Friday, September 30, 2011

An interview with Wynton Marsalis, and a look ahead at fall

I spoke with Wynton Marsalis earlier this month. The interview appears in today's Minneapolis StarTribune. Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra come to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Sunday.

My editor at MinnPost asked for a post on jazz coming up this fall in the Twin Cities. She probably got more than she bargained for, simply because there's so much going on. To borrow words from Davis Wilson at the Artists' Quarter, I continue to be pleased and flipped at the quantity and especially the quality of live jazz available to us in flyover land. We're not New York City, but we surely are Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The MinnPost piece replaces my usual This Week's Jazz Picks post.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Behind the scenes of Arne Fogel’s radio series “Minnesota’s Voices—Certain Standards”

Arne Fogel by John Whiting
If you listen to public radio or frequent Twin Cities jazz clubs, you know singer, musician, actor, writer, producer, recording artist, and storyteller Arne Fogel. His radio series “The Bing Shift,” featuring the music of Bing Crosby, airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. CST on KBEM. Fogel is an acknowledged expert on Crosby; he wrote the liner notes for the first American release of Crosby’s 1975 album A Southern Memoir and the text for the radio section of the official Bing Crosby website.

For 12 years, he produced and hosted “Arne Fogel Presents” for Minnesota Public Radio. With Connie Evingson, he co-hosted “Singers & Standards” on KBEM from 2002–05. You can read more about Fogel on his website.

He’s a busy guy, an idea man, and when he has a good thought, he doesn’t let it go. There’s a Post-it on the wall in his home office on which he has written two words: “Certain Standards.” It’s been there for years. An old file on his computer describes a radio show of songs from the Great American Songbook and the stories behind them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Program announced for JazzMN's concert with John Clayton

Grammy-winning bassist/composer John Clayton is the JazzMN Orchestra's special guest as Minnesota's premier big band launches its 2011–12 season on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Judi Donaghy is  guest vocalist.

JazzMN's artistic director Doug Snapp has announced the evening's program.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Behind the scenes of "TimePiece for Jazz Soloists and Orchestra" by Stephen Paulus and Greg Paulus

Greg Paulus (l) and Stephen Paulus
All rehearsal photos by John Whiting
In 2007, St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus went to a chamber music concert where Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä was playing clarinet. Stephen stuck around after to talk with the maestro and mentioned maybe writing something with his son, jazz and electronic musician and composer Greg Paulus. A work for jazz soloists and orchestra, perhaps. What would Vänskä think about that?

According to Stephen, Vänskä’s response was immediate: “That’s just exactly what we need to do with the orchestra.”

Four years in the making, composed partly over Skype (Greg is now based in Brooklyn but tours the world with his electronic production team No Regular Play), TimePiece will have its world premiere at the Minnesota Orchestra’s season opener this weekend. Joining the orchestra on stage will be Greg Paulus on trumpet, Michael Lewis on saxophone, Bryan Nichols on keyboards, Adam Linz on bass, and JT Bates on drums.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Amiri Baraka comes to the Southern for an evening of spoken word, jazz, and dance theater

From Tru Ruts Freestyle Theater, a chance to see the great poet/playwright/activist Amiri Baraka live and in the company of many fine Twin Cities artists including Kevin Washington, Anthony Cox, and J. Otis Powell. Tickets are available online. Easy-breezy; order, pay, print them out.

Here's the press release, abbreviated:

E.G. Bailey adapts Amiri Baraka's Wise Why's Y's, an epic journey through the history of Africans in America, and a perfect blend of avant-garde poetry with the griot consciousness. Paying homage to Langston's Ask Your Mama, William Carlos William's Patterson, and Melvin B. Tolson's Liberia alike, it attempts to articulate the history of a people or a place. Wise Why's Y's questions and answers broad themes of history and cultural identity.

