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 Thursday, 26 November 2015
One Hot Jazz Festival: Highlights of the Twin Cities HSJF PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Thursday, 29 June 2006
The Falconaires © Andrea Canter

The 8th Annual Hot Summer Jazz Festival had some iffy moments as storm clouds rolled through the Twin Cities off and on throughout the two weekends, but there was no uncertainty about the music—this was jazz of the highest caliber, hot and cool, from youth to elder statesmen, from St. Paul to Minneapolis and beyond. Even an occasional cloudburst and a few hours of drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirit of the music or the crowds (estimated at 50,000 overall) that gathered at multiple free venues. From the grade school ensembles of Walker West to the genre’s legendary Merlins (aka Mose Allison, Frank Morgan and Dewey Redman), from the hot Latin sounds of Bobby Sanabria, Nachito Herrera, and Salsa del Soul to the gypsy swing of the Twin Cities Hot Club and the bluesy soulful voice of Barbara Morrison, from the high energy of MacPhail students and faculty to the big band elegance of the Falconaires, this was arguably the finest ten days of jazz ever presented in the Twin Cities.

The festival kicked off in the ‘burbs on June 11th with six big bands in Eden Prairie and Crescent City vibes with the Swamp Twisters in Wayzata on June 14th before moving into high gear with an extended weekend at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul (June 16-17) and a four-night, two full days of music across four stages in downtown Minneapolis (June 22-25). In between was the annual Jazz Night Out club crawl, raising funds for Project Pride in Living and Habitat for Humanity (June 22); the opening of the annual Visual Jazz art show at the Kingman Gallery in northeast Minneapolis (June 16); the second annual Swing Dance Contest at the Dakota; and special shows at the Dakota and Artists Quarter jazz clubs.

Chris Graham © Andrea Canter

From Legend to Youth to Latin: Mears Park Weekend

This year’s St. Paul portion of the HSJF was expanded to include Friday night sets, while the focus Saturday was on young musicians and Latin vibes. Intermittently, the focus was on the weather as Minneapolis was pelted with heavy rain and hail Friday night. Across the river, things were much calmer in St. Paul, with sprinkles briefly scattering the audience a few times before a heavy cloudburst cut short the final set from drummer George Avaloz. Saturday, things were pretty much the same, with great weather giving way to a shower between the final sets—hardly enough to douse the crowd’s enthusiasm.

Twin Cities guitar whiz Chris Graham, home from his first year at the New School for Jazz in New York, kicked off the music Friday night with a smoldering quartet that included the nearly-as-young Brian Nichols on piano, James Buckley on bass, and popular drummer J.T. Bates. A protégé of former Minnesota guitar star Clay Moore, Chris has already gained a wealth of experience playing and listening all over the Twin Cities. Chris led the quartet through dazzling renditions of “Just Friends,” “Long Ago and Far Away,” “Body and Soul,” and “Rhythm-n-ing.” Hopefully he will make the HSJF an annual homecoming.

Mose Allison © Andrea Canter

And some rain only seemed to improve the ambience surrounding headliner Mose Allison, who soon found half the audience crowded under the stage pavilion around the keyboard. With the highly compatible backing of bassist Billy Peterson and drummer Kenny Horst, Mose, now 80, showed no signs of tiring throughout the hour-long set of his most popular originals and covers, “Fools Paradise,” “Look What You Made Me Do,” “White Boy Blues,” “Mercy,” “You Are My Sunshine” (we needed more of that!), and more. His signature gravel-smoke vocals and dexterous keyboarding were always the focal point—it was a great trio but it was clearly his show. This was his warm-up for a two-night stand that weekend at the Artists Quarter. Area drummer George Avaloz did not fare as well with the weather, which prompted a premature end to his set featuring Mikkel Romstad on keyboard and Jim Marentic on tenor sax.

For the most part, sunshine prevailed on Saturday, and the youngsters who entertained during the first sets brought considerable energy as well as remarkable talent to the Summit Brewery Stage. Ensembles from Walker West Music Academy under the direction of celebrated educator Felix James demonstrated the importance of nurturing young talent. The first group of student musicians—5th and 6th graders—were as serious about their craft as were the high schoolers who followed; young Jack Green nailed his alto sax solo on “Bags’ Groove” and 6th grade trumpeter Alex Romp was similarly impressive. The high school band grooved through “In Walked Bud” and “Footprints” with particularly skillful soloing from trumpeter Caleb Lockwood and tenor saxist Amber Woodhouse. The final “Hornlines” ensemble, primarily 10th graders, has been studying improvisation, and their runs through “Lady Bird” and “Black Orpheus” showed that it pays to do your homework! The full Walker West cadre returned to the bandstand for a rousing “Take the A-Train.” Without a doubt, we will be hearing more from these young artists at future festivals and beyond.

