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May’s EP: Epilogue and Prologue, Comings and Goings in Twin Cities Jazz

Featured TCJF Twin Cities
Happy Apple performs two nights at Berlin, May 10-11

Note: Again, EP replaces The Lead Sheet, offering a look back at some great performances last month and looking ahead to some recommendations for the new month. Not exhaustive, not objective, there’s a lot more than what is covered here.

Epilogue: April Jazz

Patrick Adkins

April was a busy jazz month in the Twin Cities, making it difficult to pull out my favorites, but here goes:  One of the fast –rising young talents on the local jazz scene, pianist Patrick Adkins is gaining cred as a composer and bandleader, but it was his solo performance on the new Steinway at Jazz Central (April 3) that I’m still hearing in my head a few weeks later. He gave us twists and turns on works (or suggestions of works) from Monk, Shorter, Mary Lou Williams, an original,  and a particularly engaging Stephen Paulus work based on traditional spirituals. Cerebral without self indulgence, and with plenty of fire. Jazz Central’s new First Wednesday series of solo piano has been a monthly highlight. The next night (April 4) I did not attend Herbie Hancock’s show at the Orpheum, which received expected high praise. I hope to catch him next time. But I am not sorry for my choice that evening—a spectacular duo of renowned clarinetist Anat Cohen and Brazilian guitarist Marcello Goncalves  at The Dakota, offering delightful give-and-take on a series of Brazilian works. We stayed in our seats and let the musicians dance through a glorious set.

Anat Cohen and Marcello Goncalves at The Dakota

On the Chamber Music Society’s concert at Sundin Hall (April 7), eclectic pianist Aaron Diehl played solo rags and then joined various combinations of chamber musicians on a far-reaching program that included Gershwin, Gunther Schuller, John Lewis, and familiar jazz standards. It was truly a tour de force for Diehl who can apparently play anything and everything.  No less a keyboard talent, leading one of the longest-running piano trios in 21st century jazz, Bill Charlap also offered a wide-ranging program of jazz standards at The Dakota (April 15). I happened to be seated quite close to the keyboard, and this bird’s eye view of Charlap’s every move was one of the most stunning visions of piano jazz I’ve seen yet. Oh yeah, it sounded great, too.

Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch

Two music events worth noting: Not specifically a jazz show, Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Crooners (April 12) is always a blast, and no shortage of local jazz and cabaret singers fill a couple hours with great songs (one each from 20+ local talents) and a lot of laughs from Caruso and sidekick, the great pianist Billy Stritch. Cast Party originated about 20 years ago in Manhattan, where it is still going strong at Birdland. Crooners brought the show to Minnesota in 2022 and it is now an eagerly awaited annual event.  Also an annual “party”, KBEM’s Minnesota Jazz Legends celebrated its 10th year honoring our local jazz history and the great musicians at the Minnesota History Center (April 14). The show’s producer and founder, Patty Peterson, hosts, with a house trio and performances and interviews with the honorees. This year we celebrated Brian Grivna, Henry Blackburn, Mikkel Romstad and the late Roberta Davis (via brother Thomas Bruce). Great music and even better stories. (Check KBEM’s schedule for the full-length interviews.)

And of course I heard a lot of other great jazz performances in April but we need to get to coming attractions!

Prologue: Jazz in May!

Lynne Arriale

As always, picking out just a handful of upcoming gigs is a challenge, but here goes: May gets off to a stellar start with the monthly Solo piano gig at Jazz Central, this month giving us a night with just Laura Caviani on the Steinway (May 1). I heard Laura solo in a recital at Carleton last fall but it has been a very long time since she performed solo in the Twin Cities. Looking forward to hearing some new compositions. Although struggling with threatened eviction for unpaid rent, the Icehouse is still presenting its eclectic music. Acclaimed drummer Dan Weiss leads his Even Odds trio featuring renowned saxophonist Miguel Zenon and star pianist Matt Mitchell (May 2-3). And at Crooners in the Dunsmore Room, marimba genie Jenny Klukken returns with a band that excited my jazz ears lasts fall, “Mirimbista” with Chris Bates, Chris Olson and Dave Schmalenberger (May 3). Part of a fundraising weekend at The MetroNome, elegant pianist Lynne Arriale returns to the TwinCities for a trio evening (May 4) and gala night (May 5) with Chris Bates and Adam Harder Nussbaum. That’s quite an opening week for a jazzy May.

Jenny Klukken

And then there’s the rest of the month with legendary Happy Apple (Michael Lewis, Erik Fratzke, Dave King) at Berlin (May 10-11); guitar guru (and standout vocalist) John Pizzarelli—with the JazzMN Orchestra ( May  11) and with his trio (May 12)  for a stunning weekend at The Dakota; stay overnight at The Dakota and catch highly acclaimed pianist Christian Sands with his trio, including brother Ryan Sands on drums (May 13); hometown-boy-made-good, trumpeter John Raymond returns home for a night with a Twin Cities quartet (Brandon Wozniak, Dan Carpel, Pete James Johnson) at Berlin (May 23); usually heard in the metro accompanying Marlyn Maye, New York pianist  Ted Firth gets his own moments in the spotlight with vocalists Maud Hixson and Jennifer Grimm in the Dunsmore Room (May 29) before joining Maye on Crooner’s Main Stage (May 30-31); former Music Director at Crooners recently transplanted to Phoenix, singing pianist Andrew Walesch returns for a rare solo performance in the Dunsmore Room (May 30).

John Pizzarelli

Honestly this is a too-brief list of the great jazz happening around the Twin Cities in May. Not only do each of the above venues boast many more outstanding gigs, there’s great jazz happening at many more venues. Search online for your favorite artists and venues and see KBEM’s jazz calendar.

Fred Hersch

Heads Up! Coming in June

Joe Lovano, headlining Twin Cities Jazz Fest

May will be amazing. And just wait til June: Ravi Coltrane (June 3), Bill Frisell (June 5), and the one I can’t wait for, Fred Hersch solo (June 9) at The Dakota; the Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Mears Park with headliners Stefon Harris, Regina Carter, Karrin Allyson and Joe Lovano (with Kenny Werner) and a really long list of outstanding local talents (June 21-22); the Count Basie Orchestra with Carmen Bradford at Crooners (June 23).

And heads up for July –the Iowa City Jazz Festival (a 5-hour drive from the metro) featuring Lakecia Benjamin, Matt Wilson, Ingrid Jensen and more (July 6-8); and the Northfield Jazz Festival  (July 14) featuring bands led by Northfield jazz dignitaries Laura Caviani, JC Sanford and Dave Hagedorn.