Tower of Power Interview

August 21, 2018

East Bay Grease – Tower of Power’s first album

If you think You Ought to be Having Fun, even though the phrase You’re Still a Young Man (or woman) no longer fits you, but you know What is Hip, and you want to go Down To The Nightclub to get a Soul Vaccination, than you should head to the Soul Side of Town. That’s the name of the album that Tower of Power released in June to celebrate their 50thAnniversary. It became their first Number 1 on Billboard, debuting atop the charts for both Jazz Albums and ContemporaryJazz Albums.

Downbeat says of the album ” this 50th-anniversary recording affirms the trademarks of the meticulous 10-piece ensemble: a razor-sharp horn section of distinctive saxophone drama, versatile lead vocalists, song titles demanding the listener join in the fun and just enough variety to avoid predictability.”

Here’s a cut.

Tower of Power is popular enough to sell out two gigs a night during four-night stands at the Dakota each year. They’ll be appearing at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday and Friday, August 23rdand 24th where you can see them on the Leinie Lodge Stage. I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with founder/leader Emilio Castillo a couple of weeks before their appearance. The following version of the interview has been slightly edited for clarity and length.

When you first thought of the idea of having a band what was your inspiration? What made you want to do that?

(Slight chuckle and pause) Well, I got caught stealing a t-shirt. My dad told me, “You’ve got to come up with something to keep you out of trouble or you’re never coming out of that room again.” Well, the Beatles had just come out and I said, “I want to play music Dad.” We started the band that day, and then we learned how to play. We did it completely backwards.

How did you recruit nine other people to be in the band?

Well, when I started we were just a little four-piece and started playing rock n’ roll. It wasn’t until we’d been playing for a couple of years that I really learned how to play and started to get into soul music. I saw this band called the Spyders, and they had a horn section. The next day I hired a trumpet player, that was Nick Gilette, and I got addicted to horn players. Next thing I knew I had five horns. (Editors Note: Steve “Doc” Kupka, baritone sax and co-writer with Castillo of the band’s songs, joined the band on August 13, 1968, which is the date the band notes as its beginning.)

You’ve managed to keep a strong horn section for over 50 years. Congratulations on that as well as a great rhythm section. How is it you’ve managed to stay so tight, when there’s been a number of personnel changes over the years?

You know, it was a trademark for us when we first started. Like I said, I was patterning us after the Spyders, and that was their signature, they were soon tight. So back in the day, that’s what we always did. You’re going to stop it on a dime, you’re going to start together, do these things just really tight. We’ve been doing that for so many years. Now, we play so much that we keep it tight.

It is unusual for such a large band to last so long. What do you attribute that to?

These days, I tell everybody that God did it, I just showed up. For the first half of my career, I made every mistake possible known to man. God got my attention, I sobered up, we started praying together, and things have been better ever since. The other thing is, we make the music exactly the way we want it to be. We stopped chasing trends years ago. We went through a little period about ten years into our career where the record company was trying to get us to change the way we sounded. They wanted us to sound like other bands. We tried to do that, but always sounded like ourselves, and for a while, thought that was a curse, but when things dried up for us, I told the guys, let’s just make the music the way we make it. As soon as we did, things got better. We realized it’s not a curse that we don’t sound like other guys, it’s a blessing.


The Tower of Power Horns have a long history of providing background for many other artists. How did that come about?

Early in our career, we got a call one night from Nick Gravenites, who was a singer for Big Brother& The Holding Company. He used to do a lot of gigs with Mike Bloomfield, and we used to play with them a lot. He called us up and said, “What are you doing? We’re over at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco.” This was the middle of the night. He said, “Why don’t you guys come over. We’ve got a song that would sound good with horns.” We went over there, and made up some parts, it sounded good. We walked out and he gave us some money. We were like, “What’s this for?” And he said, cause you came over. A couple of months later, same thing – middle of the night, Carlos Santana calls. We knew him. We’d played lots of gigs with him, and he said, “We have this song, Everybody’s Everything, and think it would sound real good with horns. Why don’t you guys come over to CBS Studio and let’s see what we can do.” And we did, made up some parts, and within a week it was on the radio.

It was a big hit, and everybody’s going “Wow, Santana with horns, who’s that.”  Word got out and before you knew it, Elton John was calling us, and we were just playing with everybody. There’s a lot of guitar players, billions, but there’s probably only five horn sections in the world. We happened to be five-piece, and tight, and people like it.

Now you have a brand-new album that debuted at # one on some of the charts as soon as it came out. It’s a great album. I’ve been a fan since the early days, and to me it’s very classic, yet has some modern touches. How did that come about?

The band, from The Soul Side of Town

It took a long time. You know we’re a working band. So we have to go in and out (of the studio), but the last three years we worked on it the most. We did two albums. We have one waiting in the wings. It’ll come out in about a year. I worked with Joe Vanelli, who produced all those great records for his brother Gino Vanelli over the years. He’s a skilled producer and engineer and he pushed me on every level – harmonically, rhythmically, and technically. I think it’s one of the best records I’ve ever made in my career.

It really fulfills, all the way through. How many of the songs are in your current show?

We’re doing four songs right now. We usually do two a night.

You play that song, Diggin’on James Brown. I have to tell you, there’s a high school here in the area with a big R&B band that plays that tune, so your inspiration is an inspiration for young people today.

Yeah, you know that’s become a big song for a lot of bands. There’s a lot throughout the world. There’s a lot of bands that are Tower of Power clone bands that take my song titles to name the band. There’s a band called Soul Vaccination, and another called Souled Out, one called Soul With a Capital S. They all play Diggin’ on James Brown. And then there are marching bands, large stage bands, and jazz bands in high schools and colleges that are also working up our arrangements, so that’s been really nice over the years.

You mentioned that you’ve enough for another album. How long will we have to wait for that?

Well, we’re still touring behind this one. At least a year I would say. We also recorded a live DVD and CD. On June 1stand 2ndwe celebrated our 50thAnniversary in Oakland and we filmed that in HD. When we get off this particular leg of our tour, I’ll go to L.A. and work on that for a bit. Once we get the mixing done on that we’ll do the video editing, and come out with a two-disc package, so we’ve got a lot of stuff coming out in the next couple of years.

I sure appreciate your taking time for this interview and am looking forward to seeing you on the Leinie Lodge Stage at the Minnesota State Fair.

I appreciate it. God Bless. Bye Bye.

(Editor’s note: To close, and just for fun, here’s a classic instrumental from the band)

What is Hip? 11.15 – 11.21

November 15, 2017

What is Hip? Well, Tower of Power is here this week to answer that question, but you know that here in the Twin Cities, we’re blessed with a surfeit of hip music. This week we have a wide variety of music genres, from the funk of Tower of Power, to the grease of a couple of organ trios, to African music, Latin music, Grateful Dead music, and jazz with odd rhythms. It’s all quite invigorating, and as I’ve said many times before, Music Lifts Your Spirit. Get out and enjoy some.


Wednesday, Nov 15

Kandace Springs @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($35, $40) Pianist and singer/songwriter Springs assimilates soul, jazz and pop while creating music that is distinctly her own. She started out in R&B/hip-hop, but found more comfort in jazz, citing folks like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, & Roberta Flack as inspirations. When Prince heard her interpretation of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, he invited her to perform with him at Paisley Park for the 30th Anniversary of Purple Rain.

Also: Rick Carlson and Thompson & Magraw @ Vieux Carré  Saint Paul. 6pm (No Cover) followed by Butch Thompson & Dean Magraw at 8pm ($5)

Thursday, Nov 16

The Casualties: Bates, Castino, & Gastonguay @ Vieux Carré  Saint Paul. 8pm ($8) The band: JT Bates, drums; Chris Castino, guitar; Kevin Gastonguay, keys. Chris Castino has been writing songs for the Twin Cities jam band Big Wu. for 20 years. However, his latest songs have a folk bent. I assume we’ll hear some of them tonight.