Concert review: Theo Bleckmann at Macalester

Theo Bleckmann
by Susie Knoll
From what planet does Theo Bleckmann come, and what century? His music is both otherworldly and timeless—not in a never-gets-old way, but in a Time Lord/Highlander way of someone who moves from era to era easily, casually, like the rest of us cross the street.

In solo performance Friday night in St. Paul, part of Macalester College’s annual New Music series, the singer/composer took us back to the French courts of the 14th century and forward to a day in the future when a song like his surrealistic version of “I Remember You”—with a small talking bear squeaking “I love you! Kiss me!”—might conceivably top the pop charts.

I’ve read about Bleckmann, watched some YouTube videos, listened to him online (and friended him on Facebook), but nothing compares to seeing and hearing him make music on the spot. (I went with a friend who’d seen him three times before, and he said this night was completely different than the others.) There were moments of haunting, heart-rending beauty, Bleckmann’s pure, clear voice looped, layered, and soaring. (That the performance took place at Macalester-Plymouth Church upped the ethereal factor.) The music was inspiring and disturbing, serious and funny, provocative, strange, and utterly absorbing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

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

Tonight (Friday, Sept. 23), the famously inventive singer/composer Theo Bleckmann comes to town, thanks to Macalester College. I totally forgot to mention this on the air with Ed Jones this morning; smacking self now. I've been looking forward to Bleckmann's performance ever since learning about it in late August. He'll do a solo show at Macalester-Plymouth United Church--no band, just Bleckmann and his array of low- and high-tech toys. Here he is singing Kate Bush's "And Dream of Sheep." I do hope he sings some Kate Bush. 1685 Lincoln Ave., St. Paul, one block south of Grand, one block west of Snelling, adjacent to the Macalester campus. 8 p.m. Free.

Tonight and tomorrow (Friday–Saturday), New York-based alto saxophonist Jim Snidero heads downstairs to the Artists’ Quarter. He has performed with the Frank Sinatra Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band, Sting, Billy Joel, and other stars; his latest CD, Interface, features Paul Bollenback on guitar. Snidero plays standards and originals based in bop. Should be two swinging, solid nights at the AQ. 9 p.m. ($15)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For NPR's A Blog Supreme: Monterey Jazz 2011: A Recap

Sonny by Johnny
(Sonny Rollins by John Whiting)
Patrick Jarenwattananon and I had an iChat late Monday night about this year's Monterey Jazz festival and the music. It was his first time there, my sixth, but we both thought it was pretty great. I'll probably follow later with a few more thoughts/memories of my own. Someone needs to mention the strawberry man.

Uh...for sale?

Discovered during one of those web self-searches we all do during idle moments, like while waiting for our coffee to cool or sitting on hold on the phone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photo: JazZen at The Nicollet

JazZen (l2r): Bobb Fantauzzo, Native American flutes;
Aaron Kerr, electric cello; Derrin Pinto, drums.
Photo by John Whiting.
In performance at The Nicollett, September 20, 2011.

Click here FMI about JazZen.

Photo: James Farm at the Dakota

James Farm (l2r): Aaron Parks, Joshua Redman,
Matt Penman, Eric Harland by John Whiting
Second set, September 20, 2011, Dakota.

Donny McCaslin Passes the Blindfold Test

(More from the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival, September 17-19)
Donny McCaslin (L) and Dan Oullette (R) by John Whiing
It was the perfect day for a mid-coast California outdoor festival. Blue skies, bright sun, but not too hot. A crowd turned out for "An Afternoon in Treme" in the Arena at 1 p.m., and even more came later for Huey Lewis & The News at 3 (a soulful, rocking good time). In between, a respectable number of aficionados (okay, jazz nerds) made their way to Dizzy's Den at 2 for the annual live DownBeat Blindfold Test.

Begun by Leonard Feather in the 1940s for Metronome magazine, the Blindfold Test is now one of DownBeat's most popular features. In simplest terms, a jazz journalist plays a series of recordings for a jazz musician, and the musician identifies (or tries to identify) who's playing. Saxophonists are asked about saxophonists, trumpeters about trumpeters, and so on.

