Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where to find improvised music in the Twin Cities

Improvised music, free jazz, experimental music, avant-garde jazz, free improvisation, spontaneous composition: Whatever you call it, the Twin Cities has more of it than you might expect. 

Here's where to find it. Many of these venues have Facebook and Myspace pages and Twitter accounts you can link to from their websites. 

What am I missing? Please let me know. By definition, this is a work in progress.

329 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

The fourth Sunday of each month belongs to the Minneapolis Free Music Society, an improvisational music collective of area musicians. Like them on Facebook for regular updates. 

408 St. Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

At their regular AQ gigs, the Phil Hey Quartet, Eric Kamau Gravatt's Source Code, and How Birds Work all play improvised music along with straight-ahead jazz and standards. Happy Apple makes frequent appearances. Check the online calendar to see who’s coming through town. From the home page, you can like the AQ on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, visit their Myspace page, and go to Don Berryman's growing collection of live performance videos.

Corner of 4th and Broadway
Lowertown, St. Paul, MN

An increasingly important venue for improvised music. Home of the Community Pool: Deep End series on Fridays, curated by Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler of the Fantastic Merlins; click CALENDAR at the top of the Black Dog's home page for (duh) a current calendar. Stop in Saturdays at lunchtime or Thursdays around 6 to hear solo piano masters Rahjta Ren and Todd Harper. Merciless Ghost, George Cartwright's new band with Josh Granowski and Davu Seru, shows up on occasional Saturdays. Like Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar on Facebook to hear about coming events.

2027 Franklin Ave. E.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Drummer Kevin Washington and hip-hop artist Desdamona host a Tuesday-night open mic jam session for musicians and poets. Signup starts at 10 p.m. 18+.

5411 Penn Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Live music every Wednesday from 7–10, no cover, reservations recommended but not essential. Often but not always jazz; check the music calendar.

416 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN
email signup on home page

Mostly folk/world music with occasional surprises like Happy Apple, GloryLand PonyCat, and John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet.

1010 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
email signup on home page

These days, the Dakota is less a jazz club, more a pop/R-and-B/nostalgia venue. (It's not alone; see Yoshi's SF.) Improvised music still happens occasionally, mostly during the Late Night shows (11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). Check the online calendar

2400 Plymouth Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55411

Milo Fine hosts and curates the long-running Improvised Music at Homewood Studios series. Second Monday, every other month, 7:00 p.m. Check the online calendar. For me, this series has been Improvised Music School. Sign up for Homewood's emails, then keep an eye out for the occasional L'Editions Lagnaippe event, a Milo-curated bonus concert always worth attending.

407 Central Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 
(across the street from the Aveda Institute)

The love child of pianist Tanner Taylor and drummers Mac Santiago and Luis Santiago, the performance/rehearsal/recording/teaching space "for the cats, by the cats" has had live music on Mondays for several months. It recently expanded to Tuesdays with the Shifting Paradigm Music Series curated by Zacc Harris and JT Bates (JT formerly curated the Jazz Implosion at the Clown Lounge). The Clown was a deliciously dark and grungy basement club with duct-taped booth benches, neon beer signs, and an electric fireplace. Jazz Central is a homey, comfy rumpus room. No bar, but there's a fridge. On Facebook, you can friend Jazz Central and like The Shifting Paradigm Music Series to stay current.

1407 Nicollet Ave. S.

Formerly the Music Box Theater, home for many years to Triple Espresso, the Loring books something for everyone, from music to movies, dance to plays. Once in a while there's a jazz event and it's usually a stunner: Matthew Shipp, the Dave King Trucking Company, Israeli flutist Mattan Klein, The Bad Plus performing Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The Heliotrope New Music Festival was held at the Loring this year. Join the mailing list on the home page and friend LoringTheater Minneapolis on Facebook (sadly, LoringTheater is one word on Facebook).

501 South 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
email signup on home page

In 2010-11, MacPhail's jazz coordinator (and member of Fat Kid Wednesdays) Adam Linz presented a series of Meditations and Revelations concerts featuring the music of Charles Mingus. What a fine series that was. MacPhail also hosts occasional workshops by visiting artists (Dave Douglas in 2010) and other surprises. I wish someone would keep the calendar on their website up to date. Try liking MacPhail Center for Music on Facebook.

Madame of the Arts
3401 Chicago Ave. S. 
Minneapolis, MN
(enter side door in mural)

The new home of the Tuesday Series for Experimental and Improvised Music. Ask to be added to the email list. Read Edward Schneider's article about the series (formerly at Art of This Gallery).

1612 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 486-5800

The Thursday Funhouse Series happens here each week, curated by Jon Davis. Musician/bee expert/art knitter Elaine Evans tipped me to this, promising "a good deal of improvised stuff late night." The current monthly lineup includes Davis, Kristen Froebel, Carnage the Executioner, Evans, and other interesting people. Must. Check. This. Out.

501 Cedar Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Home of the Nomad Jazz Series, curated by James Buckley. As of this writing (June 2011), this hasn’t even started yet; it’s scheduled to begin in August. What Buckley says: “This marks the return of a regular once a week jazz series at the Nomad World Pub. It will feature James Buckley, Zacc Harris, Jeremy Boettcher, Sean Carey, Mike Lewis, Davu Seru, James Anton, and many others.... Not just jazz either! Free playing, electronics, whatever! More info and a schedule to come! Starting Aug. 3rd, 10 pm!”

275 E. Fourth Street (Northwestern Building)
Lowertown, St. Paul, MN
(look for the big red neon Z in the window)

Studio Z, home to the new music ensemble Zeitgeist, hosts visiting artists like the Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty Group, Antigravity, George Cartwright’s GloryLand PonyCat, and Trio Raro. Earlier this year, in May, Zeitgeist brought in the genius accordionist Guy Klucevsek for three nights of performances. In June, Zeitgeist played the Stone, John Zorn's club in NYC, as part of a two-week series produced by Innova, the independent record label established by the American Composers Forum in St. Paul. In other words, go see Zeitgeist, not just their visiting artists.

1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

The Walker’s annual Performing Arts Season always features new music (as well as dance and theater). The 2011-12 calendar includes a weekend with Vijay Iyer

1813 South 6th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

The Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble performs on the first Friday of every other month at 8:00 p.m. 

—Keep an eye on the online music and events calendars for the Aster CafeBarbette, and the Red Stag Supper Club, where the programmers have big ears. 
—My series of interviews with improvising musicians in the Twin Cities for mnartists.org. So far: Adam Linz, Milo Fine, Ellen Lease and Pat Moriarty, Stefan Kac, Douglas R. Ewart, George Cartwright. Next up: Viv Corringham. Eventually, all of the articles end up on this blog, but they're more fun to read at mnartists.org, where most are accompanied by slide shows and sound files.

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