Friday, February 11, 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.

Soon after the 501 Club and the Turf Club closed (the Turf being the upstairs neighbor of the Clown Lounge, former home of Fat Kid Wednesdays), MPR’s Chris Roberts speculated on whether there are just too many music venues in the Twin Cities.

I try to keep current on venues where jazz is featured often or occasionally. Whenever I update the live jazz calendar, I’m surprised by how many places we can go to hear jazz, from clubs to coffee houses, festivals, art centers, churches, parks, and private homes. This week’s picks take you all around town. Are there too many jazz venues? Not if people show up.

Friday–Sunday: The Ends of Love at the Southern Theater

The Ends of Love
I’m out on a limb here, because I don’t know anything about this beyond what the Southern’s website says about these performances by the Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater Company: “Set in an imagistic world of emotional movement and intimate dialogues, The Ends of Love muses on love, lust and loss from youth to old age, referencing works from Plato’s Symposium to Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love.” What caught my eye was this: “Original music by Michelle Kinney, performed by cellists Michelle Kinney and Jacqueline Ultan of Jelloslave and guitarist Park Evans.” I love Jelloslave, a group that also includes Gary Waryan on tablas and Greg Schutte on drums. Their music embraces jazz and many other genres. I also really enjoy guitarist Park Evans whenever I see him. So I guess this event falls into the category of “Take a chance, see what happens.” Art isn’t always a sure thing and I hope it never is.

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 11–12, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, Southern Theater ($24/$22). 612-340-1725.

Saturday: Roni Ben-Hur at the St. Paul JCC

Each year, once a year, the St. Paul JCC brings in an Israeli jazz musician or group from New York. I’ve long found it interesting that the tiny nation of Israel produces so many exceptional jazz musicians. (A short list of those who have come through the Twin Cities in recent years: Omer Klein, Omer Avital, Gilad Hekselman, Anat Cohen, Avi Lebovich, Yuval Lion, Shai Maestro, and two Avishai Cohens, the bass player and the trumpeter.) This year it’s guitarist/composer/educator Roni Ben-Hur. Since arriving in New York in the 1980s, Ben-Hur has studied, performed, and recorded with jazz greats including Barry Harris, Mulgrew Miller, Rufus Reid, and Lewis Nash. I’ve been listening to his two latest CDs, Keepin’ It Open (2007) and Fortuna (2009), both on Motema, both beautiful, swinging, melodic sides. He’ll be here with pianist Ryan Cohen, bassist Santi DiBriano, and drummer Steve Williams, who spent 25 years with Shirley Horne. I wish the JCC could do this more than once a year. (If you want to know more about Israeli jazz musicians, here’s an article from JazzTimes.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, St. Paul JCC ($15 JCC members/$20 community; students free). 651-698-0751.

Saturday and Sunday: The Sultry Divas of Jazz at the Capri Theater

Connie Evingson, Ginger Commodore
Ginger Commodore and Connie Evingson pay tribute to Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee in the latest installment of the Capri’s Legends series. Artistic director Dennis Spears promises a Valentine’s weekend concert that blends the sweet with the bittersweet. Songs will include “Moody’s Mood,” “Fever,” “Why Don’t You Do Right,” and “I Love Being Here with You.” The band will feature Lee Blaske on piano, Bobby Commodore on drums, Tom Lewis on bass, and Kathy Jensen on saxophone.

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, Capri Theater ($25). 866-821-4111.

Monday: Music for Valentine’s Day

Check the live jazz calendar here or at the right for details about the Nichola Miller Trio at Hell’s Kitchen, Cookie Coleman and Dan Newton at the Loring Pasta Bar, Maud Hixson and Jim Chenowith at Honey, Karen Quiroz and James Allen at First Course Bistro, and other options for this romantic holiday. I'll be updating it through Monday afternoon.

Wednesday: John Devine CD Release at the Varsity Theater

John Devine by Nick Lethert
Some of us remember John Devine as the disembodied saxophone floating above the outdoor patio of the former Loring Café. An active member of the Twin Cities music community for more than 30 years, Devine has performed with the John O’Brien Ensemble, the Twin Cities Saxophone Quartet, IMP ORK, and other groups, picking up awards, fellowships, and commissions along the way from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Today he’s a regular at the Loring Pasta Bar and the Birchwood Café. His new CD, A Little O’ That, features 11 original compositions and one by Monk. Devine’s guests at the Varsity will include William Reed Lang, Jon Pemberton, Michelle Kinney, Scott Mateo Davis, Bobby McFarlin, Tom Wells, Brock Thorson, Tom Lewis, and Alden Ikeda.

8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, Varsity Theater ($5). 612-604-0222.

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