It’s May and we have a weekend of Cinco de Mayo Festivals (Saturday on the West Side of Saint Paul and Sunday around 27th and East Lake) as well as the 43rd Annual Mayday Parade and Celebration in South Minneapolis (see below), all of which will feature music and performers. This week’s indoor events don’t necessarily coincide with the festivals, but provide other opportunities for uplifting experiences, with a number of visiting artists coming to town and a plethora of veteran and emerging Twin Cities artists. Music lifts the spirit.
Wednesday, May 3
Regina Carter: Simply Ella @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30 – $40), 9pm ($25 – $35) April 25th marked the100th Anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, and violinist Regina Carter is releasing an album entitled Ella: Accentuate the Positive. We are lucky enough to be a stop on her tour promoting the album. Carter is among the finest, if not the finest, jazz violinist practicing today. She’s tasteful, melodic, and swinging, whether she’s interpreting folk music of the South, Cajun fiddle music, the songs her mother loved, or something classical. Carter has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (The “Genius Grant”), and numerous awards. You can read an interview I did with her a couple of years ago by going here.
Michael O’Brien @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Bassist O’Brien is in town visiting and he’s brought together some of the best Twin Cities musicians to join him for this gig, which will feature Latin music in addition to O’Brien’s facility on the bass: Pete Whitman, sax; Steven Hobert, piano; and Mac Santiago, drums.
Wednesday, Thursday, May 3, 4
Randy Brecker Quartet @ Crooners’ Dunmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($20 – $30, $60w/Dinner) 9pm ($15, $20) Brecker is a multiple Grammy Award winner, who got his start with the big bands of Clark Terry, Duke Pearson, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. He was in the original version of Blood Sweat and Tears, leaving them to join the Horace Silver Quintet. Since then, he’s recorded with a wide range of musicians, from Frank Zappa, James Brown, and Parliament/Funkadelic to Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorious, and Frank Sinatra. If you need another reason to see him, consider the fact that his quartet will feature Tanner Taylor on piano, as well as the crack rhythm section of Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey.
Thursday, May 4
Thursday Night Jazz @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Ruckus Hip Hop Jazz: Drummer Rodney Ruckus may have moved to the West Coast, but he’s got plenty of gigs bringing him back to town. Tonight’s show is a double billing with two drum sets on stage, while Ruckus and LA Buckner lead and co-lead different ensembles that fuse jazz and hip hop.
Joel Shapira/Bryan Nichols Trio @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6pm (Shapira, no cover), 8pm (Nichols, $5) the first of two nights of double jazz at the Vieux. Guitarist Joel Shapira will help you while away a pleasant dinner hour before pianist Bryan Nichols and his trio (Jeff Bailey, bass; JT Bates, drums) entertain you with originals and jazz standards.
Friday, May 5
Jon Pemberton/Debbie Duncan @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6:30pm (Pemberton, no cover), 9pm (Duncan, $12) Jon Pemberton kicks off the dinner hour with his inventive and melodic piano playing, after which vocalist Debbie Duncan will take the stage to deliver her sassy brand of jazz.
Fuzzy Math @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) This quintet eatures original, if eclectic jazz originals and creative renditions of pop songs. Back in 2012 they were named “the best jazz act for people bored with jazz” by the wags at City Pages. They are, after all, a fun group with the goal of creating “serious music that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” This will be the Jazz Central debut for mark Vandermyde, keys/compositions; Curtis Lucky, trumpet; Scott Fultz, sax; Eric Graham, bass; and Haralds Bondaris, drums.
Saturday, May 6
Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Opening tonight are The D’Sievers, with John Sievers, trombone; Remi Moulder guitar; Steve Sawyer, bass; and Garrtett Kolb, drums. At 8:30 or so it’s the powerful Eric Kamau Gravatt & Source Code: Gravatt, drums; Solomon Parham, trumpet; Ron Evaniuk, bass; Dean Magraw, guitar; and Dave Graf, trombone. Here is Gravatt playing with McCoy Tyner and Bill Frisell.
Mama Digdown’s Brass Band @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) Mama Digdown has been around for about twenty years, spreading worldwide joy with the creativity of their streetwise brass band music. You can expect traditional New Orleans tunes like Jocomo, and Gloryland, as well as their own version of pop songs like the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back. Since the Madison, WI based group is sometimes supplemented with Twin Cities musicians, there may be guests during the course of the evening.
Sunday, May 7
Bob DeFlores Films: The Big Bands, 1923 – 1950s @ Chanhassen Dinner Theater, Chanhassen. 3pm ($12) Even if you don’t live in the southern ‘burbs, it’s worth the drive to see films from the collection of Bob DeFlores, whose archive of music shorts and “soundies” encompasses all manner of jazz. Today he presents a rich palette of Big Bands, from Rudy Vallee and the Dorsey Brosters, to Woody Herman, Ozzie Nelson, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Ray Anthony, Artie Shaw, and much, much more.