Maryann Sullivan: The Music of Fats Waller @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5w/Valid Student ID) Fats Waller had the ability to be joyful, irreverent, insightful, and slightly bawdy, which is why, some 80 or 90 years later, his songs are an integral part of the jazz standards repertoire. Tonight Maryann Suillivan takes on his songs, with the help of Ted Godbout, piano; Preston Haining, trumpet; Amy Golen, vocals; and Jim Chenoweth, bass.

Also: Twin Cities Trumpet Ensemble @ Ives Auditorium, Burnsville. 7:30 – 9:30pm ($15) Jazz, Classical, and modern works from 24, yes 24 Trumpets!

Friday, Nov 17

Dorothy Doring & the Jazz Standards @The Undergound Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 7pm – 9pm (Tip Jar) Ms Doring sings jazz standards accompanied by a quartet at this warm coffeehouse that serves beer and wine.

Nachito Herrera: Gershwin Meets Lacuona @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($15, $20) Herrera takes a mostly solo turn playing the music of George Gershwin and the “Cuban Gershwin,” Ernesto Lacuona, best known in the States for the song Malaguena. He’ll be assisted in a few songs by daughter Merdalys. I had him on my show this past Saturday to talk about the event. You can hear it at: The interview starts at about the 15 minute mark. Here’s what he sounds like with a trio.

Also: Bruce Henry and The Atlantis Quartet @ Crooner’s Lounge & Supper Club, Fridley. Bruce Henry in the main lounge at 7:30 (No Cover) and the Atlantis Quartet in the Dunsmore Room at 9pm ($12, $15) Jazz for the 21st Century

Saturday, Nov 18

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) At 7pm the JazzINK Youth Showcase presents the The Tamberwood Quartet: Charlie Menken, saxophones; Robert Dean, piano; Harry Menken, bass; Nick Adams, drums. They will be followed at 8:30pm with two sets by Chris Bates Red 5: Chris Bates, Bass; Davu Seru, Drums; Chris Thomson & Brandon Wozniak, Saxophones; JC Sanford, Trombone; Thomas Nordland, Guitar; and Steve Kenny, Trumpet. While the Red5 is expanded to 7 tonight, here’s a video of the group as a quintet.

Hecho en Cuba Opening Reception, with Charanga Tropical @ Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Avenue So, Minneapolis. 3pm – 11pm (Free) This opening reception for an exhibition of Cuban art is presented in parallel to the Walker Art Center who, and includes photography, posters, folk art painting, small sculptures ad more. Charanga Tropical will be playing music from 8-11pm and I will be spinning rare Cuban Vinyl before and between sets.

Sunday, Nov 19

Brubeck Brothers @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 6pm & 8pm  ($30, $35, $40) Dave Brubeck’s sons Dan, drums; and Chris; bass & trombone; join with bandmates Mike DeMicco, guitar; and Chuck Lamb, piano; for A Tribute to Dave Brubeck. Though the quartet’s style is “straight ahead,” they have the same ability to explore odd time signatures as the late pianist. All About Jazz wrote: There’s really nothing out there that comes close to their unique brand of inventiveness.”

Monday, Nov 20

Benny Benack @ Crooner’s Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($20) NYC-based Benack is a dual threat on trumpet and vocals. He’s played in the Christian McBride Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Sars, the Jimmy Heath Big Bandm, and Bobby Snabria’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. He’s also been the trumpet soloist on Josh Groban’s tour, and headlined Birdland alongside Anne Hampton Callaway, in addition to headlining at a number of the big apple’s prestigious jazz rooms.

GRAIN B3 Trio @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8) Get your fill of soul jazz served up with a side of grease with JT Bates’ Trio: Kevin Gastonguay, B3, Zacc Harris, guitar, and JT Bates, drums.

Tuesday, Nov 21

Trapset @ Vieux Carré,  Saint Paul. 7pm (No Cover) Trapset w/Joe Wong feat. Eric Kamau Gravatt, Lori Barbero, Gordy Knudtson, Todd Trainer 7pm, no cover

Also: Harvey Diamond & Melissa Stoudt @ The Black Dog Cafe, Saint Paul. 8pm – 10pm (Tip Jar) See last week’s listing for Nov 12, or go to my blog.

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, Nov 15

Charlie Parr on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) I bet many folks won’t wait to hear Parr on Hurricane Harold’s House Party, but will go to the 331early to get a seat. The place will be packed to hear Parr’s heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals.

Thursday, Nov 16

Sandra Bernhard @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 8pm ($45; $55 and $80 seats are sold out) This is a show that definitely falls under “Other” as the multi-talented Bernhard brings her observational comedy to the Cedar. The comedian/actress/singer calls this show Sandra Monica Boulevard: Coast to Coast. In its review of this show, Variety wrote, “…within every keenly observed pop-culture rant, there’s an element of piercing truth. Bernhard remains as brash and brazen as she was in the 1970s.” The following clip includes some words that are not suitable for work.

Friday, Nov 17

High 48s & Jillian Rae @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. 7pm ($20 Advance/$25 Door) The sprightly bluegrass rhythms of the High 48s will have you tapping your foot and nodding your head, as they sing of Bank Robbers, trains, and the vicissitudes of life. Jillian Rae’s fiddle playing and pop/folk approach to both classic rocks songs and her originals will leave you smiling at her talent and lyrics.

Grateful Dead Tribute @ Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 8pm ($7Advance/$10 Door) Deadheads unite! Dance and sway to Grateful Dead tunes and jams by JFLAD & Friends, Winterland, and headliner: The Shotgun Ragtime Band (w/Camile Baudoin of the Radiators)

Bobcat @ Dusty’s, NE Minneapolis. 9:30pm (Tip Jar) Bobcat is Bobby E, a great, but underappreciated guitarist, and Cathy Mosher, a fine singer well known for her Patsy Cline show

Also: New Riverside Ramblers @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) For all the Cajun Dancers out there.

Saturday, Nov 18

April Fools Album Release @ The Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 9pm ($9 Advance/$12 Door) This quartet plays a wide spectrum of music, from straight-up country to Brit-pop, blue-eyed soul, and more. Besides Drake, the band includes Clay Williams, guitar; Scott Hreha, bass; and Ben Kaplan, drums. Tonight they’re celebrating the release of Colorwheel, their first release on Blackberry Way Records. Joining in the celebration are Rich Mattson & the Northstars, and The Magnolias, for a great evening of Minnesota music.


Saturday, Sunday, Nov 18, 19

Café Flamenco @ Park Square Theater’s Boss Stage, Saint Paul. 8pm Saturday, 5pm Sunday ($25) The basement stage at Park Square will become Flamenco Central, as the Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theater Company presents a concert of traditional flamenco dance and music, featuring special guests including singer José Cortés Fernanez, guitarist Chuscles, and dancer Jesus Munoz.

Sunday, Nov 19

Blues Aid @ The Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 1pm – ? This fundraiser is for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which are still in dire straits more than seven weeks after being completely battered by Hurricane Maria. This day is billed as an “Epic Blues Jam” with Armadillo Jump serving as the Jam Host Band. There will be a Silent Auction as well

Phil Heywood @ Dubliner Pub, Saint Paul. 5pm – 7pm (Tip Jar) The Dubliner takes on an especially cozy ambience when finger-picking champion Phil Heywood takes the stage. In addition to his formidable talent as a guitarist, Heywood’s pleasant baritone will soothe your aches and revive your spirit.

Monday, Nov 20

Elage Diouf @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($15 Advance/$18 Door) Here’s a show for world music fans, as the Sengalese born singer/songwriter and master percussionist creates a blend of pop, world, blues, and asiko music, which has its roots in West African street drumming. He’s known for the warmth of his voice and his ability to engage audiences in his performance.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Nov 20, 21, 22

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($50, $65, $70), 9pm ($40, $55, $60) This horn band has been delivering Oakland funk since the 70s, and no one does it better, whether they’re delivering a James Brown homage or their hits like What Is Hip, You’re Still a Young Man, or Down to the Nightclub (Bump City). Always great 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.

