Solstice, Festivus, and Christmas: 12.19 – 12.25

December 19, 2018

The Winter Solstice, when we have the shortest amount of daylight is Friday, while Festivus, the made-up holiday from Seinfeld, is Sunday. Christmas, with its message of hope and good will to mankind, is Tuesday. So… there are gigs celebrating each this week, as well as gigs from area musicians who are home for the holidays. This gives you an opportunity to bring guests to some great gigs, or to take some time for yourself in this super-busy season. After all, Music Lifts Your Spirit!


Wednesday, Dec 19

Winter Solstice with The Laura Caviani Trio @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm Caviani is a pianist whose compositions and arrangements are graceful and swinging. Tonight, in anticipation of Friday’s Solstice, she’ll undoubtedly be updating songs from her 1999 holiday CD, Angels We Haven’t Heard, and her 2007 release, Holly, Jolly and Jazzy, with Chris bates, bass; and Dave Schmalenberger, drums.

Thursday, Dec 20

Stone Arch Jazz Band @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm Traditional, New Orleans style jazz from a seven-piece, horn-heavy group – often danceable, always energizing.

Ylvisaker, Lewis, & Bates @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9:30pm ($5) Drummer JT Bates may have stopped booking the Jazz Implosion, but he continues to deliver a satisfying foundation, and occasional lead, formal manner of groups, including this one with versatile guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker, and bassist, saxophonist Michael Lewis.

Friday, Dec 21

Debbie Duncan & Andrew Walesch: It Must be Christmas @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm The Twin Cities jazz maven and piano-playing crooner join up to celebrate the holiday.

John Raymond/Chris Thompson Group @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. ($10) Not only do the holidays mark the return of college students, but of area musicians who now live elsewhere. Case in point – trumpeter John Raymond, now a Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Indiana University. He’ll be joined by Chris Thomson, sax; Thomas Nordland, guitar; Chris Bates, bass; Pete James Johnson, drums.

Saturday, Dec 22

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm: Owen Finch Group. 8:30pm: John Raymond Feels Trio – Raymond, trumpet; Graydon Peterson, bass; Phil Hey, drums.

Anderson, Lincoln, & Epstein @ Boom Island Brewing, Minneapolis. 7-9pm (Tip Jar) Boom Island Brewing makes Belgian style beers, Pianist Jordan Anderson, bassist Charlie Lincoln, and drummer Jay Epstein create some fine music.

Sunday, Dec 23

Festivus & Other Twisted Holidays @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Pianist Larry McDonough and his quartet host a Festivus for the Rest of Us. Expect an Airing of Grievances, along with music for Festivus Miracle and Feats of Strength, as well as McDonough’s odd takes on holiday music. .

Monday, Dec 24

No jazz shows as far as I can tell, though you might want to check out Deano & the Dinosaurs at Merlin’s Rest (listed below), whose music often veers into jazz territory.

Tuesday – Friday, Dec 25 – 28

Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) The Bad Plus have been having a Christmas stand at the Dakota. Last year marked the last appearance of pianist Ethan Iverson. Orin Evans now holds the piano chair, andhas become an integral part of the band. Rolling Stone called their album “Never Stop II” the number one jazz album of 2018.

For more listings, KBEM provides a calendar of jazz and some roots music.

Blues, Roots, Other

Wednesday, Dec 19

Charlie Parr on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Charlie Parr just may be the most authentic roots/blues musician four time. He grew up without a TV, but made up fort by listening to his dad’s collection of records by Charley Patton, Woody Guthrie, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and other artists who form the foundation of America’s music. His truly authentic sound, which evokes the music of itinerant musicians of the 1930s, strikes a major chord with today’s young audiences.

Thursday, Dec 20

Les Nubians @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30, $35, $40), 9pm ($25, $30, $35) This Franco-African duo blends music from around the world with the rhythms and songs of Africa o create a performance that is both musically and visually stunning.

Friday, Dec 21

Blue Yodel No. 8 @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. (Tip Jar) John Whitehead, guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals; John Her, bass, vocals; and Ross Johnson, guitar, harmonica, & vocals: play an eclectic mix of bluegrass, country, blues, and swing, from artists ranging from Hank Williams and the Delmore Bros to Jimmy Reed and Bob Wills

Tracy Grammer @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. 8pm ($20) Americana/folk artist Tracy Grammer has a pure voice, plays a deft guitar and violin, and excels at storytelling. She’s recorded and performed with Joan Baez and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and enjoyed 12 consecutive years as one of folk radio’s 50 top-played artists, both solo and in a duo with the late Dave Carter. Her eleventh CD, Low Tide, was released earlier this year, and is the first ever to feature her original songs. Opening act Dennis Warner may live in Minnesota but he’s a regular road warrior, performing in over 100 cities a year.

Saturday, Dec 22

Wee Willie Walker @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30pm ($10, $15) I don’t know if Walker, an original soul man, will be doing any seasonal songs, though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Back Door Santa along with his usual mix of classic and modern soul.

10th Annual Yuletide Sweater Ball @ The Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 7pm ($12 Advance, $15 Door) Whether you were un-ironically given a Christmas Sweater, or found an ugly one for events such as this, enjoy an evening of progressive bluegrass and old-times music courtesy of The Pistol Whippin’ Party Penguins; Barbero; and the Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League.

Sunday, Dec 23

Gang of Mischief @ Neumann’s, Saint Paul. 4pm (Tip Jar) Guitarist Paul Mayasich is in the hot seat, Michael Caravale on upright bass, along with Rena Haus, and Papa John Kolstad.

Dee Miller Band: Road to Memphis Fundraiser @ MN Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 2pm ($10?, Donation) Help the Dee Miller Band  et out of town and down to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge in January. To entice your attendance and donations, they’ll be joined by Armadillo Jump; Squishy Mud, & Mark Cameron

Monday, December 24

Jewbilee 2018 @ 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis. 7pm door, 7:30 music ($5 advance, $7 Door) There’s an old saying that for Jews, Christmas means Chinese takeout and a trip to the movies. Well, for 14 years now, Deejay Danny Sigelman has created another Christmas Eve tradition for Jews and non-Jews alike who are looking to attend something non-Christmasy – Jewbilee. This year’s edition features the bands Planet Pookey, Challo, The Rivkinz (Revolution drummer Bobby Z & sons), and Andy Cook, as well as Fancy Ray McClooney and other comedians. You don’t have to be a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel to enjoy this show. All are welcome

Monday, Tuesday, December 24, 25

Deano & The Dinosaurs @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) Not everyone wants (or gets) to spend a whole evening with relatives from near and afar. If you need a break, or simply don’t want to hear any more Christmas music, you’ve got these gigs to attend. Guitarist Deano Mikkelson does his annual show again this year, with two different sets of Dinosaurs. Christmas Eve it’s Joel Shapira, guitar; George Marich, drums; and James Buckley, bass. Christmas night Deano will be joined by Dean Harrington, guitar; Tom Lewis, bass; and Dehl Gallagher, drums. Harmonica master Clint Hoover is expected stop in one or both nights and join in the fun. Note: if you want to order adult beverages, be sure to bring an ID.

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.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays: 12.20 – 12.26

December 20, 2017

Toy Trains at Christmas

Or to put it more humorously and inclusively, Happy Chriskwanzacuh – and don’t forget the celebration of Winter Solstice, since we can look forward to increasing daytime light after Thursday. This is a time of year when a number of faiths and cultures have special celebrations, and if you don’t practice those faiths, you can nevertheless appreciate and even enjoy some of their traditions (including setting up toy trains). You still have the opportunity to hear great music throughout our area, though admittedly, you might have to settle for watching Netflix and getting Chinese takeout on December 25. Besides a couple of holiday shows, we can choose from the last appearance in town by the original Bad Plus, a couple of dance-oriented bands, and some roots music. Whatever your traditions at this time of year, enjoy the season, and remember, music lifts the spirit


Wednesday, Dec 20

Chris Lomheim Quintet @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/valid student ID) Pianist Chris Lomheim gathers Adam Rossmiller, trumpet; Pete Whitman, sax; Graydon Peterson, bass; and Dave Schmalenberger, drums; for an evening of swinging tunes and subtle ballads. Here is what Lomheim sound like in a trio setting.

