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 Monday, 24 November 2014
Debbie Duncan and Anthony Cox: Infinite Possibilities at the Dakota, February 12-13 PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Thursday, 11 February 2010

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Debbie DuncanİAndrea Canter

Take two of Minnesota’s best known jazz artists, turn them loose together in the company of a veteran ensemble, and you have some of the best reasons to go out on a cold February weekend. And you can celebrate Valentine’s Day early to boot with two nights of musical creations with Debbie Duncan, Anthony Cox and the Regional Jazz Quartet (Bryan Nichols, Mike Lewis and JT Bates). They’ll be on stage at the Dakota February 12-13.

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JT BatesİAndrea Canter
Born in Memphis, Debbie Duncan grew up in Detroit, where her parents surrounded her with their favorite jazz, gospel, folk, and classical recordings. From her earliest years, Debbie was steeped in Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, Mel Torme, Ray Charles, and Chris Connors. She was also exposed to heavy gospel during summers with her grandparents in Memphis and St. Louis. Although she always intended to sing, Debbie studied flute in high school, not auditioning for the school choir until her senior year. Still concentrating on flute as her major at Wayne State University, Debbie continued to study voice, ultimately joining the Wayne State Women’s Chorale. Her vocal talent now at the forefront, soon she had a regular club gig and recorded back-up vocals for Mitch Ryder and Bob Segar. Moving to Los Angeles in 1976, Debbie had a seven-year stint at the Hungry Tiger and sang throughout the area club circuit. Eventually she worked with drummer Pete Johnson (formerly of Manhattan Transfer), and when he moved to Minneapolis, he convinced Debbie to join him for what was to be a six-week job at Rupert’s Night Club in 1984. The short gig lasted seven years. Forming a quartet with Don Stille, Gary Raynor and Phil Hey, Debbie soon became known as the “Working-est Singer” in the Twin Cities, winning many Minnesota Music Awards as well as the MMA’s first award as “Perpetually Outstanding Performer.” 

Debbie’s  performance resume includes opening for Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Stephane Grapelli, and appearing with Bobby Watson (Horizon), Mark Murphy, Von Freeman, Marlena Shaw, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Henderson, Jimmy McGriff, John Hendricks and Kenny Werner; last month she was invited to do some tunes with Roy Hargrove at the Dakota. She’s released five recordings, was a founding member of The Girls, appeared in an acclaimed role in the Ordway’s production of Blues in the Night, and currently performs weekly at Camp Bar with Mary Louise Knutson. She’s one of the most frequent and popular performers at both the Dakota and Artists Quarter. Poised for global recognition as the rightful heir to the legacy of Ella, Sassy, and the generation that defined the jazz diva, Debbie Duncan doesn’t just stand up there and sing. Above all, she is a storyteller and comedienne who always engages her audience.  If she didn’t sing, her shows would still be pure entertainment. But of course she sings like no one else.

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Anthony CoxİAndrea Canter
Growing up in suburban Minneapolis, internationally acclaimed bassist Anthony Cox started out on guitar and was inspired to switch to bass after hearing Return to Forever’s Stanley Clarke. Anthony studied bass at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, playing in both jazz and classical ensembles. After graduation, he headed to New York, building a reputation that took him on tour with Stan Getz. In the early 90s, he returned to the Twin Cities but his career has hardly been limited by his residence. Over the years, Cox has worked and/or recorded with Bobby Previte, Dewey Redman, Geri Allen, Arthur Blythe, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Ed Blackwell, Sam Rivers, Steve Lacy and Uri Caine, playing upright acoustic, electric and Spanish acoustic bass. In addition to his current work with such local bands as Starry Eyed Lovelies and Jazz Is Now!, Anthony held an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Iowa, has held residencies at schools and arts agencies around the world, including in Hamburg, Germany and at the Knitting Factory and Riverside Church in New York, and is currently on the business and bass faculties at McNally Smith College in St. Paul. Last year he joined forces with Bill Carrothers and Jay Epstein on the CD, Easy Company.

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Mike LewisİAndrea Canter
The other members of the Regional Jazz Quartet include some of the midwest’s most creative artists. On piano, Bryan Nichols returns to the Dakota following two consecutive weekend appearances (with the Kelly Rossum Quartet and his own trio). An alum of Betty Carter’s famed Jazz Ahead program and a few years of gigging around Chicago, Bryan appears with a long list of area improvisers, fronts his own trios and quartets, and teaches at MacPhail. Saxophonist Michael Lewis is best know as the lynchpin of Happy Apple and Fat Kid Wednesdays, and on bass also tours with Andrew Bird. The Minneapolis South High graduate can be found locally at the Clown Lounge, Artists Quarter, Café Maude and other venues supporting improvised music. But often you have to leave town to find Mike Lewis—try Europe and New York. One of the most intense and explosive drummers around, JT Bates keeps (and fractures) time for Kelly Rossum, Fat Kid Wednesdays and a long list of area bands. He was a member of Motion Poets, has played and recorded with Doug Little, and recently has worked with a variety of Latin, electronic, and experimental ensembles.

The possibilities are endless when either Debbie or Anthony takes the lead on stage. With both appearing together at the Dakota this weekend, in such inspiring company, the musical universe is infinite. 

The Dakota is located at 1010 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis; www.datakocooks.com; 612-332-1010. Reservations recommended for this weekend. 



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