akinmusire and Kool A.D. @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul 7:30pm ($20) The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series commissions new projects presented in unique venues. Such is the case tonight, when young jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire partners with rapper Kool A.D.to create a brand new chamber music work. Akinmusire won both the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competiton and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition back in 2007, when he was 25. He has since put out three albums and was a sideman on about 25 albums, including CDs by Vijay Iyer, Esperanza Spalding, Roy Hargrove Big Band, Jack DeJohnette, and Steve Coleman, among others. Kool A.D. is the nom de rap of Victor Vasquez. The rapper’s work was described by Mother Jones magazine as:  “a thoughtful effort to deconstruct and rearrange cultural objects in ways that challenge our deepest assumptions.” Special guests include The Mivos String Quartet along with pianist Sam Harris and drummer Justin Brown

Jeremy Walker Songtet, featuring Jason Harms @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 8pm ($6 Cash only) Pianist Jeremy Walker is a musical explorer, who delves into musical styles and creates haunting compositions. This new group is about great songs. He’s enlisted Jason Harms, who was heard in Walker’s epic 7 Psalms, to work with the Songtet interpreting great songs, whether Walker originals, or from Dylan, Ellington, or the Great American Songbook. Joining Walker and Harms are two other frequent collaborators: Jeff Brueske, bass; and Tim Zhorne, drums.

Thursday, February 16

Adam Meckler Orchestra @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($10, $5 w/MMEA Badge) Meckler is a trumpeter-about-town who is a gifted composer and teacher. He’ll be doing a workshop at the MMEA conference Friday afternoon, working with the band from Spring Lake Park High School. He’s bringing his 18 piece orchestra to the Dakota to provide MMEA participants and others with a preview of his work.

Maria Schneider Orchestra @ O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($35 – $65; Discounts for students, seniors, military, MPR) Five-time Grammy winner Maria Schneider grew up in Windom, attended the U and essentially redefined the sound of a jazz orchestra. Schneider is one of the leading lights of jazz these days, and was recently on the cover of Downbeat, when her album The Thompson Fields was named the best of the year in the magazine’s Readers Poll. The evocative, gorgeous album, named for the fields near her Windom home, won the 2016 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble. Students can get a 2-4-1 discount by using the code WWMA.

David Rempis @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5 w/Student ID) Rempis is a free jazz saxophonist who isn’t afraid to do solo performances. With a background that includes studying African music in Ghana, years with Chicago’s Vandermark Sound, numerous collaborations, and as an organizer of Chicago’s indie-rock Pitchfork Festival, Rempis will be performing one set solo tonight, as well as a set with Levi Schwartzberg, vibes and piano; and Davu Seru, drums and percussion.

Thursday Night Jazz @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) The Ruckus Trio spent most of January touring, so tonight’s show should be quite tight, featuring Ruckus on drums; Javi Santiago on piano; and Greg Byers on bass and cello. Though this video from just a few weeks ago is dark, the sound is good.

Friday, February 17

The Jazz Bridge Project @ The Black Dog Cafe, Saint Paul. 8pm ($7 suggested donation) Here’s a relatively new project featuring the father-son team of Roger Johnson, guitar; and Rajah Johnson on flute; as well as Ron Evanuik, bass; Eric Kamau Gravatt, drums; and Abebi Stafford, keys.

Jay Young & the Lyric Factory @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:00[pm ($10, $5 w/Student ID) Bassist Jay Young brings his funky, jazzy R&B to the basement club, featuring music from Blondie, Tina Tuner, Steely Dan, and Bobby Brown. The band consists of Jay Young, piccolo bass; Ian Young, bass; Theo Harris, drums; Tom West, keys; Ernest Bisong, violin; Haylee Dee, vocals; and Caitlynn Daniels, vocals.

Saturday, February 18

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) JazzINK once again presents an young opening act for this series: Liquid Vinyl, led by Nick Adams. Headliners are What Would Monk Do? with Peter Schimke, piano; Ted Olsen, bass; Steve Kenny, Flumpet; and Kenny Horst on drums.

Sunday, February 19

Kaki King @ the Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $42) It’s difficult to slot guitarist Kaki King into any genre, or even describe her music. She’s worked with bands like the Foo Fighters and Timbaland, contributed to film and TV soundtracks, and sometimes performs with a NYC-based string quartet ETHEL. She also performed a Carnegie Hall premiere of a classical pice commissioned by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. Tonight, she’s presenting “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body” in a multi-media performance.

