Friday, February 4, 2011

Live jazz 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.

This is an exceptional weekend for jazz in the Twin Cities. Next week, the great vocalist Kurt Elling comes to town for two nights. Later this month, Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard bring their quintets to Orchestra Hall. Meanwhile, I’m keeping a gimlet eye on a local venue that has presented live jazz regularly but is now “making changes.” You'll know more when I do.

Friday: John Scofield at the Dakota

When asked to name the three greatest living jazz guitarists, most jazz fans will say Pat MethenyBill Frisell, and John Scofield. Diverse, eclectic, and innovative, Scofield’s music ranges from post-bop to R&B and funk-edged jazz. His resume includes stints and recordings with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, Charles Mingus, Gary Burton, Miles Davis, Charlie Haden, Brad Mehldau, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, and many more. In January, he toured with Joe Lovano; he brings his own trio to the Dakota for one night only. 

7 and 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, Dakota ($40/$30). 612-332-5299.

Friday: Matthew Shipp at the Loring Theater

Three reasons to see this show: 

1. Shipp is a big-deal avant-garde pianist.
2. He hasn’t played here since a Walker date in 1998. 
3. The Loring Theater (formerly the Music Box Theater, home for 12 years of Triple Espresso) is getting its feet wet presenting jazz (among many other things). In January, they featured the Dave King Trucking Company. Cool things are in the planning stages but they need to know we care.

8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, Loring Theater ($18).

Friday and Saturday: Kronos Quartet x 2 at the Walker

On their first night at WAC, “Music Without Borders,” the adventuresome string quartet will focus on their latest recording, Floodplain, featuring music by young composers from Egypt, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. I’ve been listening to the CD for the past several days and it’s gorgeous—exquisite, haunting, exotic, emotional to the point of tears. On night two, “Sonic Edge,” the program includes new works by jazz composer Maria Schneider, Bryce Dresser (The National), Damon Albam (Gorillaz), J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus), and more—music from the edges of indy rock, jazz, and electronica. 

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4–5, McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center ($30/$28). 612-375-7600.

Friday and Saturday: Atlantis Quartet at the Artists’ Quarter

Thoroughly modern, lively and enjoyable jazz by area faves Brandon Wozniak (the tallest saxophonist in town), Zacc Harris (guitar), Chris Bates (bass), and Pete Hennig (drums). Their music is original and unpredictable but not at all off-putting. Listen (click "enter site").

9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4–5, Artists' Quarter ($10).

Saturday: Dean Magraw and Marcus Wise at the Cedar

This is not a jazz event, but I’m sneaking it in because of my admiration and esteem for guitarist/composer Dean Magraw, who plays jazz (along with everything else). Fans got a taste of his latest CD with tablaist Marcus Wise at the AQ in early November, but this is the official release of How the Light Gets In, a seriously beautiful recording by two insightful, poetic artists. And speaking of poetry, the great American poet Robert Bly will make a special guest appearance, which makes all the sense in the world. 

8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5 (doors at 7), The Cedar ($12/$15). 

Saturday: Keys, Please at Studio Z

Once each year, and only once, pianist/composers Paul Cantrell, Todd Harper, and Carei Thomas gather for a concert of genre-bending new music and sonic surprises: "poemmetry," “weather permitting” compositions, Chopin, and more. Singer Kim Sueoka is this year’s guest, performing songs from her new CD with Cantrell and Harper called The River Inside of Trees, a collection of “jazz lieder” and haiku songs written by Harper. Learn more and watch a video here

8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, Studio Z in Lowertown ($10; students free with ID).

Wednesday and Thursday: Kurt Elling Quartet at the Dakota

I confess: I’ve been a KE fan since his first appearances at the old Dakota in Bandana Square. He’s simply the best male jazz singer around, consistently excellent and exciting, especially live. He last performed here in February 2009 at the Ted Mann, touring for his CD Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings Coltrane/Hartman, which later won the Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album. His new CD, The Gate, comes out on Monday, Feb. 8. Here’s my review. At the Dakota, Elling will be joined by his longtime collaborator, pianist/composer/arranger Laurence Hobgood, bassist Harish Raghavan, Ulysses Owens on drums, and a special guest who also performs on the new CD, Chicago guitarist John McLean.

7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday–Thursday, Feb. 9–10, Dakota ($40/$30). 612-332-5299.


On most Fridays and Saturdays, the Benny Weinbeck Trio can be found at D'Amico Kitchen in the Chambers Hotel on Hennepin. Stop by for contemporary cuisine and swinging, sophisticated, straight-ahead piano trio jazz. The trio formerly held court at D'Amico Cucina, the late, lamented Italian fine-dining restaurant in Butler Square.

7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, D'Amico Kitchen (no cover).

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