The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, December 14-20

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The holidays are ever closer, the snow is deep enough to create ice dams and igloos, and the entertainment options around the Twin Cities can be mind-boggling. Here, let me help you! The jazz choices are abundant and joyful.

Some Big Gigs This Week Friday, December 14. In the “Deep End/Community Pool" tonight at the Black Dog, a double percussion quintet of fearless improvisers takes the bandstand, with Erik Fratzke, Peter Leggett,  Pete Hennig, Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler. That's a lot of hardware. That's a lot of music.

 Friday/Monday/Thursday, December 14-20.How to combine shopping and jazz: Stroll through the Galleria when sublime pianist Mary Louise Knutson is playing solo, 6-9 pm Friday and Monday, 2-5 pm on Thursday. It's not exactly club ambience or perfect sound, but I can't think of a more classy way to enjoy your favorite holiday music (and more), no cover. Check on the exact location (somewhere along the walkway in one of the atriums) or just follow your ears.

Friday/Saturday, December 14-15.One gig I always look forward to in December is Laura Caviani's Holiday Show, usually at the Artists Quarter as it is this weekend. Some years ago, Laura released on of my favorite jazz holiday CDs, Angels We Haven't Heard. Fortunately we do get to hear these angels nearly annually in one combination or another. This weekend, Laura spreads good cheer with bassist Jay Young, drummer Dave Schmalenberger, and her frequent musical partner, vocalist Lucia Newell. There might even be a jolly man in a red suit?

Saturday, December 15. Thanks to the University of Manitobaand their reciprocal agreement with the state of Minnesota, MN residents can attend the other “U of M" at resident tuition rates. But the partnership does not end there. Today, Manitoba's Jazz Studies faculty will be in St Paul, offering a free workshop in the morning at Walker West Music Academy and a free public concert at Progressive Baptist Church in the evening. On the “bandstand" in the evening will be Manitoba faculty Steve Kirby (bass), Anna-Lisa Kirby (voice), Quincy Davis (drums), Will Bonness (piano), Laurent Roy (guitar), Derrick Gardner (trumpet) and Craig Bailey (sax).

Sunday, December 16. Another annual holiday bash - the George Maurer Big Band Holiday Show at the Dakota is often a sell-out. One of the area's most successful and popular bandleaders, composers, and pianists, George brings along a top flight crew of 15+ musicians, including vocalists Anne Michaels and Rachel Holder. That's a lot of holiday sounds tightly packed on the Dakota stage. Reserve fast.

Monday, December 17. Drummer Pete Hennig backs a long list of area innovators, from the Atlantis Quartet to the Fantastic Merlins, but we rarely get to see Pete as the center of attention, where he belongs. Tonight at Jazz Central he gets his due.

Tuesday, December 18. It's one more Tuesday night featuring “Dean Magraw and Friends" at the Artists Quarter. The master guitarist has been holding the Tuesday slot this month with such talented friends as Billy Peterson, Brandon Wozniak, Kenny Horst, and more.  Come early for the free set featuring another guitar whiz, Cory Wong, and his quartet - all rising stars on the local jazz scene.

Down at Jazz Central, it's big band night, this week featuring Xplosion!, headed by Doug Haining and Scott Agster and about 15 of their closest musical friends. If you have not listened to big bands -unamplified and in the intimate space of this small studio, you have not yet really experienced a big band!

Wednesday, December 19. Two ex-pat Minnesotan are in town with some red hot music. Guitarist Todd Clouser and his A Love Electric ensemble preview some of his patented “jazz rock" at the Clown Lounge - yes, a night reviving the music experiments in the basement club. And over at Jazz Central, saxophonist Aaron Hedenstrom takes a break from graduate studies at North Texas to show off some of the compositional skills that earned him the top Composition Award at the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival.

Thursday, December 20. They don't get together often these days but whenever Maud Hixson and French 75 are on stage, it's a trans-Atlantic songfest of the most sophisticated sort. Catch them at the Dakota tonight as musicians Tony Balluff, Gus Sanberg, Robert Bell et al give songbird Maud just the right rhythms and harmonies to put some French swing into standards associated with the Continent.

And speaking of bands that don't get together often - the Illicit Sextet had about a decade hiatus before reuniting a couple years ago, and now they are preparing for the release of their second CD - following one of the great recordings of the 90s - Chapter One, with, what else, Chapter Eleven. They give us a taste at the Artists Quarter, early show tonight, followed by a band that never seems to take a break from their inventive arrangements and originals, the Phil Hey Quartet.

More Jazz Every Night There's always more - check live jazz calendars on Jazz Police and KBEM sites. Suggestions to make your choices more difficult:

Friday, December 14. Nichola Miller at Hell's Kitchen;Hamline University Big Band/Combos Holiday Concert at Anne Simley Theater (Hamline); Charmin Michelle and the TC Jazz Imports at House of Pizza (Sartell, MN); Chastity Brown and Sophia Shorai at the Dakota; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Pau Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D'Amico Kitchen (Meridien Hotel); Patrick Harrison and Kip Jones at Café Maude (Loring Park); Steve Hobert and Josh Granowski, dinner sets at the Icehouse

Saturday, December 15. Maurice Jacox and Bobby Eckstrand at Eat Street Social (1 pm); Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Pau Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D'Amico Kitchen (Meridien Hotel); Nachito Herrera at the Dakota; Patrick Harrison and Josh Granwoski, followed by Jef Lee Johnson, Yohannes Tona and Michael Bland at the Icehouse; Steve Kenny and the Twin Cities Cultural Project at the Red Stag

Sunday, December 16. Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; Connie Evingson and Mary Louise Knutson holiday show at the Como Lake B&B; KBEM Holiday Party with Trioso at Café Maude/Loring Park (sold out); Charmin Michelle and the Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, December 17. Maryann Sullivan and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Headspace at the Artists Quarter; Jazz Implosion at the Icehouse

Wednesday, December 19. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by Billy Graczyk at the Artists Quarter

Thursday, December 20. Maryann Sullivan at Jazz Central; Rhonda Laurie at Barbette; Gypsy Mania at Hell's Kitchen

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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