Patty Peterson @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($15, $40 Dinner Show) Singer Patty Peterson is celebrating the anniversary of the aortic tear which almost ended her life about ten years ago. Thankfully, she’s still with us, and still sounding great, as she proved at the Winter Jazz Fest a couple of weeks ago. She’ll be performing songs that celebrate life and love. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

Monday, February 20

MVP Quartet @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($20, $30), 9pm ($25) Bobby Watson  sax; Donald Brown, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, drums; are the MVP Quartet. They have played together in various combinations and bands since these veterans were young. Both Watson and Brown were in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, though at different times. Drummond and Smith both have extensive resumes. Here’s Watson with a standard.

Mary Louise Knutson Trio @ Crooners Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($10, $35 Dinner Show) I suspect that I mention Mary Louise quite a bit, but she’s such a great pianist, I feel more folks should know about her. After all, she’s the first call pianist for Doc Severensen when he tours the Midwest. She’ll be joined by Chris Bates, bass; and Phil Hey, drums, in Crooners’ listening room. Here’s what she sounds like.

Tuesday, February 21

UW Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble w/Michael Davis @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Saint Paul. 7:30pm (No Cover) The Jazz Studies program at UW Eau Claire has been doing a great job of turning out musicians. Tonight they’ve invited NYC-based trombonist Michael Davis to sit in with their Jazz Ensemble. The bone-man is widely known as the trombonist for the Rolling Stones since 1994. He toured and recorded with Frank Sinatra from 1988 to 1994, released 9 solo CDs, composed over 150 works, authored 10 books and appeared on over 500 CDs and motion picture soundtracks. He’s worked with scores of high-profile musicians, including Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Sting, Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Terence Blanchard and others.

MVP Quartet @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($30) After playing at the Dakota lat night (see above), this all-star quartet is moving over to the Vieux.

Tuesday, Wednesday, February 21, 22

Aaron Diehl Presents Jelly & George @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm  ($40 – $55), 9pm ($24 – $45) Pianist Aaron Diehl turns the spotlight on the music of rag time pianist Jelly Roll Morton, and popular composer George Gershwin. There is certainly plenty of wonderful material to explore, and Diehl has picked out both classic tunes as well as little-known gems for further exploration. He’ll be joined by  pianist Adam Birnmaum, who has played with Al Foster, Wallace Roney, Eddie Gomez, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra as well as young contemporary artists. Vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant is the icing on the cake, so to speak, with her ability to unearth new interpretations of standards and long-forgotten, yet worthwhile tunes.

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, February 15

Joe & Vicki Price on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Joe and Vicki have such a fan base here in the Twin Cities that they could almost move here from their Decorah, Iowa home. Listen in during the 5 o’clock hour to catch their spare, but effective blues.

Masters of Hawaiian Music @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35 – $42) Here we have three masters of slack key guitar – a distinctly Hawaiian style of open tunings. George Kahumoku Jr, Kawika Kahiapo, & Nathan Aweau are masters of the instrument who have produced four Grammy-winning CDs.

Maurice Jacox @ The Schooner Tavern, Minneapolis. 7:30pm (Tip Jar) Here’s a chance to hear a vocal master of R&B, soul, blues, and even some crooning in the comfy confines of this “dive-ish” bar with friendly staff.

Aaron Kerr’s Dissonant Creatures @ The Black Dog Cafe, Saint Paul. 7:30pm – 9:30pm (Tip Jar) Original compositions from electric cellist Aaron Kerr  along with Jeff Crandall, guitar; Toni Tinetti, cello; Justin DeLeon, drums; Matt Kanive, bass; Mike Nordgy, mandolin & percussion; and Brett Hansen, guitar.

Thursday, February 16

International Novelty Gamelan @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) A gamelan is a traditional music ensemble from Indonesia that typically uses bronze percussive instruments. The ING may not be Indonesian, but it’s six members have taken the music of that far-off land to heart, and learned to create their own songs as well. Their music is drone-like, and can be very abstract, which makes it perfect for the cauldron of progressive music presented at Khyber Pass.

Friday, February 17

Dee Miller Band @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 6pm – 10pm ($??) The Duchess of the Blues, singing and playing for your early evening dancing pleasure.

