Friday, December 9, 2011

This week's jazz picks

Friday, Dec. 9: Most of us know that Tchaikovsky wrote a ballet called The Nutcracker, and we’ve probably heard the Nutcracker Suite, a greatest hits version, but how many of us know that Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn wrote a jazz version? In 1960, the two collaborators reinvented Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet as a jazzy, brassy, classy melting pot of musical styles. Writing for CD Review in 1998, Steve Schwartz noted: "They don't just put a jazz beat behind Tchaikovsky's ballet...they extend Tchaikovsky's basic ideas and harmonies in new and surprising ways....I consider this one of the great American scores, and you'll probably never hear it at your local symphony."

But you can hear it tonight, when the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Milne comes to the historic and elegant Landmark Center in St. Paul. It's a three-part event: reception at 6, music at 7, swing dance at 8. I imagine the Landmark Center has been dressed up for Christmas. Tickets are available at the door, and if you're a student, you get in free with ID. (That's true for any student, not just those attending UW-RF.) $25.

Friday–Saturday, Dec. 9–10: Also in St. Paul (and very near the Landmark Center): the trio Red Planet plays the Artists' Quarter. Red Planet is Dean Magraw on guitar, Chris Bates on bass, and Jay Epstein on drums, performing original compositions, “deep-space tributes” to Coltrane and Hendrix, and a terrific cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Chris says that this time they’ll play songs from their latest recording, Space Dust, and a new Coltrane medley, plus some Monk and more. 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the AQ in St. Paul. $10.

Friday and Sunday: On Friday at 8 and Sunday afternoon at 2, the apparently immortal Doc Severinsen plays his annual holiday concert, "Jingle Bell Doc," at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. At 84, Doc is still dancing across the stage, playing like a much younger man (on a trumpet of his own design), and dressing up in jackets that will blind you. Expect red satin and rhinestones. Doc was music director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for more than 25 years. He made his Minnesota Orchestra debut in 1965 and served as the Orchestra’s Pops Conductor for many years. If you haven’t ever seen him live, seriously, go if you can. He performs with the Minnesota Orchestra. Tickets $25–$55.

Saturday: At the Bloomington Center for the Arts, Arne Fogel and Maud Hixson will channel Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, the perfect musical team; think White Christmas. Frequent singing partners Fogel and Hixson will bring back the spirit of this great duo in a program called “Fancy Meeting You Here: The Crosby-Clooney Story.” Like every Arne Fogel joint, it will include some history and stories and background on the music and the artists. The Bloomington Center for the Arts on Old Shakopee Road, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $22. Box office 952-563-8575.

Monday: Trumpeter and composer Adam Meckler premieres his Music for Large Ensemble project at O’Gara’s Bar and Grill on Snelling in St. Paul. Think modern big band. Dean Sorenson and Adam will lead the band, which will include some of our best area players: Pete Hennig, Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates, Zack Lozier, Brandon Wozniak, and many more. They’ll play all original music by Meckler. This will be fun. 8 p.m., O’Gara’s. $5 at the door.

Tuesday: A new band called Boxcar makes its debut at the Dakota. Boxcar is alto saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, who played with the Wynton Marsalis Septet in the 1980s and 1990s, bassist Anthony Cox, drummer JT Bates, and pianist/composer Jeremy Walker. A lot of people are really looking forward to this. 7 p.m. at the Dakota. $15.

Wednesday: The delicious Jose James comes home to Minneapolis, where he grew up and went to South High, where his music teacher was Denny Malmberg, who plays accordion every Monday and Wednesday at Fireside Pizza. Jose is now an international star, probably better known in Europe than he is here. He doesn’t bother with musical boundaries; he sings jazz, he sings R&B, he sings soul and hip-hop in a baritone that will kill you dead. Most recently, he was on tour with McCoy Tyner and Chris Potter. He’ll perform here with pianist Kris Bowers, winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. 7 and 9 p.m. at the Dakota. $20.

A note to jazz artists who are playing holiday gigs: Send an email with the details to so we can get you on the live jazz calendar on KBEM's website (and here).

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