I think I can safely say that most of us are looking forward to putting 2017 behind us. What with hurricanes, mass shootings, wildfires, “taking a knee,” sex abuse scandals, a political climate that could be called tumultuous at best, and locally, the unexpected closing of MacNally Smith Music College, we’re ready to start anew.
On a personal and positive note, my year was upended when I was diagnosed with significant health issues. Thankfully, I have responded very well, thanks to some excellent health professionals and, I believe, the good thoughts, vibes and prayers of family and a supportive community, including readers such as yourself. Thank you.
Another positive thing about the last year is the great talent that has performed in our Twin Cities, from both resident and visiting artists. We’re lucky to have a vital music scene, with high schools and regional colleges producing talented musicians to join a bevy of highly respected veterans. Evidence of emerging talent will be on display this week as a number of young jazz musicians are home on vacation and lining up to play. Roots and Blues groups continue to percolate up with brand new younger groups and realignments of veterans. Now… we’re in for a cold spell, but as hardy Minnesotans, I know that many of you will layer on the clothes and brave the weather to enjoy and support the talent in town. Here are some ideas for music that will lift your spirit.
Wednesday, Dec 27
Will Kjeer Trio @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 8pm ($6) Talented pianist Will Kjeer is on a Christmas break from school in California, and will be joined by his uncle Kenny Horst on drums, and Billy Peterson on bass. Kjeer was already playing professionally while in high school, and since going to college has performed as a leader and sideman in Washington DC, Montreal; and at the fabled Lighthouse Cafe in Los Angeles. He is also a member of Steve Kenny’s Group 47. Tonight is truly a cross-generational meeting of musical minds. Arrive early to catch pianist Kevin Gastonguay from 6 – 7:30 (No cover)
Rio Nido @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35), 9pm ($25) Tim Sparks, Prudence Johnson, and Tom Lieberman create wonderful three-part harmonies on tunes from the 30s and 40s, as well as on their original compositions. They are just as beloved today as they were back in the 70s and 80s.
Connie Evingson: Holiday @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($22) It’s not hard to think you’re in a cozy country lodge as you take in the Dunsmore’s view of a snow-covered lake during. Ms Evingson’s cool, yet sultry voice celebrates the season, as she did on The Secret of Christmas, her wonderful Christmas album of some year’s back. She’ll be accompanied by Mary Louise Knutson, piano; Dave Karr, sax & flute; and Gordy Johnson, bass. Here’s a version of a Christmas chestnut from The Secret of Christmas.
Thursday, Dec 28
Kendra Glenn and Jazz Fly @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 8pm ($6) Glenn is a powerful, soulful singer, while JazzFly’s members have played with a wide list of both resident and national artists, ranging from Tower of Power and Avishai Cohen, to Ginger Commodore, Ricky Peterson, and members of Sounds of Blackness. Such experience makes the band and Glenn equally adept at blues, jazz, soul, and R&B. Here’s Kendra, along with her daughter Jalela.
Friday, Dec 29
Young Lions @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm – No Exit), 10pm (Ben Erlich Trtio) ($10, $5 w/valid Student ID) It’s a night of talented young musicians as things start off at 8pm with the No Exit Sextet, led by drummer Luke Peterson, and including Peter Goggin, alto; Jack Coutwright, Trombone; Levi Schwartzberg, Vibes; Adam Astrup, Guitar; and Charlie Lincoln, Bass. Then drummer Ben Erlich brings on his trio, including Will Kjeer on piano; and Charlie Lincoln, bass. Here’s a video from No Exit, from last summer.
Saturday, Dec 30
The Last Edition of Rhythm and Grooves @ KFAI, (90.3 and 106.7FM) 10:30AM – Noon. After 15.5 years in three different time slots, it’s time for me to move on. Note that I also hostedShake Up Southside for three years in the early 80s, and Streetlight Serenade for five years in the mid-80s. I’ll play a couple of songs from Shakeup, followed by their jazz versions, as well as a couple of vocal group harmony versions of standards from Streetlight, preceded by jazz versions of those songs. It’s not goodbye, just so long, as I’ll show up to help during pledge drives and hope to be called upon to sub for different shows, which is always a treat for me and hopefully for listeners. Tune in.
Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm DDT is composed of three veteran musicians: Dean Granros, guitar; Chris Bates, bass; and Tony Moreno, drums. At 8:30pm, a group of young and very talented musicians will perform. Hoaxer, which released their debut CD last summer, is Will Kjeer, piano; Peter Goggin, alto; Charlie Lincoln, bas; and Edmund Caitln, drums.
Sunday, Dec 31
Early & Late NYE @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 5-8pm ($5 suggested donation), 9pm – ? ($20 Reserved on stage side, $5 non-stage) The Black Dog continues its tradition of a family-friendly early NYE celebration, this year featuring pianist Todd Harper’s Open Season Ensemble, with Aaron Kerr, electric cello, James Holdman, guitar; Chris Hagedorn, tenor; and Eric Couren on drums. After clearing the stage side, a jazz extravaganza will ensue, with a group of Twin Cities All-Stars featuring Dave Brattain, sax; Steve Kenny, Flumpet; Will Kjeer, piano; Charlie Lincoln, bass; and Pete James Johnson, drums; PLUS special guests. It’s billed as safe and reasonably sane. This video features Steve Kenny’s Grou 47, with Will Kjeer, piano and composition.
