Thursday, November 25, 2010

Concert review: Black Dub at the Cedar

Blade, Lanois, Whitley, Johnson: Official Black Dub  photo
When: Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 • Where: The Cedar Cultural Center • Who: Daniel Lanois, guitar; Jim Wilson, bass; Trixie Whitley, vocals; Brian Blade, drums

Would I travel across town during a Minnesota winter weather advisory to crowd into the Cedar and stand in the back of the room, craning my neck for glimpses of the band? I would if the band included Brian Blade, and did.

I learned earlier this week that Blade would be in town as part of Black Dub, Daniel Lanois’ latest project. Until now I have only heard Blade play jazz, “only” in this case being a word as big as the sun, given the people he plays with (Wayne Shorter, his own Fellowship Band) and has played with (Herbie Hancock, Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Bill Frisell, Chris Potter, Chick Corea and Christian McBride). Before last night, my latest Blade sighting was at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Billy Childs.

Lanois describes Black Dub as “kind of a rock thing, steeped in the Jamaican culture of dub.” I know little about dub but noticed a lot of rock, some country and blues in the part of the show we arrived in time for. By then the Cedar was SRO (the band had specified fewer than usual chairs; they wanted a standing crowd) and steamy hot. On stage were Lanois on guitar, Trixie Whitley (daughter of the late blues artist Chris Whitley) on vocals, Jim Wilson on bass, and Blade on drums.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On jazz accordion, accordionists, and the Northeast Accordion Festival

Anonymous young accordionist
As a former student of the squeezebox, I love how much accordion we're hearing these days in all kinds of music, including jazz. This year alone I've heard Will Holshouser play with Regina Carter, Ted Reichman with the Claudia Quintet, and Richard Galliano with Kurt Elling (I had to fly to New York for that and it was worth it). I've driven to Zumbrota for the annual Accordion-O-Rama extravaganza, gone to the Loring Pasta Bar to hear Dan Newton, headed to Fireside Pizza for Denny Malmberg, and followed Patrick Harison around town.

In years past I've seen Gary Versace with Maria Schneider, Fausto Beccalossi with Al Di Meola, Marcel Loeffler with Dorado Schmitt, and Charlie Giordano with James Carter, when Carter was on his "Chasin' the Gypsy" tour. I think I've seen Vinicius Cantuaria perform with an accordionist but I can't remember who it was. My point being, if there has to be one, that a band with an accordion generally gets my attention.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jazz/pop/hip-hop concert review: “Lush Life” at the Southern

The end of the show: a "Moon River" sing-along.
When: Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 • Where: Southern Theater • Who (deep breath): Devon Gray (dVRG), piano; Josh Peterson, guitar; Sean McPherson (Twinkie Jiggles), bass; Peter Leggett, drums; Chris Thomson, saxophone/clarinet; Steve Roehm, vibraphone; Adam Levy and DJ Jake Rudh, hosts and vocals; Janey Winterbauer, Mayda, Toki Wright, Bethany Larson, Omaur Bliss, Ashley Still, Carnage the Executioner and Desdamona (Ill Chemistry), vocals

It could have been ironic. It might have been a mess. Instead, it was courageous and entertaining, fresh and sincere.

On Sunday night, some of the Twin Cities’ top pop and hip-hop artists gathered at the Southern Theater to explore the American jazz canon. Specifically, the Great American Songbook, what co-host Adam Levy calls our “free lunch” and our “vast cultural inheritance, shaping not only our notions of American music and the popular song but our very ideas of romance, love and morality."

The sold-out show felt like a gathering of friends, a jam session in someone’s living room, complete with a sing-along at the end. Not every performance was successful, but some were revelatory and all came from the same place of wanting to know more about the music and treat it right.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jimmy Scott, for Maud Hixson

Seeing Jimmy Scott perform live at the Montreal Jazz Festival several years ago made Maud Hixson decide to be a jazz singer.

Seeing Jimmy Scott perform live at the Dakota several years ago made me decide to write about jazz, or try. I was so moved by the experience that I wanted to put something in writing so I could look back later and remember.

Last night, Maud heard me tell my how-I-became-a-jazz-writer story on Maryann Sullivan's radio show,"Corner Jazz," on KBEM. She wanted to read what I had written about Jimmy. Since the article is five years old, it's a bit hard to find on the Jazz Police website, where it was originally published, so I've pulled it into Bebopified. Here it is on Jazz Police as well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jazz concert review: Regina Carter’s “Reverse Thread” at the Dakota

Regina Carter
When: Nov. 2, 2010 • Where: DakotaWho: Regina Carter, violin; Yacouba Sissoka, kora; Will Holshouser, accordion; Chris Lightcap, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums 

If you saw Regina Carter’s “Reverse Thread” at the Ted Mann Concert Hall last March, when she and her band came to the Twin Cities as part of the Northrop Jazz Series, you don’t know the music. If you own the CD and have memorized every melody and phrase, you don’t know the music. The only way to experience these African folk tunes—field recordings from the Ugandan Jews, and music of the African Diaspora that Carter has discovered, deeply researched, and embraced—is to hear her play them live right now, today.

Interview with Paul Bollenback

By Larry Englund

Larry Englund hosts the weekly radio show "Rhythm and Grooves" for KFAI Radio Without Boundaries. This interview originally aired on Saturday, October 30, 2010. bb

Paul Bollenback
Guitarist Paul Bollenback was in town over the Halloween weekend to play at the Artists’ Quarter.

Like every young guitarist of the 60s and 70s, Bollenback was enamored with rock and roll. Then he heard Miles Davis and delved into fusion.