Dan Chouinard and Lucia Newell @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley, 7pm ($10, $35 w/Dinner) Pianist Chouinard and vocalist Newell get together for a special Birthday Club. Not only will they be celebrating the music of composers born during May, but all revenue will go to Global Rights for Women, an organization working to end violence against women worldwide! Here’s Newell performing a Brazilian song.
Dakota Combo Spring Concert @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 7pm ($10) The Dakota Combo is a group of very talented high school students selected each September by open audition to study with bassist Adam Linz for the school year. It’s a program of MacPhail Center for music, supported by the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education. This year’s combo is a quintet: Adam Astrup, guitar; Ivan Cunningham, alto; Riley Swain, baritone; Max Voda, bass; and Simon Petrick, drums. They’ve been hard at it and have already performed at a couple of area schools. It’s safe to say you will likely be blown away by their talent. (Full disclosure: I’m on the board of the Dakota Foundation, which provides the support for this program.)
Monday, May 10
Glenn Zaleski @ Crooner’s Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($15, $40 w/Dinner) Twenty-nine-year old pianist Zaleski has been a first-call sideman in NYC ever since moving there nine years ago. He’s performed and recorded with such stellar performers as Ravi Coltrane and trombonist Michael Dease, among others. He’s featured in the latest issue of DownBeat, where he’s described as someone who is not a traditionalist, but to whom “melody still matters.” The writer goes on to say, “His solos hinge on acute, often linear lines that find their counterweight in subsequent measures, cresting the tension and suspense of a well-wrought story.” This is a solo performance, so you’ve got a chance to see and hear his talent in the comfy, intimate confines of the Dunsmore Room.
Jazz Implosion @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($10) It’s an exciting double bill this evening the Levi Schwartzberg Quartet and Barnacle. Schwartzberg’s young group starts the evening: Levi Schwartzberg, vibes; Patrick Adkins, piano; Drew Stinson, bass; and Tarek Abdelqader, on drums. Then, it’s the return of Barnacle, a two guitar group that was around at the turn of the century, featuring guitarists Jason Goessl, now of Seattle, and Jacob Park Evans, backed by Chris Bates, bass; and Greg Schutte drums.
Tuesday, May 9
Chris Lomheim/Sophia Shorai @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6pm (Lomheim, no cover), 8pm (Shorai, $5) Yet another double dose of jazz, with pianist Chris Lomheim supplying airy, melodic improvisation during the dinner hour, and vocalist Shorai singing in her distinctively vulnerable yet sweet voice.
Blues, Roots, Other…
Wednesday, May 3
Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) So today, Harold’s House Party features this string quartet (plus vocalist) that specializes in Prohibition-era swing. Tune in at 5pm to hear a sample of their music and go to the 331 for a two hour taste of their tunes. I’d say to bring dancing shoes, but it becomes quite crowded in between the tables of the small club.
Kinky Friedman @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 7pm ($30 Advance, $35 Door) Those of you of a certain age may remember Kinky Friedman as a legendary outlaw country singer/songwriter, satirist, novelist, and onetime gubernatorial candidate for Texas. He calls himself the Texas Jewboy, and is currently on the Resurrected Tour, as he calls it, in support of his latest CD, the Loneliest Man I Ever Met. Brian Molnar, of The Naked Hearts, opens. Here’s Kinky, but her aware, he’s not politically correct.
Thursday, May 4
Edgar Winter Band @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45, $65, $75) Since his debut album in 1970, pianist Edgar Winter has always received accolades for his playing, whether it was rock, jazz, blues, or pop. His 1971 album with his horn band White Trash had liner notes by poet/rocker Patti Smith, and enjoyed huge success, as did it’s live follow-up. He then formed the Edgar Winter Group which had the number one Frankenstein, and another chart buster, Free Ride. The album they appeared on, They Only Come Out at Night, peaked at number 3 and was on the charts for 80 weeks. He’s got over 20 albums and collaborative efforts to his credits, and still rocks out as hard as possible.
Paul Thorne @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($30 Advance, $35 Door) Thorne is a former prizefighter, and quite literally, the son of a preacher man which, taken with his Southern upbringing, has given him a unique perspective on life. He’s lived a life that give him plenty of material for songs and often humorous stories, such as I Backslide on Friday, and Mediocrity is King, both of which can be found on his latest album, Too Blessed to Be Stressed.
Swamp Poppas @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($?) While the Poppas can always be depended upon to deliver smart, danceable renditions of songs from New Orleans and South Louisiana, tonight they’re bringing in vocalist Lucinda Plaisance to help deliver some new songs in the repertoire, including Clifton Chenier’s Zydeco Cha Cha, Gene Delafose’s Bou Pon Pon, Irma Thomas’ Ruler of My Heart, Lou Ann Barton’s version of Shake Your Hips, and more.