Tuesday, Jan 2
Jon Weber’s History of the Piano @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($15, $25) Pianist Weber, who is now based in NYC, is a master of musical trivia, host of NPR’s Piano Jazz, and a regular visitor to the Twin Cities and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. He’ll be performing in a number of piano styles to show how the piano has been used in music throughout history. Here’s a sample.
Blues, Roots, Other…
Wednesday, Dec 27
The Eddies on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) This annual event is one of the few times that the Saint Paul-based Eddies cross the river to Minneapolis. Their appearances are even rarer now that guitarist Wyoming Brown (aka Paul) has moved out of town, so we’re lucky he’s visiting and we can hear their songs of life, work, and death, from traditional mountain songs to sea shanties and tunes by Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, and Billy Joe Shaver. If you’ve not heard them, tune in and head over to the 331 if you want to hear more. Listen to this example.
The Skruffians @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm (Tip Jar) This septet will get you moving with their infectious blend of Ska, Reggae, Soul, & Jazz, featuring Todd Baer, trombone; Joe Mayo, tenor; Jared Jarvis, baritone sax; Brian Knox, keys and melodica; Park Evans, guitar; Tom Hutton, bass; and Rick Nair, drums. Hers’s a sampling of their music.
Dress Like Deano @ Dusty’s Bar, NE Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) Have you got a plaid flannel shirt and colorful sneakers? Then you can dress like Deano – that’s Dean Mikkelson, a fine guitarist who always has equally talented sidemen when he plays in the the “Big Green Booth” at Dusty’s. Expect jazzy, bluesy tunes, with perhaps, some guests. Here he is with the Mill City Hot Club, playing rhythm guitar for most of the song and soloing at about 3:10minutes.
Thursday, Friday, Dec 28, 29
Lush Country @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm (No cover, but guaranteed seat for $15) Classic country sounds from Eddy Arnold to Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Floyd Cramer, from an all-star group of longtime Twin Cities headliners and A Prairie Home Companion veterans: Dan Chouinard, Prudence Johnson, Richard Kriehn, Gary Raynor, Gary Rue, Pete Johnson, and Joe Savage.
Friday, Dec 29
Rena Haus @ Dusty’s Bar, NE Minneapolis. 9:30pm (Tip Jar) More proof that the new owners of Dusty’s are sticking with what works (They’ve also added music on Wednesdays) So… singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Haus Is back, singing humorous originals about relationships, farm animals, or the political and economic climate, as well as an occasional classic rock song. Backed by her brother Bob on bass and the under-appreciated guitar-meister Ed Petche, it’s an evening of highly entertaining performances.
Roots, Rock & Deep Blues 2018 Pre-Party @ The Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10 Advance/.$12 Door) What better time to get up for a summertime party than in the midst of a spell of below-zero temperatures? To entice you out, tonight the Hook features a group that’s been an RRDB staple since the annual event started – Left Lane Cruiser, the punk bluesmen from Fort Wayne, Ind. Another regular is Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, with their flat-out blues that would be a hot rod if it were a car. Joining in on the fun are Flatwater Mississippi and their psychedelic swamp blues, as well as Mutation playing metallic rock.
Saturday, Dec 30
Nooky Jones 4th Annual End of Year Party @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 10:30pm ($15 Advance/$17 Door) 2017 was a big year for Nooky Jones as they sold out two consecutive nights at the Icehouse and co-headlined at the Fitzgerald Theater. They also released their debut album in July for fans who enjoy the band’s unique blend of soul, jazz, and undertones of hip-hop. Opening set by alternative should singer Jessica Manning, and between-sets music by DJ Keezy.
The “Committee” @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Maurice Jacox, Aisha Baker, and Deb Brown were all part of the Butanes Soul Review when it played at the Cabooze some 25-30 years ago, and recently for the 30th Anniversary of that group. They were also part of the Soul Tight Committee and the Lights Out Committee during much of the 90s. Tonight the three of them gather as “The Committee,” performing songs like Groove Me, Supernatural Thing, Rocking Chair, and other great soul songs of the 60s and 70s. Here they are performing in the Soul Tight Committee back when.
Sunday, Dec 31
Jaeden James & the Hunger @ The Basement Bar, Minneapolis. Doors at 9pm, music at 10:45pm ($20) This funk/soul ten-piece horn band has a high-energy attitude that’s almost punkish. They will surely ignite NYE revelers in celebration.
Joyann Parker Band @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 10:30pm ($30) Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Parker has a powerful blues and R&B voice that’ will ignite NYE partiers. She represented Minnesota in the 2015 International Blues Challenge. Additionally, her 2015 album, On the Rocks, was named Best Self-Produced Album by the MN Blues Society. Her versatility shows up in this duo setting.