Saturday, January 28, 2012


Some of you know that I have a new gig: writing a twice-weekly column called Artscape for MinnPost, covering all the arts in (mostly) the Twin Cities. I'm not writing previews or reviews, but news--about arts institutions, personalities, performances, money, and politics. In 2011, MinnPost had 3.7 million visits from Minnesotans.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the live jazz calendar would continue, along with this blog and my calendar-related radio bits on KBEM (with Ed Jones and Maryann Sullivan). But I realized almost immediately that I had to find more time in the week and something had to go. So Friday, Feb. 3 will be my last regularly scheduled appearance on KBEM.

It's been a good, long run--more than three years of getting up early (for me) on Friday mornings to talk about jazz with warm and charming Ed, and later (starting in May last year) working closely with delightful Maryann.

I'll continue updating the live jazz calendar, which many of you have said you find useful. It will stay on KBEM's website through Feb. 5, after which it will be available on this blog and its own page. The email address will stay live for a while, but starting now, is where you should send information about gigs you want listed on the calendar.

I regularly search FaceBook, the live music calendars on venues' websites, and artists' own websites for information on who's playing when and where, but you make my life easier when you send me emails, so please use to keep me informed. Meanwhile, I'll do my best to make the live jazz calendar as comprehensive, accurate, and informative as I can.

This blog will also continue. Although I'll never be able to write as regularly (or anywhere near as knowledgeably) as many of the writers in my blogroll, I believe bebopified serves a useful purpose in this community. And it gives me a good excuse to pick up the phone and call people I want to talk to.

Jazz is my first love. When I began writing for MinnPost in 2007, I was a jazz writer. Now I'm an arts writer who thinks jazz is worth writing about, getting excited about, and going out to see. You won't hear my picks on the radio anymore, but you can still read them here (sporadically, I'm afraid), along with news, interviews, and whatever else seems worth writing about on a particular day.

This week's jazz picks and news

Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 28)  at the AQ: the Bryan Nichols Quintet. Pianist, composer, arranger, and educator (and new dad) Bryan Nichols is in a major creative music-making phase. Earlier this month, he played the music of Keith Jarrett at a special concert at the AQ. This time he’ll play his own music (and some Jarrett, too) with his excellent quintet: Brandon Wozniak, Michael Lewis, James Buckley, JT Bates. 9 p.m., $12.

On Saturday and Sunday, Century College in White Bear Lake hosts its 23rd annual Jazz Festival. The music starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Trumpeter Roger Ingram is this year’s featured performer. He has played with Woody Herman, Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra. Here he’ll perform with the 17-piece Century Jazz Ensemble. There’s a reception before each show with complimentary wine, cheese, and dessert. The Joel Shapira Quartet will perform during the receptions. $20/$10 students.

On Saturday at Studio Z in St. Paul’s Lowertown: Monk in Motian. This group reinterprets the music of Thelonious Monk through the musical style of late drummer Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band. Motian’s band was pianoless—remember that Monk played the piano—so already we’re hearing the music differently. Monk in Motian is Pete Hennig, JT Bates, and Davu Seru (drums), Brandon Wozniak and Scott Fultz (saxophones), Zacc Harris and Park Evans (guitars), and Matt Peterson (bass). Eight of our finest musicians. 7 p.m., $10.

On Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon at the Bloomington Center for the Arts, Joan Griffith and Sam Miltich will play a program called “Guitarists Extraordinaire,” with guest vocalist Connie Evingson. They promise the Brazilian styles of Samba, Bossa Nova, Choro, and Baiao, standards from Django Reinhardt and Cole Porter, and original compositions. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday in the black box theater. $18 adults, $16 seniors and students, $15 TCJS members.

On Monday, the great blues singer Eric Bibb comes to the Dakota. I’ve seen him twice now, in April 2008 and May 2009, and he’s magical. Just a man in a hat with a guitar, singing songs about hope, loving kindness, and happiness. Excuse me, are we talking about the blues? Bibb calls his music “upside-down blues” because it’s about life’s joys, not life’s problems. BTW, Bibb is the godson of Paul Robeson, nephew of John Lewis (of the MJQ), and son of folk singer Leon Bibb. 7 p.m., $20.
A heads up: Kurt Elling comes to Orchestra Hall on February 18, sharing a double bill with singer Lizz Wright. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your sweetheart.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New e.s.t. studio album to be released at the end of March

Awesome news from B.H. Hopper Management: A new e.s.t. studio album, "301," with all-original, never-before-released compositions, will be in stores on March 30, 2012 worldwide.

