Friday, October 28, 2011

This week's jazz picks for Minneapolis-St. Paul: Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2011

Tonight (Friday, Oct. 28) at Orchestra Hall: Herbie Hancock, solo. Need anyone say more? He’ll play the Fazioli piano they’re bringing in just for him (he has promised that the sound will make us cry) and probably a lot of electronics, if his performance earlier this month at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is at all prophetic. 7 p.m., $70-$40.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free tickets now available for the next (last?) NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony and Concert

From the NEA via Jazz at Lincoln Center:

Washington, DC - Tickets for the National Endowment for the Arts 2012 Jazz Masters award ceremony and concert will be available to the public on Tuesday, November 1, 2011.  The award ceremony and concert that each year recognizes the newest members of this elite group of jazz artists and will also celebrate 30 years of honoring the best of jazz.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This week's jazz picks for Minneapolis-St. Paul: Oct. 21-27, 2011

Tonight, Friday, Oct. 21, at the Black Dog in St. Paul's Lowertown, the Community Pool: Deep End series of improvised music continues with Todd Harper’s Full Moon Rabbit. Bassist Brian Roessler, who curates this series with Nathan Hanson, describes Harper’s music as coming out of the Sun Ra tradition: jubilant, funny, beautiful, messy, and real. Eight-ish, no cover.

Tonight at First Avenue in Minneapolis—not a venue we get to mention too often here—Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, performs with his group Orleans Avenue. They're on tour with their new CD For True, which I'm listening to right now, and believe me, typing is the last thing you want to do when that music is playing. The CD features guests like Jeff Beck, Kid Rock, Ivan Neville, and Ledisi, but you won't miss them when Shorty takes the stage. It's going to be a high-energy, on-your-feet show of jazz, funk, R&B, pop, and New Orleans street-party music. Doors at 8, $25.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 22, back in Lowertown, the Jazz at Studio Z series returns with Seven Steps to Havana, Doug Little’s septet of musicians from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Africa. Salsa meets jazz in a performance that Larry Englund will record for Saint Paul Live, his new radio series that will air on KBEM/Jazz88 starting in January. 7 p.m., $10.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New José James single released, forthcoming CD announced

Jazz fans in the Twin Cities feel kind of proprietary about José James. He's our homie. He grew up here, went to school here (DeLaSalle, South High), had his life turned around by a teacher here (Denny Malmberg), started performing here (at Fireside Pizza with Malmberg), prepared here for 2004 Thelonious Monk competition (which he didn't win), and leaped from our fertile, springy ground into the wide world. Today he's a star on the international scene, as versed in hip-hop and R&B as he is in jazz. His Facebook fans keep up with his dizzying schedule: gigs with Robert Glasper and Taylor McFerrin, tours of Europe and China with McCoy Tyner, guest performances with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (a Billy Strayhorn tribute), reviews in multiple languages from cities where he has performed. He's a comet streaking across the sky.

This just in from NYC music marketer Giant Step:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jazz films on the horizon: Take five

Despite the star power of Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues (reviewed here), only a handful of people attended the screening we saw at the Showplace Icon in St. Louis Park. (Among them was Susan Smoluchowski, executive director of the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul, so we were in good company.)  I learned about the film from a Jazz at Lincoln Center press release but suspect it was poorly advertised. Or maybe people decided to wait for the DVD and watch it at home. Too bad for them, because seeing it on a humongous screen in HD with surround was awesome.

Theatrical screenings of jazz films are few and far between, and I try to call attention to the ones I hear about. Which led to today's MinnPost piece, "Jazz at the Movies: Five weeks, five films." 

Thanks to the Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" series, you can also see live-from-the-Met opera performances at your local movie theater, streaming in real time. The 2011–12 season starts tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 15, with Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Visit the website FMI.

This week's jazz picks for Minneapolis-St. Paul: Oct. 14-20, 2011

Tonight and tomorrow (Friday–Saturday, Oct. 14–15) at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul, you can experience the Good Life. Good Life is the name of a new quartet of four area musicians, all with big followings around the Twin Cities: Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, Peter Schimke on piano, Billy Peterson on bass, and Kenny Horst on drums. Each has a lot of history and musical knowledge to share. The music starts at 9 tonight and tomorrow at the AQ, St. Paul’s legendary basement jazz club. $10.

If you live in or near Plymouth, I hope you know about the Jazz@St.Barney’s series, held at St. Barnabas Center for the Arts on Old Rockford Road. On Saturday, Oct. 15, singer Connie Evingson will be joined by pianist Mary Louise Knutson in a rare duo performance. This family-friendly event starts at 7. $10 adults, $7 TCJS members, $5 students (free for SBCA students).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues: Concert film review

Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues was shown in theaters across the country just once, shortly before it was released on DVD. (A CD soundtrack is also available.) It’s what a concert film should be: up close and personal with the musicians on stage, beautifully filmed, great sound, and no silly panning of adoring audience members.