Dobet Gnahoré @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40) 9pm ($25, $30) This singer, dancer, and percussionist from the Ivory Coast is likely to stun you with the sheer physicality of her dancing, though her singing (in a variety of African languages) and time-keeping are nothing to sneeze at. Gnahoré has a warm, powerful voice, and a commanding stage presence, sure to hold you in wonder.

Slimabration @ The Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge, Minneapolis. 8pm ($20 Advance, Donation at Door) It’s been five years since Bob “Slim” Dunlap experienced the stroke that sidelined him from playing music, and racked up some significant medical expenses. Slim’s friends and family decided to mark the occasion with a celebration of Bob and his music, featuring solo and band performances from the likes of Dan Baird, of the Georgia Satellites; John Eller & Friends; Curtiss A, Frankie Lee, Whale in the Thames, and many more. There will be craft food and beverages available.

John Primer @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm ($7, includes a free beverage) Primer served as bandleader and lead guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Magic Slim and the Teardrops. He’s received two Grammy nominations, including a 2017 nomination as Best Traditional Blues Artist (Male). In other words, when it comes to the blues, Primer is the real deal.

Saturday, February 18

Ling-Ju Lai: The Saturday Salon @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 3pm ($20) Host Maria Jette has lined up an impressive array of artists to perform for the somewhat informal Saturday Salon series. Though Ms Jette’s commentary and quick wit keep things light, the audience is as rapt as possible in this listening room. Today features pianist Ling-Ju Lai  a native of Taiwan who has gained an international reputation for her creative interpretations of Baroque music. From the venue’s description: “Highlights of the 2016-17 season include appearances in notable concert series such as the Aula de Música at the University of Alcalá in Spain, the PianoForte Foundation Salon Series in Chicago, and Brookline Library Music Association Concert Series in Massachusetts presenting The Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach.”

Freaker’s Ball 2017 @ The Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12 Advance/$15 Door) Let your Freak Flag Fly as the White Iron BandKung Fu Hippies, and trumpeter Willie Waldman take you on a trip through various stomp-your-feet permutations of roots, jam band, psychedelic, and free form music.

Silvertones @ The Schooner Tavern, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) The Silvertones are a cover band that features rock and R&B from the sixties, for that evening when you just want to sing along and (for older folks) perhaps relive your youth.

Sunday, February 19

Bad Companions @ The Como Zoo Conservatory, Saint Paul. 4:30pm – 6:30pm (Free) Two guitars, a stand-up bass, and drums are just what is needed to play roots-rock that encompasses Rockabilly, R&B, Country, and the Blues. Al Subola (Vibro Champs), guitar; Dan Gaarder (Trailer Trash), guitar; W.E. Keefe (Vibro Champs), bass; and Hayden Grooms (Hillions) are the Bad Companions  providing the sounds in the Sunken Garden of the Margorie McNeely Conservatory. Beer and wine is available and the music is piped into the North Garden and Palm Dome so you can keep up with the music as you enjoy the plants and humidity of the Conservatory. Here they are with the addition of a saxophonist.

Tuesday, February 21

Charanga Tropical @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($7) Latin sounds by the first American Group to be invited and appear at the International Danzon Festival in Havana. Leader Doug Little will have just returned from Cuba, so I imagine he will be pumped.

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.

 


Halloween & Daylight Savings Music: 10.29 – 11.4

October 29, 2014

images-2What a weekend! We have Halloween on Friday and the end of Daylight Savings time on Sunday. I’ve included a few Halloween night gigs, as well as a couple that don’t require costumes. Whether you’re trying on an alter ego or living with your normal one, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy music. Have a good week.

Jazz

Wednesday, October 29

Wolverines Trio w/Judy Donaghy Vinar @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm. (No Cover) Vocalist Donaghy Vinar teaches at MacNally Smith, has worked with The Girls, and the Wolverines Big Band, as well as with Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra. She’s appeared on over 30 CDs, and has also worked with YoYo Ma, Carole King, and Janis Siegal of the Manhattan Transfer. The Wolverines Trio are one of the finest trios in town, and are especially good at accompanying singers.

Endeavors, feat: Miguel Hurtado @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested donation)  Three young musicians who have been making a name for themselves: Joe Strachan, piano; Nelson Deveraux, sax; Miguel Hurtado, drums.

Thursday, October 30

Jason Weisman Trio @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (No Cover) Jason is a credible crooner and a valued saxophonist on the TC Jazz scene who also leads the Jazztronauts and other bands, and has played with Steeling Dan, Jack McDuff, Wynton Marsalis, and Lamont Cranston, among others.  Ask for a table in front of the stage, since the Kitchen can get quite noisy. Here’s Jason in a quartet setting.