The press release:
In January 2007 e.s.t. were on tour in Asia and Australia performing shows in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Jakarta, Perth and Sydney. It was their third tour of Japan and their second time on the fifth continent and the venues and audiences had become noticeably bigger. Only a few weeks before they had finished their triumphant tour of Germany performing their now legendary “Live in Hamburg” concert (awarded ‘Album of the Decade’ by the London TIMES). It was undoubtedly the prime time of the style defining jazz band of the Noughties.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Graydon Peterson on his new band, and his goals

Graydon Peterson by John Whiting
In late April 2011, I went to see Connie Evingson sing at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul. In her band was Graydon Peterson, a first-call bassist for many vocalists in the Twin Cities.

Afterward, while waiting to pay our tab, I ended up standing next to him at the bar.

“This is a bands town,” I said. “When are you going to start your own band?”

It was a casual, making-conversation question to which he replied, in all seriousness, “That’s one of my goals for this year.”

When Peterson sets a goal for himself, he follows through. The Graydon Peterson Quartet played their first public gig at the Shanghai Bistro in Hudson, Wisconsin, on October 7. From there, they moved to Jazz Central in Minneapolis on October 25 and The Nicollet Coffee House on November 15.

On Wednesday, January 25, they will make their debut at the Artists’ Quarter, the nationally known jazz club in St. Paul. From zero to 60 in four steps.

This week's jazz picks and news

Tonight (Friday, Jan. 20), Nichola Miller and Katie Gearty share the stage at the Crooked Pint. Both are fine, grown-up, passionate singers who can raise the hair on the back of your neck. With Tanner Taylor on piano, Keith Boyles on bass, Trevor Haining on drums. 9 p.m. No cover.

On Saturday, the MacPhail Center for Music faculty celebrates George Gershwin in a program called "By George!" His music will be arranged for two pianos, accompanied by strings, winds, and voices. The concert takes place in MacPhail's Antonello Hall, one of my favorite venues. 8 p.m. $20 adults/$15 youth and seniors.

Music in a two-acre tropical garden in St. Paul in the dead of winter? Thank you, Como Park Conservatory. Its "Music Under Glass" series continues on Sunday with Rhizosphere, an improvisatory quartet that blends world music with jazz, folk, and the blues. With Bobb Fantauzzo (of JazZen) on Native American and Chinese flutes, Gabriela Sweet on slide guitar and accordion, Mike Bruns on guitar, Sean Egan on clarinet. Coming up: the Café Accordion Orchestra, the Robb Henry Trio, the Daddy Squeeze Trio, and Gnarl. 5 p.m. Free.

On Tuesday, the New York-based vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Raul Midon comes to the Dakota. He’s been here a few times before and I have always missed him. I caught about 10 minutes of his performance at last year’s Monterey Jazz Festival and vowed never to make that mistake again. Silky, soulful tenor. Wonderfully percussive guitar style. And “improvisational mouth horn”—vocal bebop trumpet solos. 7 p.m., $30.

Also on Tuesday, the live jazz continues at the Nicollet coffee house on the corner of Nicollet and Franklin. This time, it’s singer Maryann Sullivan, known to KBEM listeners as the host of "Corner Jazz" and "On the Local Corner," now heard on Monday nights. There’s a big wooden dance floor, lovely floor-to-ceiling windows, and hot coffee to enjoy along with the music. A cozy place to go on a winter’s night. 7 p.m. No cover.

On Wednesday and Thursday, singer/songwriter/pianist/ukelele player Nellie McKay returns to the Dakota with a performance the New Yorker described as "part seedy cabaret, part existential meditation, and all musical exploration ... a brilliant piece of theater." She has taken the 1958 movie I Want to Live!, about the third woman to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin, and turned it into a cabaret show. It sounds deliciously weird, thought-provoking, and puzzling. 7 p.m. $35.

Also on Wednesday, the Graydon Peterson Quartet performs at the Artists’ Quarter. This brand-new band, begun by bassist Peterson (who’s usually seen backing singers), plays all-original music by Peterson. I saw them in October at Jazz Central and liked them a lot. Read an interview here later today. 9 p.m. $5.

On Friday, Jan. 27: the inimitable, the delightful, the totally squeezeboxy Accordion-O-Rama! returns to Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. I loved this when I heard it in 2010 on a balmy autumn night in October. Not so sure about heading down the highway at 90 below, but I'll be there in spirit. Crossings at Carnegie is a former Carnegie library turned gift shop and live music venue. This year's players: Dan Newton, Dee Langley, Gary Powell, and Bob Walser.  7:30 p.m. $18 advance/$20 day of show.