The other youthful band this afternoon was led by young drummer Jesse Kegan. His quartet more resembles a jam band than a modern jazz ensemble, clearly rock informed and heavily amped. I enjoyed them more as I moved farther back from the stage where their electronic mélange and noodling vamp could reverberate into the breeze. It will be interesting to see in what direction Jesse takes his music next.

Bend in the River © Andrea Canter

Four inherent crowd-pleasers filled the rest of the Saturday schedule. Big bands are always popular festival fare and the Bend in the River Big Band was no exception. With vocalist Laurie Riser, this 16-piece ensemble originated among a group of Gustavous Adolphous College alums, and now they have been blowing charts for over 15 years. One of the hits of the 2006 KBEM Winter Jazz Festival, this time out the band included some Latin tunes in keeping with the theme of the day—“Girl From Ipanema,” “Besame Mucho,” and “Mambo Swing,” along with great standards and show tunes (e.g., “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing,” “On a Clear Day,” “Royal Garden Blues”) and the very rockin’ finale, “Rockin’ in Rhythm” which found the brass section marching through the crowd.

A big band makes for a good warm up to a volcanic eruption. Next up—Nachito Herrera and his “Minnesota Cuban” quartet featuring Jay Young (bass), Kevin Washington (drums) and Poncho Lopez (Latin percussion), as well as several vocals from daughter Mirdalys Herrera. Whether hitting over-the-top chords or charging up and down the keyboard in defiance of the sound barrier, whether it is rhumba, son or cha-cha or even an American jazz standard like Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” Nachito and company scorch whatever they touch. And before the last blast, the stage had become a dance floor, as Salsa Del Soul singer Gloria Rivera joined in for the final choruses. This made for a perfect transition to the next set from Salsa Del Soul, bringing soul to salsa, the tropics to Minnesota, staid Minnesotans to the dance floor. The voices of Gloria Rivera and Nelson Rosado, along with the infectious rhythms of their band, added to the carnival atmosphere still lingering from Nachito’s set. And this all served as an ample appetizer for the Latino feast that followed.

Bobby Sanabria © Andrea Canter

The big headliner of the day, Bobby Sanabria, has just been named a 2006 Bronx Walk of Fame inductee, and if such an honor was provided for the HSJF, Bobby would be high on the list. Pianist and wrier Kenny Werner recently wrote that jazz critics should stop all the technical commentary and talk about how a musician affects his audience—did an artist make “people cry leap for joy?” Sanabria literally moved the Mears Park audience to leap for joy! Of course this came after they leaped for cover when a sudden cloudburst threatened to end the festival a set early. But the storm passed quickly and was soon replaced by the Latin Storm King of percussion and his young, but chops-laden, quartet. Throughout the set, Sanabria not only directed his band, he directed the crowd as well, insisting that the dancers come up front, Cuban style, rather than hanging back, Minnesota style, for a twenty-minute meringue encore that sent us all home, reluctantly, smiling and swinging our feet.

Young Musicians and Teachers—Shining Bright in Minneapolis

Historically the HSJF has provided opportunities for both student musicians and their instructors to demonstrate the benefits of jazz education. In addition to the presentations by the Walker West Music Academy at Mears Park, the second week in Minneapolis offered additional student/teacher ensembles.

MITY frontline © Andrea Canter
One of my favorite sets at HSJF has been the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth Jazz Band. MITY was again directed by Scott Carter, the jazz band director at Minneapolis South High School, and as such a mentor to numerous local jazz musicians who have been recognized as up and coming talents. This year, MITY was represented by two big band ensembles and several jazz combos. Carter pointed out that for the most part, these teen musicians had only a few days to work together on the festival repertoire. Jazz Band Two, directed by Cory Needleman and local saxophonist Chris Thomson, got things rolling with “Shiny Stockings.” Adam Linz directed the combos through Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” and Miles Davis’ “Joshua.” The more experienced Jazz Band One delivered Neal Hefti’s “Flying Foo Bird” featuring young trumpeter Preston Haining’s solid solo; a mature-sounding sax section on “Nightingale in Time Square” and a grand finale on “Take the A-Train” with solo honors going to Amber Woodhouse. (Amber was also a standout on tenor with the Walker West band the previous weekend.)