Much Music, Many Genres: 11.30 – 12.6

November 30, 2016

images-1The week ahead features music that runs a gamut of styles and genres, from jump blues to funk, straight ahead jazz, fusion, girl-group pop, and of course, some helpings of holiday music to celebrate the season. No matter what kind of music you prefer, there is no doubt that music can lift your spirit. Have a great week!


Wednesday, November 30

Lorber, McLain, LaBelle, Williams @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($30, $35), 9PM ($25, $30) It’s an evening of contemporary jazz and R&B, with Jeff Lorber  keyboards; Marlon McClain, guitar; Shaun LaBelle, guitar & keys; and Stokely Williams, drums & vocals. These happen to be four of the biggest stars in contemporary jazz & R&B. Lorber helped shape jazz fusion with the Jeff Lorber Fusion band. McLain was part of a successful West Coast group called Pleasure, which was discovered by Wayne Henderson of the Crusaders. McLain is also a successful songwriter whose tunes have been recorded by folks like the Dazz Band, Tower of Power, En Vogue, and others. Bassist LaBelle is proficient in various aspects of the music industry, from producing to songwriting, with a number of top ten songs to his credit. Finally, drummer Stokely Williams, a Twin Cities native, has been a member of Mint Condition for 20 years. Here are Lorber and LaBelle at the Dakota six years ago.

Sinne Eeg @ Crooner’s Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($25, $50 w/Dinner) Eeg is a native of Denmark, where she is a preeminent vocalist. She’s also made waves in Japan, China, and throughout Europe. Her 2014 recording, Face the Music, earned her the Danish Grammy, along with the Ben Webster Prize, and the Prix du Jazz from France’s Academie du Jazz. She’s made a Twin Cities connection through the Peterson family, as both Patty and Billy have sung her praises.

Levi Schwartzberg Quartet @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5 w/Student ID) The young vibist is studying physics at the U while maintaining a regular gig schedule with groups like Adam Linz’s Le Percheron, Sound Skirmish, The Charlie Lincoln Group and his own quintet. Tonight he leads a quartet with Drew Stinson, bass; Patrick Adkins, piano; and Tarek Abdelqader, drums.

Wednesday, November 30 – Friday, December 2

Martin & Doolin Twin Cities CD Release @ Various Venues ($ & Time Varies) Guitarists David Martin and Mike Doolin are releasing Dark Star, their third collaboration with five performances in five days. They started their “Twin Cities Tour” at the Icehouse and the Black Dog and continue with appearances at Vieux Carré (8pm Wednesday), Driftwood Char Bar (7pm Thursday), and Jazz Central (8pm Friday) The two guitarist/bassists produce guitar sounds that range from fuzzed-out to crystalline, punctuated with some funky drumming. Martin & Doolin will be joined by Jim Chenoweth, bass; Shai Hayo, percussion; and Pete Hennig, drums. Here’s the duo from their last CD release.

Thursday, December 1

Thursday Night Jazz: the Joe Mayo Quartet @ The Reverie, Minneapolis. 9pm (Tip Jar) Joe Mayo has been steadily making a name for himself in town since he moved here a few years back. members of the quartet include: Mayo, saxes; Pete James Johnson, drums; Chris Bates, bass; Zacc Harris, guitar.

Horton, dVRG, & Seru @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) It’s another evening of adventurous music at the Khyber Pass Cafe, with  Joe Horton, emcee; Devon Gray, keys; and Davu Seru  drums & percussion. I don’t know Horton, who has emceed with various hip-hop groups and is on the faculty at McNally Smith, but both Gray and Seru are seasoned musicians who can play a variety of styles, including R&B, hip-hop, and jazz.

Peter Kogan Quintet @ Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10 Cash only) Drummer Kogan’s 2015 album Some Monsterful Wonderthing, was a Top 10 Jazz album for the Star Tribune. The retired tympanist for the Minnesota Orchestra has become a favorite at the Vieux, what with his mostly straight ahead jazz and a group of excellent musicians: Solomon Parham, trumpet; Pete Whitman, sax; Phil Aaron, piano; and Anthony Cox, bass.

Friday, December 2

Charles Lazarus: Merry and Bright @ Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis. 8pm ($20 – $60) Trumpeter Charles Lazarus  of the Minnesota Orchestra, is a formidable jazz player. He’s bringing together a passel of professionals to inaugurate a new holiday tradition. They include Tonia Hughes and Bruce Henry on vocals; Tommy Barbarella, keys; Jeff Bailey, bass; Daryl Boudreaux, percussion; Davie Schmalenberger, drums; and the Lazarus Brass. As of this writing, the show is close to being sold out.

Saturday, December 3

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm: Yo Jimbo, with Jimbo Robson, drums; Jerry Shelton, trumpet; Steve Klein, alto; Jerry Benson, tenor; Brian Van Stavern, trombone; Ron Peterson, piano; and John Brown, bass. 8:30pm Steve Hobert 4 with Art “LA” Buckner, drums; Dean Magraw, guitar; Yohannes Tona, bass; and Steven Hobert, piano/keys. Here’s Hobert doing an improvisation.

Javi Santiago Trio: Jazz @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 6pm master class, 7pm concert ($10 Advance or with workshop, $15 Door, 12 & under: Free) Pianist Javier Santiago  ill be joined by Graydon Peterson, bass; and Adrian Suarez, drums, to play the music of Ahmad Jamal, including songs from the albums One and The Awakening, as well as Jamal’s landmark album Live at the Pershing, for what promises to be a sweet evening of music.

Monday, December 5

John Raymond & Real Feels @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($12) Minneapolis native and current NYC resident John Raymond  irst caught the ears of area jazz lovers when still in high school over a dozen years ago. The trumpeter studied with a number of area musicians before going to school at Eau Claire and moving to NYC upon graduation. Since then he’s performed with such significant artists as Billy Hart, Orrin Evans, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ethan Iverson, and Linda Oh among others. His latest CD, Real Feels, received a 4 and a half star review in Downbeat, and he was voted as Rising Star Trumpeter in that mag’s Critics Poll.

Monday, Tuesday, December 5,6

Christmas w/Joey DeFrancesco @ Crooner’s Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7pm ($35, $40, $75w/Dinner), 9pm ($25, $30) DeFrancesco  ad such a good time playing the Dunsmore Room a couple of months back that he asked to return. Jazz Times calls him the “Best B3 Player on the Planet,” which is hard to argue against.  The three-time Grammy nominee and multiple award winner will be bringing a funky, soul-jazz vibe to some of your favorite holiday tunes for this occasion. As in his last appearance, DeFrancesco will be joined by Dan Wilson on guitar, and Jason Brown on drums.

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, November 30

Lonesome Dan Kase on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) With his slightly crushed fedora, vintage suit and tie, fleet guitar work, and world-weary vocals, Lonesome Dan Kase embodies the blues of the 30s, though he’s in tune with contemporary times. Tune in during the 5 o’clock hour, and head over to the 331 for more great music.

Darlene Love’s Christmas Show @ The Ordway, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($57, $67) As lead singer for the Blossoms, Love  and her cohorts released a number of early singles, but mostly sang backup for a myriad of artists, ranging from Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley, to Cher and Aretha Franklin. She’s also the lead voice on such hits as He’s a Rebel, Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Heart, and on the Christmas favorites Marshmallow World and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) which she performed annually for almost 30 years on the David Letterman Show. She’s a member of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and is one of the subjects of the award-winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” and has been an actor in the “Lethal Weapon” films and in such Broadway musicals as “Hairspray” and” Leader of the Pack.” Her voice is unmistakeable, and she has been rightly called one of the greatest singers of all time.

