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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, December 6-12

SOURCE: Published: 2013-12-07
Winter is here in full force, just in time for holiday recordings and special gigs. Good thing we've got our jazz to keep us warm. And plenty of it this weekend and into the new week — CD release parties, a Happy Apple happening, the opening of a tribute to lyricist Ira Gershwin, Bill Frisell's Big Sur project, a benefit for the Artists Quarter and more. (Remember, CDs make great gifts!)

Big Gigs This Week

Friday, December 6. It's the official opening night of Words By... Ira Gershwin and the Great American Songbook at Park Square Theater after a week of previews. In addition to 27 songs, mostly written or cowritten by Ira, you can enjoy the voices of T. Mychal Rambo (who also starred in the Soul of Gershwin) and Jennifer Grimm, and a band of familiar jazzers — Chris Olson, Chris Bates and Jay Epstein (who just happen to perform as the trio Framework) led by playwright/music director/pianist Joseph Vass. Remember, when you are at Park Square, you are a level above the Artists Quarter, so make the AQ your post-theater destination to keep the vibe going. Words By... continues through December 29th.

And interesting lyrics are always on the menu when Maud Hixson sings at Parma 8200, tonight with Rick Carlson on piano and Gordy Johnson on bass. Expect some favorites from 30s songwriters, from her Michael Leonard album (Don't Let a Good Thing Get Away), and from her never-ending quest to find an interesting but neglected song. And enjoy a flatbread or pasta along the way.

Reynold Philipsek decided to put his at least annual recording projects on hold for a while after his last CD in 2012. The hiatus only lasted a few months as he found himself penning new material and recording it almost as fast as he could write. Now he's put all that flood of inspiration onto one CD, Simplicity, which he will celebrate tonight at the 318 Café with frequent cohort, bassist Matt Senjem. Expect to hear more vocals from Reynold as well as virutosic acoustic guitar. Cover includes the CD.

Friday-Saturday, December 6-7.There are many local ensembles that consider the Artists Quarter their home base, but perhaps none as firmly as Happy Apple (Mike Lewis, Erik Fratzke, Dave King). Although they now enjoy international acclaim and gigs from New York to Paris, it all started at the Artists Quarter when three young guys with great imaginations started gigging back in the mid-90s, and they never forget their roots. Happy Apple only plays about once per year locally, and when they do, there's fireworks and Standing Room Only. Come early or you might find yourself on the stairwell. This is the band's AQ finale... at least for now.

Saturday, December 7. Charming, hip and exceptionally (multi) talented,  vocalist/flautist/songwriter Jana Nyberg and trumpeter/composer/bandleader/vocalist Adam Meckler are life and music partners. And they seem to really enjoy winter! For the Jana Nyberg Group's new CD, the pair have joined songwriting talents on five tunes, while Adam arranged most of the rest, yielding a most enjoyable Winter Song. With Brian Courage, Thomas Nordlund, Zach Schmidt and Mike Vasich, they're holding a CD celebration tonight at the Dakota. Don't miss their covers — an ingeneous reworking of The Nearness of You  and understatedly sexy duet on Baby It's Cold Outside— or their engaging originals — the title track, “California Christmas," “Minnesota Dream." They promise some of their fan favorites as well.

Sunday, December 8. This is a day when it isn't a snow shower, it's a blizzard! And hopefully this is just a metaphor and not the weather forecast! Late afternoon at Landmark, it's the final PipJazz Sundays concert of the season, and maybe the most eclectic line-up of the year as well. In addition to host/vocalist Pippi Ardennia and her talented PipJazz Experience band, she welcomes Paraguayan harpist Nicholas Carter and 15-year-old jazz pianist Jordan Anderson. Carter, who is also a puppeteer and theater director, brings together Paraguayan folk elements and modern world music.

Starting an hour later and 2 blocks away, vocalist Lucia Newell hosts a Friends of the Artists Quarter celebration and benefit for soon-to-close AQ and owner Kenny Horst, featuring a string of 30-minute sets boasting an all-star cast of area jazz musicians in new and familiar configurations as everyone gets in on the act of thanking Kenny and the AQ family for the past 18 years of music and jazz community support. Minimum donation of $10 requested. Around 10:30, the jam session begins and will go on until.... who knows. You can come and go or just find a table and stay put for the night.

