So it is snowing tonight. April 16th and it is snowing. Waiting for Up Jumped Spring"? This spring has really hung us up the most, of any I can remember in a long time. Yet I get email from a friend spending April in Paris. OK, enough of that. We are spending April in the Twin Cities, and we are quite lucky to be here where there is too much jazz to mention it all for the coming week!
Big Gigs This Week
Friday, April 18. Nat King Cole gets a double dose tonight. Straighten Up and Fly Right is both the name of Cole's first hit album and the show at Orchestra Hall with NEA Master Ramsey Lewis and Grammy nominee John Pizzarelli. Pizzarelli has twice saluted Cole on recordings, and tonight's piano/guitar and vocal duo promises to be the definitive Cole tribute. Lewis is bringing along his touring cohorts (Joshua Ramos on bass and Charles Heath on drums).
Just a block away, at the Dakota, Ginger Commodore hosts a birthday party for Dennis Spears, who has done his part to keep Nat King Cole alive through song and on stage, bringing his one-man Cole show to Kennedy Center and reprising the original at Penumbra. Ginger and Dennis are no strangers, as partners in Moore By Four and frequently appearing together at the Dakota. Good news— there should be a set to go when the Orchestra Hall concert ends, and it is a short walk to the Dakota!
More songs tonight - Maud Hixson returns to Parma 8200 with Rick Carlson and Steve Pikal. And two instrumental ensembles offer some cutting edge jazz, with Counterclockwise at Jazz Central, featuring Tanner Taylor in a seldom-heard B-3 organ night with Zacc Harris and Jay Epstein, and the Donald Washington Quartet with Brad Bellows across town at the Black Dog. I can not figure out how to do it all.
Saturday, April 19. Jazz at Studio Z continues its third season with one of the newest members of the Twin Cities Jazz scene, drummer Cory Healey. Recently transplanted from Iowa, Healey is quickly gaining a reputation for his chops behind the trapset and his creative compositions. His 4Tet" tonight includes another young hot shot, trumpeter Jake Baldwin, along with guitarist/series curator Zacc Harris and Happy Apple's bassist, Erik Fratzke. For sure, there will be no ice left after this show. And there's a free workshop at 6 pm, with Healey sharing insights about rhythms of the traditional music of the Indian subcontinent. The 4Tet might end early enough to head down the block and take in most of the Steve Kenny Quartet at Sweet 317 above the Black Dog. This new salon-like space is starting to book some serious talent — the quartet tonight features Kenny, Brandon Wozniak, Jeff Bailey and Babatunde Lea digging into Monk and more. That's pretty serious!
Fans of improvised vocal music will find plenty at Orchestra Hall tonight as Bobby McFerrin returns with his spirityouall project — an exploration of his diverse influences delivered as only McFerrin can. In addition to influencing just about every modern jazz vocalist, McFerrin has particularly left his imprint in Minnesota after five years as Creative Chair for the SPCO in the 90s.
Monday, April 21. Two vocalists from different generations and different edges of the jazz idiom are in town tonight. Hometown hero and South High alum José Jamesreturns to The Cedar with his signature blend of jazz and soul, joined by young Monk Competition winner Kris Bowers on piano. At the Dakota, Steve Tyrell croons and soothes on his first of a two-night stand, elevating the Great American Songbook and more contemporary fare to the level of a Vegas night club show.
Over at Jazz Central, another Haining is in the spotlight. Tonight it's Preston's turn. The recent graduate of the University of North Texas plays bass and trumpet, meaning he should always find work. He's on trumpet tonight, with backing from brother Trevor on drums, Graydon Peterson on bass and Tanner Taylor on piano.
Tuesday, April 22. The Twin Cities is becoming a big band mecca. Part of the Tuesday night big band series, the newly formed Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra holds another rehearsal" under the leadership of Geoff Senn and Mac Santiago. The rest of the band is a who's who, cross-generational corps of Latin-savvy artists. Over at Café Maude, swing and sway with Rick Carlson on keys.
Wednesday, April 23. Zeke's Unchained Animal might never be the same! Vocalist Lila Ammonsbrings a sophisticated approach to song that seldom is heard in a restaurant/bar setting that leans more often toward young generation pop and funk. She's on stage with her quintet and likely will sample from her outstanding CD, The Nearness of You.
Thursday, April 24. Hats off to Maryann Sullivan and her expert scheduling of the Vocal Jazz nights at Jazz Central. Tonight is another exceptional choice, Charmin and Shapira. Charmin Michelle and Joel Shapira have been musical partners for nearly a decade, more often performing these days in quintet format, making this intimate duo in this intimate space a real treat. Swing, samba, balladry and more.
Friday, April 18. Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, happy hour at the Dakota; Todd Harper, solo piano at the Black Dog (5 pm); JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (Saint Paul Hotel); Joel Shapira at Hell's Kitchen; Bryan Nichols and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Kronick Quartet at Zeke's Unchained Animal
Saturday, April 19. Ancia Saxophone Quartet at the Black Dog (2 pm); JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (Saint Paul Hotel); Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200; Dave Karr and Tanner Taylor, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Ticket to Brasil at Loring Pasta Bar; Maurice Jacox Trio at Normandy Kitchen; Jana Nyberg Group at Hell's Kitchen; Twin Cities Cabaret Network monthly salon with Les Block , Heidi Ziman, Eilene Wisniewski, Rhonda Laurie, Vicky Mountain, Joey BabayandDean Elwell at the Town House
Sunday, April 20. Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar; Davu Seru Trio and Carlo Gesauldo Band at Torch House
Monday, April 21. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Fantastic Merlins at the Black Dog; Joey Van Phillips at the Icehouse; Neighborhood Trio at Barbette
Tuesday, April 22. Cafe Accordion Orchestra followed by Mike Salovich and Marcus Wise CD release, at Loring Pasta Bar
Wednesday, April 23. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Midweek Mambo with Charanga Tropicale at Loring Pasta Bar; Graydon Peterson Ghost Tour at Jazz Central; King Baron at Barbette
Thursday, April 24. Connie and Herb at the Bean; Alicia Renee and Chris Lomheim, Jazz @Christos (Union Depot); Perius Quartet (Jeff Perry) at Hell's Kitchen