Thursday,December 1

Rena Haus @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 6:30 – 8:30pm (No Cover) While the Twin Cities has a fair amount of very talented woman blues singers, few are as good at composing and playing guitar as Ms Haus, whose inspiration can come from daily life on her farm, outrage at politicians, or the need for companionship.

Pat Donohue’s Holiday Show @ The History Theater, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($20, $25) Fans of Prairie Home Companion’s former Guy’s All Star Shoe Band can once again hear the band while celebrating the season as guitarist Pat Donohue brings the band, now re-named Prairie All-Stars, along with Special Guest Butch Thompson  to the History Theater for one night. Joining Donohue are Gary Raynor, bass; Dan “Daddy Squeeze” Newton, accordion; Richard Kriehn, mandolin and fiddle, and Peter Johnson on drums. There’ll be some original Christmas tunes written by Donohue over the years, as well as some traditional music, and several songs from Donohues recent excellent CD Blue Yonder. Pianist Thompson will perform Silent Night in the style of Jimmy Yancey, as well as a couple of other songs. If you can pick up the latest edition of the Highland Villager, you can read a story I wrote about Donohue and the concert.

Friday, December 2

Erica West Band @ The Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 9pm ($8) Soulful, sultry R&B, with occasional side trips into jazz and pop,  from vocalist West and her six piece band.

Steve Kaul & The Brass Kings @ Hook & Ladder Theater & Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10 Advance, $12 Door) You’ve not heard old-time music sung and played this way before, with Guitarist Steve Kaul on metal bodied resonator guitars; Mikkel Beckmen, washboard, djembe, and found percussion; Brad Ptacek on washtub bass; and the effervescent Jillian Rae on fiddle. Opening at 9pm are Kim and Quillen Roe of the Roe Family Singers, making this an especially fine evening of old time music.

Friday – Monday, December 3 – December 5

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm (Fri, Sat, Mon $45 – $70), 9pm (Fri, Mon $35 – $60, Sat $45 – $60), 6pm (Sun $45 – $70), 8pm ($35 – $60) Tower of Power is one of the few acts that can fill 8 shows at the Dakota, and it’s no wonder. They are as tight an aggregation as you’ll ever see, bringing funky, soulful horn music to dancing masses since the 70s, with the leader and two of his original cohorts keeping things moving all night long.

Saturday, December 3

Flamin’ Ohs @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($10) The Ohs started in 1977 as Flamingo, but the original Flamingos from the 50s took issue with the name, so the band became the Flamin’ Ohs, and became darlings of Twin Cities rock/punk/new wave fans. They were among the first bands to make a music video back in the early 80s, when it got played on this new cable channel called MTV. Since 1980 they put out a number of albums, split up at the end of the 80s, reunited at the end of the 90s, and have recorded and occasionally performed since then.

Hurricane Harold/Jaedyn James & the Hunger @ The Vieux Carré, Saint Paul. 6:30pm (Hurricane) 9pm ($12) Another great twofer night at the Vieux. Hurricane Harold plays harmonica, usually accompanied by Doug Otto or Jeff Ray on guitar during the dinner hour. Then at 9pm its a band that is getting increasingly glowing press for their funky renditions of originals and classic soul songs. Jaedyn James  s a powerhouse of a singer, and the 9 piece band and backup singers, are delightfully energetic, which they have to be, to match Jaedyns, energy.

Steve Clarke & the Working Stiffs @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($?) Saxophonist Clarke and his merry band of swinging musicians play jumpin’ jazz and R&B for dancers, with songs that range from Fats Waller and Count Basie to Fats Domino and Louis Jordan. Dancers will trip the light fantastic on one of the best dance floors in the area.

Papa John Kolstad & the Hot Club of East Lake @ Merlin’s Rest, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Tip Jar) Bluesman and swinging guitarist Papa John is in his natural habitat at Merlin’s, where he and the various members of the Hot Club bring some acoustic swing to the fore. Plus, you never know who will stop by and sit in. Bring an ID if you want alcohol, otherwise enjoy the TV-less environs, large selection of scotch and beers, and typical English fare at what many call the Best Neighborhood Bar in Minneapolis.

Yulefest IX @ Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Avenue, Saint Paul. 7pm ($15 Donation) This is the 9th year for Yulefest, which The Eddies hosted at the Hat Trick in its early days and moved to the Celtic Junction a few years ago to have more room. It’s a musical fundraiser for The Food Group, with all proceeds (from entry donations and a silent auction) going to stock food shelves throughout Minnesota. Along with The Eddies, you’ll get to hear Patsy O’Brien, The HiBs and Barra for an evening of music and fun. The Celtic Junction is located north of University in the Midway area.

Sunday, December 4

Charanga Tropical @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 3pm – 5pm (No Cover) Sunday afternoon Charangas and salsas for aspiring and expert Latin dancers, delivered by a band that recorded their last album in Havana.

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.

Twin Cities Jazz, Roots, and Blues: 2.4 – 2.10

February 4, 2015
The Conservatory at Como Zoo, where you can treat your skin to humidity during the winter, and see some music on Sunday (see Blues & Roots, below).

The Conservatory at Como Zoo, where you can treat your skin to humidity during the winter, and see some music on Sunday (see Blues & Roots, below).

Greetings and salutations to one and all;

Happy to report that I’m back from a fun-filled week of jazz while sailing in the Caribbean, and though the weather is cold the music here is hot. We’re lucky to have some very talented jazz musicians of our own to see this week, as well as some great blues and roots music, including two powerhouse performers from the 70s who are still delivery vital music. Note too, how the music community is coming together for a couple of benefits. Music can certainly lift your spirit.


Wednesday, February 4

Anthony Cox and Riotous N @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation)  Featuring Jonathan Penny, guitar; Davu Seru, drums, Cox on Bass, and special guest Sarag Greer on vocals. Cox always brings an interesting crew to first Wednesdays at Jazz Central. What’s more, he opens up the stage (so to speak) to questions, making this an interactive event.

Thursday, February 5

Ready to cure your ills

Ready to cure your ills

The Sound Doctors @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 9:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) An a cappella quintet with Dorian Chalmers, Dennis Curley, Greg Eiden, Geoff Thompson, and Sheridan Zuther. Jazz and Pop Vocals from Singers Vocalists and musical theater professionals who have sung with Phil Mattson Singers, Shoop!, Five by Design, the Church Basement Ladies and others.

Frog Stew, a Low Country Boil

Frog Stew, a Low Country Boil

Stew Frog @ Khyber Pass Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) No, Khyber Pass Cafe isn’t serving a Low Country Boil  but rather Scott Fultz, sax; Dean Granros, guitar; and Steve Goldstein on laptop will be performing. This certainly sounds like a night of exploratory jazz, what with the ability of Fultz and Granros to freely improvise combined with the sonic possibilities that Goldstein’s laptop most certainly contains.

Friday,February 6

Phil Hey Quartet @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – 9:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) Phil Hey, drums; Tom Lewis bass; Dave Hagedorn, vibes; and Phil Aaron, piano. A long-standing quartet that plays tunes from Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, and other advanced composers. Followed at 9:30 by a group of players who studied with Phil. Here they are at their old stomping grounds.

Friday, Saturday, February 6,7

Weekend at Keys Please @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 8pm ($10) Carei Thomas,  Todd Harper,  and Paul Cantrell  with special guest Nathan Hanson. Started in 2002, this mid-winter tradition has become a staple of the Twin Cities new music calendar. The annual concert takes on musics of diverse genres, including free improvisation,  popemmetry and “weather permitting,” whatever they are, and both new and old compositions. Special guest, saxophonist Nathan Hanson is known for composing as well as improvising.

