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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, May 16-22

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A jazz-busy weekend followed by even more through the coming week.  The final three performances of Song of the Jasmine (Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa), the season finale of Jazz @ St. Barneys, a triple vocal treat at Hopkins Center for the Arts, some of the best avant-garde at Studio Z and the Icehouse, a rare visit by one of the living legends of vocal jazz, the return of one of our hottest big bands, and yet another “final" CD release from our own living legend of saxophone. And don't forget it's Art a Whirl weekend which often includes live music in the studios.

Big Gigs This Week

Friday, May 16. The Bridge Series at Jazz Central continues tonight with a new band assembled by drummer Cory Healey (Cory Healey's Beautiful Sunshine Band) with Jake Baldwin, Zacc Harris and Erik Fratzke. Healey has lived in the Twin Cities for about a year, coming from Chicago where he performed with Fareed Haque's Flat Earth Ensemble.

 In Lowertown St Paul, things are cooking in the Northern Building, with the Steve Kenny Quartet (Brandon Wozniak, Billy Peterson, Jay Epstein) in the Black Dog and the Fantastic Merlins with visiting French bass clarinetist Jean Brice Godet above in Sweet 317.

Friday - Sunday, May 16-18. Song of the Jasmine, the much anticipated collaboration of Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa, had its world premiere last night, and continues with evening (Friday and Saturday) and afternoon (Sunday) shows at the Walker Art Center. Led by recent Doris Duke Artist Award recipient Ranee Ramaswamy and her daughter and principal dancer Aparna Ramaswamy, Ragamala maintains South Indian dance traditions while adding improvisation in tandem with acclaimed saxophonist Rudresh, guitarist Rez Abbasi and an ensemble that also incorporates tradition (carnatic music) and modern jazz.

Saturday, May 17. Three of the most revered voices in area jazz, Bruce Henry, Debbie Duncan and Gwen Matthews grab the spotlight at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in “HDM," accompanied by jazz ensemble. Bruce relocated to Chicago about 5 years ago but fortunately keeps returning to perform at some of his favorite venues.

Yet another acclaimed voice, Jana Nyberg and the Jana Nyberg Group rise above the din at Hell's Kitchen, with Adam Meckler, Matt Peterson, Thomas Nordlund and Zach Schmidt. It's just noisy at HK on weekends but Jana has a commanding presence and selection of songs that help focus on the music as....music, not background.

In Plymouth, the long-running Jazz @ St. Barneys concert season ends on a swinging note with pianist Travis Anderson and his trio with Steve Pikal on bass and Nik Bortolussi on drums. A commercial photographer and videographer as well as accomplished pianist, Travis is always a treat. And hats off to curator Jeff Whitmill for another sensational jazz season at St Barnabas Lutheran Church.

And at the Dakota, it's the return of Patty Peterson and Friends — friends this gig include special guest Steve Cole on sax, Paul Peterson on bass and vocals, Kevin Gastonguay on keyboards, Billy Franze on guitar and vocals, and Bobby  Vandell on drums and vocals. Rumor has it that this show is almost sold out — so call ahead and see if they can squeeze you in! When Patty sings, the venue rocks!

Sunday, May 18. It's a night of serious improvisation. Ellen Lease and Pat Moriarty have been making some of the most intriguing improvised music in the region for two decades, usually with their quintet. Tonight New York-based saxophonist Michael Attias joins in, along with electronic music master Homer Lambrecht, for some on-the-spot creations at Studio Z.

Monday, May 19. After warming up at Sweet 317 on Saturday, The Fantastic Merlins (Brian Roessler, Nathan Hanson, Pete Hennig) with guest Jean Brice Godet travel over to the Icehouse for a late set, following the Atlantis Quartet. This makes it a daring double-header and one of the highlights in improvised music this spring.

At Jazz Central, the light shines on saxophonist, TC7 leader Doug Haining as he gigs with some of his Jazz Central All-Stars cohorts— Tanner Taylor, Graydon Peterson and Mac Santiago. The late set is usually an open jam session so come prepared!

Monday-Tuesday, May 19-20. Few singers are as highly regarded as Cassandra Wilson, and her appearance at the Dakota will demonstrate why. Her fresh and creative interpretations of vintage blues, country and folk music make her an audience favorite. The winner of  two Grammys, the Django D’Or, The Edison Music Award, and a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail also performed one of the leading roles in Wynton Marsalis' “Blood on the Fields," the first jazz work to receive a Pulitzer Prize. 

Tuesday, May 20. On a short break while touring with the Youngblood Brass Band, Adam Meckler is back in town and again leading his Adam Meckler Orchestra at the Amsterdam. And who knows what new compositions and arrangements Adam has cooked up for this “homecoming?" It will be very cool.

Thursday, May 22.  Yes, another CD release from Irv Williams. Seems that ever since he named his “last" recording “Finality," Irv refuses to call it final. Which is much to our pleasure as it is always a treat to hear Mr. Smooth. This party will be at the Dakota, scene of Irv's most recent “retirement party."  Over at Jazz Central, another who refuses to retire, pianist/vocal coach Phil Mattson and the Phil Mattson Singers take over for Vocal Jazz Night. 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, May 16. Irv Williams and Steve Blons, happy hour at the Dakota; Lee Engele at Parma 8200; Debbie Duncan at Hell's Kitchen; Bryan Nichols and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Roseville High School Spring Concert with guest Michael Attias; Nachito Herrera at the Dakota followed by the McNasty Brass Ensemble; Jerry O'Hagan Orchestra with Charmin Michelle at the Medina Ballroom

Saturday, May 17. Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200; Tanner Taylor and James Buckley, dinner sets at the Icehouse; JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske in the Lobby Bar (Saint Paul Hotel); Joel Shapira Trio at the Loring Pasta Bar

Sunday, May 18. Robert Everest, brunch at Maria's; Ticket to Brasil at Landmark Center (1 pm);  Paula Lammers and Denny Malmberg at Nine Mile Creek (3 pm); Century Jazz Ensemble at Century College (3 pm);"Satchmo of the Ghetto" with James Andrews Band, Jack Brass Band and Pho at the Amsterdam; Zacc Harris Trio at the Amsterdam; Minnesota Youth Jazz Bands at South High School

Monday, May 19. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Andrew Walesch Big Band at Como Lakeside Pavilion Tuesday, May 20. Patty and the Buttons at Cafe Maude; Cafe Accordion at Loring Pasta Bar; River City Jazz Orchestra at the Minnesota Music Cafe; Minnesota Youth Jazz Band at Famous Dave's (Uptown); Neighborhood Trio at Barbette; Explosion Big Band at Jazz Central

Wednesday, May 21. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Zacc Harris Trio at Cafe Maude; Century Jazz Ensemble at Minnesota Music Cafe;  McNally Smith X-Tet at Jazz Central

Thursday, May 22. Talking Strings at the Black Dog; Gypsy Mania at Hell's Kitchen; Connie and Herb at The Bean;  Swingbeat Big Band at Wabasha Street Caves


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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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