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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, February 14-20


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This week, there jazz for Valentine's Day, jazz to celebrate a new label collective, and of course the usual jazz that celebrates creative collaboration. Although we have a few months to wait, we can also celebrate the announcement of the 2014 Twin Cities Jazz Festival headliners — Dianne Reeves, Branford Marsalis, Joe Krown and the 2013 Monk Institute saxophone competition winner, Melissa Aldana.

Big Gigs This Week

Friday, February 14. It's Valentine's Day and what goes better with love and chocolate than jazz? Among the options tonight, Maud Hixson  sings of romance and more with Laura Caviani and Gordy Johnson at Parma 8200;  Ginger Commodore and Connie Evingson team up as “Sultry Divas" with some ballads, blues and more at the Dakota; Sophia Shorai serenades in the intimate space of Jazz Central.

Friday-Saturday, February 14-15. It's Valentine's Day all weekend in the Lobby Bar of the St Paul Hotel—surely one of the most romantic destinations in the Metro. JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueske augment their usual weekend of song with saxophonist Pete Whitman, bringing  a new voice to their diverse repertoire of standards from Cole Porter to Blossom Dearie.

Saturday, February 15. It's billed as a Winter Jazz Festival and the line-up certainly reinforces that idea. Jazz at Studio Z hosts a special evening with five of the region's most creative collaborations, celebrating the launch of a new collective label (Shifting Paradigm Records). Start off early (5 pm) with the internationally acclaimed Fat Kid Wednesdays (Mike Lewis, Adam Linz, JT Bates), followed by the Atlantis Quartet (Zacc Harris, Brandon Wozniak, Chris Bates, Pete Hennig), Bryan Nichols Quintet (Nichols, Brandon Wozniak and Mike Lewis, James Buckley, JT Bates), the Graydon Peterson Quartet(Peterson, Adam Meckler, Vinnie Rose, Adrian Suarez), and closing with the Zacc Harris Group (Harris, Nichols and the Bates brothers).

Even if you stay for the full festival at Studio Z, you should be able to make it across town to catch a visit from Koplant Noat the Icehouse (11 pm). Originating in Iowa City, this quartet would fit right in at Studio Z, playing their unique brand of jazz-rock electronica. Led by St Paul native saxophonist Joel Vanderheyden, the band includes the trumpet and electronic keys of Brian Lewis-Smith, bass and synths from Drew Morten, and vibes, samples and percussion from Rob Baner. This marks a fourth visit to the Twin Cities for Koplant No. And no, I haven't any idea where the name comes from.

Sunday, February 16.  Making his long-awaited Dakota debut, Grammy-winning vocalist Gregory Porteris a force of nature. To date he has released three albums — the first two were Grammy nominees, and his 2013 Blue Note debut, Liquid Spirit, won the 2014 Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album. And there's been a raft of other awards and accolades from the worlds of jazz, soul, blues and R&B — Porter manages to meld it all together in one gorgeous baritone and book of original compositions. You can enjoy his albums, but you must see him live. And note it's homecoming for St Paul native Aaron James, long-standing bassist with Porter's ensemble.

Monday, February 17. JT's Jazz Implosion tonight at the Icehouse features the too-seldom heard Illicit Sextet (Steve Kenny, Paul Harper, Chris Lomheim, Dave Roos, Tom Pieper, Nathan Norman), still celebrating their 2013 release, Chapter Eleven. One of the area's most popular bands of the 90s, the Illicit Sextet proves that you can go home again, and raise the bar even higher. After their 9:30 set, stick around for a new project from Adam Linz, Percheron, featuring Adam with Noah Ophoven-Baldwin, Joe Strachan, Brandon Wozniak, and  JT Bates. Yeah— one of those ensemble where the “old veterans" are under 40.

At Jazz Central, the Monday Night featured artist is trumpeter Adam Meckler, more often heard these days with his orchestra so consider it a treat to be able to focus on this awesome trumpeter/composer. Over in St. Paul, it's Fantastic Merlins night at the Black Dog — Nathan Hanson, Brian Rosselar and Pete Hennig tossing around musical ideas and generally having a lot of fun with it.

Tuesday, February 18. Last year an unusual double header at Jazz Central brought together old middle school pals, trumpeters Benje Danemann from Kalamazoo, MI and local favorite Adam Meckler, with their vocalist wives, Ashley Danemann and Jana Nyberg. Tonight, it's a double header again, this time at the Dakota with Benje's instrumental quartet in the opening set followed by the Jana Nyberg Group. But you can assume Benje and Adam are going to mix it up along the way! Meanwhile, it is big band night at Jazz Central, and tonight the gig belongs to the Haining-Agster Explosion, and indeed it's an explosive ensemble!

Wednesday, February 19. A great late night menu combines with some terrific small ensembles at Barbette, tonight featuring vocalist Rhonda Laurieand guitarist Robert Bell. Rhonda's book keeps growing, from a core of classics from the 30s and 40s to jazzy takes on more contemporary material.

Wednesday-Thursday, February 19-20. If you enjoy good guitar from any genre, you need to come down to the Dakota tonight for  “Guitar Passions," featuring three of the best on the planet - Sharon Isbin, Stanley Jordan and Romero Lubambo. Of the three, Stanley Jordan is most familiar to Dakota audiences, having appeared in trio and solo performances several time over the past few years, wowing us with his “finger-tapping" technique and covering everything from standards to originals to Mozart. Brazilian Lubambo has often been in the company of vocalists like Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Louciana Souza, but is a star in his own right. And three-time Grammy winner Isbin has been lauded world-wide for her classical, Spanish, and jazz fusion chops. The threesome has been touring for the past year with this wide-ranging show of incredible talents.

Thursday, February 20. Jazz Central has set aside Thursday nights for vocal jazz but the series finally gets a boost as Maryann Sullivan, with help from Rhonda Laurie, takes over booking the talent. And Maryann reports that she has Thursdays booked into May! Making it even easier, Thursdays songfests run 7-9 pm. Tonight it's a too-rare chance to hear the very versatile Dorothy Doring, whose book runs from Ellington to the Big Easy.

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, February 14. Irv Williams and Peter Schimke, happy hour at the Dakota; Todd Harper, solo piano at the Black Dog; Charmin Michelle and the Twin Cities Jazz Imports at House of Pizza (Sartell); Tim Patrick and his Blue-Eyed Band at Hell's Kitchen

Saturday, February 15. Charmin & Shapira, Midtown Global Market (12:30-2:30 pm); Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200; Chris Lomheim and Adam Wozniak, dinner sets at the Icehouse; Ticket to Brasil at Loring Pasta Bar; Maud Hixson with Rick Carlson and Patrick Harison, Valentine's show at Squire House Gardens (Afton); Nachito Herrera at the Dakota; Peter Ostroushko and Dean Magraw at Riverview Wine Bar

Sunday, February 16. Robert Everest, brunch at Maria's Cafe; Fuzzy Math (4-6 pm) at the Black Dog; Zacc Harris Trio at Riverview Wine Bar

Monday, February 17. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Neighborhood Trio at Barbette

Tuesday, February 18. Patty and the Buttons at Cafe Maude; Cafe Accordion at Loring Pasta Bar

Wednesday, February 19. Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg at Fireside Pizza; Zacc Harris Trio at Cafe Maude; Wolverines Trio at Hell's Kitchen; Pete Whitman Presents at Jazz Central; Viv Corringham with Pat O'Keefe, Steve Goldstein and Nathan Hanson at the Black Dog

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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