Saturday, February 7

Kenny Horst & Friends @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8:30pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation) It’s great to see Kenny playing drums without the pressures of running a club. Tonight his friends include Tom Lewis, bass; Pete Whitman, sax; and Steve Kenny, trumpet. Opening act is the Jon Pemberton Trio at 7pm. Jon plays piano and trumpet, and is well worth arriving early.

7 Cats Swing Band @ Crooners Lounge, Fridley. 7pm (No Cover) This group plays charts from Gershwin, Ellington, Glen Miller, and other jazz and swing standards. Crooners Lounge has a dance floor and good sight lines from both the bar and tables.

Saturday, Sunday, Feb 7, 8

Bruce Henry: Afro Blue: The Drum, The Journey, the Song @ The Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway, Mpls. 7pm Sat, 3pm Sun. Though he’s now living in Chicago, Henry often returns to the Twin Cities for special projects. Tonight and tomorrow the singer with a three-octave range presents a musical journey exploring African drums and their connection to spirituals, jazz, and the Great American Songbook.

Monday, February 9

Firebell @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation) Last year, this trio released a CD that was at the top of a number of best-ofs in the area. Here the original compositions from Impossible Vacation, as well as whatever else Park Evans, guitar; Graydon Peterson, bass; and Jay Epstein, drums, decide to play. Check them out.

Solomon Parham @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10 Suggested Donation) With a clear, bell-like tone, and considerable imagination, Parham is a trumpeter to watch. The Detroit native has played with Delfeayo Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Eric Kamau Gravatt, and Christian McBride, to name a few.

Javier Santiago EP Release @ the Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($8) The NYC based pianist has come back to town for a while, and we’re treated to his playing. Tonight he celebrates the release of an EP entitled Year of the Horse, featuring Proper T and Miguel Hurtado. For the second set he’ll be joined by Cory Wong, guitar; Brandon Wozniak, sax; Yohannes Tona, bass; Miguel Hurtado, drums, and T. Anthony, vocals.

Tuesday, February 10

A Chris Olson Project @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 7:30pm ($5 – $20 Suggested Donation) Olson is a guitarist with a fluid style and always interesting improvising skills. BTW, he’s also an composer, and teaches at McNally Smith and a few jazz camps around town.

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, February 4

IMG_1320Doug Otto & The Getaways CD Release Party on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Doug and the guys have a new CD, entitled Nine Trick Pony, and they’re celebrating its release. Expect a mix of blues and country-ish songs. Tune in at 5pm and head to the 331 Club afterwards.

ToP's front line at work

ToP’s front line at work

Wednesday – Saturday, February 4-7

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45 – $70), 9pm ($35 – $60) Old School R&B of the highest order, with a horn section that just won’t quit. Tower of Power has been funkifying lives since 1968, and five of the ten members of this powerhouse band are original members. Their last few appearances at the Dakota have been full of energy and immensely satisfying. They now have a new lead singer, Ray Greene, who seems to be kicking the band to a higher level, if that’s possible.

Thursday, February 5

Hurricane Harold Trio @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, Minneapolis. 8pm (Free) Take the whirlwind harmonica blowing of Hurricane Harold, and join it to the blues-full vocals of Doug Otto and edgy guitar of Albert Perez and you’ve got some fun goin’ on. Here’s two of the three.

Friday, February 6

Moses Oakland and Paul Holland w/Rena Haus Trio @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, Minneapolis. 7pm ($6) It’s a bluesy Freewheelin’ First Friday, as KFAI’s Jackson Buck presents singer/songwriter Rena Haus and her trio opening at 7pm. Then at 9pm, venerable bluesman/jam host Moses Oakland takes the stage, accompanied by Paul Holland.

Armadillo Jump @ Manitou Station Pub, White Bear Lake. 9pm (No Cover) Though the dance floor is small, it still allows East metro folk  to dance to the ever swingin’ rockin’ blues of the Jumpsters.

Friday, Saturday, February 6,7

Bob Marley 70th Birthday Celebration @ The Cabooze, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($18) Marley was part Natural Mystic, part Rebel, Rastafarian, and the most popular world music artist of the late 70s and until he passed in ’81. This annual celebration has turned into a two day affair for the 70th anniversary of his birth. The International Reggae All Stars came together as a Marley tribute band in the early 90s. They and Innocent will lead the celebration, joined by many friends. Here’s what to expect.

Saturday, February 7

Harriet Brewing’s 4th Anniversary @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 7:30pm ($15) Featuring country inflected rock n’ roll from the American Sacarecrows; more country writing and guitar playing from Erik Koskinen and his Band; and lively Nouveau Hillbilly music from The Last Revel. Harriet brewing will fill the beer taps with a number of their brews as well.

KFAI Benefit w/Mighty Mofos, X-boys, Flamin’ Ohs, Michael Yonkers, DJ Danny Sigelman @ The Turf Club, Saint Paul. 7pm ($12) Lots of Gen Xers will relive their youth, while Millennials will discover the power of 70s and early 80s punk/pop. Tickets are going fast, so you may want to buy/reserve early. Here’s something from the vaults featuring the Ohs.

Sunday, February 8

33rd Annual Battle of the Jug Bands @ The Cabooze, 12:00 Noon, ($5 Suggested Donation) Will dozens of jug bands, some of whom were formed just for the contest, get up and perform? Will long time friends greet each other with warmth? Will a large potluck ensue? And will the waffle iron prize once again be stolen? Whadda you think?

Urban Hillbilly Quartet @ the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, Como Zoo, Saint Paul. 4:30pm – 6:30 pm (Free) Though often cited for their eclecticism, the UHB mines some of the same country/rock genre as bands such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, and even David Grisman. Can’t think of a nicer, warmer, or more skin-welcoming humid place to hear them than the Conservatory (see photo above), though limited space means you might want to listen to them in a part of the conservatory that doesn’t have direct sight lines to the band.

Barbara Le Shoure Benefit @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 5pm ($10 Donation) Blueswoman Barbara LeShoure  a member of both the Chicago and Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame, had a third stroke a few months back, and though she’s been improving with physical therapy, she needs help with daily expenses and medical bills. The music community is rallying around, so you’ll be able to hear the Maxx Band, Annie Mack, Jimmy Prime Time Sith, Kendra Glenn, Wain MacFarlane, Pippi Ardennia, more.

Monday, February 9

Tommy & The Liebermen @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm (No cover) Lieberman is a singer/songwriter with a fine way with words and an entertaining way with a crowd. His songs can be insightful as well as funny. It’s a foodie night, so there’s no cover, $10 bottles of wine and a special menu.

Tuesday, February 10

Phil Heywood @ Cafe Maude, Minneapolis. (No Cover) If you’re looking for ace fingerpicking and a more than pleasant baritone to go with your dinner, this is the place to be tonight. Be sure to ask for a table near the singer, since Cafe Maude can get crowded and noisy.

Tuesday, Wednesday, February 10,11

Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam @ the Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($50 – $60) Hmm, how much needs to be said about Mason  at least for anyone over 50. Okay, he’s in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He’s recorded with Hendrix, the Stones, and George Harrison, and his band Traffic featured Steve Winwood. He had hits with Only You Know and I Know, and Feelin’ Alright, which was later made a bigger hit by Joe Cocker. Mason even recorded with Mama Cass! These shows will feature songs from Traffic’s1967 and 1968 albums. Is that enough?

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 calendar for U Wanna Dance.


Musical Warmth: 12.11 – 12.17

December 11, 2013
Frozen cherry, anyone?

Frozen cherry, anyone?

Now that hearty Minnesotans have had a few days to get used to sub-zero weather, it will be easy to get out and enjoy the myriad musical and art offerings of our fair cities, since the temps will jump all the way up into the teens this weekend. If you’re wearing yourself out from shopping and preparing for the holidays, not to forget work, treat yourself to some live music, which lifts the spirits. Until next week.


