Twin Cities Jazz Festival used to be in Minneapolis, then in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. It used to be called the Hot Summer Jazz Festival. It used to go on for 10 days. And, for a time in 2009, it seemed doomed. Strapped-for-cash sponsors had pulled out and the organizers were ready to cancel.
Then St. Paul stepped up. Mayor Chris Coleman, local chambers, sponsors, clubs, and businesses joined forces to lure the festival across the river and into Mears Park, a gem of an outdoor space. The festival responded with a strong lineup that included Allen Toussaint and Esperanza Spalding (two years before she won the Best New Artist Grammy). During Spalding's set, Prince sat backstage in his limousine, listening.
Last summer brought several big names: trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonist Joe Lovano, John Ellis and Double-Wide with Jason Marsalis, and John Scofield's Piety Band. Mears Park was packed. Vendors ran out of hot-dog buns and had to serve naked wieners in paper trays.
Mark your calendar now for June 23-25, because you won't want to be out of town for the 13th Annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival. This year's headliners are Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, paired with the great bassist John Pattitucci, and the New Gary Burton Quartet featuring Julian Lage, Antonio Sanchez, and Scott Colley.
High fives, TCJF.
Starting Thursday, June 23 (Jazz Night Out), the festival will also present many area musicians and groups, which is the right thing to do, given the richness of our jazz community. Performers will include Connie Evingson, Seven Steps to Havana, the Petersons, James Buckley, the Jazz Central All Stars, Salsa del Soul, and a so-far-unnamed quartet with Miguel Hurtado, Marquis Hill, Zacc Harris, and Jeremy Boettcher.
More area artists will perform in St. Paul clubs: Atlantis Quartet (just named "Best Jazz Artist" by City Pages), Butch Thompson, Arne Fogel and Maud Hixson, JoAnn Funk, Nathan Hanson/Brian Roessler/Pette Hennig, Gypsy Mania, the George Maurer Group, Ticket to Brazil, Lee Engele, Jack Brass, Cory Wong, Red Planet, and student bands.
On Thursday, the AQ will host a Stride Night with Butch Thompson and festival stalwart Jon Weber, who lives in New York but always comes in for the festival. Trust me: Stride Night is awesome.