Fuzzy Math @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul. 10pm (Free) Original eclectic jazz and creative covers from pianist/composer Mark Vandermyde, with Jason Parvey, sax; Matt Peterson, bass; and Harald Bondaris, drums.

Wednesday, Dec 20 – Saturday, Dec 23

The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) Since the turn of this century, Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Kennedy, bass; and Dave King, drums; have been making annual visits to the Dakota to present their iconoclastic jazz, reimagining rock hits and jazz standards while creating songs that are often as quirky as their titles (i.e., 1979 Semi Finalist, Epistolary Echoes). This is the last gig featuring pianist Iverson, who is leaving the group after their New Year’s Eve appearance at the Village Vanguard. His droll wit will be missed, but he’ll be ably replaced by Orrin Evans. Stay tuned….

Thursday, Dec 21

Holiday Piano Bar @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5 w/valid student ID) The “Piano Bar” isn’t really such, since Jazz Central isn’t a bar. Nevertheless curator Sarah M. Greer describes the evening as part open mic, part jam session, and part caroling singalong. Ms Greer will host the evening, aided by pianist Jon de Vall. Bring instruments, charts, your lyric sheets and requests.

Belle Amour Holiday Show @ Vieux Carré  Saint Paul. 8pm ($8) Looking at their website, it appears that this four-piece group – vocalist, keys, bass, drums – seems to specialize in wedding and corporate gigs. It appears that Graydon Peterson is on bass, though I don’t recognize the other performers. Listening to their songs reveals a tight, jumping outfit that plays vintage jazz, including songs from Bessie Smith, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, The Andrew Sisters, and other performers from the 1930s and 40s. Their music is bright, breezy, and fun.

Aerosol Pike @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Acoustic-based spontaneous composition from Philip Mann, Ryan Reber, and Rick Ness on horns (and other instruments?).

Friday, Dec 22

Peter Schimke Trio @ The Lexington, Saint Paul. 7pm (No Cover) The Lexington’s Williamsburg Room can be a bit noisy to fully appreciate the playing of pianist Schimke, who always has A-list players with him. Just sit close, enjoy a cocktail, and relax after doing your holiday shopping.

John Raymond’s Standards Trio @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5 w/valid student ID) Minneapolis native Raymond is a trumpeter/flugelhorn player who was called a “Rising Star” by no less than DownBeat Magazine. His four albums have all been well received by the NY Times, Downbeat, and Jazz Times. He’s currently Professor of Trumpet at Indiana University. His trip home provides us with a chance to hear him, accompanied by Graydon Peterson, bass; and Phil Hey, drums. Here he is with his New York group.

Saturday, Dec 23

Bill Carrothers @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 6:30pm ($15, $20) Carrothers, a pianist whose imagination is always inventive and far-ranging, seems to have fallen in love with the Dunsmore Room, as the Saint Paul native makes the trip from Michigan quite frequently to appear in various groups. He’s recorded 26 albums as a leader and has appeared as a sideman with a wide range of jazzers including Buddy DeFranco, Dave Douglas, Curtis Fuller, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Konitz, Dewey Redmanm, Toots Thielman, and more. He’ll be appearing solo to play on the 9-foot Steinway at the intimate listening room.

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Guitarist Cole Mahlum opens at 7pm, leading his own group. At 8:30pm bassist Ted Olsen appears with frequent collaborators Javi Santiago on piano; Miguel Hurtado, drums; and saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom.

Sunday, Monday, Dec 24, 25

Merry Christmas! Enjoy a technicolor Christmas at the movies, or a Chinese meal for those who don’t practice the Christian faith.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Dec 26, 27

Connie Evingson: Holiday @ Dunsmore Lodge, Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($22) With its view of a snow-covered lake, the Dunsmore will easily bring to mind a cozy country lodge as Ms Evingson, of the cool, yet sultry voice, celebrates the season, accompanied by Mary Louise Knutson, piano; Dave Karr, sax & flute; and Gordy Johnson, bass. Here’s a cut from her gorgeous Christmas album.

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, Dec 20

Ben Eaton on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Roots/Americana songwriter/guitarist Eaton is a native of Des Moines who now lives in Minneapolis. He’s working on a 5-song EP with drummer Dwight Dario, who used to live around here, and Matt Woods. Tonight he’ll have a 4-piece band with him, featuring guitarist/drummer Jeremy Johnson.

Thursday, Dec 21

Draper-Beckmen-Kiesling @ The Dubliner Pub & Cafe, Saint Paul. 5pm – 7pm (Tip Jar) The Twin Cities hardest-working washboard player teams up with bassist-around-town Liz Draper and Adam Kielsing (of Pert Near Sandstone) to play old-time music, country blues, early jazz, and maybe a holiday tune or two for your happy hour pleasure.

Friday, Dec 22

Steve Clarke & The Working Stiffs @ Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($5?, $10?) Blues, swing, jump, jive, & jazz for dancing in the Ernie Mattson Ballroom at the commodious Eagles Club.

Nikki & the Ruemates @ Dusty’s Bar, NE Minneapolis. 9:45pm (Tip Jar) Though Dusty’s is under new ownership, they remain committed to providing the rootsy groups that have been appearing there for years. Example number 1: Nikki & the Rue-mates, whose folk-blue-rock has long been a Dusty’s favorite, often packing the place while they play in the “big green booth.” Nikki’s clarion voice and Rich Rue’s terrific fretwork are always a treat, with the added delight of guitarist Dean Mikkelson often sitting in to accompany Nikki on a jazz standard or two.

Saturday, Dec 23

Steeling Dan @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) You say you want to hear some heady, sometimes inscrutable lyrics, performed with cool, jazzy pop? Then this Steely Dan Tribute Band may deliver just what you need.

Joyann Parker Band @ Crooners’ Lounge and Supper Club, Fridley. 8pm (No cover, but $10 guaranteed seat) Vocalist/pianist/guitarist Parker has a powerful blues and R&B voice that’s just right for the Pre-Christmas Saturday night crowd at Crooners. She’s been making her mark on the Twin Cities Blues scene for the last few years, and represented Minnesota in the 2015 International Blues Challenge. Her 2015 album, On the Rocks, was named Best Self-Produced Album by the MN Blues Society.

Sunday, Dec 24

Enjoy Christmas Eve!

Monday, Dec 25

Christmas With Robert Robinson @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25, $35) Get your gospel groove on with the highly popular and one-of-a-kind Robinson, who gets rave reviews wherever he appears. Some examples: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal called him “a volcanic talent,” while the Salt Lake City Desert New called his performance “glorious,” and the Star Tribune described him as a “soaring presence.”

Tuesday, Dec 26

Willie West @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($12) Louisiana-born Willie West is a classic soul singer who recorded for Allen Toussaint with the score for the blaxploiotation film Black Samson, and later worked with The Meters in the late 70s and early 80s. He then worked all over Bourbon Street until Hurricane Katrina, after which he moved to Saint Cloud, where he currently lives. In the last few years he’s recorded with some Finnish funk/soul groups (see video), and still has the vocal prowess and emotional power that makes a soul singer a soul singer.

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.