Wednesday, December 11

Gypsy Mania @ Barbette, Minneapolis. 10pm (Tip Jar) Late night gypsy jazz from Gypsy Mania, featuring the masterful violin of Gary Schulte, and the guitars of Reynold Philipsek and Gary Helgeson. And Barbette’s happy hour prices to boot. Tres chic!

Wednesday, Thursday, December 11, 12

Dave Karr Quartet @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) Really. Get out and see Dave. As an 80-something mulit-reed player he’s got chops galore, with a fluid style that he serves up particularly well on bebop chestnuts.

Friday, December 13

UnknownLaura Caviani CD Release Party @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Laura has a new CD, Holly, Jolly, & Jazzy, just in time for the Christmas season. She’s a thoughtful, elegant, and imaginative player piano player. Tonight she’ll have Gordy Johnson on bass, and Joe Pulice on drums. Expect Santa and some special guests as well.

Saturday, December 14

John Devine and JT Bates @ Harriet Brewing Tap Room, Minneapolis. 3pm (Devine) 5pm (Bates) (Tip Jar) Here’s a way to take a break from shopping with some fresh brews. At 3pm John Devine, sax; will be joined by Jon Pemberton, keys & trumpet; and then drummer JT Bates will take the stage at 5pm. No word on whether JT will just be exercising his chops (which is not to say it won’t be thoroughly entertaining) or have other players along.

Jack Brass Band B-Day Party @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul. 6pm (Tip Jar) JBB Leader Mike Olander is celebrating his 40th Birthday, with special guests The Stooges Brass Band, an outstanding aggregation from New Orleans. For brass band fans, this is not to be missed, as it will be a brass blowout of epic proportions. Here’s the Stooges doing some Michael Jackson songs for Second Liners.

Lucia Newell @ Studio Z, Saint Paul. 6pm workshop (free) 7pm concert ($10) This is part of the monthly Jazz at Studio Z series. Lucia is a wonderful singer, inspired by Betty Carter, but with a “voice” of her own (in two languages!). She’s also turned into a first rate writer. She’ll be addressing singing and composing during the 6pm workshop, and then illustrate her ideas by singing at 7pm.  Here’s an example of her singing.

Tuesday Night Band @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) Ahh, it’s hard to beat the funky, funky grooves of B-3 Organ Night. Billy Franze, guitar; Downtown Bill Brown, B-3; and Kenny Horst, drums, return for one last stand on the AQ stage. They spent many a Tuesday night over the years laying down some soulful jazz. Oftentimes special guests, including visiting artists, would sit in for a song or two. Will that happen tonight? You’ll only know if you attend.

Monday, December 16

images-2Peter Kogan @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($10) Kogan is the principal Tympanist of the Minnesota Orchestra, which, as we know, has not exactly had a full schedule for a while. He’s filled his time writing and recording a jazz album entitled Cornucopia. He’s no stranger to genres outside of classical music, as he’s spent time performing the Larry Elgart Orchestra and the fusion band, Scratch n Sniff, as well as backing folks like Jimmy Witherspoon, Lightin Hopkins, Bo Diddley, the Drifters, and the Crystals. He’ll be joined tonight by Pete Whitman, saxophones; Keith Hilson, trombone, Adam Meckler, trumpet; Tanner Taylor, piano; Brian Courage, bass; and Cory Wong, guitar. I had Peter on my show on Saturday, December 7. You can get the archived show here. The interview starts at about 20 minutes into the show.

Steve Kenny’s Group 47 @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (Donation) Stellar trumpeter Kenny, a founding member of the Illicit Sextet, has surrounded himself with a group of young, hungry artists: pianist Will Kjeer is a high school senior who is a member of the Dakota Combo and free-lances around town; Thomas Strommen on sax is a former member of the Dakota Combo and no a sophomore at UW-River Falls, where he works with a number of ensembles; bassist Adam Tucker has been around for a number of years, playing in the Sextons and engineering albums for the heavy metal community, Jana Nyberg, and the Adam Meckler Orchestra. Finally, drummer Alex Burgess is another UW-River Falls student, studying drums with Craig Hara, composition with Dave Milne, and playing in Bad Habits Brass.

Tuesday, December 17

Bryan Nichols & Friends @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($5) The Tuesday Night offerings at the AQ are not exactly an open jam, but a gathering of compatible musicians, who often surprise by trying out new tunes. Tonight the performance is led by pianist Nichols, who has established himself as an imaginative composer and interpreter.

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, December 11

Everett Smithson Band on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3 & 106.7FM) and 7pm (441 Club – Tip Jar) It’s a gumbo of music, drawing on Louisiana, roots, gospel and the occasional hillbilly hoedown. Besides his wife Cathy on vocals and squeezebox, Smithson’s cohorts include Phil Schmid on guitar, Jeremy Johnson on drums, and Bill Black on bass. Tune in to get a taste and then head over to the 331 Club for a full serving.

Wednesday, December 11 – Saturday, December 14

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm & 9pm Wed, Sat. 8pm & 10pm Thurs, Fri. ($35 – $70) Well-oiled and precision-driven as a Ferrari, this 10-piece horn driven group has filled dance floors with its Bay-area funk since 1968. Fans of old school R&B will not want to miss this event. Check them out.

Friday, December 13

All Star Blues Revue @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 6pm – 10pm ($?) Get new soles on your dancing shoes, because this band will prognosticate the pleasure in your brain and extrapolate the rhythm in your rump. Harpmeister Harold Tremblay has put together a stellar line-up, including, Dan Schwalbe and “Good Time Willy: Williams, guitars; Allen Kirk, drums; Bruce McCabe, keys; and Michael Caravale, bass. BTW, Michael is moving to Paris for a few months to work with some musicians there, so this will be your last chance to see him for a while.

Cafe Societe @ The Hat Trick Lounge, Saint Paul. 9pm (Free) Pianist/composer Mark Chergosky is back at the Trick, with son Michael on mandolin and viola, and Amelia Rivera on vocals. Cafe Societe plays French Cafe music and bossa novas, along with some American pop and jazz, and Chergosky’s originals.

Saturday, December 14

Eddies Yulefest VI @ Celtic Junction, 836 Prior Avenue, Saint Paul. 7pm – 10pm ($15) Fundraiser for Emergency Foodshelf Network.  With Barra, the MN Ceili band, and the HiBs (instrumentalists). This is the sixth edition of the Eddies annual party, and it’s grown so much that a bigger venue is in order. And how appropriate to have it at the Celtic Junction, given the guest artists. It’s always an evening of warm music, made that much more enjoyable by the Eddies good-hearted hosting and singing.

A few hearty souls at the very first Santacon

A few hearty souls at the very first Santacon

Lowertown Santacon VI @ Lowertown Venues, Saint Paul. 6pm – late night (Free) This pubcrawl visits six venues in and around Lowertown, and is a true example of a community-organized event. Revelers dressed as Santas, Elves, Reindeers, or any imaginary person/creature of the season will start out at Golden’s Deli and trek to the Black Dog, Barrio & Bulldog, Mears Park, the Gopher Bar and Senor Wong’s. Expect the Brass Messengers to be parade leaders, a performance by fire-dancers at Mears Park, and an over-stuffed bag of other fun moments. A complete schedule and other information can be found here.

Jillian Rae CD Release Concert @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minnapolis. 7:30 ($15) The talented violinist/singer/songwriter first lit up the stage leading the Killer Hayseeds, and as a member of Two Many Banjos, and Steve Kaul’s Brass Kings. Since then she’s formed her own group to play her own compositions and occasionally defying audience expectations. Rae has released an album of heartache, titled Heartbeat and is celebrating its release tonight with opening acts by Gallupstar and The Honeydogs. Here she is with a surprising cover.

Sunday, December 15

The Roe Family Singers Bluegrass Brunch @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 11am – 1pm. Here’s a morning pick-me-up for breakfast that will set toes tapping and hearts laughing. The Roe Family Singers do bluegrass and old time music, while ringleader/poppa Quillan Roe lets loose with the occasional corny joke. It’s family friendly.