Jazz writer Dan Ouellette is a frequent Blindfold Test contributor and has for many years hosted the live version at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Under Ouellette's hand, the test is more than an aural/oral exam. It's a freewheeling conversation about music, and a rare opportunity to hear a musician think out loud about what he or she is hearing.

This year, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin was in the hot seat. After joking that his friends in the audience should feel free to text him the answers, he settled in and listened intently as Ouellette lobbed musical hardballs. He answered in threes—"It could be David Murray, Von Freeman, or Charles Lloyd"—and explain why he thought each was a possibility. He pretty much nailed the test. We saw how much he enjoyed listening to the music (responding with "Yeahs!" and "Mmmms!") and learned that he looks for the feeling of a piece and the humanity of the player. Commenting on what turned out to be a Von Freeman track (appropriately named "Never Fear, Jazz Is Here"), he noted the freedom of the player, and his devil-may-care attitude. 

Commenting later on Stanley Turrentine: "You feel it in your body when he's playing."

"That Turrentine track is from an album called 'Don't Mess with Mr. T.,'" Ouellette tells McCaslin.

"I won't mess with him," McCaslin says.

It would be messing with the test to give more away—what was played, what McCaslin said—because the print version will be published later this year in DownBeat magazine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Khyber Pass Cafe Music Series

Noted in last Friday's jazz picks, the Khyber Pass Cafe in St. Paul needs our help. It's holding a series of music-fueled fundraisers, and some of the Twin Cities' best musicians are stepping up.

The Khyber Pass is Emel Sherzad's place. Emel is an artist and a great supporter of improvised music. His art is inspired by improvised music, and he hosts a weekly radio show on KFAI called Radio Duende (formerly International Jazz Conspiracy), heard Mondays from 10 p.m. 'til midnight.

Here's the latest schedule. I've added these events to the live music calendar and will continue updating as news is made available. Watch the website for more.

  • Friday, Sept. 23: Davu Seru and Dean Magraw
  • Saturday, Sept. 24: Merciless Ghost (George Cartwright, Josh Granowski, Davu Seru)
  • Sunday, Sept. 25: Charcoal (Anthony Cox, Milo Fine, Davu Seru)
  • Thursday, Sept. 29: Jelloslave (Jacqueline Ultan, Michelle Kinney, Greg Schutte, Gary Waryan)
  • Friday, Sept. 30: Dave King Trucking Company
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: Andrew Broder
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: Joan Griffith and Clea Galhano

Monday, September 19, 2011

For NPR's A Blog Supreme: Interview with Bill Carrothers

Bill Carrothers by John Whiting for NPR
I've seen Bill Carrothers perform several times. Despite being "overlooked" and "underrated," he's well known and highly respected in the Twin Cities. It was great to see him at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and I jumped at the chance to interview him.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

For NPR's A Blog Supreme: Interview with Helen Sung

Helen Sung by John Whiting
Spur of the moment, on the fly: A late-night interview with Chinese-American pianist and composer Helen Sung. She's delightful to talk to. She emits sparks of pure energy, and her conversation is punctuated with exclamations and laughter—“Wow!” “Ha!” “Oh my goodness!” And she plays the piano beautifully. I can't wait to hear her new poetry project.

New jazz concert series starts at Studio Z

Zacc Harris by John Whiting
What was once a bare box on the second floor of the Northwestern Building, a neoclassical high-rise artists’ cooperative in St. Paul’s Lowertown, has been transformed into a gem of a listening room, thanks to the Zeitgeist new music ensemble, whose performing space it is.

Over time, they have added drapes, color, sound baffles, and risers to create an intimate, welcoming place to hear some of the most inventive music the Twin Cities offers—not only their own, performed throughout the year, but also that of guests who rent it.