Another all-star big band, led by JazzMN Big Band Director Doug Snapp, featured talented area 6th-8th graders representing the IAJE Middle Level program. Drawing a big crowd (not just the parents!), these young teens blasted through “Swing, Inc.” and “Jambalaya,” and could easily compete with our best area high school jazz bands.

MacPhail Center for Music, soon to celebrate 100 years supporting the future of music in the Twin Cities through youth and adult education, has long been a central part of the HSJF with workshops, master classes, and performances. One open workshop this year featured New York pianist Norman Simmons and MacPhail voice instructor Vicky Mountain, with a Q & A format geared toward working vocalists. Simmons offered some advice for vocalists on the road or developing relationships with their supporting bands. Responding to a question about determining dynamics, Simmons suggested that the vocalist first must determine “where pianissimo is,” and go from there, and not be intimidated by the band—“you tell the band how loud to play!” He also pointed out the importance of planning the song, coming to the bandstand with ideas about the arrangement and time.

Kelly Rossum © Andrea Canter

MacPhail students and faculty combined for several sets on the outdoor Nicollet Stage. On group, labeled Trash Jazz, presented a dynamic, Bad Plus arrangement of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” notable for both young keyboardist Roxanne Stronczer’s chops and perhaps the first public appearance of trumpeter Kelly Rossum on fretless bass! A short while later, Kelly turned up behind the trapset with a faculty combo, along with Steve Roehm on vibes, Tom Pieper on bass, and again, Vicky Mountain on vocals. Highlights were Vicky’s swinging scat through “Anthropology” (lyrics courtesy of Jon Hendricks) and “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.”

There were many other opportunities for students and young professionals throughout the festival. Nachito Herrera, back for a second weekend, this time brought members of his Earth, Wind and Fire big band ensemble to Peavey Plaza along with a string section from Mounds Park Academy (including daughter Mirdalys on violin). And the youngest Herrerea, 12-year-old trumpeter David, joined the brass section for one tune. Vocalist Alicia Renee, a veteran HSJF performer while only in her early 20s, sang with support from “house” pianist Jon Weber, her voice beautifully suited to the Great Songbook tunes such as “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” One of the last sets on Sunday provided the opportunity to hear the overall winner of the recent 2nd Annual Schubert Club/Dakota Foundation Jazz Piano Competition, 17-year-old Javier Santiago, who will be a senior this coming year at Minneapolis South High School.

Top Brass

Frank Morgan © Andrea Canter

The brass side of jazz always draws well at festivals, and between the national touring artists and local talent, there is never a shortage of brass excitement at HSJF. One of the finest shows of the festival featured the combined talents of one of the oldest and youngest professional performers here—Frank Morgan and David Young. Morgan, now in his 70s, recently relocated to his home turf after years of ups and downs—playing with the best of the bop era while unfortunately emulating his hero Charlie Parker to a fault. Years of heroin addiction and incarceration later, Morgan regained his chops and audience, and even a stroke in 1998 didn’t keep him down. One of the master’s of alto saxophone, Morgan led a quintet of stellar artists, including Chicago pianist (festival mainstay) Jon Weber, Twin Cities’ masters of bass and percussion respectively, Gordy Johnson and Joe Pulice, and a young man who turned the festival on its ear, Chicago-based trumpeter David Young.

The opening “Footprints” was emblematic of the set. Morgan didn’t come in until the other four musicians had taken their solo turns, but once he entered, he was all over the horn, from melodic lines to honking accents to squealing arpeggios. “Round Midnight” featured Young on flugelhorn, his tone best described as honey-glazing over sharp cheddar; ultimately Morgan and Young engaged in joyful swap meet. When Morgan decline an encore (“I was once given the advice to ‘know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em’”), Young and the rhythm section obliged the crowd and then some, Young reminding everyone that Chicago is home to the blues with an outstanding vocal/instrumental closer.

