Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Minneapolis, jazz town

A self-described "serious amateur" jazz guitarist got in touch earlier this month, wanting to know if moving to Minneapolis might give him more opportunities to play than he was finding in the Chicago suburb of Batavia, where he now lives.

I have no experience booking gigs or carting gear or trying to get paid, but I do know that a lot of live music happens in this town most nights. Often I wish I could be in two (three, four) places at once because on some nights it's hard to choose. Looking ahead, October 7 is one. Dave Douglas is at the Walker Art Center, Anat Cohen is returning to the Dakota, and over at MacPhail, Adam Linz is launching his Mingus series.

So Minneapolis (more accurately, Minneapolis/St. Paul) is not NYC but if you know where to look (and I might suggest my jazz calendar) you can always find something worth going out for.

Patrick Harison at the Aster
Last night HH and I went to Whitey's in Northeast Minneapolis to celebrate the fact that a friend had gotten a new job. On the way in, we ran into pianist Tanner Taylor and the great Latin percussionist Luis Santiago, who were sitting at a table on the sidewalk. Tanner and friends recently opened a new performance and teaching space nearby called Jazz Central--"for the cats, by the cats."

From there we drove to Main Street and the Aster Cafe, where the wonderful young accordionist Patrick Harison was performing his signature blend of folk and jazz and old-timey songs in the courtyard, a place with cobblestones and iron furniture and views of the Mississippi River and the downtown Minneapolis skyline. It felt very European.

On the way out I checked Facebook and found a post from trumpeter Adam Meckler: "Playing at Favor Cafe tonight with Jack Brass. 8-10p. In Uptown. Get here." I've been meaning to see the Jack Brass Band so we headed there after the Aster and caught the last hour.

The Favor, a soul food restaurant on West Lake Street, is almost too small for the band, which had 10 players last night including two Sousaphones, something you don't see every day. Mirrored pillars blocked some of the band members from view and reflected others, a kind of surreal effect. Sound filled the room and bounced off the walls and leaked out onto the street, where we heard it when we pulled up to park.

Jack Brass is a New Orleans-style, horn-powered band that plays all kinds of music, with the focus on street party fun. They chatter and tease each other while they're playing, and sometimes they sing, but the music is serious and the solos are scorching. Trombonist Scott Moriarity was a blur. We left happy.

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