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The Lead Sheet: Twin Cities Live Jazz, May 20-26

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I just returned from five days in New York, where I saw six shows at four venues. I need that overdose now and then, but I think we really have the ideal jazz scene here: lots of choices but seldom overwhelming, and the quality of the music is right up there with the Big Apple! We have some great music this week—- from former residents, a popular long-timer, an exciting solo piano CD release, and a fundraiser reunion of some former teen standouts.

Big Gigs This Week

Friday, May 20. Now based in New York, former Twin Citian and bassist Michael O'Brien is still in town for a few more days, with three gigs this weekend. Tonight,he's the special guest of the Latin Jazz Quartet at Jazz Central— the band is like a mini Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra with Geoff Senn (trumpet), Joe Strachan (piano), Mac Santiago (drums) and Babatunde Lea (Latin percussion).

In Crooner's Lounge, Patty Peterson and Friends are back for musical party night with special guest sister Linda, while dinner sets at the Icehouse feature the sublime piano-bass duo of Bryan Nichols and James Buckley. Saxophonist Donald Washington's Group is back at the Black Dog, and now features young trumpeter Ryan Nyther along with Dick Studer on bass and Kevin Washington on drums. Pianist Steve Hobert is followed by vocalist Sophia Shorai at Vieux Carré

Friday-Sunday, May 20-22. It's the annual Art a Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis, the nation's largest open studio tour. You can find all sorts of arts and upscale crafts, but you can also hear a lot of music throughout the studio and gallery spaces, as well as area music venues— including some jazz. Patty and the Buttons are on stage at the 331 Club (Saturday at noon); Bauhaus Brew Labs has a line-up including the McNasty Brass Band on Saturday; the Mississippi Hot Club is featured on Saturday at Grumpy's Bar; and just wander through the studio buildings and check their schedules for more.

Saturday, May 21. Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog offers two more opportunities to enjoy Mike O'Brien before he returns to New York. On the opening set, he joins Joel Shapira's Convergence Trio with Eric Gravatt on drums, and then both Mike and Eric join another esteemed visitor, trumpeter Kelly Rossum, who leads a quartet with vibes master Dave Hagedorn.

Saturday options also include midday jazz at the Midtown Global Market with Charmin Michelle and Joel Shapira; dinner sets with Patrick Harison at the Icehouse, the Benny Weinbeck Trio at Parma 8200, and JoAnn Funk and Jeff Brueskein the Lobby Bar of the Saint Paul Hotel.

Sunday, May 22. Yes, Kelly Rossum is in town this weekend, and his primary agenda is to lead the Dakota Combo Alumni Big Band as their sponsor, the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, celebrates ten years of the Combo program with a fundraising event at Vieux Carré. Kelly, who currently heads the jazz program at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, launched the metro-wide all-star high school Combo in fall 2006 via the DFJE's partnership with the MacPhail Center for Music. When he left the Twin Cities three years later, Adam Linz took over the leadership of the Combo. At the fundraiser you will hear a 20-piece band of Combo alums playing Rossum's original charts, as well as the annual spring performance of the current Dakota Combo. There's also some enticing silent and live auction items, raffle, and generally a good time for a good cause. (Tickets available at the door or through the Dakota and Vieux Carré websites.)

Also on Sunday, you can hear songbird Maud Hixsontwice! In the afternoon, she joins hubby pianist Rick Carlson at St Albert the Great Church for “Songs Louis Sang"— that's Louis Armstrong. And we'll finally hear Maud in the Dunsmore Room Sunday evening when she is the guest on Dan Chouinard's Birthday Club.

They're back in town for perhaps the fifth time in as many months— the trombone-wielding young Potash Twinsare again at the Icehouse (they have also been a the Dakota a few times this year).

Monday, May 23. The Dakota brings back three-time Grammy nominated singer/ pianist Freddy Cole and his quartet. Freddy has generally shied away from comparisons with brother Nat, but now he's touring with a new album saluting “The King."

At Crooners, the Twin Cities 7 with Maryann Sullivan holds their monthly showdown in the lounge, while at the Icehouse, JT's Jazz Implosion features the mighty Graydon Peterson Quartet with Adam Meckler, Joe Strachan and Adrian Suarez.

Tuesday, May 24. At the Dakota, it's the long-awaited solo piano release from Bryan Nichols, who can be as sublime and elegant as he is inventive and playful. His Looking North is looking like a winner. Across the river at Vieux Carré, Mary Louise Knutson opens the evening on solo piano, followed by the monthly dose of Connie Evingson and her swinging hot club band. And for swinging Latin beats, check out Big Band night at Jazz Central with the Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 24-25. In the Dunsmore Room it's a special homecoming for a favorite son, the great keyboardist Bobby Lyle. It's a rare occasion that he plays exclusively acoustic piano and in a duo setting at that— here with old pal, bassist Billy Peterson.

Wednesday, May 25. Pianist/ vocalist Larry McDonough has been busy over the past year or so with his salutes to Chet Baker and Miles Davis— two separate shows. Now he puts them together as “Born to Be Kind of Blue" at the Dakota tonight in adjoining sets.

Thursday, May 26. Songbird and voice instructor Paula Lammers takes the spotlight on Vocal Jazz Night at Jazz Central, while young lioness, saxophonist Lucia Sarmiento, brings her band to Thursday Night at Reverie. Lucia has already headed an ensemble at the past two Twin Cities Jazz Festivals (and a third is coming up!), has played recently with Eric Gravatt's Source Code, and is finishing a degree at McNally Smith after studies in her native Peru and Argentina.

At Vieux Carré, Jason Weismann and the Q bring back some good old fashioned swing, Jason on sax and vocals with Phil Aaron on keys, Gordy Johnson on bass and Pete Hennig on drums. And for music for the far end of your ears, check out Embezzler(Paul Metzger, Adam Linz, JT Bates) at Khyber Pass.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzINK by Andrea Canter.
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