One option if you are coming and going from the AQ benefit is Bill Frisell's Big Sur Quintet at The Cedar. Frisell is a frequent visitor to the Twin Cities but this will be the debut of this particular project, featuring violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts and drummer Rudy Royston. The music shines the light on Frisell's more gentle side— truly a festival of strings with four of the most inventive in modern jazz, plus a young drummer who proves over and over again to be both versatile and clever.

Monday, December 9. Jazz Central Studios has a new and very cool website so no more excuses about finding their calendar! This week starts off with the Doug Haining Quintet, which will swing the house (or basement) down. Over at the Icehouse, we also have advance warning of the jazz firestorm line-up for JT's Jazz Implosion: First set, the Zacc Harris Quartet with Bryan Nichols, Chris and JT Bates; second set, Firebell with Park Evans, Graydon Peterson and Jay Epstein. That's a double header to wrap your head around!

Get in the holiday spirit at the Capri Theater with A Christmas Gift, featuring the stellar voices of Greta Ogelsby, Regina Marie Williams, and Thomasina Petrus, backed by pianist Sanford Moore. And this is a real gift — proceeds go to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center's annual Children's Gift Sale.

Tuesday, December 10. It's a double guitar night at the Artists Quarter, with the young and restless Cory Wong Quartet leading off the evening, followed by Dean Magraw “And Friends" — likely Kenny Horst on drums and probably piano and horn... Dean has so many talented friends it's hard to predict. But this is likely Dean's last hurrah at the AQ before closing.

Wednesday, December 11. Another double header at the Artists Quarter. Trumpeter (more accurately, flumpeter) Steve Kenny has pulled together a talented crew for his Group 47 — bassist Adam Tucker and three students working their way up the jazz chain: Still high-schooler Will Kjeer on piano and 2 from UW-River Falls, saxophonist Thomas Strommen and drummer Alex Burgess. Add in some surprises who sit in and you have a lot of energy. Tonight they're followed by local legend, multi-reedist Dave Karr, who at 82 can blow away most in their 30s. Dave's last quartet gig at the current edition of the Artists Quarter.

Over at Jazz Central, the usual improv night is turned over to three who know the meaning of improv— bassists Graydon Peterson, Brian Courage and Jeremy Boettcher who together form the improbably trio Mountain King. Three acoustic bassists and nothing else? You gotta hear it. Fun, adventurous, a one-of-a-kind ensemble.

More Jazz, Every Night Be sure to check live jazz calendars on Jazz Policeand KBEM sites. Also find a growing number of events on the Jazz Near You site, a service of All About Jazz. A few more gigs of note:

Friday, December 6. Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota; Todd Harper Trio, early set at the Black Dog; Lee Engele and James Allen at The Wine Market; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Dennis Spears at the Dakota; Pavel Jany at Trattoria di Vinci; Tim Patrick and His Blue-Eyed Band at the Eagles Club; Phil Aaron and Brian Courage, dinner sets at the Icehouse

Saturday, December 7. Pig's Eye Jass Band at the Eagle's Club; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Tanner Taylor and Adam Wozniak, dinner sets at the Icehouse followed by New Sound Underground; Pavel Jany at Trattoria di Vinci; Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200

Sunday, December 8. Doug Little Quartet at Eat Street Social; Patty and the Buttons with Sam Miltich and Dean Harrington at the Dakota; Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Holiday with Strings (with Charmin Michelle, Cliff Brunzell) at Jax Cafe; Macalester College Big Band with the Phil Mattson Singers, Mairs Auditorium at Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center (Macalester College)

Monday, December 9. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Tommy and the Liebermen at the Dakota

Tuesday, December 10. Chris Olson Project at the Black Dog; Cafe Accordion at Loring Pasta Bar; Cedar Avenue Big Band at Jazz Central; Jack Brass Band at the Amsterdam

Wednesday, December 11. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Improv Night at Jazz Central; Wolverines Trio at Hell's Kitchen; Gypsy Mania at Barbette

Thursday, December 12. McNally Smith Venue Night at the Artists Quarter; Connie and Herb at The Bean; Jon Pemberton at the Red Stag

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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