Hanna Cesario @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Cesario sings the jazz standards from the 20s to the 50s, often accompanying herself on the ukelele.

Zach Lozier Three @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 9:30pm (Tip Jar) Steven Hobert, piano, Steve Pikal, bass. Trumpeter Lozier presents some exciting music in an easy-going manner, singing the occasional Louis Armstrong chestnut, re-inventing traditional songs, and displaying considerable power and panache on the trumpet. Here they are doing an older song.

TriOleo @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8:30pm – 10:00pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation)  Here’s an intriguing trio for a Thursday evening. Joel Shapira, guitar; Bruce Heine, bass; Dave Schmalenberger, drums. All of them are veterans of many bands and many performances. Each can be nuanced in their approach, and turn around and deliver a breath-taking solo.

Friday, October 31

B3 Organ Duo & The Atlantis Quartet @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Things start out with Mac Santiago, drums; and Kevin Gastonguay, B3; as a duo, and then proceed to the Atlantis Quartet reprising their version of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Costumes encouraged, and debauchery promised. Here is the Atlantis Quartet doing an original.

Skeleton Crew @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm – 11pm  (Tip Jar) This group is described as a mixed chamber ensemble, which seem about right, considering that they’ll be performing works by Philip Glass, Wendy Carolos, Radiohead, and Rod Temperton, in addition to some Halloween-themed songs. Members are: Julie Sweet, keyboards; Sean O’Hea, percussion; Jake Fisher, bassoon; Scott Fultz, sax.

Patty Peterson & Friends: Halloween Party @ Parma 8200, Bloomington. 9pm (No Cover) Well, given that it’s Halloween the folks at Parma 8200 are using the atrium of their building to hold this party. No word on whether there will be a costume contest, though the event is sure to be playful. Music and dancing will take place until Midnight. Patty’s friends will include Jason Peterson, piano, sax, vocals; Bobby Vandell, drums, vocals; Billy Franze, bass, vocals; and Cory J. Wong on guitar & vocals. If you’re planning on eating first, reservations are suggested.

Saturday, November 1

What Would Monk Do? @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7pm ($10 Suggested Donation) The wonderful Saturday Night Jazz continues at the Black Dog. It features well established Twiin Cities groups, many of which played regularly at the Artists’ Quarter. Though original music usually is prevalent, tonight’s group draws it’s inspiration from Thelonious Monk, playing his compositions and interpreting others with his style in mind. The group features Kenny Horst, drums; Peter Schimke, piano; Billy Peterson, bass; and Steve Kenny, trumpet.

Pig’s Eye Jazz Band @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm ($6) Trad jazz for your post-Halloween evening. It’s danceable, too.

Monday, November 3

Pete Enblom @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) A veteran of 40 years as a professional trombone player, Enblom played lead trombone for Buddy Rich, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Arties Shaw Orchestra, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. He’s also played in bands for such legends as Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr, and Aretha Franklin. Here, he steps out from the big bands in an intimate setting.

Lews, Johnson, & Bates @ The Icehouse, MInneapolis. 10pm ($8) That’s Mike Lewis, sax; Gordon Johnson, bass; and JT Bates, on drums. Johnson has recorded as a sideman on over 150 recordings, ranging from blues and R&B, bluegrass, and folk to jazz, where he’s been featured with artists like Stacey Kent, Maynard Ferguson, and Paul Winter. While Bates and Lewis have played together quite a bit, especially in Fat Kid Wednesdays, I’m aware of only one other instance where they played as a trio with Johnson, and it was great fun.

Tuesday, November 4

Dean Magraw and Davu Seru @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. (Tip Jar) it’s the first Tuesday of the month, so guitarist Magraw and percussionist/drummer Seru will work their magic at the Black Dog once again.

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

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, October 29

Hula Peppers on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI-90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Dan Newton’s paen to the music of the 20s and 30s, not to forget Hawaii, is lots of fun, that’s for sure.  Beside Newton on accordion, the Peppers  nclude Gary Powell on Hawaiian guitar; Dave Furniss on resonator guitar, and Corey Mohan on ukes and musical saw. Extra spice is added when chanteuse Lauren Asheim joins in for a song.

