Highlights This Week
Friday, December 7. Connie Evingson returns to the Artists Quarter, a prelude to a West Coast visit in January that will take her to Seattle's Jazz Alley. Her repertoire is as wide as jazz and even beyond, from songbook standards to Peggy Lee to the Beatles, Django Reinhard, Dave Frishberg, Norman Gimbel and whatever falls in-between. And she has an amazing ensemble tonight, with Tanner Taylor, Dave Karr, Terry Burns and Joe Pulice.
Friday-Saturday, December 7-8. It's only been about 8 months since the last visit from the Manhattan Transfer, and now they're back with a special holiday show at the Dakota. Performing now for nearly 40 years, the much-honored ensemble still sports three of the four original voices (Alan Paul, Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel) and long-time fourth, Cheryl Bentyne. Bentyne was on medical leave last spring when TMT came to town, but is back at full throttle and in time to celebrate the holidays with TMT's classic, classy style - putting pop into jazz, jazz into pop, with their signature harmonies.
Saturday, December 8. It's a busy day for Zacc Harris. Early afternoon finds him backing popular vocalist Lucia Newellat Eat Street Social. Lucia has a predilection for Brazilian fare so we can expect some voice/guitar magic. Then, its another installment of Jazz at Studio Z with its monthly workshop/concert format, this month featuring percussionist/educator Babatunde Lea. Lea is somewhat of a Renaissance man, having spent much of his career in the Bay Area before relocating to the Midwest by way of Pennsylvania. Along the way he worked with Bill Summers, McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz and perhaps, most importantly, Leon Thomas. He also founded the nonprofit Educultural Foundation in California and cofounded the jazz-friendly record label, Motema. Living just over the border in Wisconsin, Lea has developed a musical partnership with Zacc Harris, Chris Bates and Richard Johnson. The quartet will start off the evening with a free workshop, focusing on the troponga" - a hybrid trapset/conga instrument, and then head into the performance space for a concert. We should be hearing from Lea and his troponga!
And another guitarist leads the band tonight at the Artists Quarter, as Dean Magraw heads a quartet with hot-handed Brandon Wozniak on sax, sublime Billy Peterson on bass, and ever-steady drummer Kenny Horst. Can't ask for more capable improvisers!
Sunday, December 9. Start out in the afternoon with the annual Capri Big Band Holiday Concert at the Capri Theater, Minneapolis (3 pm, free). It's our area's largest big band with 29 musicians, led by Fay Washington and boasting such names as Dean Brewington, Jimmy Wallace, Donald and Kevin Washington and Solomon Parham. And I hear there's a 12-year-old on piano as well as some veteran teenagers.
A couple hours later, the PipJazz Sundaysconcert season ends at Landmark Center with a salute to the holidays and more, with vocalist Pippi Ardennia hosting crooner Jason Richards and young cellist Freeman Ryan. It's trade mark PipJazz, meaning a terrific house band (led by Peter Schimke, Billy Peterson, Glenn Swanson and more), a singing hostess who can make the walls shake (Pippi), and topnotch guests. The series then goes on winter break til March.
Monday, December 10. The Atlantis Quartet (Brandon Wozniak, Zacc Harris, Chris Bates, Pete Hennig) is gigging a lot these days in preparation for the recording session for the fourth album. Tonight they perform at the Icehouse, a perfect venue for young, hip, improvising musicians. But don't be put off by that description, both the music and the venue have plenty of gray-haired fans as well—their playful, thoughtful compositions have universal appeal. They were burning hard last weekend at the AQ!
Wednesday, December 12. Fingerstyle guitar guru Tim Sparks celebrates the 20th anniversary of his solo interpretation of the Nutcracker Suite with a show at the Guthrie (Dowling Theater). We don't get to hear Tim locally that often—he's been all over the globe in the past twenty years. In addition to pieces from the reissue of the Nutcracker, he'll play some of his jazz and blues favorites. Wednesday-Thursday, December 12-13. He can be slick, he can be very funny, he can turn the most pop-infested tune and turn it into a swinging chestnut. John Pizzarelli learned from the best, dad Bucky, and all the cats that came in and out of their musical lives over the past 50 years. He plays one heckuva guitar and adds pleasing vocals, peppering his shows with anecdotes, jokes and asides that rival stand-up routines at Las Vegas nightclubs. His quartet is impeccable—brother Martin on bass, Larry Fuller on piano, Tony Tedesco on drums. The John Pizzarelli Quartet returns to the Dakota for two nights of fun and swing.
Thursday, December 13. Singer Rachel Holder teams up with swinging pianist Rick Carlson for a new installment of vocal jazz at Jazz Central. Rachel can swing a standard or gild a more poppish cover with the greatest of ease, and with Rick on keys, they will form an unforgettable duo. And there's no better place to get up close and personal with the music than Jazz Central.
More Jazz! There's always more - check live jazz calendars on Jazz Police and KBEM sites. Suggestions to make your choices more difficult:
Friday, December 7. Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D'Amico Kitchen (Meridien Hotel); Aaron Keith Stewart at the Black Dog; Patrick Harrison and Tim O'Keefe at the Icehouse (dinner set)
Saturday, December 8. Jon Pemberton Trio at Loring Pasta Bar; Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske at the Lobby Bar (St Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at D'Amico Kitchen (Meridien Hotel); Patrick Harrison and Tim O'Keefe at the Icehouse (dinner set)
Sunday, December 9. Patty and the Buttons at the Aster Café (brunch); Century Jazz Ensemble at Century College (3 pm); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Charmin Michelle and the Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra at Cinema Ballroom; Butch Thompson and Pat Donahue at the Dakota
Monday, December 10. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Adam Rossmiller at Jazz Central; Russ Peterson Big Band at the Old Log Theater
Tuesday, December 11. Cory Wong Quartet followed by Dean Magraw and Friends at the Artists Quarter; Chris Olson Project at the Black Dog; Cedar Avenue Big Band at Jazz Central; Patrick Harrison at Café Maude (Penn Av)
Wednesday, December 12. Mary Louise Knutson at the Galleria (Noon); Connie Evingson at The Wine Market; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Steve Kenny and the Bastids followed by the New Sound Underground at the Artists Quarter; Patty and the Buttons at Café Maude (Penn Av); Wolverines at Hell's Kitchen
Thursday, December 13. Acme Jazz Company at the Shorewood; McNallly Smith Venue Night at the Artists Quarter; Minnesota Jazz Orchestra at Wabasha Street Caves; Maud Hixson and the Southside Aces at the Eagles Club; James Wallace at the Red Stag; Joel Shapira at Hell's Kitchen