The headliners for this year's Twin Cities Jazz Festival have been announced: Cuban drummer Francisco Mela, the Delfeayo Marsalis Octet, and The Bad Plus with saxophonist Joshua Redman. 

Check the live jazz calendar on KBEM's website for even more jazzy goodness. Got gigs? Send an email to

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Bryan Nichols Quintet + 1 at the AQ

Sunday, January 15, 2012, playing the music of Keith Jarrett's American Quartet. It was h-h-h-h-hot.

L to R: Bryan Nichols, James Buckley, Michael Lewis, JT Bates,
Brandon Wozniak, and Jay Epstein by John Whiting

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jon Weber at the AQ: Concert review

Jon Weber by John Whiting
An evening with pianist Jon Weber is not to be missed. Witty, brainy, intimate, and enormously entertaining, it’s part concert, part music history class.

Weber engages the audience from the start, asking “What should I play? In what key?” He knows literally thousands of tunes and quotes liberally, so by the end of one you’ve heard bits and phrases from several. He tells you when each song was written, by whom, whether it came from a movie or a musical, when the composer was born, and what else he wrote, accompanied by musical examples. 

I wonder how he sleeps, with so much knowledge and so many facts crammed into his head, pushing and shoving and clamoring to get out.

While Weber’s performance borders on shtick—that’s the “show-business routine” meaning, not the “gimmick or gag” meaning—it never crosses over because he is so deeply and seriously musical. His playing is impeccable, his technique awe-inspiring, whether dashing through notes at top speed or interpreting “Autumn in New York” so tenderly and expressively that you stop breathing.

Maud Hixson by John Whiting
He’s also very funny. Following his own combination of Jobim’s “Wave” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” (strange, but it works), he mentions that he once thought the words to the latter were “Smell Cousin Walter.” He promises to give himself a 15-yard penalty if he uses the same musical quote more than once. He demonstrates the “sneaky fill”—where all the music happens in the right hand—by lifting his left hand high and mugging. He tosses off bon mots, like “Sometimes choosing the key is the hardest choice of all.”

Last night at the Artists’ Quarter, we experienced Weber’s customary romp through jazz, with bonuses. For part of the evening, he played solo; for part, with old pals Billy Peterson on bass and Kenny Horst on drums. Singers Maud Hixson and Alicia Renee were in the house; each was invited up to the stage. Hixson chose Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano”—in part, I’m sure, because of this verse and Weber’s signature ponytail:

And with the pedal I love to meddle
When Paderewski comes this way
I’m so delighted if I’m invited
To hear that long-haired genius play.

Alicia Renee by John Whiting
In the second set, she returned for “While We’re Young.” Renee brought her big, beautiful voice to “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

The best surprise of the night: young pianist Witness Matlou, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, now on full scholarship at Berklee, who drove up from Iowa (where he spent a year as an exchange student at Drake) to see Weber. Matlou played the standard “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” and even the chatty table behind us quieted down as he made it a masterpiece of spacious understatement, playing behind the beat, swinging hard. Peterson and Horst were right there with him. Wish I’d recorded it. (Don Berryman, maybe you did?) Matlou has several videos on YouTube of varying quality; go here for a recent example of his playing. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t see more of him soon.

Related: Jon Weber's "Piano Jazz Rising Stars" radio show, now airing on KBEM at 10 p.m. on Saturday nights.

Jazz comes to the Lex

Arne Fogel by John Whiting
Heavy double doors open to a world of dark wood, beamed ceilings, classic food and cocktails (including ice cream drinks--Pink Cadillac, anyone?).

Founded in 1935, frozen in time, the Lexington Restaurant has had just three owners in its long and storied history. It's a St. Paul tradition, the place to go for important lunches and dinners, family events, meetings, celebrations, receptions, reunions, wakes, to talk politics, to see and be seen. And now, to hear live jazz.

