Downbeat'sFebruary 2014 issue includes their annual listing of The World's Best Jazz Clubs." With the Artists Quarter closed, no Minnesota venue made the list this year. Yet there are still many venues boasting real jazz at least one or two nights per week, and a few newer venues with more regular attention to jazz and improvised music. This week, the artistically upwardly mobile big band, the Adam Meckler Orchestra, hosts a pre-concert workshop and performance at Studio Z; vocalist Lee Engele and an all-string trio bring swing to the west burbs; Tiempo Liebre returns to the Dakota with their hot Latin sounds while guitarist David Grisman comes to the club with his unique folk jazz"; veterans led by Pete Whitman bring Mississippi" to Minnesota (Jazz Central) while a similarly distinguished group led by Davu Seru implodes at the Black Dog; visiting vocalist Michelle Weir joins Phil Mattson at Jazz Central; and there's a new venue downtown at the Union Rooftop boasting weekend jazz trios. That's for starters.
Big Gigs This Week
Friday, January 10. Great night for great voices: Crooner Arne Fogel entertains in the lounge at Parma 8200, with enough humor and mellow tones to melt away the stresses of the week (and a plate of pasta won't hurt!); downtown Minneapolis, the pairing of Debbie Duncan and Ginger Commodore will fill the club, the dining room and the mezzanine at the Dakota with blues, ballads and banter. And a few blocks down on Hennepin, jazz takes the stage at the Union Rooftop's lounge, as a new series of weekend trios continues with Zacc Harris, Chris Bates, Joey Van Phillips —serious music if a less than serious venue. Sometimes you have to just tune out the bar chatter to hear real jazz.
Saturday, January 11. About six months ago, the Adam Meckler Orchestra had outgrown the space at Jazz Central and moved to the Artists Quarter, where the crowds followed and filled the club on the last Tuesdays of the month. With the AQ closed, where can we hear the always-exciting, ever-evolving AMO? Tonight the band will assemble on the somewhat larger stage of Studio Z as the monthly installment of Jazz at Studio Z, complete with a pre-concert workshop on the art of composing for orchestra. And who better to lead that discussion that very accomplished AMO composer/leader/trumpeter Adam Meckler?
West surbanites and other fans of swinging vocals have an opportunity to enjoy swing with strings as Lee Engele takes over Jazz @ St. Barney's monthly concert (St Barnabus Center for the Arts). Lee is joined by two frequent cohorts, guitarist Reynold Philipsek and bassist Matt Senjem, with whom she has recorded two albums. Joining in on violin is eclectic musician Laurie Melting, as the ensemble presents favorites from Lee's long collaboration with Reynold.
You can otherwise brave the dinner and bar chatter at the Icehouse for the early sets with Evanescent pianist Chris Lomheim and frequent Icehouse pacesetter, bassist James Buckley, or stay downtown and enjoy another night at the Union Rooftop with a fine chordless trio of Brandon Wozniak, Jeremy Boettcher, and Adrian Suarez.
Sunday, January 12. It's been a few years since the fiery, Grammy-nominated Tiempo Libre came to town; they return now to the Dakota with their mix of Latin jazz and Cuban son, and generally compelling dancing in the aisles. If that much joy and electricity is too much for your Sunday night, there's more sublime interactions at the Riverview Wine Bar as the Zacc Harris Trio (with Matt Peterson and Pete Hennig) offers up their weekly gig.
Monday, January 13. Jazz and bluegrass come together at the Dakota in unique ways under the leadership of mandolinist David Grisman, with ample collaboration from guitarist Jim Hurst and bassist Sam Grisman, as the aptly named Folk Jazz Trio. On the further end of the jazz spectrum, JT's Jazz Implosion at the Icehouse features probing explorers Erik Fratzke, Michael Lewis and Davu Seru — two-thirds Happy Apple, one-third high octane percussion— a unique ensemble in a unique settting.
Tuesday, January 14. It's big band night at Jazz Central, and making their monthly appearance tonight is the highly accomplished Cedar Avenue Big Band, featuring... well, everybody who can fit into the studio space.
Wednesday, January 15. Amazing ensembles on both sides of the metro tonight: In St Paul at the Black Dog, Davu Seru and Friends" brings the percussionist together not only with frequent pal Dean Magraw, but throw in Happy Apple's Mike Lewis on sax and internationally renowned (and soon-to-be German resident) Anthony Cox on bass. Nearly two hours later (see, you can do a double header!) at Jazz Central, Pete Whitman reassembles Mississippi, a band that debuted a couple months ago at the Artists Quarter, with Peter Schimke, Jeff Bailey and Kevin Washington. That should be enough high powered improvisation to melt any Arctic air mass.
Thursday, January 16. Vocal Night at Jazz Central has struggled for an audience, which makes no sense given the welcome intimacy of the studio for lovers of the human voice. Choir arranger, vocal coach, pianist and renowned vocal music guru Phil Mattson will host and accompany visiting singer Michelle Weir, a truly world-class jazz artist: singer, arranger, pianist, composer, educator... performing great but lesser-know standards from our soon-to-be released CD." Based in Los Angeles, Michelle's arrangements have been performed by everyone including the Manhattan Transfer. Sounds like a perfect partner for the multi-talented Mr. Mattson. So go find Jazz Central, there's a big sign in the window at 407 Central SE, free meters after 6 on the east side of Central Av. If you can climb the stairs to the basement studio, you have no excuse.
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, January 10: Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, Happy Hour at the Dakota; Bryan Nichols and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Classic Big Band at Bloomington KC Hall; Tim Patrick's Blue-Eyed Band at Medina Ballroom; Charmin Michelle and Jazz Imports at House of Pizza (Sartell, MN)
Saturday, January 11. Maryann Sullivan and Denny Malmberg, 10:30 am at Even Break Gallery (Minneapolis); Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200; Patty Peterson and Friends at School II Bistro; Jon Pemberton at the Red Stag
Sunday, January 12. Robert Everest, brunch at Maria's; Alicia Wiley, brunch at Hell's Kitchen; Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle at Cinema Ballroom; T Collective at the Icehouse
Monday, January 13. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Zack Lozier at Jazz Central
Tuesday, January 14. Chris Olson Project at the Black Dog
Wednesday, January 15. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza
Thursday, January 16. Alicia Renee at Christo's (Union Depot); Beasley's Big Band at Wabasha Street Caves; Casey O'Brien Trio at the Red Stag
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