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.

Music for a Winter Wonderland 12.12 – 12.18

December 12, 2012
The Brass Messengers will lead Santacon participants throughout Lowertown

The Brass Messengers will lead Santacon participants throughout Lowertown

Well, we finally have some weather to match our reputation. Don’t let that stop you from going out, however. There is too much good music out there to stay home. Simply make sure you have more time for travel. After all, we’re all getting used to driving in snow and ice again. Have a good week.


imagesWednesday, Thursday, December 12, 13

John Pizzarelli @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45), 9pm ($35) Though Pizzarelli is sometimes touted for his vocals on the Great American Songbook, it’s his guitar playing that stands out. He’s also a charming conversationalist, as anyone who has listened to his NPR show will attest.

Thursday, December 13

Ahmed & the Creators @ The 3rd Floor, 579 Selby, Saint Paul. 7:30pm – 9:30pm ($?) It’s true, you have to climb stairs to get to this inviting venue, but when you do, you’ll be treated to the hard bop/mainstream sounds of this classic sextet.

Friday, December 14

Fratzke, Hanson, Roessler, Hennig & Legget @ The Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar, Saint Paul. 8pm (tip jar) It’s a “Not so Silent Night” at the Black Dog, as Eric Fratzke, guitar; Brian Roessler, bass; Nathan Hanson, sax; and Pete Hennig and Pete Legget, drums, create improvisational music.

Friday, Saturday, December 14, 15

Laura Caviani Holiday Show @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul.  9pm ($10) Caviani will be performing music from her cool album of holiday songs, Music We Have Heard On High, with Lucia Newell on vocals, Jay Young on bass, Dave Schmalenberger on drums, and Saturday only, Pete Whitman on sax. Though it’s not holiday music, here’s a video of Laura.

Saturday, December 15

University of Manitoba Jazz Studies Faculty Master Class @ Walker West Academy, Saint Paul.11am (Free with Pre-Registration)  Here’s a chance for aspiring young musicians to take a free master class with six internationally known musicians who teach at the University of Manitoba. This event, and their performance later in the day (see below) are part of an effort to recruit young musicians to their program in Winnipeg. If you know someone who might benefit from the class, register them at 651-224-2929.

Jazz Studies Faculty @ Progressive Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Ave, Saint Paul. 7:00pm (Free)  Steve Kirby, bass; Anna-Lisa Kirby, voice; Quincy Davis, drums; Will Bonness, paino; Laurent Roy, guitar; Derrick Gardner, trumpet; and Craig Bailey, sax, will be performing. These are nationally recognized musicians who have played with Basie; Ellington; Cyrus Chestnut, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wynton Marsalis, among others.

imagesJef Lee Johnson, Yohannes Tona, & Michael Bland @ Icehouse, Minneapolis. 10pm ($12) Johnson  plays jazz, funk, and blues-rock, with an individual style that has Hendrix influences. He’s worked with, and earned praises from, folks like Chaka Khan (who called him a “gift from God”), as well as Esperanza Spalding, George Duke, Christian McBride, and McCoy Tyner. His cohorts tonight are Ethiopian-born Twin Cities bassist Yohannes Tona (Nachito Herrera and Stokely Williams), and drummer Michael Bland (Prince, Soul Asylum, Mambo’s Combo). Should be an evening of exciting music.

Monday, December 17

Pete Hennig & Jazz Central All-Stars @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm (donation) Drummer Hennig is versatile enough to play   stripped down blues with Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders, 21st Century jazz with the Atlantis Quartet, and provide the drum chair for Adam Meckler’s big band. He also plays the banjo, though I don’t think he’ll playing that percussive instrument tonight. Here’s a video of Pete with Nathan Hanson on sax at the Black Dog.

Charlie Christiansen Trio @ The Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul. 9pm (No cover) Christiansen is a vocalist and piano player who heads up the vocal department at MacNally Smith. He’ll be joined by trumpeter Adam Meckler for an evening of standards and original Christmas and Holiday music.

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 12

imagesTim Sparks and Dean Magraw @ The Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio, Minneapolis. 7:30pm – doors at 6:30 ($25) Sparks is a finger-picking monster, who will be playing selections from his revolutionary “Nutcracker Suite.” It’s the 20th Anniversary of the recording, which has been hailed as a significant contribution to the existing body of guitar literature. He’ll also be doing his rendition of East European dance tunes found in his latest work, Balkan Dreams. Dean Magraw, another terrific player opens. Tim came by my show and played a few tunes this past Saturday, the 8th. Go here to listen. The interview and songs start about 30 minutes into the show.

Thursday, December 13

Dale Watson @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 9pm  ($15) Some call Watson alt-country, but he sure sounds like a traditional honky-tonker to me. Traditional as in Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Hank Thompson. This Texas Troubadour simply doesn’t go along with country cliches or current “Gnashville” approaches to the industry. Local faves The Cactus Blossoms open. Here’s a video.

Southside Aces Christmas CD Release Party @ The Eagles Club #34, Minneapolis. 8pm – 11pm ($5) The Aces perform traditional New Orleans jazz, which they’re applying to some Christmas tunes in the form of a CD called “Santaphone.” They’ll be joined by some special guests, as they are on the CD, including Charlie DeVore, Rick Rexroth, Nadine DuBois, Maude Hixon, and the Beaujolais Sisters. Let the dancing begin.

Friday, December 14

4th Annual Holiday Shindig @ The Aster Cafe, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) A collection of some of the best songwriters in the Twin Cities, including Martin Devaney, Steve kaul, Alison Rae, and Dan Gaardner. They’ll be doing seasonal originals and holiday favorites, and it will all culminate in a sing-a-long and free raffle. All ticket proceeds go to Open Arms of MN to cook and deliver meals to folks with life-threatening diseases. It’s a small club, so table reservations are recommended.

Lamont Cranston Band w/Bruce McCabe @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 6pm  – 9pm ($?) This is the Cranston’s first album of all new studio material in 15 years for this veteran blues and boogie outfit. If you’ve never heard the Cranstons, especially with pianoman McCabe goosing the energy, you deserve to check them out.

Saturday, December 15

Just follow the tuba.

Follow the tuba.

Lowertown Santacon V @ Lowertown venues, Saint Paul. 5:30pm (Free) This is the fifth year for this rambling convocation of folks dressed as Santa’s, Mrs Santa, elves, and other Christmas beings. It starts at the Black Dog Cafe, where kids are welcome, but after that, it’s strolling to various venues throughout the neighborhood, led by the Brass Messengers, and singing songs and having a few adult beverages. Don’t overdo it, though. No one likes an inebriated elf.

Booker T and the MGs & The Ventures Cover Band @ Cafe Maude at Loring, Minneapolis. 10pm. I’m not sure who is in this band, but it sounds intriguing and fun. The two bands created some of the most memorable instrumentals of the 60s, which should sound just fine in the cozy comfines of the downtown Maude.

Hot Pants Dance Party @ The Nomad, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) Time for the Holiday edition of dancing to rare soul and funk 45s. Their poster promises a Love Potion Voodoo Dance. Don’t know if that’s Love Potion #9, or another batch.

Monday, Tues, Wednesday, December 17, 18, 19

ToP Funkifying the Zoo last summer

Funkifying the Zoo last summer

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($70, $55), 9pm ($60, $45) The funkiest band from Oakland/San Francisco is still a powerhouse of butt-moving rhythms and horn licks. Though they’ve been going for 44 years, the band had 1400 people movin’ and groovin’ when they played the Zoo last summer. No doubt they will have folks shakin’ it and jumpin’ out of their seats at the Dakota.

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.

