Friday, July 22, 2011

This week's jazz picks for Minneapolis-St. Paul

Tonight (Friday, July 22) and tomorrow at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul: the Phil Hey Quartet. Drummer Phil Hey is a force on the Twin Cities jazz scene and beyond. He has a usual monthly gig at the AQ, a one-nighter, and it’s good to see him given a whole weekend to stretch out. Expect to see a lot of musicians in the house, many of whom owe a debt to Hey. Sax player and educator Pat Moriarty has said that Hey is the person who taught him the most about improvising. The other players in the quartet are stellar as well: Dave Hagedorn on vibes, Phil Aaron on piano, Adam Linz on bass. The music starts at 9. ($10)

Tonight and tomorrow at the Dakota: the great singer Bruce Henry. He now lives in Chicago after many years in the Twin Cities, but he comes back so often we can still claim him as our own. He gathers a terrific band of area musicians and he usually fills the house. Henry is special; if you haven't yet heard him, trust me on this. 8 p.m. at the Dakota, tonight and Saturday. ($12)

The Riverview Wine Bar hosts two tempting events this weekend. On Saturday, July 23, the trio JazZen. Led by Bobb Fantauzzo, they play jazz on unusual instrumentation: wooden flutes, electric cello, and drums. Their new CD, Bounce Off the Moon, shows their versatility as musicians and their respect for jazz greats including Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and John Coltrane. 8 p.m., no cover. On Sunday, July 24, the Zacc Harris Trio plays its longstanding regular gig there. Pick up a copy of their CD while you’re there—the one with the wine stain on the cover. 7:30 p.m., no cover.

If you haven’t yet been to Jazz Central, Monday, July 25, is a very good night to go. Jazz Central is a venue/school/studio run for musicians, by musicians, with live public performances every Monday. Find it at 407 Central Ave. SE, across the street from the Aveda Institute on 4th and Central. There’s no "Jazz Central" sign, so look for the address, go through the door, and follow the handwritten signs on the walls to the downstairs performance space, which has the look and feel of a rumpus room. This week features Scott Agster on trombone, with the regular Jazz Central rhythm section of Tanner Taylor on piano, Mac Santiago on drums, and Keith Boyles on bass—plus special guests The Bone Band, as in more trombones, playing Scott’s new arrangements of classic Latin jazz tunes. The music starts at 8:30. No cover, but the tip jar beckons. (BTW, here's what Phil Hey wrote about Jazz Central on Facebook earlier this week: "Every time I've been there it's been great...If you haven't gotten there, I can't recommend it enough. Very cool scene.")

On Tuesday, July 26, Moore by Four will give a free concert at Plymouth Congregational Church. We’re seeing more of MB4 lately, after what seems like a longish hiatus—they all have busy careers of their own. Dennis Spears, for example, has been on tour on the East Coast with the Penumbra’s play “I Wish You Love,” starring as Nat King Cole. Connie Evingson performs often around the Twin Cities and travels widely. So catch them while you can, as a gift from Plymouth Church. 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, July 27, the Joel Shapira Quartet plays the Aster Café starting at 9. In addition to the recent release with his quartet, Open Lines, Joel just made a lovely CD with Charmin Michelle called Dawning and Daylight. He’s an in-demand guitarist and you’ll know why when you hear him. The Aster is on the Mississippi riverfront in downtown Minneapolis, at St. Anthony Main. ($6)

One more on Wednesday, at the Artists’ Quarter: Sax player David Bixler is in town for one night. He grew up in Wisconsin and moved to NYC, where he hooked up with the orchestras of Lionel Hampton. Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Duke Ellington. He’s been with the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra since 2000. We might hear some Latin jazz. 9 p.m. at the AQ. ($5)

Tune to jazz radio station KBEM every Friday morning at 8:30 to hear me and Mr. Jones—Jazz 88 “Morning Show” host Ed Jones—talk about the week’s jazz picks. 88.5 FM in the Twin Cities, streaming live on the Web. Come back to KBEM on Saturday night for Maryann Sullivan’s “Corner Jazz” and on Thursday for “On the Local Corner,” both with calendar news. Check the live jazz calendar at the right or on KBEM's website for many more events. Send news about your jazz events to

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