Mystic Order of Reverb & Twang @ Schooner’s Pub, Minneapolis. 8pm. (Tip Jar) The Schooner is about as unpretentious as a bar can be, though it still has a decent beer selection, just right to quaff as you listen (or even dance) to these fine proponents of  Rockabilly, proto R&B, all things twangy, and even a bit of Western Swing. They take the stage at 8pm sharp, according to the bar clock, which, as you know, is always 10-15 minutes fast.

Osaka Monorail @ The Cedar Cutlural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($20) The funkiest aggregation out of Japan, the Osaka Monorail has been going strong for 20 years now. Taking their sartorial cues from the funk bands of the early 60s, they not only lay down the funk, but do it with matching choreography and a frontman/vocalist who is clearly inspired by the early dance moves of James Brown. The 9-piece symphonic funk band Grolar Bears open. check them out.

Thursday, October 30

Big George Jackson, Ray Barnard, & Rena Haus @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 8:45pm ($5) It’s a triple release party by a trio of highly talented artists. Ray Barnard used to be in the Americana/rock band The Copperheads, though he’s become more of a blue-eyed soul singer since then, as evidenced on his new CD, Where Would I Be Without YouBig George Jackson has a bass voice that will rattle the plates in your cupboard, and writes songs that chug along with the power of a locomotive, as evidenced on Back At It, his new CD. Rena Haus creates songs with wit and wisdom, and comes into town from her farm to play some blues and celebrate her latest, Out of the Blues

Devlish Dances @ The Bedlam Theater, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($25) The Minnesota Music Company presents it’s inaugural production. They are using The Fiddler’s Tale, by Wynton Marsalis, along with prose by Stanley Crouch, and theater and dance by Live Action set. The music will be performed by musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra, The MacPhail Center for Music, and St. Olaf College. The devil seduces a female violinist and band leader with the promise of easy fame, untold, wealth and the glamor of the music industry.

Siama Matuzungidi w/Mikkel Beckmen and Dallas Johnson @ The Nicollet, Minneapolis. 8pm – 10pm (Tip jar) I realize I posted about this group last week, but since then I’ve had a chance to see them, and came away even more impressed than I thought I would. For a three-piece acoustic group, they do some fine jamming and getting folks onto the dance floor, which is quite nice at the Nicollet.

International Novelty Gamelan @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) The traditional gamelan ensemble uses percussive instruments, such as metallophones and hand played drums to create beautiful, yet moving music. This ensemble uses the instruments to explore new music. To hear some of their music, go here.

Friday, October 31

Davina & The Vagabonds @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($15) Though they don’t do goth, zombies, or vampires, but Davina and the Vagabonds are still a great party band for Halloween – their musical fun knows no bounds, whether Davina is singing an original or a Fats Domino tune. There’s a reason she regularly sells out the Dakota and fills many other venues around town – she’s that good at good time music – even when she’s singing threats to guys who’ve done her wrong.

The Nephews

The Nephews

Halloween Show: The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank w/Jillian Rae @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 10pm ($8/advance, $10/door) Ian and Teague Alexy grew up in New Jersey, studied music on different coasts, and settled in Northern Minnesota, where they formed the Hobo Nephews to play in the burgeoning roots/Americana scene along with Charlie Parr and Trampled by Turtles. They’ve released four albums and have toured the nation. Talented vocalist/fiddler Jillian Rae will be releasing a new song, Heart in a Jar, about a zombie in love with a living person. Dressing up is encouraged, with a prize for best costume.

Disco Ritual @ Bedlam Lowertown, Saint Paul. 9pm ($7) Get your Haloween dancing shoes on and join Worldwide Discoteque and DJ Don Cuco as they present Funky International Dance Music, a costume contest and a free photo booth for ghosts, goblins, zombies, and other dressed up folk.

Saturday, November 1

Captan Gravitone & the String Theory Orcestra @ The Driftwood Char Bar, Minneapolis. 8pm (Tip Jar) this Southern Minnesota trio mixes genres as deftly as a bartender mixing an old fashioned. They create tangos about Walmart, and songs about being a philosophy major, as well as music by Dave Brubeck, Willie Dixon, and the Zombies.

Badinovs @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($5) Fans of Beatles-style pop rock will want to check out the Badinovs  who will be playing new material as a way to say goodbye to daylight savings time. Opening at 8pm are the Fuggs, a cover band from Dassel, MN, followed by a short set from Mike Nilles’ guitar students.