David Young © Andrea Canter

Young was hardly done. On Saturday, he was one-third of the high-flying “Trumpet Summit” that also featured local virtuosos Kelly Rossum (this time on his primary instrument!) and Dave Jensen, with the equally virtuosic backing of Brian Nichols (keyboard), Adam Linz (bass) and JT Bates (drums). With three horns, listeners had a unique opportunity to enjoy the nuances of individual tone and vibrato—Young the most buttery, Jensen more smokey, Rossum the finer edged. Following a Milesian intro on “All Blues,” the three trumpets traded solos introducing their unique voices, while Nichols made the electronic keyboard sing like a Steinway grand. “Days of Wine and Roses” featured just Jensen and Young, Young’s getting a deep sweetness from his trumpet that sounded much like his flugelhorn, and Adam Linz amply demonstrating his melodic side. Bates provided a rhythmically perverse percussion interlude followed by the dueling trumpets trading phrase after phrase. “Summertime” was rendered like a triple concerto, Rossum’s tone almost as muted as was Young’s truly muted horn, Jensen’s husky vibrato and grandly trilling notes setting up a playful volley among the threesome, and Rossum bringing it all to an end with a snakey cadenza. Parker’s “Confirmation” was a perfect set closer, Rossum and Jensen demonstrating the advantage of experience as they reinvented tone and vibrato, while Young’s potential was abundantly clear as he danced at the top of the horn and held his own trading 8s, 4s and 2s with his counterparts. At the end, we were all confirmed!

Weber, Weldon, Young © Andrea Canter

Not done yet? David Young was scheduled to leave for home Sunday afternoon, but he was just having too much fun to pass up the Festival Jam at the Dakota. The previous night, he had jammed on the Dakota stage with local 86-year-old tenor sax legend Irv Williams; his last night in Minneapolis included an all-out brass war on “Doxy” with the festival’s “house” tenor, Jerry Weldon, aided and abetted by Jon Weber, Gordy Johnson, and Joe Pulice.

Jerry Weldon made quite an impression himself for his second straight year at HSFJ. He joined Jon Weber for two outdoor sets over the weekend, closing out as the Festival Jam band at the Dakota. His take on “In a Sentimental Mood” was particularly enchanting, as he took the melody with a Ben Websterish tone and breathy vibrato, wove a filigree tapestry of arpeggios climbing to the top of the horn, then created a wholly different sound with a sharper edge for the bridge, only to return to the dusky sensuality on the out chorus.

Dewey Redman © Andrea Canter

Perhaps the boldest booking for the festival was one of the most under-rated tenor sax titans of all time, Dewey Redman. Despite a resume that includes illustrious stints with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Redman’s popularity and recognition has paled in comparison to his more mainstream-minded offspring, Joshua Redman. Dewey’s last visit to the Twin Cities (at the Artists Quarter two or three years ago) was well received among fans of accessible, cutting edge music and many of us looked forward to another opportunity to hear this creative artist live. Anticipation was heightened by the homecoming of innovative pianist Bill Carrothers, who joined Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey in supporting Redman’s late set on the Mercedes-Benz Stage. Unfortunately the weather was not as supportive, as showers that moved through downtown earlier in the evening left behind a steady drizzle. Nevertheless, the band played on, Dewey somewhat tentative (and probably damp!), his sound not carrying well across the open plaza for the first few tunes, and I confess to leaving after about 40 minutes due to creeping dampness. But there were bright moments from the stage, Redman still has his chops and can create beautiful illusions on a ballad; Carrothers is always a master of deconstruction and abstraction that, while often eccentric, is never egocentric. A lot of festival patrons, with umbrellas and hooded jackets, stayed on to hear one of the last of the generation of 60s and 70s innovators, and hopefully some were introduced, for the first time, to the first and “other” Redman. While Dewey in particular is better heard in a small club environment, Festival producer Steve Heckler is commended for booking a musician of legendary talent, flying below the radar of most American festivals.

Dan Kusz © Andrea Canter

There were other fine brass moments in Minneapolis, from tenors Jim Marentic with his Coltrane Connection (note his “Afrodesiac,” also featuring trombonist Dave Graf) and Dave Karr with the Kenny Horst Quartet (maybe the sweetest tenor solo of the festival on “Darn That Dream”), and on alto, Kathy Jensen with the Ginger Commodore Quartet (sax scatting like a vocalist on “Who Can I Turn To?”). Brass virtuosos led the way with the big bands, as well, from the precision of the Air Force Falconaires (playing sets on both Friday and Saturday) to the creative charts of the JazzMN Big Band to the Latin vibes of Nachito Herrera’s “Earth, Wind and Fire” big band project. And Thursday night, young smooth sax artist Dan Kusz, with some fine gospel voices from the Pentacostal Gospel Choir, enthralled the late set audience with his swirling soprano and some very hot percussion.