Herald the Holidays: 12.21 – 21.27

December 21, 2016
Holiday lights in Rice Park

Holiday lights in Rice Park

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a Joyous Kwanzaa. And a happy late December season to everyone else, whether you are people of faith, agnostics or atheists. The arrival of Christmas means there is little public music on Saturday and Sunday, but there are still some pre-Christmas holiday shows, as well as some first rate music for you to enjoy. Music lifts the Spirit.


Wednesday, December 21

Nachito Herrera & The Universals @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35 – $45) As I wrote last week, even if you’ve seen the dazzling Cuban American pianist Nachito Herrera before, you likely haven’t seen him in this setting, with a group of musicians that can match his energy and wide-ranging musical interests. Violinist Karen Briggs has worked for many years with Yanni, and can go from classical music to gypsy jazz on a dime; Saxophonist Mike Phillips has worked with Prince and Steve Wonder; while Cuban drummer Raul Pineda and Senegal bassist Cheikh Nkoye provide the groups’ thundering heartbeat. All have deep resumes, are supremely conversant in a number of styles, and will no doubt create exhilarating music.  You can hear a phone interview I did with Nachito here, just click on the link for December 17. The interview occurs in the third (last) half hour of the show.

Retro Swing Sister’s Jingle Bell Ball @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($7) Swing dancing is the order of the day as the charming and sophisticated vocal stylings of Maryann Sullivan and Rhonda Laurie bring dancers to the floor to help ring in the holidays with the help of Bob Byers, sax; Tom Lewis, bass; Robert Bell, guitar; and Trevor Haining, drums. They and the band will be swinging through some standards and some holiday music, and as an extra special attraction, they are encouraging folks to dress up in their best holiday duds, with prizes for the best outfits.

Thursday, December 22

Thursday Night Jazz @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Though the Twin Cities seems to be teeming with great jazz groups, as evinced by the recent release of the 14 track Twin Cities Jazz Sampler Vol. 2, there are some up and coming musicians who are currently off in college and playing on their return for the holidays. Case in point: Hoaxer, with Will Kjeer, piano; Charlie Lincoln, bass; Peter Goggin, alto; and Edmund Catlin, drums.

Katia Cardenas @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($8 Cash only) High energy vocalist Cardenas was recently in Colorado, where she sang as part of her mom’s CD release. Her father is also a musician, so she was surrounded by music growing up. For the last couple of years she’s been performing throughout the Twin Cities area, using a combination of R&B and Jazz to reach a wide audience. She’ll be celebrating the season with jazz, Latin, and holiday favorites.

Will Schmid Quartet @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7:30 – 9:30pm (Tip Jar) This is the debut of another group of up and coming  players on holiday leave from college, featuring Schmid, guitar; Patrick Adkins, piano; Alma Engebretson, bass; Jesse Thorson, drums.

Thursday, Friday, December 22, 23

The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) It’s Christmas week, so the Bad Plus must be back at the Dakota, for what is now their 15th or 16th annual show, the first one occurring just before they broke on the worldwide jazz scene. Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; and Dave King, drums are all from Minnesota and Wisconsin, though Iverson and Anderson make their homes in NYC. Their collective approach to performing crosses boundaries and genres in unexpected ways, whether doing originals, classical music, or new interpretations of tunes by artists such as Johnny Cash or Peter Gabriel. Rolling Stone calls them “about as badass as highbrow gets.”

Friday, December 23

King Baron Hot Several @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10 Cash only) This band seems to be an outgrowth of the Jazzland Wonderband, with an additional singer and a new drummer. It’s a New Orleans inspired band, with a bit of second-line, a bit of trad jazz, and a contemporary sound of their own. You get powerful vocals from Cameron Kinghorn, who also plays trumpet; and Abbie Mills; with the versatile Nelson Devereaux on reeds; Keith Hilson trombone; Evan Clark, tuba; and Lars-Erik Larson on drums. Here they are in the older configuration.

Saturday, December 24

No jazz on Christmas Eve.

Sunday Monday, December 25, 26

The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($40) This is the second part of a four night stand over Christmas for the Bad Plus  performing what is now their 15th or 16th annual show. Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; and Dave King, drums are all from Minnesota and Wisconsin, though Iverson and Anderson make their homes in NYC. Their collective approach to performing crosses boundaries and genres in unexpected ways, whether doing originals, classical music, or new interpretations of tunes by artists such as Johnny Cash or Peter Gabriel. Rolling Stone calls them “about as badass as highbrow gets.”

Monday, December 26

Andrew Schwandt @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Schwandt is a saxophonist with a big, warm sound, who can be heard with Fuzzy Math, the MN Hardbop Collective, and Steeling Dan, among others. As usual, Mondays at Jazz Central give musicians a chance to play new music, or whatever they want. In the past he’s appeared with Ted Godbout on piano, and Graydon Peterson on bass, though I’m not sure who’ll be with him tonight. Here he is with a group called Story City.

Tuesday, December 27

Nancy Harms & Jeremy Siskind @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($22, $47), 9pm ($15) After two sold-out shows in April, Ms Harms returns to the Dunsmore Room along with pianist Jeremy Siskind  The Clara City, MN born Harms lived in the Twin Cities at the beginning of her journey as a jazz singer, impressing jazz fans from throughout the area. Since moving to NYC in 2010, she’s appeared at a number of the Big Apple’s more famous nightclubs, but more importantly, has established herself in Europe, often spending weeks in Denmark, France, London, and elsewhere. She’s an expressive, yet reserved singer, who puts herself into every song, bringing knowing nuance to old chestnuts and new songs alike, as amply demonstrated on her album Ellington at Night. Famed jazz critic Walt Friedwald, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said, “…after hearing her just once, you’ll never want to let her go.” If you’ve any interest in vocal jazz, you will want to see Harms perform. Here she is at what I believe is a French radio station.

Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5 w/Student ID) This is more or less an open rehearsal, but don’t fear, there’s more rhythm and kicking’ horn lines than there is talking. Plus, you’re pretty much surrounded by the musicians, for an immersive listening experience.

Tuesday, Wednesday, December 27, 28

Rio Nido @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35 Tues, Wed), 9pm ($25 Wed) A beloved trio, Rio Nido came out of the West Bank music scene of the late 70s, with their unique blend of voices and a repertoire of songs from the 30s and 40s. After a decades long hiatus, they started returning to performing a year or so ago, welcomed so much that a third show was added for this gig. Prudence JohnsonTom Lieberman  and Tim Sparks are successful performers in their own right:, Johnson as a singer with more than a dozen recordings to her credit, as well as extended appearances on Prairie Home Companion; Lieberman as a producer and songwriter, and Sparks as an award-winning guitarist who’s equally at home with folk, jazz, country blues, and gospel. You can hear an interview I did with Sparks and Lieberman here, just click on the link for December 17. The interview occurs in the first half hour of the show. Here they are many years ago/

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, December 21

Pat Donohue & Friends on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Guitarist Pat Donohue won the 1983 National Fingerpicking Contest, and was part of the house band on Prairie Home Companion for about 20 years, a gig which had him bringing a new song to the show each week. He also got to play with folks like Doc Watson, Brad Paisley, and others, including Chet Atkins, who inspired his song, Stealing From Chet. Though Donohue considers himself a folk guitarist, his fingerpicking style encompasses old blues, swing, R&B, and often-witty originals, such as Rubs Me the Right Way, filled with playful puns about getting a massage. Tune in and then head over to the 331 Club to hear more.

Erica West Band @ Crooners Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. 7pm (No Cover) A tight band and soulful, strong vocals make for an entertaining evening of music. Erica West is a silky, sensuous, and powerful singer. Her husband Kevin Anderson is the guitarist and leader of the band, creating a band that’s in deep sync with West.

