Thursday, January 20, 2011

Live jazz to see in Minneapolis-St. Paul: This week’s picks

Are you in your car or near a radio at 8:30 CST on Friday mornings? Tune to KBEM to hear me and Mr. Jones—Jazz 88 "Morning Show" host Ed Jones—talk about these events and more. 88.5 FM in the Twin Cities, streaming live on the Web.

The temperatures are plummeting (25 below this morning? Seriously?), but the jazz calendar is heating up. The Loring Theater (formerly the Music Box Theater) is booking jazz performances worth going out for: last week’s Dave King Trucking Company, and the forthcoming (Feb. 4) solo appearance by avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp. The “Musique Mystique Dans La Chambre Rouge” (Mystical Music in the Red Room) series at the Loring Pasta Bar (no relation) is well underway, with Tim Sparks scheduled to appear with Connie Evingson on Jan. 31. Roberta Gambarini closes out this month at the Dakota and starts the next. Grammy winner Kurt Elling comes to town for two nights (Feb. 9-10) right after the release of his new CD, The Gate, on Concord. Later that month (Feb. 27), you can hear Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard at Orchestra Hall. In between, on Feb. 12, the Israeli guitarist Roni Ben-Hur performs at the St. Paul JCC. See the calendar at right for details.

Meanwhile, dress warm, check your wiper fluid, and get out there. If the artists can brave the weather (often carrying their own gear), so can we.

Nellie McKay at the Dakota

As I write this, I’ve just returned from Thursday night’s performance, and as many times as I’ve seen Nellie McKay perform, I’m still astonished. She combines stereotypical ditsy blonde shtick with a savage intelligence, wicked wit, and genuine sweetness (her version of "Midnight Sun" is enchanting). She sings Jobim and Doris Day, reggae and original tunes, jazz standards and tongue-in-cheek screeds (“Feminists don’t have a sense of humor…They have a tumor on their funnybone”). Her voice is unremarkable, her piano playing passable, but she defines originality. Club owner Lowell Pickett introduced her as “fresh out of rehab.” Surely that was her idea.

7 p.m. Friday, Dakota ($32). Tickets online or call 612-332-5299 (JAZZ).

Billy Peterson’s 60th Birthday Celebration at the Artists’ Quarter

Sometimes it seems that Minnesota belongs to the Petersons and the rest of us just go to their gigs. Matriarch Jeanne Arland Peterson, now nearing 90, still plays piano; Linda, Ricky, Patty, Paul, and Jason (Peterson de Laire) are all professional musicians. Bobby is no longer with us but shaped many young players’ careers. This weekend is all about Billy, handsome devil and bassist extraordinaire. He’ll make music and merry with Peter Schimke on piano, Brian Grivna on saxophone, and Kenny Horst on drums. Surprise guests are expected.

9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Artists’ Quarter ($10).

Roy Hargrove at the Dakota

Dave Holland was originally booked for these dates with his stellar quintet (including Chris Potter on saxophones), but a family emergency forced a postponement. Roy Hargrove agreed to step in so there’s nothing to complain about. Hargrove is one of the finest young trumpeters of our time, a musician any serious or semi-serious jazz fan should see whenever he comes to town. His band includes Justin Robinson on alto sax and flute, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass, and Montez Coleman on drums.

7 and 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dakota ($40/$25). Tickets online or call 612-332-5299 (JAZZ).


9 p.m. Tuesdays: The Tuesday Night Band at the Artists’ Quarter

If it’s Tuesday, it must be B-3 night at the AQ. It has been for more than a decade. When “The Legend” Billy Holloman left the Twin Cities for Las Vegas, “Downtown” Bill Brown took his place on the bench. The rest of the band usually includes Billy Franze on guitar and Kenny Horst on drums, but anything can happen and often does.

9 p.m. Tuesdays, Artists’ Quarter ($5).

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