Friday, January 13, 2012

This week's jazz picks and news

Tonight (Friday, Jan. 13), pianist Jon Weber returns to the Artists' Quarter. Formerly of Chicago, now based in NYC, he's a regular at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and before his performance, the headliners for the 2012 festival will be announced. I've seen Weber play several times and it's always new--new songs, new quotes within songs, new composers whose birthdays he knows, new versions of old favorites, played in any key. (Famously, he often asks the audience, "How would you like me to play this? With one flat, two flats, five flats?") After subbing now and then for Marian McPartland on her iconic NPR program "Piano Jazz," he was recently tapped to head a new series for NPR called "Piano Jazz Rising Stars." It airs locally on KBEM at 10 p.m. on Saturdays. Listen to Neal Conan's interview with Weber here. AQ, 9 p.m., $10.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christian McBride's hat

Because Christian loves a good cigar and acts as a spokesman for Davidoff, his hat is based on the Davidoff Private Label cigar band.

Related: Doug Haining's hat

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christine Rosholt, remembered with music and tears

Tanner Taylor
Christine would have loved it. The Dakota was SRO, those without reservations (at least a hundred, maybe more) being turned away and told to come back at 9:30 (many did).

Musicians and singers were everywhere—on stage, at tables, gathered outside the Green Room and at the bar.

Club owner Lowell Pickett flew back early from the annual APAP conference in NYC, skipping the NEA Jazz Masters program in the Rose Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

So did pianist/composer George Maurer. I’ve never seen Scott Seekins at the Dakota; he was there, too.

We came to remember and honor singer Christine Rosholt, who died at the end of December, a week before her birthday, a victim of depression. (As was Susannah McCorkle.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

This week's jazz picks and news

Tonight (Friday, Jan. 6) at the Black Dog in St. Paul’s Lowertown: George Cartwright, Pat Moriarty, and Nathan Hanson on saxophones, Pat O'Keefe on clarinets, Davu Seru on drums. What an enticing lineup. Part of the Community Pool: Deep End series of improvised music being curated by Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler, who say, “Expect to be challenged and soothed, not necessarily in that order.” 8 p.m.-ish, tip jar.

Tonight and Saturday at the Artists’ Quarter in St. Paul: the Laura Caviani Quartet. Laura is such an elegant, tasteful pianist, and she chooses wonderful musicians to accompany her. This weekend it’s Chris Bates on bass, Phil Hey on drums, and Dave Hagedorn on vibes. They’re playing a program called “From Bach to Bop,” which Laura describes as “new arrangements inspired by classical piano works from her childhood.” If you’ve ever heard John Lewis play Bach, or Jacques Loussier, this could be similar—or not. Bach with a hint of Monk? 9 p.m., $10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christine Rosholt, 1965-2011

Popular Twin Cities singer Christine Rosholt died suddenly last Wednesday. Today, January 3, would have been her 47th birthday. Her favorite color was red, and she was famous for her red lipstick; she wore a pair of jeweled red lips on a chain around her neck. When I told her I wanted to make her a hat and asked what color she preferred, her immediate answer was "Red!" I sent her hat in early 2010, and she responded with this winsome self-portrait.

Christine was a good and faithful friend to MinnPost, and when co-founders Joel and Laurie Kramer learned of her death, they asked me to write about her. It was a privilege, but it didn't come easily.

Earlier this morning, when my piano teacher, Stephen Dewey, stopped by for my biweekly lesson, I told him the sad news. I wasn't sure if he knew Christine, but of course he did; almost everyone involved in music in the Twin Cities must have heard her name or seen her perform at some point during her too-short career. Turns out Stephen had attended the prestigious Yale Cabaret Conference with her in 2009. Part of the conference includes critiques designed to improve performers' stage presence. According to Stephen, Christine, who loved hats, was advised to move the one she was wearing back a bit so people could see her more clearly. "Why?" she retorted. "I can see all of you perfectly well."

Nachito Herrera at the Dakota: Guest review by Reece Peterson

A second review by a Theoroi member of Nachito Herrera's December 10 performance at the Dakota, reproduced with permission. Theoroi is the group of young Twin Cities professionals and arts lovers sponsored by the Schubert Club. Read Rea Rettarath's perspective(s) herebb

Nachito Herrera – I got a fever, 
and the only prescription is more cowbell!

“There are only two types of music, good music and bad music,” Nachito Herrera explained before his set at the Dakota Jazz Club on December 10th. The brilliant Cuban pianist is the definition of “good music,” which he demonstrated by playing a holiday set infused with modern Cuban jazz. From the first note struck by Herrera and his band (Kevin Washington on drums, and Jonas on bass guitar), the environment of the Dakota Jazz Club took on the warm, festive mood of Cuban jazz. A quick survey of the audience portrayed a lot of foot-tapping and shoulder-swaying. There is no doubt in my mind that if there was a section of floor that remotely resembled a dance floor it would have been packed to the gills with salsa dancers.