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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, June 27-July 3


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There really is jazz beyond the Twin Cities Jazz Festival this weekend, but most of the action will be centered around Mears Park, Lowertown, Downtown and the University Avenue “Green Line Jazz Stops" in Saint Paul. Full festival schedules and artist info is available on the festival webste.

Friday, June 27. After a terrific “Jazz Night Out," Festival Friday promises to be another winning festival day! Catch Branford Marsalis' free/public clinic at 2 pm at McNally Smith College of Music, and enjoy his “Evening With Branford Marsalis" and his steamy quartet at Mears Park (HeathPartners Main Stage) at 8:30 pm. In-between, Red Planet and a new quartet with Dave Hagedorn, Jon Weber, Steve Pikal and Phil Hey highight the HealthPartners Stage; world music blends with jazz as Mississippi With Andres Prado (5 pm) and Babatunde Lea (7:15 pm) headline the MyTalk 107.1 Stage on Sixth Street (Mears Park).  Premierie II — a second round of new compositions commissioned by Zeitgiest—and the second Piano Jazz showcase are on the schedule at Studio Z; the first night of the Jazz Central Showcase gets underway at the Amsterdam; the tpt Stage at Union Depot opens with saxophonist Tyler Anderson, The Jack Brass Band, and Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra; JoAnn Funk and her Trio are back for the weekend at the Lobby Bar of the Saint Paul Hotel. Other favorites and new talents can be found at a long list of bars, clubs and concert stages including the Green Line Jazz Stops (download your free metro pass from the festival website —  And don't forget that Jon Weber will again host the late night jam session in the former Artist Quarter space in the Hamm Building!

You can actually preview one of the festival headliners for Saturday by stopping by the Dakota tonight. The Joe Krown Trio with Walter Wolfman Washington brings its powerhouse New Orleans sounds tonight. See them inside and then come down to the tpt Stage at Union Depot tomorrow for a free follow-up.

Saturday, June 28. The music never ends with the Twin Cities Jazz Festival heading into its finale. HealthPartners Main Stage headliners at Mears Park include the Adam Meckler Orchestra, Thelonious Monk Competition winner Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio, and Dianne Reeves with a stellar ensemble including Eau Claire native Geoffrey Keezer at the piano.  A wide range of music will play on the adjacent MyTalk 107.1 Stage including Axis Mundi, McNally Smith X-tet, Kevin Washington Quartet and the Explosion Big Band. The annual VocoMotion singer showcase gets underway midday at the tpt Stage at Union Depot, and another round of jazz piano (Studio Z) and the Jazz Central Showcase II (Amsterdam) pull in a long list of the best of the Cities. The annual Youth Showcase (DFJE Prince Street Stage) boasts seven bands of mostly high school musicians from schools and independent musicians, an all-star ensemble from St Louis, and the Dakota Combo. More music on the Green Line, with Ngon Bistro taking it into the late night hours.

Note that there is a free, public workshop on African Percussion presented by Babatunde Lea at Studio Z (10:30 am - Noon) and a clinic presented by Joe Krownat McNally Smith (2-3 pm). The night ends again with an after hours jam hosted by Jon Weber in the old AQ space.

Sunday, June 29. Among the summer offerings, note the Minnesota Trombone Choir at Como Park (3 pm)!

Monday, June 30. A special night at the Dakota with saxophonist Craig Handy and Second Line Smith. Handy draws on the music of New Orleans and the grooves of the late Jimmy Smith, touring with organist Kyle Koehler, guitarit Matt Chertkoff and sousaphonist Clark Grayton.

Tuesday, July 1. Guitarist Julian Lage was in town last month with fellow guitarist Chris Eldridge; now he's back at the Dakota with another guitarist, Nels Cline. It's a night of free improvisation, Cline playing without effects pedals or loopers, Lage breaking out of his usual post-bop mode into totally free explorations.  It's first Tuesday — enjoy Dean Magraw and Davu Seru in their monthly gig at the Black Dog. Guitar, percussion and endless imaginations.

Wednesday, July 2. Make it a Hat Trick for the Dakota with this week's jazz programming, and tonight's guest Pedrito Martinez, described by Ben Ratliff (New York Times) as “complex, blenderized Africa-to-the-New-World funk.” Cuban percussionist/vocalist Martinez leads an ensemble featuring vocalist Ariacne Trujillo.

Thursday-Saturday, July 3-5. The Iowa City Jazz Festival is much smaller than most, but it makes no apologies for the talent presented on one main stage over Independence Day Weekend. This year is no exception and well worth the five-hour drive from the Twin Cities. Totally free. the event boasts Joe Lovano's Us Five, Tom Harrell's Sextet with Esperanza Spalding, Ingrid Jensen's Nordic with Geoffrey Keezer, Etienne Charles, Jared Gold, and the Anat Cohen Quartet. Since each of the headliners is on the main stage, there are no conflicts in scheduling!!  See the festival website at

More Jazz Every Night Keep up with the live jazz scene in the Twin Cities — check out calendars at Jazz Police, KBEM, Rhythm and Grooves as well as here on the blog.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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