Thursday, December 22

Dumpstaphunk @ The Hook & Ladder Theater and Lounge, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($25 Advance, $30 Door) If the New Year is near, Mardis Gras season is not far behind, and Dumpstaphunk is bringing the New Orleans groove and funk to Minneapolis to help us prepare. This group has great lineage, being led by Ivan Neville on keys; with Ian Neville on guitar; the double bass attack of Tony Hall and Nick Daniels; and drums by Alvin Ford Jr. They started in 2003 with a one-off gig at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and since then have played at some of the world’s largest music festivals, including Bonnaroo. We no longer have The Meters, James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, and Booker T and the MGs, but we do have Dumpstaphunk, a group that’s as funky as you can get, as you can tell from this video.

Friday, December 23

Katie McMahon’s Celtic Christmas 2016 @ The O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($28) Soprano Katie McMahon was the featured soloist with Riverdance, that worldwide touring hit of the 90s. Each year since 2000, when the Irish native settled in the Twin Cities, she has presented her family-friendly Celtic Christmas show of traditional Christmas songs, Gaelic Carols, English Carols, stories, and Irish dance. This year’s show features the Kantorei Choral Ensemble, singing German and Austrian music, as well as the Corda Mor Dancers, a troupe of about 20 young people, three backup singers, and her long time band: Karen Mueller, autoharp, guitar, and hurdy-gurdy; Zack Kline, fiddle; Marc Anderson, percussion: and new member Jane Cords O’Hara on cello. It’s often sold out, so call the auditorium at Saint Catherine University to check for seats.

Ronn Easton & Friends @ Famous Daves, Minneapolis. 9pm ($8) Ronn Easton is a musical entrepreneur and fine R&B singer who has been responsible for some great Revues at the Parkway. Tonight he’s joined by Deb Brown and Aisha Baker on vocals; Kenyari Jackson, drums; Will Glasper, bass, Deevo Dee, guitar; Brian Neilsen, keys; and Walter Chancellor Jr, saxophones. Expect some Funky Jazz & R&B Classics, along with plenty of room for dancing.

Patty & The Buttons Holiday Show @ The Aster Cafe River Room, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10) Patty & the Buttons play for brunch-minded swing dancers at the cafe every Sunday. Tonight they bring their hot rhythm, trad jazz, Western Swing, ragtime, and other rollicking music to the River Room. There are only 40 seats, but there is also standing room. So make a reservation or get there early if you aren’t dancing.  BTW, the River Room only has bar service.

Saturday, Sunday, December 24, 25

Deano & the Dinosaurs @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8:30 – Midnight. (Tip Jar) This is certainly a comfortable gig for listeners and band members alike, with guitarist Dean Mikkelson leading a different group of musicians each evening. I’m not certain, but this may be the only music event on Christmas Eve, but it would be a great gig to see anytime. As for Sunday, it’s only one of two events that I’m aware of.

Sunday, Monday, December 25, 26

The Combo @ Bunker’s, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($7) Bring out your visiting relatives and friends to hear the Combo tear through R&B dance jams from the 70s, 80s, and now. If your friends and relatives need convincing, let them know that Prince used to show up, bringing potential band members to learn from watching the Combo, aka Mombo’s Combo. After all, they’ve been at it for decades, and yet the group is always exciting, and always fun. Added attraction: you never can tell who will show up to sit in.

Monday, December 26

Merry Cajun Christmas @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 10:30pm ($?) If you’ve been gathering calories over the weekend, here’s a chance to work them off, and still be home relatively early in case you have to work in the morning. The insistent, irresistible beat of Cajun music will have you up and dancing, as the twin fiddles of Eric Mohring and Gary Powell; along with the stomach steinway of Shawn Glidden; provide the impetus for moving, ably abetted by Karen Kleinspehn, guitar; Karl Smelker, bass; AJ Srubas, steel guitar; and Andre Mohring, drums.

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.

Holiday Music: 12.23 – 12.29

December 23, 2015

Greetings and salutations;

Swedish Pancakes: My own holiday tradition

Swedish Pancakes: My own holiday tradition

For many, this is a hectic, if joyful, time of year, as families and friends gather to celebrate various, but mostly, Christmas traditions. I’ve been informed by Santa, aka Davis Wilson, that many of the world’s 5000 religions have celebrations of one sort or another during this season, as we go from Winter Solstice to ever-increasing days of light. Whether your celebrations include worship services, lighting candles, special food, storytelling, feats of strength, gathering outside, helping at homeless shelters, or even toy trains, accept my wish for a happy and fulfilling holiday. There are plenty of opportunities to relax and/or rejuvenate with music, which of course, lifts the spirit.


Wednesday, December 23

Retro Swing Sister @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm – 11pm ($5) Retro-Style Swing with a modern twist from Maryann Sullivan and Rhonda Laurie. There’ll be some dancing, oh yes, there will. Listen to some samples of their singing here.

George Maurer Group Holiday Show @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7 pm ($15) The Saint Cloud-based jazz pianist rightfully calls himself a collaborated, since he’s composed movie scores, and worked with Eric Clapton, and many Twin Cities vocalists, among others. His holiday show at the Dakota, which features a six piece band plus a second vocalist, is always a hit. Here’s some examples.

Cold Fusion @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation, students free with valid ID) This is a project from saxophonist Pete Whitman  who’s recruited Steve Kenny, Flumpet; Chris Olson, guitars; Ron Evanuik, bass; and Reid Kennedy drums; to swing on originals and straight ahead compositions.

Thursday, December 24

Swingbeat Big Band @ Wabasha Caves, Saint Paul. 7pm – 11pm ($7 cash) There may not be much happening for music tonight, but don’t despair. If you’ve wrapped all your presents, prepped all your cooking, (even if you haven’t) and are ready to let off steam, the swing dance scene at Wabasha Caves has you covered, and the Swingbeat Big Band will set your toes tapping.

Friday – Monday, December 25 – 28

The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($40) Though based in New York, this trio is originally from the Midwest. In fact, drummer Dave King still lives here in the Twin Cities. When they first did a show at the old Dakota, around the turn of the Century, King, along with pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Kennedy, had just recorded an album which subsequently received a rave review in the New York Times. Since that $5 show, booked because all three were home of the holidays, the Bad Plus has recorded ten CDs and traveled the world headlining major clubs and generally causing some jazz fans heads to explode while bringing a whole new audience to the genre. Two examples of what critics say. From Rolling Stone: “It’s about as badass as highbrow gets.” From The New York Times: “Better than anyone at mixing the sensibilities of post-60s jazz and indie rock…”

Saturday, December 26

Judi Vinar w/the Wolverines Quartet @ Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, Fridley. 7:30 – 10:30pm. (No Cover) So, you’re stuffed with food and don’t want to cook. And, perhaps, you’re in need of some time outside the house. Here’s the answer, Vocalist Judi Vinar (Judi Donaghy) will sing for you, with the help of Jundeen Forberg, drums; Steve Pikal, bass; Rick Carlson, piano; and Doug Haining, sax. Here she is with a big band.

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) Opening set by Iron Chops: Jon Wood, guitar; Dave Brattain, saxes; Mac Santiago, drums; and Graydon Peterson, bass. Then a very special edition of FRAMEWORKChris Olson  guitar; Chris Bates  bass; Jay Epstein  drums, will be playing their originals and selected covers with special guest Steve Kenny on Flumpet.

Monday, December 28

Edmund Caitlin Trio, featuring Levi Schwartzberg and Charlie Lincoln @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Here’s a trio of young players: Leader Edmund Caitlin, drums; Levi Schwartzberg, vibes; and Charlie Lincoln, bass. Despite (or due to) the fact that they aren’t old enough to drink yet, they can improvise, compose, and arrange with ease. Tonight they’re playing music from the universe of Thelonious Monk.