Sunday, November 2

Nikki & the Ruemates @ Dubliner Pub, Saint Paul. 5pm – 7pm (Tip Jar) Here’s an early Sunday evening show worth your while, especially if you’re a fan of late 60s folk/rock and a bit of blues. Nikki’s clarion vocals still thrill, while the Ruemates’ instrumental prowess still cooks.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the MN Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar. Dancers might want to check out the U Wanna Dance Calendar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Louise Knutson

November 27, 2011

Performing a song from In the Bubble. Photo by Howard Gitelson

Pianist Mary Louise Knutson has been a staple of the Twin Cities jazz scene for almost two decades. Her melodic soloing and her rhythmic sensibilities have led to her performing with quite a few visiting artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby McFerrin, Nicolas Payton, Diane Reeves, and Doc Severinsen. She’s also played for shows by artists like Smokey Robinson, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), and  Trisha Yearwood.

When she isn’t performing with visiting artists, Knutson works with a number of Twin Cities groups including the JazzMN Orchestra and vocalists such as Connie Evingson and Debbie Duncan. She also  leads her own trio, with the seamless rhythm section of Gordon Johnson on bass and Phil Hey on drums. It is this configuration which drives her new CD, In the Bubble, though drummers Greg Schutte and Craig O’Hara step in for a few tunes.  The CD contains Knutson originals as well as standards. The result is a swinging affair, with moods that range from meditative to joyous, all buoyed by Knutson’s warm, soulful touch. This is an album that will undoubtedly receive airplay on stations throughout the nation. Ms Knutson stopped by Rhythm and Grooves on Saturday, November 19, 2011 to talk about upcoming CD release parties at The Artists’ Quarter in Saint Paul and the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. This is a slightly edited version of our interview.

LE:     I want to welcome to the KFAI Studio Mary Louise Knutson. How are you today?

MLK:  Great Larry, I’m just getting up though. (laughs)

LE:     Is that musician’s time?

MLK:  Oh yeah. Absolutely

LE:     You have a brand new album out called In the Bubble. You notice I’m calling it an album and not a CD.

MLK:  Oh, I do. I like the way that sounds.

LE:      You’ve been around a bit, but people don’t necessarily find out about your background unless they go to your website. Give us a little bit of your background, and when you came to the Twin Cities, that sort of thing.

MLK:  Okay. Well… I actually grew up being a classical pianist. I started playing piano when I was four, and took lessons all the way through college. I got a degree in classical music. While I was at college I was exposed to jazz, and really started liking it and got involved in some of the jazz ensembles. I didn’t know how to play it at all, but at that level they usually give you written-out music anyway.  So I could read it and play in a big band or other groups, and by the end of college I knew I wanted to be a jazz pianist.

LE:     What was it about jazz that intrigued you so much?

MLK:  Just the feel of it. I could feel something. Being able to play with my friends also was a factor.  Here’s something we could do together. I guess in the classical world, we could play quartets or I could accompany people or whatever. We could do that there, but I don’t know. There was just a sort of fun energy about it (jazz) that I appreciated. I loved the voicing’s on the piano, the rich harmonies and the rhythms – all that. So I knew I wanted to be a jazz pianist and after I graduated I thought I’m just going to sit down and study this music. That’s what I did. I moved to Minneapolis. At that point I was going to school at Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin and I moved to Minneapolis. Didn’t know anyone here. I just found an apartment and had a little keyboard and started practicing. I knew at some point I needed to start going to jam sessions. I mean… it was hard. I was totally new at it. It was frightening to improvise. But I’ve worked at it over the years and I should know a little bit about it by now. (laughs) Twenty years I’ve been playing jazz.

LE:     You’ve also shown talent at composition and have gotten awards for your writing. Is that something you studied separately? Did it come out of what you learned as a classical pianist? How did that come about?

MLK:  Well, let me mention a great teacher of mine, Chris Granias. Chris is actually a teacher here in the Twin Cities, at the Perpich Center for the Arts, but I grew up in Wisconsin, and he was there teaching. He taught me and he was the first one to ask me to try composing. He gave me an assignment and he came back and was very supportive. He opened that possibility in me, and then from there I took a couple of composition and arranging classes at college, and really enjoy exploring what is in me and what I have to say. It’s an enjoyable act to work on compositions.

LE:    How did this album come about?