Since I first discovered Studio Z in 2009, when I went to hear the Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty Jazz Quintet, I’ve returned often—for George Cartwright’s GloryLand Ponycat and “Bonanza: The Musical,” Trio Raro, Antigravity, the Consortium of Symphonic Transients, Milo Fine. 

Starting in September, it’s home to a new monthly jazz concert series, sensibly named Jazz at Studio Z.

Curated by guitarist Zacc Harris, the series features large-ish ensembles beginning with the Dave King Trucking Company on September 24.

Friday, September 16, 2011

For NPR's A Blog Supreme: A game plan for the Monterey Jazz Festival

Assignment #2: What to see and hear at this year's Monterey Jazz Festival starting tonight, if you're here for the whole weekend with Arena passes, unflagging energy, and catholic tastes.

Monterey before the crowds

How the Monterey Jazz Festival grounds looked around noon today, when we went to pick up our press credentials.

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

Tonight (Friday, Sept. 16) at the Black Dog in St. Paul: High Dive into the Deep End. The excellent Community Pool: Deep End series of improvised music performances resumes at its welcoming home in Lowertown. Curated by Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler of Fantastic Merlins fame, this series has for me been one ear-opener after another. Tonight: Eric Fratzke on guitar, Hanson on saxophone, Roessler on bass, and two drummers: Pete Hennig (of the Merlins, Atlantis Quartet, the Zacc Harris Trio, and more) and Peter Leggett (Heiruspecs). Together they have recorded a not-yet-released collection of tracks called Fort Knox Nostalgia; check out "Morgan's Raid" on Soundcloud. Here's an interview with Roessler about the series. 8 p.m. No cover.

Tonight and tomorrow (Friday–Saturday, Sept. 16–17) at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul: Bryan Nichols, Anthony Cox, Dave King. This newly-minted trio has already been dubbed a "supergroup" and who's to argue?  McKnight artist Nichols is, to me, the most consistently interesting, surprising, and satisfying pianist in the Twin Cities, whether leading his own groups small and large or playing well with others (Gang Font, James Buckley Trio, Zacc Harris Quartet). His quintet's debut recording, Bright Places, released earlier this year, features all original compositions. Both bassist Cox (who has played with Geri Allen, Joe Lovano, ad infinitum) and drummer King (The Bad Plus, The Dave King Trucking Co., etc. etc.) are beasts. 9 p.m. both nights. ($9) You can reserve online and I would if I were you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Kuumbwa Jazz Center: Concert review

They've been together 14 years, and it shows. This exquisitely expressive quintet speaks with one voice and five voices, depending on the moment and the phrase. Fronted by Myron Walden on bass clarinet and alto saxophone, Melvin Butler on soprano and tenor saxes, framed by Jon Cowherd on piano and organ, Chris Thomas on bass, with drummer Brian Blade at the back, the Fellowship Band played two profoundly moving, frequently thrilling sets at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz on Monday, Sept. 12. Starting shortly after 7 p.m., the music ended around 10:15.

It's hard to be descriptive about the Fellowship Band's music. Where is the vocabulary to convey pure emotion? From the first moments—Cowherd's delicate piano chords, accompanied by Thomas's elegant bass—I was lifted up and carried like a baby. When the rest of the band entered on the first tune and Butler stepped hard on his soprano, I thought for a moment we were in for a wild time, but Walden's bass clarinet announced a beautiful melody, cushioned by piano and arco bass, and beauty remained the mood for much of the evening. It was all about beauty, and a torrent of pure emotion.

When Butler and Walden switched to tenor and alto saxes, then traded eights, their music was a series of rhyming couplets, a conversation among close friends. When they played together, it was two rivers meeting and separating, flowing together and branching out and joining again. The last time I heard a pair of horn players who made me feel that way, I was listening to David Sanchez and Miguel Zenon.

There was no talking to the audience during the sets, but after each set, Blade announced what we had just heard. First set: "Landmark" and "The Mary Suite" (I think;  I was writing in the dark) "The Mercy Suite," both recorded but not yet released, and "Alpha and Omega" from Season of Changes (Verve, 2008), their most recent recording. "We hope to release our next CD soon," Blade told us. And: "We only played three songs this set, although it may have sounded like more."

