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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, March 28 - April 3

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The weather experts say March came in like a Polar Bear and is going out like a Lion. Lions are always welcome in jazz! And there are plenty around in the coming week, from one of our newer resident percussion gurus to a pair of virtuosic trombonists to a good handful of modern improvisers, fleet-fingered guitarists, silver-tongued vocalists, and more. Maybe soon spring will jump up and we'll remember April!

Big Gigs This Week

Friday, March 28. The Bridge Series at Jazz Central — initiated to fill the gap left by the closing of the Artists Quarter—continues with the JC debut of percussion master Babatunde Lea. Relatively new to this area, Lea is a pioneer in applications of African rhythms to American jazz. At one time or another he played with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Van Morrison and, particularly, Oscar Brown, Jr, and counts Leon Thomas as a significant mentor. Tonight he mixes it up with two terrific string players, guitarist Zacc Harris and bassist Chris Bates.

For your vocal listening pleasures, look no further than Parma 8200 and the almost monthly gig with Maud Hixson and her swinging cohorts, Rick Carlson and Steve Pikal, who are going to warm up for their Jazz @St. Barneys show (see Saturday!).

Saturday, March 29.One of the best bargains for a concert-like jazz experience, the Jazz @ St. Barney's series brings top area jazz artists to the “stage" mostly monthly. Tonight, one of the longest-running instrumental duos, typically heard in supporting roles, takes the spotlight. Pianist Rick Carlson and bassist Steve Pikal swing hard no matter what the material, but expect them to draw from the books of Basie, Ellington and other great composers and bandleaders of the Swing Era. Don't be surprised if they make you laugh along the way.

Monday, March 31.A couple gigs featuring long-running partnerships: At the Dakota, Charmin & Shapira and Friends is a Foodie Night special featuring vocalist Charmin Michelle (just back from her annual tour of Spain) and guitarist Joel Shapira, with talented friends Paul Harper (sax), Tom Lewis (bass) and Nathan Norman (drums) and an evening of swing, bossas, ballads and more — and no cover.    At Jazz Central, tonight's featured artists are dueling bonemen, Brad Bellows (valve) and Dave Graf (slide) — the popular Valve Meets Slide ensemble. If one trombone is fun, imagine two!

So if Charmin Michelle is at the Dakota, who is performing with Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza? Check out Maryann Sullivan, a veggie special, and one of those meatballs. Songs, accordion and pepperoni? Sounds like a great way to start the week! And you can keep it going into the early morning at Barbette, where young Turk pianist Joe Strachan pairs up with bassist Josh Granowski. Late night menu, no cover. No kidding.

Tuesday, April 1. Usually the first Tuesday at the Black Dog means Dean Magraw and Davu Seru, but tonight Eric Kamau Gravatt sits in at the trapset. The veteran of Weather Report and McCoy Tyner is seldom heard in such a sublime setting. Over at Jazz Central, you can take in one of the metro's finest large ensembles, the Bill Simenson Orchestra, featuring a stellar cast of the region's top big band artists.

Wednesday, April 2.Wednesdays at Jazz Central are reserved for “new music" — often so new it does not exist before the first note sounds. Tonight it's the TCOB Trio headed by percussion star Davu Seru. And if you want to hang out later, Barbette hosts savvy singer Rhonda Laurie and prolific composer/guitarist/vocalist Reynold Philipsek.

Thursday, April 3. A couple months ago, guitarist Joel Shapira celebrated the release of a double guitar recording at the Black Dog, and in lieu of his New York-based partner he invited area legend Dean Granros to fill the second guitar slot. It went so well that the two decided to do it again. Such amazing synergy deserves repeating. 

Vocalist Lila Ammons comes by boogie woogie naturally, granddaughter of the great Albert Ammons. A few years ago she connected with Austrian boogie woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger, and the two have toured throughout Europe. Axel is briefly in town and the duo will perform at Schmitt Music's intimate concert space (Southdale) for some “Hot Classic Blues & Foot-stomping Boogie Woogie."

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, March 28. Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, happy hour at the Dakota; JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (Saint Paul Hotel); Todd Harper, solo piano at the Black Dog; Bryan Nichols and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Patty Peterson and Friends at Bunkers

Saturday, March 29. Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200; JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (Saint Paul Hotel); Bryan Nichols and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Kronick Quartet at the Black Dog; Jazz in the Dark at Zeke's Unchained Animal

Sunday, March 30. Mill City Hot Club, brunch at Hell's Kitchen; Robert Everest, brunch at Maria's; Century Jazz Ensemble at Jethro's Charhouse (Mahtomedi); Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar;  Off the Cuff at the Aster Café; Doug Little Quartet at Eat Street Social

Monday, March 31. JT's Jazz Implosion at the Icehouse

Tuesday, April 1. Cafe Accordion at the Loring Pasta Bar; Beasley's Big Band at O'Gara's

Wednesday, April 2. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; the Wolverines at Hell's Kitchen; Patrick Harison at Cafe Maude; Foreman/Feily/Schmidt/Musselman at the Black Dog

Thursday, April 3. Patty and the Buttons with Jack Klatt at the Dakota; Benny Weinbeck and Gordy Johnson at Pairings Food and Wine Bar; Moonlight Serenaders at Wabasha Street Caves; Alicia Renee and Chris Lomheim at Christo's (Union Depot); Jon Wood at Jazz Central;  Maurice Jacox with Bobby Ekstrand and Tom Wells at Dusty's


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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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