© Andrea Canter
Well into its second year of weekly jazz performances, Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog brings back a favorite veteran trio and a new-to-Minnesota ensemble led by one of New York’s top arrangers and composers. The Pete Snell Trio opens for the JC Sanford Quartet this weekend, March 4.
Pete Snell Trio (7 pm)
Saxophonist Pete Snell has been gigging around the Twin Cities for many years, heading a trio of established veterans– pianist Phil Aaron (Phil Hey Quartet, Phil Aaron Trio, Lucia Newell, Joyce Lyons) and bassist Tom Lewis (Phil Hey Quartet, Charmin and Shapira and Friends).
JC Sanford Quartet (8:30 pm)
Minnesota native, trombonist/composer/conductor JC Sanford headed to New York after completing graduate studies at the New England Conservatory, figuring he would stay a year or two. Last July, sixteen years later, Sanford moved his family back to the Midwest, settling in Northfield just in time to celebrate the release of his New York quartet’s CD, Can You Believe It? After his East Coast release at Shapeshifter Lab in New York, he returned to Minnesota and celebrated at the Icehouse with his Minnesota quartet in January. Now JC brings his music, and his quartet with Zacc Harris, Chris Bates and Greg Schutte, to prime time at the Black Dog.
A protégé of legendary composer Bob Brookmeyer, trombonist JC Sanford studied at the University of Northern Iowa and completed doctoral studies at the New England Conservatory. Moving to New York in 2000, he became involved with the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop under the direction of Manny Albam and Jim McNeely and remained trombonist/contractor of the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra until 2016. He has also appeared as a trombonist on recordings with such diverse bands as Andrew Green’s Narrow Margin, the Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble, Nathan Parker Smith’s jazz/prog rock big band, and Joseph C. Phillips, Jr.’s new music/jazz hybrid orchestra, Numinous.
JC’s compositions have been performed by leading artists such as John Abercrombie and Dave Liebman and he has built a reputation as conductor of large ensembles, including the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Alan Ferber Nonet, Alice Coltrane Orchestra and his own JC Sanford Orchestra. The JC Sanford Orchestra’s album, Views from the Inside, received worldwide acclaim as well as a coveted recording grant from the Aaron Copland Foundation. JC also wrote, performed and conducted a score to accompany the 143-minute 1927 silent classic Ben Hur for the Syracuse International Film Festival, including the film theme “Forest Hills” which now appears on Can You Believe It. In addition to the orchestra and his quartet (JC4), he leads the improvisational trio Triocracy featuring saxophonists Chris Bacas and Andy Laster, whose new album, That’s All There Is, is due to be released later this year. He also curated a weekly large ensemble series (“Size Matters”) at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn.
Of his return to the Midwest, JC notes that “We have a 2-year-old daughter and I went to school in Northfield, and my mom still lives there. New York kind of wore us out, and so we decided we’re going to go somewhere, and that seemed like a really good option. I had a few connections to the Twin Cities music scene. It just seemed like the natural thing to do.” And he’s wasted no time jumping into the local jazz scene, adding his trombone to Chris Bates’ Red 5 at their most recent gig at the Black Dog.
A native of southern California, Zacc Harris came to Minneapolis about ten years ago from Illinois, where he graduated from Southern Illinois University. Here he formed the Luminessence Trio (now Zacc Harris Trio), continuing weekly gigs at the Riverview Wine Bar. Zacc also leads his Quartet, Atlantis Quartet, Vital Organ, the Zacc Harris Group, and American Reverie; performs regularly with Dean Granros’ Tall Tales, the Babatunde Lea Quartet, and Adam Meckler Quintet, and teaches at Hamline University as well as private guitar lessons. He’s also curated the Jazz at Studio Z series for five seasons.
Chris Bates and his brother, drummer JT, grew up with jazz, sons of trumpeter/bandleader Don Bates. He began bass lessons in 4th grade and progressed to jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire before returning to the Twin Cities to study with Anthony Cox. A member of the 1990s ensemble, the Motion Poets, Chris was a 1999 McKnight Composer Fellow and in 2014 was awarded a commission from local new music ensemble Zeitgeist. He often lends his compositions to the many ensembles that he juggles throughout his busy performance schedule–including the Atlantis Quartet, Framework, Leisure Valley, Tall Tales, Red Planet, and his own Good Vibes Trio and Chris Bates’ Red Five. He also curates an new music night monthly at Jazz Central Studios.
Greg Schutte is a drummer, producer, and sound designer who has as performed nationally and internationally with a wide variety of artists/groups, including: The Mickey Hart Band, Chastity Brown Band, Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, Cindi Lauper, The Hornheads, Jelloslave, Lori Line, Anthony Cox, Adam Meckler, Mary Louise Knutson, and many more. In 2010 Greg toured Iraq and Kuwait, performing for the US/Coalition Forces with singer/songwriter Keri Noble. From 2009-2013, Greg was commissioned to compose original music for Ananya Dance Theater, with premiers in Trinidad, Zimbabwe and Minneapolis. He toured with Ryan Bingham in summer 2016. Greg owns the Bathtub Shrine Studio in Northeast Minneapolis.
Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog is curated by Steve Kenny and is held every Saturday night at 308 E. Prince Street in the Northern Warehouse in Lowertown, St Paul. No cover but donations to the tip jar ($10 suggested) are appreciated to support the artists and the series. Full schedule at www.saturdaynightjazzattheblackdog.info. Full bar and dining service at the Black Dog and music every night — www.blackdogstpaul.com