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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Jazz, December 21-27


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Among the younger set, visions of sugar plums (or iPods) might dance in their heads, but among the jazz cognescenti, perhaps it's aural visions of eighth notes and blues scales? Whatever you are dreaming about for the holidays, there's bound to be a great live soundtrack to make your spirits bright, starting with a “Hot Christmas" weekend, right through to a now-rare appearance by Moore by Four, one of the top vocal groups in the Midwest, all setting the stage for the annual holiday homecoming of the Bad Plus and a jazzy countdown to the New Year.

Hot Holiday Week Friday, December 21. Former metro resident, guitarist Todd Clouser burns a path between Baja and the Twin Cities throughout the year, often with his A Love Electric ensemble. He's been in town frequently this fall, closing out his latest visit tonight at Café Maude in Loring Park. If you're into jazz, Todd leans far into rock. If you are into rock, Todd leans far into jazz. Just lean into the music and enjoy!

And what's not to enjoy when Debbie Duncan and Ginger Commodore trade tunes and banter at the Dakota tonight? With two of the most divine voices in the region, Debbie and Ginger will soar through some blues, standards, holiday favorites and more. Friday/Saturday, December 21-22.He's not exactly Santa Claus but multi-reed veteran Dave Karr will have a bag of bebop gifts on stage at the Artists Quarter this weekend, with musical elves Phil Aaron, Billy Peterson and Kenny Horst.  Dave seems ageless, and with tenor, baritone, flute and clarinet at hand, he guarantees happy ears on any stage. But the AQ is “home," and what's better than home for the holidays?

Lee Engele is becoming as much an impresario as vocalist, and this weekend she brings another great ensemble together for a “Hot Christmas" on the Black Box Stage of the Bloomington Art Center. With cohorts Joan Griffith (guitar and bass), Reynold Philipsek (guitar)andGary Schulte (violin), the heat will be generated by a lot of strings as well as Engele's swinging vocals. And you can choose Friday night or Saturday matinee, whatever fits your shopping schedule best.

Joann Funk and Jeff Brueske continue their weekend double (voice and bass) in the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel, but Saturday is even more special with the addition of violinist Gary Schulte. I caught this trio earlier in the fall and it's a stellar match-up, whether Joann is channeling Blossom Dearie or Peggy Lee, or just hamming it up with two of the area's finest stringmen. (And the Lobby Bar is just a couple short blocks from the Artists Quarter - make an evening of music!)

Saturday, December 22. There's typically a number of “homecoming" gigs around the holidays as former residents return to visit family and friends. And ever since he graduated from the UW-Eau Claire, Twin Cities native John Raymondhas scheduled gigs whenever the New York-based trumpeter can squeeze in a visit.  Tonight it's Late Night at the Dakota with a new trio, with long-time cohort  Jeremy Boettcher on bass and Adrian Suarez on drums. This might be the smallest configuration that we've ever heard from John, which likely means even more focus on that agile trumpet and melodic flugelhorn, and an introduction to some new compositions as well as a seasonal gem or two, like “O Come Emmanuel." Definitely worth staying out late!

Wednesday, December 26. Back some 25 years or more, a new vocal jazz quartet began turning ears, Minnesota's answer to the Manhattan Transfer. Now Moore by Four, like TMT, is a fixture on the music scene, but unlike their counterparts, their get-togethers are few and far between as each member has forged a busy solo career. Thus their Dakota performance promises no holiday let-down but an evening filled with charm, wit, and exceptional harmonies from Dennis Spears, Ginger Commodore, Connie Evingson and Yolande Bruce, led by Sanford Moore.

Starting a new tradition in locally, organically grown music, Jeremy Walker's Boot Camp was initiated less than a year ago, and makes their Artists Quarter debut tonight. With Walker on piano and handling most of the composition duties, Boot Camp also includes saxophonist Brandon Wozniak, bassist Chris Bates, and young drummer Miguel Hurtado. This is one boot camp that you'll want to continue!

Thursday, December 27. The days between Christmas and New Year's have long been blessed with a “home for the holidays" visit from the Bad Plus. Now a three-night run at the Dakota, the residency begins tonight and continues through Saturday. And it's been a banner year for TBP, with high praise from all corners for their new trio recording, Made Possible, and an unforgettable set with Joshua Redman to close out the 2012 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Tonight also marks the annual AQ Holiday Party, with the locally grown Minnesota Youth Jazz Band opening the evening. MYJB, directed by David Mitchell, has performed on European stages as well as throughout the Twin Cities. As for the holiday party, the line-up was not announced yet but figure any of the monstrous musicians who frequent the stage here are likely to be on hand, and who better to play Santa than Davis Wilson?

More Jazz, Throughout the Holidays There's always more - check live jazz calendars on Jazz Police and KBEM sites. Suggestions to make your choices more difficult:

Friday, December 21. Brad Bellows/Donald Washington Quartet at the Black Dog; Benny Weinbeck Trio at D'Amico Kitchen (Meridien Hotel); Jim Anton Trio at the Icehouse

Saturday, December 22. Zacc Harris Trio at Loring Pasta Bar; Jim Anton Trio at the Icehouse

Sunday, December 23. Patty and the Buttons, brunch at the Aster Café; Zacc Harris Trio at the Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, December 24. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; JT's Jazz Implosion at the Icehouse; Artists Quarter and Dakota closed!

Tuesday, December 25. Merry Christmas (most venues closed) Wednesday, December 26. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Firebell at Café Maude (Penn Av); Steve Kenny and the Bastids, early show at the Artists Quarter; Wolverines Trio at Hell's Kitchen

Thursday, December 27. Donald Thomas and Rick Carlson at Jazz Central; Arne Fogel at Hell's Kitchen

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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