JT Bates Release Party @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8) JT is releasing his long awaited solo project, “Open Relationships.” Though primarily a solo project, written and performed by JT, it has a few contributions from guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker and electronic/noise artist Mark McGee. 1st Set: Mankwe Ndosi + Davu Seru. 2nd Set: JT Bates Open Relationships. 3rd Set: Padhandlers (Ryan Olson and James Buckley)

Tuesday, December 29

Jake Baldwin Quartet @ The Dunsmore Room in Crooners, Fridley. 7pm ($15 Minimum p/p) The Dunsmore Room is proving to be an ideal place to listen to jazz. Baldwin is a young trumpet player who has been making a name for himself about town since graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music a couple of years ago. He plays in a variety of bands and combos, including R&B, Brass Bands, and the Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra. It’s in jazz, though, where he shines. Joining him tonight are three musicians with whom he’s worked a lot: Ted Godbout, piano; Ted Olsen, bass; and Andres Crovetti, drums. Here’s Jake in a recital when still in school.

For a comprehensive listing of Jazz go to the Twin Cities Live Jazz Calendar. 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, December 23

The Social Animals on KFAI and at The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 and 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club, Tip Jar) This Portland quartet recently finished an album produced by Steve Berlin, of Los Lobos, a good choice for their indie/Americana sound. Their website bio abounds with funny sarcasm, though their lyrics more straight-forwardly address relationships and the vicissitudes of a relatively young life.

Katy Vernon’s Holiday Residency @ the Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. ($8) Tonight the charming singer/songwriter will feature Jake Rowan on uke and vocals. I had the two of them on my show this past Saturday, which you can hear by going here. They’ll be joined by a couple of more friends to play Christmas music, as well as some non-seasonal music, and conduct an Ugly Sweater Contest with the audience. Check out Katy’s simple, yet effective version of a Beatles song.

A Trashy Little Christmas @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm ($20 Advance) After so many years at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, the honky tonkin’ Trailer Trash has had to move it’s weekly X-mas shows to a variety of venues. The Eagles Club should provide plenty of room for dancing and commandeering the Candy Cane. Advance tickets are available on the website.

Friday, December 25

Deano and the Dinosaurs @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8pm (Tip Jar) Cool out at the end of a hectic day with the solid stylings of under-appreciated guitarist Dean Mikkelson, who will be joined by drummer Dehl Gallagher, bassist Josh Granowski, and fellow plectorist Dean Harrington for an evening of blues and perhaps a bit of jazz standards. Bring your ID if you want adult beverages.

Mambo’s Combo @ Bunker’s, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($10) Dance off the food you’ve eaten early in the day with the solid Soul, Funk, and danceable rock from this long-lived band that always delivers, and always has guests get up and play.

Saturday, December 26

The Escape Claus @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) The colorful-sneaker-wearing Dean Mikkelson returns to Merlin’s for a second night, this time with a different group of musical treasures. I’ve listed a possible name for the group, but it could change. Nevertheless, it includes guitarist Bobby E, as well as Cody McKinney, bass; and Pete Hennig, on drums. With this much talent, you’re sure to have a good time, especially considering the wide variety of beers and Irish Whiskeys that Merlin carries. Be sure to have your ID.

Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers @ Bunker’s, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($10) Mick Sterling and his ten-piece band present some blue-eyed soul that will have you dancing.

The Irish Brigade @ The Dubliner, Saint Paul. 9pm (Tip Jar) It’s less than three months to Saint Patrick’s Day. Start appreciating Irish music now in a venue that couldn’t be better suited to the sound of this duo.

Saturday, Sunday, December 26, 27

Victorian Christmas Carols @ The JJ Hill House, Saint Paul. 6pm – 8:30pm ($12) Costumed singers explore the rise of Christmas Carols during the 19th Century. There’s light refreshments and tours following the one-hour concert. You can find more information here.

Sunday, December 27

Gang of Mischief @ Neumann’s Bar, North Saint Paul. 4pm (tip jar) Papa John Kolstad, Harold Tremblay, and their bluesy, rootsy friends help you while away the afternoon at the oldest continually operating bar in the state.

Pat Donahue @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 8pm ($15) Donahue is a champion finger-picker whose tunes have been recorded by Chet Atkins, Suzy Boguss, and Kenny Rogers. He spent 20 years as the house guitarist on the Prairie Home Companion, and had Wynton Marsalis sit in with him and the Guys All Star Shoe Band in Berlin. More recently, he recorded a cool blues album with Butch Thompson. At any moment he might be playing blues, folk, or jazz, or some combination of the three.

Tuesday, Wednesday, December 29,30

The New Standards @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($30 – $40) This trio has really gained fans and raves since they debuted about ten years ago (their new CD is called Decade) and started playing acoustic/jazzy versions of hits from 80s, and now also breathe life into unexpectedly modern songs. Chan Poling, piano (Suburbs); John Munson,  bass (Semisonic, and Trip Shakespeare); and Steve Roehm, vibes (Billygoat, Electropolis); found a winning formula. Their annual holiday shows with guests from throughout the music industry sell out at local concert halls sell out.

Wednesday, December 30

The Eddies on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 and 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club, Tip Jar) Perhaps the last tradition of the year. Saint Paul’s Eddies cross the river to appear on Harold Tremblay’s House Party and then head over to the 331 Club to sing 5 part a cappella harmonies on sea chanties, and easy-to-sing-along favorites, from the Rolling Stones to Billy Joe Royal, and Bob Marley.


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.

It’s a White Christmas Somewhere. Music: 12.24 – 12.31

December 24, 2014
A visitor to the town of Muddy Waters. Photo by Kelle Green

A visitor to the town of Muddy Waters. Photo by Kelle Green

Well, the big day is upon us. Hopefully, you’ve survived shopping, cooking, office parties, and the like to remember this as the only time of year when we unabashedly wish people well. There are, as may be expected few choices for music on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you don’t celebrate the day, you’ll likely end up at a movie and eating Asian food. However, the rest of the week holds plenty of promise, not to forget New Year’s Eve. I’ve included a few options for next Wednesday, just to give everyone a chance to plan.

So, though it’s likely to be a brown Christmas here in the Twin Cities, it’s a White Christmas somewhere, even if it’s a holiday train display, as shown. So, to wish you a Happy Holiday, here’s a song written 1940 by a Russian Jewish composer living in Los Angeles, performed in 1954 by a group of African Americans, and animated in 2007 by someone who loved this version of White Christmas.

Have a great day. Remember Music can lift the Spirit


Wednesday, December 24

Bob Bowman Christmas Spectacular @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Bowman is a Kansas City bassist who is perhaps best known in these parts for his recording and touring work with Karrin Allyson. In the 70s he was a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Leis Orchestra and the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band. He’s toured with Carmen McCrae and performed with Freddie Hubbard, Bud Shank, and others. After playing at the Dakota with Allyson on Sunday and Monday, Bowman will be joined tonight by Brian Roessler, bass; Brandon Wozniak, sax; and Peter Hennig, drums; to play originals and some promised surprises. Here he is with a trio.

Thursday – Sunday, December 25 – 28

The Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm, 9pm ($40) The Bad Plus are Dave King, drums; Ethan Iverson, piano; and Reid Anderson, bass. They have been playing the Dakota at Christmastime for about 15 years now. They were unknowns when they started this tradition and now command headline status at festivals and clubs around the world. Their music is hard to describe to casual music listeners: It’s jazz, but more than that. They turn pop songs upside down and inside out; they tackle classic compositions with an indie-rock attitude; and they create often humorous, intelligent originals.