MLK:  Well, I produced a CD (Call Me When You Get There) ten years ago, almost to the date. That was my first CD as a leader with my trio. It’s been ten years. It was time. I’ve worked on a lot of other people’s projects in the meantime, but I really wanted to get back to composing again, and just sort of documenting where I am now. It’s been a while so it really is mostly about that – wanting to document and wanting to share something with people that they could take home with them.

LE:    The first track on the CD is “It Could Happen to You,” a Jimmy Van Huesen tune that you’ve arranged with a couple of significant tempo changes. Gordy Johnson is on bass and Phil Hey is on drums. Was it fun to work out your arrangement?

MLK:  It sure was. That arrangement I always think of as a Ray Brown Trio arrangement. I just love the way he used to arrange all his tunes. I was very influenced by that and that was what I was thinking when arranging that tune

Mary Louise Knutson, Gordy Johnson, and Phil Hey at the Artists' Quarter, Saint Paul. Photo by Howard Gitelson

LE:     You’ve had the opportunity to play with many visiting artists as well as almost all the artists in town, and you’ve done some touring. What happens when you play with a visiting artist? What do you take out of that?

MLK:  The biggest thing I think is the energy that they play with. That inspires me. I watch them walk on stage. That’s one thing – how they carry themselves. Often these are national, international stars. They have a way of carrying themselves and then when they perform you can feel their energy. I pay attention to that and think, if that’s where I want to be, what do I have to do to step up my game to match that. If I’m playing with them, I want to bring my energy up to that level, or do that on a consistent basis from now on. I love that about playing with national artists. I learn a lot.

LE:     Do you find it difficult to match that energy?

MLK:  Usually, they’re very gracious. I’m thinking back to a time years ago when I studied with Kenny Werner, just a lesson or two, and I remember standing behind him. The energy he played with, the volume he played with – not just that you want to play loud – he was just playing with his whole being. That inspired me. I thought, oh, that’s the level of energy or emotion that you need to put out when you’re playing. It sort of gave me permission to let more of myself out. And so when I play with national artists, they’re giving a lot of their own energy, and I’m reminded to do that. Every time I play with them it’s just: put it all out there on the table.

LE:     You were talking about visiting artists. Will you be playing with someone who’s coming in soon?

MLK:  I’ ll be playing with Doc Severinsen, coming up Friday the 9th of December, and Sunday the 11th of December at Orchestra Hall. He actually asked me to go on tour with him this last summer, but the tour never materialized, so I didn’t get to go.

LE:     But that was great that you were asked.

MLK:  Yeah, what a treat.

LE:     One of your original compositions on the new CD is “Can You Hear Me Now.” What’s the inspiration for this one?

MLK:  Well, there is a little story behind this. One time when I was trying to compose some new music, I was really stuck. I was sitting at the piano for days and weeks and nothing was coming to me, and I decided to use a sort of composing trick that I swore I never would use. It’s where you assign numbers to the pitches.  Take a scale, and the first step of the scale is number one, then number two, three four, all the way up the scale. Then you take a series of numbers, like your social security number, or your phone number, and see if those numbers make a melody. So, I was desperate, and took my cell phone number, and tried to see if it made a melody, and it did. I worked with it for a while, and am really happy with the tune that came out of it. I titled it “Can You Hear Me Now” after the ad. I was glad to use it and to get out of my rut. It does work sometimes.

Cover of the New CD

LE:     How long did it take you to put this album (In the Bubble) together?

MLK:  I started composing and arranging for it about five years ago. With a full time job as a musician, there’s a lot to do. People might not think that, but it’s busy. You’re always practicing and rehearsing for other people’s shows and stuff. So I was trying to squeeze in composing and arranging. I kept saying, oh, I’ll have an album out. I’ll have an album out next year. It just kept going on and on. It felt like it took a long time. It did take a long time to put it together.

LE:     Once you got into the studio, did that go fairly quickly?

MLK:  I actually recorded about eight of the tunes in 2009 and didn’t like any of them. So I scrapped them all and went back in 2010. I tweaked some of the arrangements, and practiced some of the soloing. I had something else in mind, so I came back and redid everything and it came back much better this time.  Although I have to say I did use some of the tracks from the original recording. After having some time away from them I actually liked hearing them. (laughs)

LE:     We’re always our own worst critics, aren’t we?

MLK:  It’s true.

LE:     Thank you so very much for coming by. This has been delightful.

MLK:  Thank you very much.


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