Festival Voices

Vocalists are always high on every festival list—even those with only casual interests in jazz seem won over by the creative vocals that breathe new life into the most worn out standard. HSJF has historically been sweet on singers, and this year may have been the most ambitious and successful line-up yet, with popular headliner Barbara Morrison back in town (she was in here in January to celebrate her Dakota Live recording), and many of the best of the Twin Cities performing throughout the week on and off the main festival stages.

Ginger Commodore is always a good draw, and this year she helped kick off events on Peavey Plaza with a Thursday evening performance with her veteran quartet (husband Bobby on drums, Lee Blaske on keys, Mark Weisberg on bass, and the always amazing Kathy Jensen on sax). Ginger has an elastic voice that seems to fit the blues as well as the ballad or pop cover—a soulful “All Blues,” a swinging “I Get a Kick Out of You,” a tender “Who Can I Turn To?”, an elegant—very “Gingerly” “My Funny Valentine;” common pop tunes not often covered by jazz artists were born anew with Ginger’s touch, “Unchained Melody,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life, “ and a lovely duo with just Weisberg, “Tonight You’re Mine.” Blaske was particularly effective on “All Blues” and Weisberg provided a buzzy melodic solo on “Who Can I Turn To?”, while providing perfect counterpoint on Carole King's “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?.” And Bobby? He swung as hard as ever throughout. The only complaint I have was that the sound mysteriously went ballistic midway through and distorted one of the best voices of the festival for the next twenty minutes. Ginger and the audience deserved better, and fortunately this was a rare occurrence during the festival.

Debbie Duncan © Andrea Canter

Another popular set, despite a light drizzle, paired area divas Debbie Duncan and Connie Evingson with expert support from Jon Weber, Joe Pulice, and Falconaire bassist Jason Crowe, pressed into service at the last minute due to a snafu in scheduling. Rain cut short the planned finale duet, but individually each vocalist was in fine form. Consistent with her recent recording and performances, Debbie offered a mix of gentle, swinging renditions of “Here, There, and Everywhere” and “My Secret Love” as well as her trademark blues (“Drink Dirty Water”). On the latter, even the rain couldn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm or participation, and some dancers leftover from the afternoon Swing Dance Competition at the Dakota made space to swing. It was another “stand up and cheer” moment.

With a contrasting style that is simultaneously cool and smoldering, Connie Evingson, sans hot club, offered four tunes she has recently recorded in a more straight-ahead fashion, “Lover Man,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Nature Boy,” and “It’s Alright With Me.” Throughout, just listening for Jon Weber’s numerous quotes proved entertaining, particularly his throwback to “Nature Boy” during the following “It’s Alright With Me.”

The Twin Cities Chapter of the Jazz Vocal Coalition has presented singer showcases at the last few festivals, and this year these were rolled into an amazing 11-set series at the Millennium running from Noon to 7 pm on Sunday. The only indoor festival stage, the Millennium Lounge was transformed into a daytime night club. Two rhythm sections served the voices, the first sets anchored by Chris Lomheim, Graydon Peterson, and Mac Santiago; the later sets supported by Tanner Taylor, Kevin Clements, and Jay Epstein—all frequent collaborators with the Coalition singers, and the mutual empathy was obvious. One after another, participating vocalists (Christine Rosholt, Connie Dusseau, Maud Hixson, Connie Olson, Rhonda Laurie, Arne Fogel, Dorothy Doring, Tommy Bruce, Sue Tucker, Lila Ammons and Vicky Mountain) sang 3-4 tunes each, offering such Great American Songbook standards as “Love for Sale” and “What Is This Thing Called Love” along with an occasional samba (“Wave”) and other great tunes. Without staying put for the full showcase, it was not easy to catch every singer, but I did manage to catch some memorable moments, including Connie Olson’s “Moonglow” and Maud Hixson’s “So in Love.” Hopefully the showcase will be a permanent feature of HSJF, as it is a perfect opportunity to explore the depths of vocal jazz talent in the Twin Cities.