The second set began with a slow simmer on the tenor and alto saxes, and a solo by Blade. Then Walden cut loose on his alto sax and everything changed.

Although this is technically a drummer-led band—Blade started it, and it's his name most people know—it's a genuine ensemble, a fellowship. Unless someone is soloing, you are aware of all five musicians equally, and there is no clear leader. Your attention shifts from one player to the next, then back again, following the sound around the stage. But Walden was the star of this set, with the other four giving him all the support and companionship he could possibly need as he leaned over the edge of a high place and jumped. He soared, he roared, he screamed, he shook us hard. At the end, as the audience yelled its approval, my face was wet with tears. When Walden lowered his horn and raised his face to the ceiling, eyes closed, it could have been over, but it wasn't. Butler entered with his tenor, soft and caressing, the calm after the storm, and led us safely home.

Second set: "Farewell Bluebird," which Blade explained is a song written about a cafe in New Orleans. Then "Season of Changes," the title track to their latest CD. "Shenandoah," which began with a lyrical, thoughtful organ solo by Cowherd. And "Migration," which began with a solo by Blade that made me think of a watercolor painting. The encore: a melody Blade wrote for his mother, "Friends Call her Dot." Sweet and tender.

I haven't said nearly enough about Cowherd or Thomas or Blade. I wish I could write more about them all, if only to communicate (or try) what it was like to hear this music. When the concert had ended and most of the audience had left, and the staff was going around the room picking up plates and bottles, Walden sat at the side of the stage, hands clasped, head bowed, looking exhausted. People approached him to greet him and thank him, and he roused himself each time, but in between, he folded. I have rarely heard music so full of feeling. I felt I'd been in the presence of five preachers, and I left convinced that they were speaking truth.  If jazz is as much about feeling as technique, if expression is as important as history and repertoire, I can't imagine better spokesmen than the musicians of the Fellowship Band.

This was my first visit to the Kuumbwa, which must be one of the best rooms on the planet for live jazz. It's a serious listening room, seating maybe 200, with food and beverages (including wine and beer) available, but no service during performances. People are there to hear jazz, not to see and be seen or talk with their friends (except during breaks). Kuumbwa is supported by grants and memberships, and it books jazz during the weeks, not on the weekends, catching major jazz acts as they travel down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Tim Jackson is artistic director for the Kuumbwa, and also for the Monterey Jazz Festival; he knows everyone. The sound in the room is brilliant, and the door is left open to the outdoor patio, letting in the fragrant night air and sending music into the neighborhood.

If I lived in Santa Cruz or nearby, I would come back next week for Branford Marsalis, and again in October for Rudresh Mahanthappa, and then for Gary Burton, and after that for McCoy Tyner with Jose James and Chris Potter. An amazing lineup for a room that Santa Cruz and mid-coast California are very lucky to have.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Community Pool: Deep End series announces new season at the Black Dog

Brian Roessler by John Whiting
Formerly known as Fantastic Fridays, the Community Pool: Deep End series is about to begin its fifth year—a respectable number for any live music series, especially one committed to improvised music.

The fall concerts begin on Friday, September 16, and continue through Friday, December 16.

Earlier this month, I spoke with bassist Brian Roessler, who co-curates the series with saxophonist Nathan Hanson.

Pamela Espeland: First Fantastic Fridays, now Community Pool, but always at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar in St. Paul. How did that relationship begin?

Brian Roessler: During our first Fantastic Merlins tour in 2005, the last show we played was at the Black Dog. That was when we met [Black Dog owner] Sara Remke. She liked the music, and we liked playing there, so we hit it off and started talking. Eventually, she asked Nathan if he wanted to curate Friday nights there. We got to know Jean [Rochard, Remke's partner and founder of the French record label NATO]. He liked what we were doing, and we had a lot of interesting conversations, one of which led to our last record with Kid Dakota [How the Light Gets In].