Filmed during live performances in the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the film features Marsalis and Clapton (who have been friends for years) and six members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Ali Jackson (drums), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Victor Goines (clarinet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone and vocals). Also on stage: New Orleans banjo master Don Vappie, Clapton’s keyboardist Chris Stainton, and (later) special guest Taj Mahal.

Marsalis explains the instrumentation in the liner notes: “We combined the sound of an early blues jump-band with the sound of New Orleans jazz to accommodate the integration of guitar/trumpet lead and to give us the latitude to play different grooves…. We decided to use the instrumentation of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band plus two (electric guitar and piano) because they transformed the world of music with a set of 1923 recordings and, with performances like ‘Dipper Mouth Blues,’ forever established the blues as a centerpiece of jazz.”

Friday, October 7, 2011

Monterey magic: Memories of the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival

Sonny Rollins by John Whiting
A press release sent yesterday, announcing that the Monterey Jazz Festival had received a $300,000 grant from California’s James Irvine Foundation, made me nostalgic for this year’s festival. Has it really been three weeks since we walked through the gates on opening day to hear Robert Glasper? Even less since we walked out for the final time, the sound of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone still hot in our ears?

I wrote about MJF54 for NPR’s A Blog Supreme, including a recap with Patrick Jarenwattananon. But I haven’t yet written my personal impressions—the time-stood-still moments I’ll remember from three days and nights of jazz on the California coast. So, as they say, without further ado.

Robert Glasper Trio. The perfect opener for a jazz festival with a history and a future. Glasper’s music, his band, and his whole demeanor say, “Don’t worry, jazz fans, I know my stuff, I can play the standards—but it’s 2011, jazz is changing, let’s go.” His music merges jazz with soul, R&B, hip-hop, pop, quiet storm, Mos Def and J Dilla. High points: a soulful groove that made room for “In a Sentimental Mood.” The playful wave of Glasper's hand whenever a plane flew over. (The festival site is on a direct flight path to the Monterey airport.) Watching young drummer Chris Dave play. Learning that a new Robert Glasper Experiment CD is due out on Blue Note in 2012, this one with guests including Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Meshell N’Degeocello, and Stokley Williams.

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

If you missed last week's Minnesota Orchestra season opener and the world premiere of TimePiece for Jazz Soloists and Orchestra by St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus and his son, Greg Paulus, you can download a recording of a live performance at the Orchestra's website for just $1.29. Listen for Bryan Nichols on piano, Greg Paulus on trumpet and electronics, Michael Lewis on saxophone, Adam Linz on bass, JT Bates on drums, and maestro Osmo Vänskä on clarinet; he improvises with JT at the start of the third movement. $1.29! What a bargain.

Tonight, Friday, Oct. 7, at the Black Dog in St. Paul’s Lowertown, the Community Pool: Deep End series of improvised music continues with a stellar trio: Nathan Hanson on saxophones, Pete Hennig on drums, and Douglas Ewart on saxophones, clarinet, bassoon, flute, hand drums, didgeridoo, and Lord knows what else; he makes musical instruments, often from found objects including pot lids and crutches. No cover; starts at eight-ish. This is St. Paul Art Crawl weekend, so Lowertown will be a busy place. Read an interview with Ewart here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blues on a sunny afternoon

Paul Metsa by John Whiting
Yesterday afternoon, at a "private-public" event in a tree-filled backyard in Edina, Minnesota, the musician, songwriter, and raconteur Paul Metsa signed copies of his new book, Blue Guitar Highway, and sang a few songs--solo and with his friend Willie West, who had driven down from St. Cloud for the occasion. Willie's wife stayed home and worked his shift so he could attend the event.

Other people came from faraway places including Paul's friend Joe, whose last name I forgot but will have to ask Paul about because he, too, is writing a book about music, forthcoming from SUNY Press. Photographer Darin Back was there, and Paul's lovely girlfriend, Amy, who has a farm where Paul finished writing his book and where his dog, Blackie, now prefers to stay, returning only reluctantly to Paul's apartment in Northeast Minneapolis.

Music promoter Sue McLean stopped by, and Paul thanked her for giving him his first gig at the Guthrie—the old Guthrie, which he had futilely tried to save from demolition in the mid-2000s. (He writes about that in his book, in a chapter called "Slings and Arrows.") We had scandalous early-afternoon cocktails and talked with our friends Jon Tevlin and Ellen Hatfield.