Barbara Morrison © Andrea Canter

The set of the festival, arguably, belonged to Barbara Morrison, at least if one considers audience response and artist enthusiasm as criteria. Backed by the festival team of Jon Weber, Gordy Johnson and Joe Pulice, Barbara was as charming and powerful on Peavey Plaza facing a crowd of 4-5,000 as she has been on the Dakota Stage over the past five or more years. Her set included crowd pleasers that show her versatility with mid-tempo swing and soulful, gritty blues—“I Love Being Here With You,” “Candy,” “Centerpiece,” “You Go to My Head,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” and her anthems, “Drink Muddy Water,” “Don’t Touch Me,” “I Made My Move to Soon,” and her popular finale, “They Call Me Sundown.” And there may be no better fit to Barbara’s blues than Jon Weber—after all, he is from Chicago! The night was breezy and pleasant, and the music, like Barbara herself, filled the night with a warm glow.

Other voices kept the festival swinging, including young Alicia Renee, multiple appearances by Vicky Mountain, Jazz Night Out performances from Dennis Spears at Sophia, Gloria Rivera and Nelson Rosado (again) at the Times with Salsa del Soul, and Debbie Duncan (again) at the Dakota, and standout vocals from Chris Sahlbour (which is probably spelled wrong here!), a member of the Falconaires Big Band.

Small Ensembles

With the focus on big bands and big headliners, sometimes the fabulous small ensembles, particularly the rhythm sections, are overlooked. Many fine local bands appeared at Mears Park (see above) and along Nicollet Mall, including the global sounds of Bill Crutcher’s Work in Progress and the Yohannes Tona Band, the fine piano ensemble of Norman Simmons, and the homage to Coltrane via Jim Marentic. Special mention: Jon Weber and Jerry Weldon played two scheduled sets on the Mall stages with Gordy Johnson and Joe Pulice and served as the Festival Jam band at the Dakota Sunday night. Weldon’s exploits are noted above; Weber’s previous festival appearances have generated a large fan base here. Playing tunes of Monk, Parker and other jazz favorites, this ensemble is unmatched, and Weber’s proclivity for quoting everything but the kitchen sink (and he probably can do that, too) makes even the most common tune an adventure—you never know where his creative and playful mind will take the music or if it will ever return to its starting point.

Kenny Horst © Andrea Canter

Two popular drummer-led quartets offered additional post bop elegance and fire: The Kenny Horst Quartet with Tanner Taylor, Dave Karr and Bruce Heine, sponsored appropriately by Kenny’s Artists Quarter, offered classics from Benny Golson, Charlie Parker, Duke Pearson and Jimmy Van Heusen. Noted earlier, Dave Karr blew a sweet-as-can-be tenor on “Darn That Dream,” but the tune also featured pianist Tanner Taylor at his best, creating Evanescent elegance along with Tyneresque assertions, as well as some deep melodic phrases from Heine. Horst himself provided a major percussive blast to launch “Dexterity,” while Taylor opened up his resumé of stride, boogie, and bop.

Gordy Johnson © Andrea Canter
Highly regarded locally and shamefully unknown nationally, the Phil Hey Quartet made do with personnel changes—Bill Carrothers filling in for Phil Aaron on piano, Gordy Johnson taking Tom Lewis’ spot on bass. These were hardly “back-up” musicians and Hey (along with vibes master Dave Hagedorn) might consider working with two quartets in the future! Johnson provided a coolly elegant walking bassline on “Summertime,” leading into a vibes-dominated melody, and was a particularly effective soloist on “Alone Together.” Carrothers called “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” reflecting his love of the game as well as his innovative approach to commonplace tunes, taking the baseball anthem as a slow waltz. Without doubt, this song had never been heard so elegantly nor had it ever received such rapt attention. Carrothers also turned “Alone Together” inside out, giving the electric piano the sound of a guitar or Rhodes. Hey and Hagedorn were at their best throughout, Hagedorn making mallet magic on “Seven Steps to Heaven,” and surely, four of those steps were on stage this afternoon.

Festival Support

Kevin Barnes and Steve Heckler © Andrea Canter
Those of us on the receiving end of all this marvelous music are indebted to the George Wein of Minnesota, festival producer Steve Heckler, wife Christine, KBEM radio, and the many staffers who handled all the tasks before and during festival month; to major sponsors Mercedes-Benz (Minnesota dealers), KBEM, WCCO, Minneapolis-St Paul Magazine, Quebecor, Summit Brewing Company, Ken Davis, St. Paul Star Program, The Dakota, Nicollet on the Mall, Skyscape, and the list of supporting sponsors (including the Jazz Police!). (For a full list of corporate sponsors, visit

Plan now to attend the 2007 Hot Summer Jazz Festival, and consider making a donation now to support ongoing efforts to bring free jazz to the heart of the Twin Cities every summer! (Visit the festival website at for information.)

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