PLE: Why the name “Community Pool”?

BR: Nathan and I share an interest in trying to use music, and art in general, as a way to build community. Not on a grand scale, but from the personal connection with other artists and with audience members. It’s a reflection of our view of the interconnected nature of the world and society, artists and listeners.

In the town where I grew up, the local swimming pool was called the Community Pool. I always thought that was cool.

Moo rules

Awesome little biz cards from Primo paper, satiny finish, crisp print, 10 colors, fast, inexpensive.

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

Tonight and tomorrow (Friday–Saturday, Sept. 9–10) at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul: violinist Christian Howes. Jazz violin will never be as big as jazz piano or saxophone, but it seems there are more jazz violinists these days. Regina Carter is the world ambassador for her instrument; she’s deeply involved in her “Reverse Thread” project and just last weekend played the Detroit Jazz Festival. In the Twin Cities, we can hear Gary Schulte, Randy Sabien (who teaches at McNally-Smith but doesn’t play out as much as I wish he would), and, more recently, Kip Jones. Christian Howes is not from around here, but he will be in residence at the AQ this weekend. The Jazz Journalists Association recently nominated him for jazz violinist of the year, and he just won the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for rising stars/jazz violin. This will be a treat. 9 p.m. ($15)

All day Saturday starting at 11 a.m., it’s the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival. Now in its 10th year, held at the intersection of Selby Avenue and Milton St. North in St. Paul outside the Golden Thymes Coffee Café, it’s a full day of neighborhood, regional, national, and international jazz, plus State Fair food with a soul food twist. Gerald Albright is the headliner; other artists include Dick and Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West and the Urban Legends of Jazz, Salsa Del Soul, and Public Nuisance. Pippi Ardenia will MC the second half, and Larry Englund will record the Walker West/Urban Legends show for his forthcoming radio series on KBEM, Saint Paul Live! The festival is free.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy birthday, Sonny Rollins, and congratulations

Sonny Rollins and Clifton Anderson by John Whiting

Picture turning 81 (with a full head of hair) and learning on the same day that you've been recognized by the Kennedy Center for your contribution to culture.

The 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees, announced today, include Sonny Rollins, Yo-Yo Ma, Neil Diamond, Barbara Cook, and Meryl Streep.

John took this photo of Rollins with Clifton Anderson at the 50th Monterey Jazz Festival in 2007. It was our first year at Monterey with press credentials, and John's first time shooting Rollins. John was crouching at the side of the stage with his camera when Rollins saw him. Rather than frown or act annoyed, he turned toward John and started walking his way, blowing hard, playing to him. Being extraordinarily generous and enjoying it. John took so many pictures he filled up his SD card.

For the moment--I don't know how long it will be available--you can listen to Rollins' latest CD, Road Shows, Vol. 2, streaming in its entirety and as individual tracks at NPR.

More on Theo Bleckmann's show at Macalester-Plymouth later this month

Courtesy Theo Bleckmann
The latest press release from Macalester College (replaces an earlier blog post):

Grammy-nominated jazz singer and composer Theo Bleckmann will perform for Macalester College students, staff, and friends on Friday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. at Macalester Plymouth United Church, 1658 Lincoln Ave., St. Paul.
The performance is part of a two-day residency that Bleckmann is doing at Macalester College, part of the college’s New Music Series, funded by the Rivendell Foundation.
Incorporating technology ranging in cost from 99 cents to $999, Bleckmann will draw from jazz, new music, and performance art with a repertoire that includes jazz standards, Guillaume de Machaut, Meredith Monk, and his own compositions and improvisations. Bleckmann uses all facets of his voice, including extended vocal techniques as well as low- and high-tech devices. His concert is not intended as a showcase for electronic gimmickry but rather to inspire and open up the horizons of traditional jazz and new music.
Bleckmann has released a series of albums on Winter & Winter, including recordings of Las Vegas standards, Berlin kabarett, and popular “bar songs,” a recording of newly arranged songs by Charles Ives, and most recently “Solos for Voice and Toys,” in which Bleckmann brought just his vocal technique, emotional commitment, and suitcase full of evocative voice-altering gadgets to the project of recording delicate songs and poems at a monastery in the Swiss Alps.
He has been described as “from another planet” by the New York Times, “transcendent” by theVillage Voice, and “magical, futuristic” by the website All About Jazz.
The performance is free and open to the public. For more information call 651-696-6808.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Help Charmin Michelle make her next CD