While living in Washington, DC, he was exposed to more traditional jazz, as well as organ jazz, and studied composition and performance. He made his first record with Gary Thomas in 1987 and met Joey DeFrancesco in 1990, establishing a relationship that lasts to this day.

After being named Musician of the Year for the Washington Area in 1997, he moved to New York City, where he now resides.

He dropped by KFAI on Saturday morning, October 30. This is a slightly edited version of the on-air discussion we had.

Talking with Honeydog Adam Levy about jazz, hip-hop and Sunday's "Lush Life" gig

Originally published at, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

Adam Levy
Jazz and hip-hop get along famously, even if some jazz purists don’t approve. Hip-hop artists have long mined the jazz catalog for samples, and many jazz artists who grew up with hip-hop flavor their music with beats, sound bites and scratching. Both genres include elements of improvisation; spontaneous composition and conversation in jazz, freestyling, DJing and emceeing in hip-hop.
This Sunday at the Southern Theater, some of the Twin Cities’ most popular and accomplished hip-hop artists — Mayda, Ill Chemistry (Desdamona and Carnage the Executioner), Toki Wright, Omaur Bliss and others — will offer their takes on classic jazz songs in a program called “Lush Life: Interpretations of the American jazz canon.”

The instrumentalists of Heiruspecs are the house band; keyboardist DeVon Gray (dVRG) is the music director. Adam Levy (The Honeydogs, Liminal Phase, Hookers & Blow) and DJ Jake Rudh (Transmission) will host.

“Lush Life” is the first show in a three-part new music series called “Southern Songbook.” The series continues on Feb. 14 with “Desire and Death: New love songs on yearning and loss” and April 14 with “The Rites of String: The intersection of song, songwriter and strings.”

MinnPost spoke with Adam Levy by phone earlier this week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jazz concert review: Brad Mehldau's "Highway Rider" at the Walker, world premiere

by John Scherrer

This past weekend, the Walker Art Center hosted a true event in the world of jazz: the world premiere of Brad Mehldau’s Highway Rider. With Mehldau’s latest work, there is much to say—and much is said.

No jazz pianist 40 and under has garnered so much attention. Witness the early comparisons to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, the sometimes hyperbolic praise of Mehldau’s concerts and recordings, and the commentators who complain Mehldau is overly cerebral or too indulgent. 

I myself cannot say I’ve escaped Mehldau—nor would I want to. With the exception of Theodore Walter Rollins, Mehldau is the musician to whom I most often listen. I suspect one reason is the wide range of moods he creates. These emotional responses might stem from the incessant swing on “Rejoice” (see Joshua Redman’s Moodswing), the tour de force of “All the Things You Are” (Art of the Trio, Volume 4), the playfulness injected into “Monk’s Dream” from Live in Tokyo (listen for the “Linus and Lucy” quote), the “Tumbleweed” funk found on Michael Brecker’s Pilgrimage, or the romantic balladry displayed on “The Very Thought of You” from his last trio record.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

The making of a radio show, part 2: In the studio with Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson

More in this series: Part 1 (Nancy Harms), Part 3 (Debbie Duncan)

Clockwise from top: Arne Fogel, Maud Hixson, Rick Carlson, hamming it up
Maud Hixson is not happy with her latest take of “Laura.” She makes that abundantly clear with words never heard in a Johnny Mercer song.

It’s one of several funny moments during this afternoon’s session at Wild Sound studio. Recording is hard work but there’s an easy, relaxed feel to this group: vocalist Hixson and her husband, Rick Carlson, on piano, Wild Sound’s Matthew Zimmerman at the board, singer/radio show host Arne Fogel calling the shots.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"My Funny Valentine" has a verse?

There's more than we know to many songs in the Great American Songbook. Specifically, the verse—the part that precedes the chorus ("chorus," aka "refrain," being that part many of us think of as the "verse").

It's kind of the introduction to the song, the stage-setter, the explanation, sung once at the start and (unlike the chorus) never repeated.

I like verses. Some are charmingly old-fashioned. Some reveal "facts" (if there are such things) about a song that give it an entirely different spin and meaning.

For example, the verse to "Tea for Two" (music by Vincent Youmans, lyrics by Irving Caesar):

I'm discontented with homes that I rented
So I have invented my own.
Darling, this place is a lover's oasis
Where life's weary chase is unknown.
Far from the cry of the city,
Where flowers pretty caress the streams,
Cozy to hide in, to live side by side in,

Don't let it abide in my dreams.

(Then the chorus begins:) 

Picture me upon your knee
Just tea for two, and two for tea,
Just me for you, and you for me alone....

What we find out from the verse is the perfect life the singer imagines is all in her head. She's alone, lonely, and bitter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The making of a radio show, part 1: In the studio with Nancy Harms and Tanner Taylor

More in this series: Part 2 (Maud Hixson), Part 3 (Debbie Duncan)

Nancy Harms and Tanner Taylor
Singer and radio host Arne Fogel is creating a new series for public radio station KBEM called (working title) Minnesota Voices: Certain Standards. Tentatively scheduled for spring 2011, it will run for 13 weeks, 5 days/week.

Listeners will hear songs from the Great American Songbook sung by Twin Cities vocalists Debbie Duncan, Connie Evingson, Nancy Harms, Maud Hixson, and Fogel himself, plus Fogel's stories about the songs.

It's an ambitious project that should add much to our understanding of these songs and their importance. Each singer is recording 13 songs; each weekday will feature a different singer.