Friday, December 26

Good Vibes Trio @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Chris Bates, bass; Dave Hagedorn, vibes, and Phil Hey, drums released a wonderful CD early this year, featuring originals as well as tunes from Mingus, Coltrane, David Berkman, and Freddie Hubbard. Here’s a chance to hear them in the intimate confines of Jazz Central, where the shimmering sounds of Hagedorn’s vibes, the snap of Hey’s cymbals, and the warmth of Bates’ bass can be readily enjoyed.

Saturday, December 27

Aaron Hedenstrom CD Release @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 5:30pm workshop, 7pm concert ($10) Saxophonist and composer Aaron Hedenstrom has been composing, arranging, and performing music professionally for over a decade. He has recently recorded his first album as a saxophonist, “A Moment of Clarity,” on Shifting Paradigm Records, the new Twin Cities label. The album features Aaron’s elaborate but heartfelt compositions and includes some of the most talented young musicians in the country. Come early for a free master class with Aaron Hedenstrom, and stay for the concert with Zacc Harris, guitar; Bryan Nichols, piano; Graydon Peterson, bass; and Brian Claxton, drums. I will have Aaron on my show Saturday morning (90.3 & 106.7FM – 10:30am – Noon)

Fat Kid Wednesdays @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation) Saturday Jazz at the Black Dog continues with this post-Christmas gig by FKW, whose members are so busy with other projects that they no longer play regularly. Enjoy their inside/outside approach to familiar and original tunes. Mike Lewis, sax; Adam Linz, bass; JT Bates, drums. The evenings bonus: an opening set by the Steve Kenny Trio.

James Wallace @ Ngon Vietnames Bistro, University & Avon, Saint Paul. 7pm – 11pm. (No Cover) Saxophonist James “Jimmyapolis” Wallace has been playing around the Twin Cites for decades. Lately he’s been showing up at the Ngon and other unlikely venues to play standards and more with a small group of mostly veteran players.

Laura Caviani & Bob Bowman @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Caviani is a delightfully inventive pianist who has often played and occasionally toured with Karrin Allyson, where she met bassist Bob Bowman. This promises to be a very different, if equally enjoyable show, the Bowman’s show at Jazz Central on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 28

Connie Evingson @ The Jungle Theater, Minneapolis. 4pm, 7:30pm ($25) Some more holiday music for you. This time it’s a Holiday on Golden Pond, as Ms Evingson performs a jazz concert of holiday songs with the cabin set of On Golden Pond as a backdrop.  Selections will include some lesser known holiday gems like the “Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing,” from the film White Christmas, as well as one of my favorites, her own “Nutcracker Petite Suite.” She’ll be accompanied by Tanner Taylor, piano (visiting from Iowa); Dave Karr, sax; and Gordon Johnson, bass.

Monday, December 29

Wozniak, Nichols, & Bates @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8) That’s Brandon Wozniak, sax; Bryan Nichols, piano, and JT Bates, drums. They’ve worked together in many different configurations, so tonight should feature some pretty seamless, and outstanding, music.

Rhonda Laurie & Robert Bell @ Barbette, Minneapolis. 10pm (No Cover) Laurie’s sophisticated vocals go well with Bell’s understated guitar work. When you add in an outstanding happy hour, you end up with a relaxed, enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, December 30

KC Gospel Orchestra @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) The KC Gospel Orchestra (KCGO) has been swinging in the Twin Cities since the summer of 1995, under the direction of leader/writer/arranger Kevin Mills. Expect some  Christmas Big Band arrangements by Kevin Mills and KCGO bassist Pete Karstad, plus selections from the great Los Angeles arranger Tom Kubis of LA.

Wednesday, December 31

Early New Year’s @ the Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 5pm – 8pm  (Tip Jar) This is a family-friendly event designed to let you celebrate the arrival a New Year and still get home in time to put the kids to bed and avoid tipsy revelers on the road. w/Todd Harper, piano; Nathan Hanson, sax; Brian Roessler, bass; & Davu Seru; drums.

Tribute to Sinatra @ The Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm – Midnight (No Cover) JoAnn Funk and her husband, singer Steve Marking present a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes, himself, with bassist Jeff Brueske and drummer Nathan Norman joining in the fun.

Davina & the Vagabonds @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 6pm ($102), 10:30pm ($82) Yes, it is spendy, but Davina and her band put on a rousing show, to say the least, and at the 6pm show you get a five-course dinner (vegetarian option available), and at the 10:30 show you get a complimentary champagne toast and $20 voucher good for food or drinks.

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…

Thursday, December 25

The Butanes @ Shaws, NE Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar). Okay, so I found out about this late, so you do have a place to escape if you’re looking for something other than a movie. Heck, this weekly gig is fun no matter what the time of year. So go hear some blues, dance a bit, and meet old and new friends.

Friday, December 26

Rena Haus Trio @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 10am – 1pm (No Cover) Let someone else serve you brunch today, while you listen to Ms Haus, her brother Bob, and guitarist Ed Petsche, as she sings blues from the heart as all as the head. Here she is doing an atypical tune for her.

Boogie Wonderland @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Get your 70s disco on, with this six piece band that channels Earth, Wind, and Fire, Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, et al. A good way to dance off the calories from your holiday meals.

Friday, Saturday, December 26, 27

Paul Metsa’s Blue Guitar Highway – The Musical @ The Phoenix Theater, 2605 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. 8pm ($15 – $25, $10 Students) Since publishing Blue Guitar Highway in 2011, Paul has worked with  Jim Stowell to turn some of the stories in the book into musical theater. He’ll be joined by musicians Willie Walker, Sonny Earl, Mari Harris, Randi Starr Hudson, and Dave Maslow at the old Brave New Workshop on Hennepin.

Saturday, December 27

Papa John Kolstad & Clint Hoover @ The Gingko Coffee House, Saint Paul. 8pm ($14) Harpmaster Clint Hoover  is fluent in a number of styles using both the Diatonic (Blues Harp) and the Chromatic Harmonica. He’s back in town for the holidays and his hooking up with his long-time playing partner, Papa John  The two recorded “Alive and Well at the Gingko” here, showcasing their musicality in jazz, blues, and folk music. Then too, you have Papa John’s way with a story to entertain you as well. Seating is limited, so you may want to consider buying tickets in advance. Here’s Papa John by himself.

Armadillo Jump @ Shaw’s, NE Minneapolis. 9pm (No Cover) So how much have you overeaten during the last few weeks? You can burn off lots of calories with the rockin’ sax and guitar driven blues of Armadillo Jump  even if the dance floor at Shaw’s is tiny. Just move a few of the tables.

Sunday, December 28

Who Nu @ Jimmy’s Food & Drink, 1132 County Rd E, East, Vadnais Heights. 2:30pm. Some highly danceable R&B for a Sunday afternoon.

Gang of Mischief @ Neumann’s Bar & Grill, North Saint Paul. 4pm (Tip Jar) Papa John Kolstad leads this motley crew of excellent players. The number and the members may change from time to time, but Hurricane Harold and Doug Otto are two of the regulars that Papa John calls on to perform various and sundry mostly acoustic blues.

Monday, December 29

Willie Murphy Blues Jam @ The Richfield American Legion, Richfield. 7pm  (Tip Jar) You never know just who will show up to jam with Willie  It might be someone with a washtub bass, or a trumpet, or guitar. Doesn’t matter. Willie certainly knows how to make the best of an ever changing situation, and his listeners benefit. Check out this video from one of his jam sessions.

Jumbo Ya Ya @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($5?) There’s nothing quite like Cajun and Zydeco dancing to get the heart racing, what with their twirls, spins, and dips, and Jumbo Ya Ya is just the group to provide the music.

Wednesday, December 31

The Eddies on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) It’s become a tradition, as Saint Paul’s Eddies cross the river to bring sea chanties, work songs, and death ballads to the young and the restless (as well as the old & sedentary) that often inhabit the 331 on early Wednesday evenings. Start your NYE partying by tuning in the the House Party on KFAI and then heading over to the 331.

