Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pleased and flipped 21: Memories of the Artists’ Quarter: Dave Hagedorn, Bob Rockwell, Javier Santiago

Twenty-first in a series. After almost 20 years in St. Paul – first on Jackson Street in Lowertown, then in the Hamm Building near Rice Park – the esteemed and beloved Artists’ Quarter jazz club will close January 1. As we near the end of a jazz era, we’re asking musicians (and a few others) whose lives have been shaped by experiences at the AQ to share their three favorite memories of the place, the people, and the music.

Dave Hagedorn, vibraphonist

Dave Hagedorn by John Whiting
When I moved back to the Twin Cities area in 1997 to teach at St. Olaf [College in Northfield], I had hoped to be able to perform more often and with better players than I was working with in Duluth. I did not count on becoming a part of the AQ family, and this became a huge bonus.

Being able to play regularly with the Phil Hey Quartet, Pete Whitman’s Xtet, and for a while, Eric Kamau Grávátt and Source Code, helped me to become a much better musician. This in turn helped me to get things going at St. Olaf as well, as my standards for jazz continually were being raised.

Also, being able to hear great musicians in an intimate concert setting was a huge factor in my personal development as well as that of my Olaf students. Witnessing performances by Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts, Astral Project, Kneebody, and Roy Haynes was extremely inspirational.

And then, finally being able to be on stage with international greats like John Patitucci and Jim Rotondi was also a wonderful pleasure.

So, Kenny, I first saw you play with Dawn in your rock band with my high school friends Tim Belden and Roger Ness. And I played some at the old AQ on 26th in Minneapolis, besides the Jackson Street club in St. Paul. Thank you so much for providing so much joy and exceptional playing experiences. I’m forever in your debt.

Bob Rockwell, saxophonist

Courtesy Bob Rockwell
I preface this with the fact that Kenny met me when I was 19. We lived in the same building. Later, when I was 22, Kenny gave me my first jazz gig at Augie’s, playing for strippers.(1)

Anyway, Kenny was super hip about the whole business thing. He was already into finding places to play.

The music has always been his driving force and he was hip to the fact that if a player wants to be in touch with that energy, you got to be out doing it. So the Artists’ Quarter(s) have made it possible for him and a LOT of musicians to have that thing. Plus the people to come out and bear witness and be a part of the music.

The whole dynamic of the AQ is so complex and unique in society that it should be preserved in a culturally funded way.(2)

Javier Santiago, pianist

Javi Santiago by John Whiting
Kenny and the folks at the AQ played an integral part in my musical upbringing. I started playing there when I was about 13, and Kenny was always supportive and provided such an amazing venue for my friends and me to play in. It was the first real, authentic jazz club I had ever played in, and this experience was one-of-a-kind.

The AQ was a truly magical and sacred place, and I felt myself constantly being provided opportunities (by Kenny and Co.) to be able to grow there. I’m really going to miss it!



(1) In “Joined at the Hip: A History of Jazz in the Twin Cities,” author Jay Goetting notes that some of the best musicians in town played the strip clubs on “the Avenue” – Hennepin Avenue – because it was one of the highest-paying steady jobs in town. “Augie’s – to this day a fixture on the Avenue – had a reputation for keeping jazz musicians employed, and also for being one of the real dives of lower Hennepin.” He mentions Kenny Horst and Bob Rockwell by name and repeats a story told by pianist Ron Seaman: “Kenny Horst was slugged on a break once.” Goetting’s book was published in 2011 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

(2) Rockwell can write that a place like the AQ “should be preserved in a culturally funded way” because he has lived in Denmark since 1983, where the idea of government support for jazz doesn’t seem as crazy as it does in the U.S. Denmark has, for example, something called JazzDanmark (, which is primarily funded by the Danish Arts Council, whose purposes are to “increase the possibilities for jazz in Denmark and Danish jazz abroad – for musicians, venues and the rest of the industry – so that jazz reaches a growing audience, which gets increasingly better experiences.” We had to fight to preserve the NEA Jazz Masters program. Small wonder so many American jazz musicians make their livings in Europe.

Rockwell grew up in Minneapolis and moved to New York City in 1978. A longtime friend to Kenny Horst and the AQ, he last played the club in August 2006.

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