Friday, May 5
Eilen Jewell @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35) Singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell is a bit hard to categorize. She’s got a sweet voice, with smoky undertones, and an instinctive way with phrasing, which she uses well, whether celebrating the music of Loretta Lynn, rocking out with Shakin’ All Over, or putting a rockabilly twist to some of her own reflective originals.
Suicide Commandos Listening Party @ the Turf Club’s Clown Lounge, Saint Paul. 7pm (No Cover) Back in 1975 a trio of lads decided they didn’t want to play in a cover band, which was what most of the area’s clubs were hiring. Chris Osgood, Dave Ahl, and Steve Almaas were itching with the raw energy of youth, and wanted to play short, loud, original songs. The old Blitz Bar was willing to hire them, and after that, things changed in the Twin Cities music scene. The Suicide Commandos, as the trio named themselves, laid the foundation for groups like the Suburbs, The Replacements, Husker Du, and other groups. Well, it’s forty-two years later. They had long broken up, developed other music and performing careers, and then started reuniting on a sporadic basis over the last couple of decades. Importantly, they recently recorded their second studio album, Time Bomb. The guys will be hosting this listening party, and selling and signing copies of the album. In addition, Cyn Collins will be selling and signing her new book, entitled Complicated Fun, named after a Commandos song. It’s an oral history of Minneapolis punk and indie rock from 1974 – 1984.
Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet @ The Underground Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 7pm – 9pm (Free) Twenty-two years after forming, the Urban Hillbilly Quartet still delivers original Americana and roots rock inspired by folks like David Grisman, Bruce Cockburn, the Jayhawks and The Grateful Dead. The core of the band is Erik Brandt, guitar, accordion, piano, lead vocals; Jeremy Szopinski, electric guitar; Dave Strahan, electric guitar, banjo, & vocals; Mike Schultz, bass; and Jim Orvis, drums.
Saturday, May 6
Saturday Salon @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 3pm ($20) This weeks program of chamber music in a cabaret setting is entitled Lonely Hearts: Music Made in Minnesota. It features two Saint Olaf grads who are active in the Twin Cities choral scene, but who also perform solo. Baritone Harrison Hintzsche and soprano Anna Christofaro will be joined by Matt Harikian on piano to perform acerbic, touching, and sometimes lustful songs by Libby Larsen, David Evans, among others. Small plates and bar service are available during the show, with full dinner available at 4:30pm, for those of us who may not want to go home and cook.
Fourth Annual Minnesota Salsa Fiesta @ Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7pm ($20 Advance, $25 Door) It will be an explosion of hip-shaking Latin rhythms as Charanga Tropical hosts guests from throughout the Twin Cities Latin Music scene. Charanga Tropical will play, of course, along with Cuban-style percussion ensemble Rumba del Norte. Then it will be La Gran Charanga, and 18-piece all star group featuring 6 horns, 5 violins, 4 singers, and a full Latin rhythm section. When doors open at 7pm DJ Prieto from Chicago will spin salsa hits mixed with rare videos. A salsa lesson from Cuban-born instructor Rene Thompson will follow, to help folks dance to the pulsating rhythms produced by the bands.
Denny Laine @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40, $45) Laine was an original member of the Moody Blues, and sang lead on their first hit, Go Now back in 1964. He left the Moody Blues to have his own band, joined Ginger Baker’s Air Force for a bit, and then, with Paul and Linda McCartney, was a founder of Wings, which had 24 hits on the charts in the 70s and received a Grammy for Band on the Run. He co-wrote Mull of McIntyre with Paul and it subsequently became the biggest selling hit of all time in the UK. Tonight he’ll play Band on the Run in its entirety, as well as some other tunes, I presume.
Sunday, May 7
Mayday Festival @ Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis. Noon – 7pm (Free) If you want to see a friend you haven’t seen in a while, they will probably be at the community celebration which is taking place for the 43rd year in a row. The day begins with a parade that travels south on Bloomington Avenue from 25th street and turns to Powderhorn Park on 34th Street. The parade features various community groups as well as giant puppets from Heart of the Beast, all marching to the 2017 MayDay theme: Imagine, Resist, Heal. The Tree of Life Ceremony occurs at 3pm, when the Sun Flotilla paddles the Sun across the park’s lake. There will be music and dancing throughout the day, with entertainment ranging from Morris Dancers and a Women’s Drum Circle, to Savage Aural Hotbed, Prairie Fire Lady Choir and Machinery Hill. Food and merchandise will be available from a plethora of vendors. Here’s a short clip of what you might see in the parade.
Tuesday, May 9
The Blasters @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 7pm ($20 Advance, $25 Door) Back in 1978, as the Punk movement was gaining steam around the country, a group of guys in Los Angeles named themselves the Blasters and combined that energy with rhythm and blues, early rock n’ roll, and rockabilly in an album called American Music. Funding members Phil Alvin, vocals, guitar; John Bass, bass; and Bill Bateman drums, along with guitarist Keith Wyatt, are still rocking audiences into gleeful pools of sweat.