Nikki & the Ruemates @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 6pm – 9pm (No Cover) Another way to start off your New Year’s celebration is with Nikki & the Ruemates, bringing Nikki’s wonderful vocals, and Rich Rue’s imaginative guitar to the unique downtown restaurant. As I often warn, try to get a table near the stage, since the boisterous activity throughout the restaurant can make listening a bit difficult.

Tim Sparks, Phil Heywood, & Tim O’Keefe Dinner Set @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 6:30pm – 8:30pm  (No Cover) Another dining while listening option is the Icehouse, where guitar wizards Tim Sparks and Phil Heywood will hold forth. They’ve been playing together quite a bit lately, but tonight they’re joined by multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Keefe, whose presence will undoubtedly create some aural surprises.

Hipshaker Dance Party @ The Kitty Kat Club, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) So you’re looking for a celebration that’s festive yet inexpensive. Look no further, as the Hipshaker Deejays bring rare funk n’ soul into your life from those little 7 inch records. It’s a relatively young crowd, but dancers of a certain age will certainly find plenty of musical reasons to have fun.

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.

End of the Year Music: 12.26 – 1.1

December 26, 2012

imagesWell it’s another relatively quiet week, though Friday and Saturday offer a number of choices. Perhaps it’s all in anticipation of the big night next Monday, for which there are numerous musical and party choices. The big shows are easy to find, so I’ve included a few no cost/low cost choices. Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.


Wednesday, December 26

DownloadedFile-1Moore by Four @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm. Glorious harmonies from a group that has been thrilling Twin Cities audiences since the 80s. Now they only perform a few times a year since Sandford Moore, piano; and vocalists Dennis Spears, Connie Evingson, Yolande Bruce, and Ginger Commodore are all successful solo performers.

Boot Camp @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Pianist Jeremy Walker gathers together Brandon Wozniak, sax; Chris Bates, bass; and Miguel Hurtado, drums; to create sublime and exciting music.

Thursday, December 27

Donald Thomas and Rick Carlson @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm (donation) Thomas is a vocalist/drummer with a smooth baritone singer who can take on jazz standards and rhythm and blues with equal ease. Pianist Carlson is a favored foil for many vocalists, given his Basie-esque approach to playing and an ability to know when to accent and when to lay out.

DownloadedFile-1Thursday, Friday, Saturday, December 27, 28, 29

Bad Plus @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm. ($40) Since their first post-Christmas appearance at the old Dakota about 12 or 13 years ago, this chamber jazz trio with a rock n’ roll attitude has become a favorite of festivals and clubs around the world. It’s a grand opportunity to see them in a relatively small club.

Friday, Saturday, December 27, 28

Pat Mallinger Quartet w/Bill Carrothers @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($15) Saint Paul born and Chicago based, Mallinger makes his annual return to the AQ, bringing pianist Carrothers along with him, as well as Chris Bates on bass and Kenny Horst on drums. Mallinger and Carrothers made an excellent live album entitled Home on Richmond. Expect to hear some things from that as well as other post-bop inspired material. I did an interview with him last year, which you can read here.

Saturday, December 29

Connie Evingson @ The Lexington, Saint Paul. 6:30pm – 10:30pm ($30 minimum) Sophisticated thrush Ms Evingson brings Tanner Taylor (piano) and Dave Karr (reeds) along to serenade diners at the Saint Paul institution. The restaurant’s web site touts the minimum, but you may want to check, as I’ve found that arriving for the later sets hasn’t tripped that trigger.

DownloadedFile-2Peterson Family New Year’s Concert @ Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hopkins. 8pm  ($45) Though it’s been announced that Jeanne Arland Peterson, the Matriarch of the talented Peterson clan, is retiring, she recently recorded album with Grammy Winning producer Bruce Swedien, so there may be another concert or two for the 90-something. This show, however,  will be her last performance with the whole family, which includes Patty, Linda, Billy, Ricky, and Paul, as well as members of the third generation.

New Year’s Eve 

Jon Pemberton Trio @ The Red Stag, Minneapolis 10:30pm (Free) Pemberton is a trumpeter/piano player/composer with serious chops, no matter what his instrument. Ring in the year with him and and have the added bonus of being able to order good cocktails and tasty goodies from the Red Stag’s kitchen.

Fat Kid Wednesdays & Friends @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 6:30pm ($?) Okay, if you want to go whole hog in celebrating, you can go for the Prix Fixe Dinner with wine, beer or whiskey pairings, or you can show up late to ring in the new year, in which case the cover should be relatively small. The music starts and 6pm and includes a number of musicians from the Kid’s wide range of jazz, rock, and rootsy musical projects.

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.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, December 26

The Eddies on KFAI and @ the 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI) 7p, (331 Club – Tip jar) I’m a big fan of this group, which is unique in the Twin Cities. I mean, where else will you get sea shanties, whaling songs, Appalachian death ballads, and Bob Marley, all delivered by a five-man group, with only an occasional guitar or accordion as accompaniment. Tune in to 90.3 or 106.7FM at about 5pm to hear them live, then head over to the 331 Club for this annual between-holidays gig.

Radio Joe & the Jazzbos @ The Eagles Club, Minneapolis. 8pm ($5) Vintage boogie-woogie, swing tunes, and jump blues. Plus you have a wonderful dance floor and value-priced drinks. Get out the dancing shoes.

Saturday, December 29

Phil Heywood @ Cafe Maude at Loring, Minneapolis. 9pm (no cover) I don’t know what’s in the water here, but over the years a number of finger-pickin’ champions have come from this area, including Heywood, who has a bluesy bent to his playing. The folks at Cafe Maude have put him in regular rotation between the two locations, all the better for us.

The Butanes w/Camile Baudoin @ The Cabooze, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) The area’s hardest working (and often cited as best) blues band brings along guitarist/vocalist Baudoin, who spent 33 years with New Orleans’ Radiators. Baudoin recently recorded an album of country blues that he grew up with in Louisiana and has been doing some duo gigs with the Butanes Curt Obeda. Even though Christmas has passed, you may be able to get Curt to loosen things up with his version of Back Door Santa.

K-Libre @ The Amsterdam, Saint Paul. 10pm ($10) Calling all salsa dancers, though most are probably already aware of this gig.  K-Libre is an eleven piece band that  keeps the rhythms and the dancers flowing. BTW, this show is being recorded by KBEM for its series, Saint Paul Live!.

DJ Brian Engel @ The 3rd Floor, 579 Selby, Saint Paul. 8pm – 11pm (free) The home of all things chocolate, The Chocolate Chateau, has this sweet little bar up on the third floor (duh!), where you can find chocolate cocktails, chocolate bourbon, dark beers, and a few light dishes. Tonight, you’ll also find DJ Brian (Hipshaker, Hot Pants, Worldwide Discotek) spinning a variety of jazz, soul, and world sounds.

imagesSunday, December 30

Rena Haus @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 10am – 1pm (free) A rootsy, bluesy accompaniment to go with your brunch & bloody marys. Rena is a singer-songwriter of considerable skill, with an ear for (sometimes humorous) detail and a winning way with a guitar.

New Year’s Eve

Paul Mayasich @ Manitou Station, White Bear Lake. 9pm (free) You’ll have to make a reservation if you want dinner (served until 10pm) but otherwise Paul and the RAMM band will be playing for your dancing pleasure, whether you’re on the tiny dance floor, or boogying between tables.

Papa John Kolstad @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8pm (tip jar) Papa John’s sly observations and storytelling, along with some swinging guitars, and top-notch players make this a relaxed, and family-friendly gig. Merlin’s is full of bonhomie, as well as an impressive array of single malt scotch, Irish Whiskey and beer. Make sure you have your ID, though, or you won’t be served adult beverages.

