By Dan Emerson
Home for a visit at Thanksgiving, Chicago-based tenor saxophonist-composer Pat Mallinger was walking in downtown St. Paul when he came across a new club he hadn’t heard of: KJ’s Hideaway. The same day, he got a call from drummer and promoter Kenny Horst inviting him to play a gig in late December at KJ’s, located in the former basement site of the Artist’s Quarter and then Vieux Carre (408 Saint Peter St.). On Thursday, December 29 at 9 p.m. Mallinger will front a quartet anchored by Horst, also including Horst’s nephew, Will Kjeer, on piano and bassist Jeremy Beottcher. Horst formerly co-owned, managed and played at the late, lamented Artist’s Quarter, which was one of the longest running jazz clubs in St. Paul. (Horst’s email address is still AQKenny).
Growing up in St. Paul, Mallinger attended Sibley high school and then North Texas State University on a “One O’clock Lab Band” scholarship.
He went on to live and perform in Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, and Japan, before settling in Chicago. There he co-led the house band at the Green Mill jazz club every Saturday night for 27 years, until the pandemic brought things to a halt.
Mallinger now leads the Saturday night band at the Green Mill as Pat Mallinger’s Late Night Jazz Party. He is also performs with the Bobby Lewis Quintet, Model Citizens Big Band, and his own quartet. Mallinger also performed a number of times at both the AQ and Vieux Carre, with Horst backing him. Like many other entrepreneurial musicians, Mallinger was able to use the enforced pandemic quarantine period to try some new, self-made performance venues. During the first full winter of the pandemic, he live-streamed some concerts that were well-received by fans hungry for live music. Dating back to 2013, Mallinger and his wife staged monthly house concerts in their Logan Park basement, and did a number of outdoor concerts in suburban Chicago neighborhoods, which have been also an artistic and financial success. “People have been super-appreciative when we bring music to them; a lot of good has come out of it.”
At KJ’s Hideaway, Mallinger says he plans to play mostly original material, with a few standards, in spite of the lack of any rehearsals with the ad hoc St. Paul combo. “It’s a great rhythm section, so I’m confident they can handle it.” Mallinger sent the other players Mp3 files in advance. “Kenny has played a few of the tunes already, and the younger players are super-proficient, so I’m confident they can pull it off.”
As a souvenir, he’ll leave KJ’s with a video recording of the gig. He doesn’t have any plans for another live CD, but “if we choose, we can pull tunes off of it for our own use.”
The Christmas gig will give Mallinger another chance to spend time with his three siblings and lots of local friends.
Mallinger has recorded and released two CDs with the Green Mill house band, Sabertooth, and another five under his own name.
Mallinger is the Lead Mentor of the Ravinia Jazz Mentor Program founded by Ramsey Lewis, and has been with that program since its inception in 1994. He mentors select Ravinia Jazz Scholars in rehearsals and performances. Additionally, Ravinia Jazz Mentors give performances and clinics in Chicago Public High Schools.
His lengthy list of performing credits includes Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Harry Connick, Ramsey Lewis, Aretha Franklin, Rosemary Clooney, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Diane Schuur, Kevin Mahogany, Patti Austin, Manhattan Transfer, Gerald Wilson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Lalo Schifrin, Cab Calloway, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Reunion Band, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Eddie Higgins, Junior Mance, Jodie Christian, Cedar Walton, Dave Brubeck, Marcus Roberts, Randy Weston, Weldon Irving, Henry Butler, Renee Rosness, Regina Carter, Jack McDuff, Joey DeFrancesco, Joe Lovano, Frank Foster, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and many more. He has toured with the Charles Earland Band, Artie Shaw Orchestra, and Woody Herman Orchestra.