Charmin Michelle by John Whiting
Let's say you're a jazz singer, and you regularly appear with a big band, and you're about to make your first CD together. You've been performing with each other for several years, and your repertoire now includes more than 80 songs.

Your CD will include 10. Which 10? Let your fans help decide.

Charmin Michelle is doing that for her planned CD with Jerry O'Hagan and His Orchestra, with whom she sings most Sundays at the Cinema Ballroom in St. Paul. 

She recently sent out an email with their song list. "We would like some input from all of you about the tunes we select to record on the disc," she wrote. "We would like to ask you to take the time to go through the list and pick out 8 tunes you would like to hear on the CD. You may rate them from one to eight if you wish." (The other 2 tunes will be instrumentals.)

If you know Charmin and you've heard her sing, which eight of these would you choose? Or: Imagine your favorite jazz-singer-big-band combination. Which eight would you choose to hear them perform? (I'm picturing Kurt Elling and the Bob Mintzer Big Band on "Makin' Whoopee." Wondering if Elling has ever sung that song...if he ever would, and how witty and sly it would sound if he did.)


Jazz films, and the return of KBEM's REEL Jazz

For those who are interested, a reminder that the concert film Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues airs at the Showplace Icon in St. Louis Park (and other theaters around the Twin Cities) tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 7. Tickets $12.50.

More information is now available on In My Mind, the only jazz film (as far as I know) featured in this year's Sound Unseen.

When: Sunday, Oct. 16, 1 p.m.
Where: Trylon MicrocinemaTickets $10.
Description: (2010, Gary Hawkins, 100m, USA) Not your run-of-the-mill concert film here as prodigy composer Jason Moran revisits and interprets bebop pianist Thelonious Monk’s historic 1959 Town Hall big band concert. Moran sifts through photographs from Duke’s Jazz Loft Project and audio recordings made by Eugene Smith to present the life, times, and music of North Carolina’s jazz giant.

Related: The web page from Moran's Walker Art Center performance in 2009, with lots of links.

Just announced: KBEM's REEL Jazz film series is back with a new season.

Friday, September 2, 2011

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

Today (Friday, Sept. 2) is Leigh Kamman’s birthday. For more than 30 years, Kamman hosted “The Jazz Image” on Minnesota Public Radio, part of his 60 years in broadcasting. There’s never been a bigger jazz fan, or a more wonderful radio voice. Happy birthday, Leigh. May MPR play at least one jazz tune in your honor. 

Tonight at the Artists’ Quarter: Brandon Wozniak on saxophone(s), Peter Schimke on piano, Billy Peterson on bass, Kenny Horst on drums. Since moving to Minnesota in 2006, Brandon Wozniak has left a big impression on the Twin Cities jazz scene, playing with groups including the Atlantis Quartet, Monk in Motian, and most recently the Dave King Trucking Company. It should be fun to see him with these three. 9 p.m. ($10)

On Saturday, the Dakota hosts a tribute to Nick Ashford and Jerry Lieber, who both passed recently. Ginger Commodore, Dennis Spears, and Debbie Duncan will do the honors. Ow ow ow. Someone please tell me that Dennis will sing "Yakety Yak." Expect "Stand By Me," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and more great tunes from the 1950s-80s. 8 p.m. ($12)