Roe Family Singers & Doug Otto & the Getaways @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis 9pm (tip jar) The Roe Family Singers are a loose congregation of folks that play Quillan Roe’s songs as well as some real old-timey tunes. Doug Otto’s voice is as world-weary as any hard-scrabble farmer’s. You can’t get a more rootsier New Year’s Eve than this one.

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.

A Weekend of Festivals: Music for 6.27 – 7.3

June 27, 2012

Last year’s Jazz Festival. Always a good idea to bring your own chairs.

What a weekend! We have a Jazz Festival, a Blues Festival, and a Honky Tonk Festival in town. The Deep Blues Festival at the Bayport BBQ is sold out, so you’ll have to find someone willing to sell his or her ticket. Good luck with that. This year’s Twin Cities Jazz Festival (which really should be called the Saint Paul Jazz Festival) involves hundreds of performers and dozens of venues. It’s impossible to list every act, so go to to see the schedule. It’s an adventurous one, with jazz of many stripes, including some free improvisation at Studio Z,  MacNally Smith ensembles at the Minnesota Music Cafe, and jam sessions at the Amsterdam and Artists Quarter. Artist descriptions can be found in the festival program, which should be easily available at all venues. If jazz isn’t your thing, you may enjoy Saturday’s Honky Tonk Festival, which I’ve listed below.


Wednesday, June 27

Graydon Peterson Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Graydon on bass, Adam Meckler on trumpet, Vinnie Rose on guitar, and Adam Suarez on drums. Graydon’s originals in odd time signatures, and other tunes to be sure.

Steve Hobart, Jeremy Boettcher, and Jay Epstein @ the Nomad, Minneapolis. 10pm (no cover) Boettcher, bass; and Hobart, piano; are young players who grew up in the area, left for school and musical opportunities, and have recently returned. They are proving to be versatile musicians, and tonight they are teaming up with the veteran, and highly tasteful drummer Jay Epstein.

Thursday, June 28

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Pippi Ardennia @ Mears Park and others in venues around Saint Paul – Free!: The Amsterdam has a particularly strong line-up tonight starting at 5pm wit Ticket to Brazil, and continuing with the piano trios of Chris Lomheim at 6:30 and Mary Louise Knutson at 8pm, followed by vocalists Joyce Lyons, Nichola Miller, and a jam led by the Jazz Central all-stars.

Jack Brass Band @ The Central Library, Saint Paul. 11:30AM  (Free) Grab lunch from one of the food trucks that gather round Rice Park and enjoy the uplifting, always fun music of JBB.

Sophia Shorai @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm (no cover) With her sweet, sometimes aching voice, the brightly smiling Ms Shorai will be backed by Tommy Barbarella, piano, Jeff Bailey, bass, and Adam Suarez, drums. It’s Foodie Night, and the policy is now no cover and a $10 bottle of wine!

Friday, June 29

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Delfeayo Marsalis @ Mears Park, and more: If you want to avoid the crowds at Mears Park, check out the Hat Trick Lounge, with four strong groups, including Dean Magraw’s Red Planet.

Patty Peterson @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($12) Ms Peterson always has a stellar group of players with her, equally adept at jazz and R&B. Tonight she’ll also be joined by saxophonist Steve Cole, who records for Universal and has played with Boz Scaggs, Larry Carlton, and Brian Culbertson, among others.

Saturday, June 30

Twin Cities Jazz Festival: The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman @ Mears Park, The Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education Stage outside of the Black Dog, and a plethora of area artists playing around town:

Optimum Trajectory Jazz Quintet @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, 3036 Minnehaha, Minneapolis. 3pm – 5pm (no cover) Here’s a pleasant way to wile away an afternoon. Check out the brews at the Tap Room, where you can hang outside if the weather’s nice and enjoy the sounds of Ira Adelman, sax; Steve Hillson, trumpet; Margo Vreivik, bass; Garth Anderson, drums; and Tim McNamara, guitar. There may even be a food truck present.

Lulu’s Playground @ The Red Stag, Minneapolis. 10:30pm (no cover) Interesting textures and timbres from Evan Montgomery, guitar; Adam Meckler, trumpet; Steve Hobart, accordion; and Cory Grossman, cello.

Sunday, July 1

Dos Dinos @ The Amsterdam, Saint Paul. 11am (no cover) Dean Harrington and Dean Mikkelson, Two of the area’s most underrated guitar players, team up during the Amsterdam’s brunch hours, which features a Hash Menu and special Bloody Mary. Expect swinging standards and gypsy jazz, as Dos Dinos trade off licks and rhythm.

Sunday, Monday, July 1,2

Bill Frisell: the Music of John Lennon @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40 – $45) Perhaps the most exquisite guitarist on the planet, Frisell, whose spare, atmospheric playing has been applied to numerous genres, gives us his unique take on Lennon.

Monday, July 2

Clay Pufhal @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (donation) Jazz Central is the place to see some of the best musicians in the area playing outside of their normal groups. A regular member and composer for the X-Tet, tenor sax player Pufhal plays around town with a variety of groups.

Firebell @ Red Stag, Minneapolis. 9pm. (no cover) Park Evans, guitar; Graydon Peterson, bass (his name is popping up alot lately); and Jay Epstein on drums.

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, June 27

Mother Banjo @ Landmark Center, Saint Paul. Noon – 1pm. (Free) Bring a lunch, or get one at Anita’s Cafe in the Landmark, and sit down to hear a little alt country, alt banjo, and alt gospel from Mother Banjo, aka Ellen Stanley (of Red House Records and KFAI’s Womenfolk show) who’s been making fans around the nation with her picking, composing, and singing.

Thursday, June 28

Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, 3036 Minnehaha, Minneapolis. 7pm. (No cover) Down, dirty, and raw blues, played in an intimate spot. You’ll have to go around back.

Friday, June 29

Mystic Order of Reverb & Twang @ Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis. 7:30pm (free) Rockabilly, Surf, 50s & 60s rock n’ roll, and even some classic country will be reverberating the bandshell. Bring a picnic, buy an ice cream cone from the bandshell’s kitchen, and enjoy a summer’s evening by the lake.

Ron Thompson with the Butanes @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm. ($8) Back in the day, Ron Thompson would play high energy blues for hours without a break. For this show, he’ll be backed by the Butanes, who may be the only band in town that can keep up with him.

Motown Throwdown with Big Villain and Toussaint Morrison @ Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis. 10pm. ($5) 18+ show. Toussaint will be singing songs from The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and others of that era. Reid Kennedy, better known as a jazz drummer about town, has put together a live hip hop band to do the backing. Sounds like fun. Dichotomy also appears.

Saturday, June 30

Honky Tonk Fest @ Grumpys Northeast, Minneapolis. 2pm – 9pm This is a benefit, with all proceeds going to the Minnesota Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Featuring a bevy of talent, including: Trailer Trash, Lazy Ike & the Daredevils, Jennifer Marky & the Tennesee Snowpants, Cactus Blossoms, The Ditchlilies, Sister Shaw. Photo Booth, pulled pork sammies and more.

Saturday Sock Hop w/Steve Clarke & The Working Stiffs, with The Bad Companions @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($7). This Saturday Sock Hop is presented by Freewheelin’s Jackson Buck and features Dance Instructor Extraordinaire, Miss Shannon. You can catch her free dance instructions weekly at Lee’s, Famous Dave’s and other venues around town, generally an hour before the music starts. Same thing tonight, with a little extra. Dance lessons start at 8:30, and a special Rock-A-Billy Stroll Dance lesson will occur about 10:15, after the Bad Companions open.

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.

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