Guitarist T.C. Ortberg embodies free-form spirit of Minnesota music scene with eclectic jazz-fusion CD


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Once upon a time Purple Rain drenched the Minnesota music scene. What many outsiders didn't realize was that during regional hero Prince's '80s heyday, Minneapolis cooked quite a diverse rhythmic stew. From the synth-popped R&B of Prince and his Paisley Park cohorts to the pioneering underground rock & ruckus of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements.

It is in this wellspring of musical creativity that guitarist T.C. Ortberg recorded his latest album, Hot Jupiters, which spices jazz fusion with teaspoonfuls of funk, blues, classic rock, and even Irish folk. According to Ortberg, an eclectic background as a music fan dramatically shaped his stylistic versatility. “It's an esoteric mix that I feel I can hear influence my music," Ortberg explained. “The two that have the most impact me are Jeff Beck (especially the album Blow by Blow) and Pat Metheny. These guys completely express themselves via the guitar, and have infectious tone and beautiful lines, at least to me."

Joining Ortberg on Hot Jupiters is another notable Minnesota talent, saxophonist Kenni Holmen. Holmen is a member of the Hornheads, a band of horn players who have toured with Prince as well as performed on many of his albums. “I first met Kenni when he was a guest artist and clinician at my son Alex's school," Ortberg said. “Both Alex and I ended up playing some local gigs with Kenni through some mutual musician friends and was just blown away by his playing so I approached him about doing this project together and away we went with both of our ideas incorporated into the album's direction."

One of Holmen's ideas is a jazz reconstruction of Deep Purple's headbanging staple “Lazy," from their classic 1971 LP Machine Head. Such a mammoth leap in genres embodies the free-form spirit of the Minnesota scene. “I find it very open," Ortberg said. “In particular, talking to musicians at their shows is really easily done here, much more so than in other areas of the country, and that is a healthy thing for making a vibrant community where people can play together."

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