Music for the First Week in December – 11.30 – 12.6

November 30, 2011

We are blessed with a cornucopia of music and arts here in the Twin Cities, and, it seems, we have enough music fans to support regular appearances from musicians that call other parts of the world home. It is more than even an avid fan can follow. This week we have a couple of CD release parties as well as jazz vocalists, improvised music, roots, Americana, and old school R&B from which to choose. Enjoy yourself.


Ms Ammons

Wednesday, November 30

Lila Ammons Jazz Quintet @ Honey, NE Minneapolis. 7pm ($5). with Ted Godbout, piano; Azhary Warpinski, bs; Tim Zhorne, drums; and Dean Brewington, sax. A rare chance to see Ms Ammons, who spends much of her performing time in Europe. As a vocalist, Ammons is equally conversant in blues and jazz. I’ve seen her scat bebop tunes with ease, and turn around and kill a blues.

Mary Louise Knutson CD Release @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($5). Last week’s Saint Paul release party was a blast. Now you who live in the West Metro can enjoy an evening of her warm, soulful playing. See my recent interview with her below.

Thursday, December 1

Christine Rosholt “Pazz” Release Party @ The Dakota, Minneapolis 7pm ($16) An evening of pop and jazz from chanteuse Rosholt. It’s a celebration of her transatlantic collaboration with British songwriter Kevin Hall. Instead of singing standards, she’s got this trove of originals that she’s interpreted, and quite successfully, I may add. The evening will feature many Twin Cities musicians, including The Hornheads, JD Steele, Randy Sabien, Sophia Shorai, Graydon Peterson, Mac Santiago, Vince Hyman, Zacc Harris, and more….  The performance will feature the music from the CD in its entirety, as well as some added surprises.

Ellen Lease & Pat Moriarty. Photo by John Whiting

Friday, December 2

Community Pool @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm (Tip jar). Not only will Nathan Hanson (sax) and Brian Roessler (bass) perform their duo magic, but they’ll be joined by Pat Moriarty (sax) and Ellen Lease (piano) for an evening of two duos and a quartet. Improvised composing doesn’t get any better – adventurous and accessible.

Friday, Saturday, December 2, 3

What Would Monk Do? @ The Artists’ Quarter, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10) No it’s not a new bumper sticker, though that’s an idea for an entrepreneur. It’s a quartet of Twin Cities ace musicians, exploring the music of the brilliant Thelonious Monk. Steve Kenny, trumpet; Peter Schimke, piano; Billy Peterson, bass; and Kenny Horst, drums. Sure to be fun.

Saturday, December 3

JazZen @ The Nicollet, Minneapolis. 8pm (tip jar). Flautist Bob Fantauzzo has added a keyboard player to the group, which includes a drummer and electric cellist. It’s sure to add to the already interesting music that Bob creates on wooden flutes from around the world. Nice to see The Nicollet having jazz on the occasional Saturdays as well as Tuesdays.

Sunday, December 4

PipJazz Sunday @ The Landmark Center, Saint Paul. 5pm ($20) Vocalist  Pippi Ardennia continues her monthly residency at the Landmark Center. Her musical guests today include former MN Viking Esera Tualo, and high school student Zosha Warpeha, who is an inventive, melodic improviser on the violin. Ardennia is an engaging vocalist, who successfully takes chances with rhythm and melody. Her warm, welcoming demeanor is a big part of what makes these events family-friendly.

Wolff Jabbr @ Red Stag, NE Minneapolis. 9pm (No Cover)  Three multi-instrumentalists who emerged from the Minneapolis Free Music Society events at the Acadia Cafe. Their website says they create “adventurous instrumental music that fluctuates between minimalism, lyricism, and discordance.” At a recent Black Dog appearance I found them swinging quite a bit more than that description implies.

Monday, December 5

Catherine Russell @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($25) What a treat. Russell is an accomplished singer who has done backup vocals for Al Kooper and Steely Dan, to name just two. She was in town a few months ago and stole the show as part of a Grateful Dead tribute at Orchestra Hall, and has appeared on Marian McPartland’s piano jazz show. In her recent CD, “Inside this Heart of Mine,” she evokes wistfulness, playfulness, and braggadocio. It’s spent a lot of time on my CD player.

Tuesday, December 6

Joel Shapira @ The Nicollet, Minneapolis. 7pm – 9pm. Though a number of venues in town have Tuesday residencies, the Nicollet has an ever-changing roster of talented folks. The acoustics are very good, which will allow you to clearly hear Shapira’s nylon guitar, and appreciate his facile fretwork.

For a comprehensive listing of jazz events, go to KBEM’s calendar.

 Roots, Blues, Other…

Wednesday, November 30

Taylor Baggott on the House Party and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (KFAI 90.3 & 106.7FM) and 7pm – 9pm (331 Club). A couple of months ago, when Harold asked me to host today’s House Party, I immediately thought of having Baggott as my guest. He’s a soulful singer, with an appreciation for classics, and a winning way on stage. He just released an EP and packed the house at the Dakota. Baggott will be on KFAI during the 5 o’clock hour, and then scoot over to the 331 Club for the 7pm show.

Friday, December 2

Yulefest IV, Feat. The Eddies, Patrick O’Brien, & Barra @ The Hat Trick Lounge, Downtown Saint Paul. 7:30pm. ($10) It’s an evening of festivities to benefit the Minnesota Food Shelf. Join others in the intimate music room for Celtic music and more, including almost acapella ruminations on love, life, work, and death from The Eddies.

Heating things up. Photo by Marc Monaghan

Mississippi Heat @ Wilebski’s, Rice & Larpenteur, Saint Paul. 8pm ($10) Powered by the harp of Pierre Lacocque, this Chicago band delivers electrified blues that draws on the heritage of its hometown, as well as the Delta. With their ability to fill a dance floor, this is a fitting band to play the newly re-opened bar.

Friday, Saturday, December 2,3

Kelly HuntKelly Hunt@ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 8pm ($20) Hunt has steadily built a fan base here and throughout the country with her hard work and good humor, not to mention boundless talent. It would be easy to call her piano playing boogie-woogie, but that wouldn’t begin to encompass her gifts. Even the record charts list her in multiple genres – blues, Americana, and Adult Alternative, among others. Hunt is a piano-pounder, for sure, but this powerful singer will entrance and delight, all the while keeping your kiester moving as she lays out a ferocious beat with her left hand.

Saturday, December 3

Brass Messengers CD Release Party @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 8pm. Ain’t no party like a Brass Messengers party. With a repertoire that stretches from the Balkans to New Orleans, and beyond, and an attitude that’s part circus, part vaudeville, and completely irreverent, the Messengers are simply like no other band in town. Should be mucho fun, what with dancing, etc.

Scottie Miller @ The Loring Theater, Minneapolis. 8pm ($30) Scottie hasn’t been playing in the area too much lately, as he has been touring far and wide as a member of Ruthie Foster’s band, and as a leader of his own funky, soulful group. As a pianist, he proudly calls upon New Orleans piano professors for inspiration, and does them proud. Tonight he’s bringing his game up a notch, by combining the music of his band with string arrangements by composer/arranger Victor Zupanc, and featuring the critically acclaimed violinist Margaret Humphrey.

Alvin Youngblood Hart w/Staving Chain @ Bayport BBQ, Bayport. 8pm ($25) Here’s a chance to see acoustic bluesman Hart, a Grammy Winner, in a very intimate setting and get some good BBQ to boot. Seating is very limited, so reservations are highy recommended (call 651-955-6337)

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, December 6,7,8

Tower of Power @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($45 – $70) “What is Hip?” Going “Down to The Nighclub.” The ten-piece band with the tight horn section has been delivering their unique brand of soul for forty some odd years now, and, judging by their last appearance, can still bring on the funk. If “You’re Still A Young Man,” you can find out where modern bands like the Dap-Kings, Kings Go Forth, and the Soul Investigators got some of their influences.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues events, see the Minnesota Blues Society calendar.

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