I sort of retired “The Lead Sheet” when COVID shut down live music. And while I am no longer willing to commit to a weekly “heads up” regarding area jazz, I will try to provide frequent and timely commentary on what’s happening on the local scene. This is not intended as a listing of all the gigs and all the venues – keep looking at the calendar on this website, KBEM, specific venues, etc. And sign up for email and Mail Chimp lists maintained by your favorite musicians, watch for Facebook posts, Instagrams, etc. The Lead Sheet is simply one jazz fan’s periodic and biased attempt to highlight the fantastic, unique, unusual happenings in local jazz—mostly gigs but sometimes new recordings and…. whatever makes the Twin Cities jazz scene vibrate.
August 13 (Friday), Adam Meckler Orchestra (Belvedere Tent at Crooners, 7:30 pm). A few years back when trumpeter/educator Adam Meckler was an active part of the local jazz scene, his AMO drew high praise and large crowds. Largely comprised of the best of the younger generation of jazzers, AMO mostly performed original music, often augmented with vocals from Adam’s wife Jana Nyberg and fellow trumpeter Cameron Kinghorn. This is no traditional big band, with music influenced more directly by Maria Schneider and Bob Brookmeyer than Basie or Ellington, as well as reflecting the popular sounds of the 21st Now living and teaching in Michigan’s U.P., Adam returns to Crooners to celebrate the release of the band’s new EP, Music for the Water Walkway, recorded during the pandemic. (Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, 6161 Hwy 65 NE, Fridley; www.croonersloungemn.com)
August 14 (Saturday), Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog, with Youth Jazz Showcase and Sophia Kickhofel Quintet (Black Dog Café, 8/9:30 pm). Steve Kenny’s flagship weekly jazz night returned to Lowertown St Paul after the pandemic hiatus just two weeks ago, and Steve wasted no time filling the Saturday calendar with some of the area’s best bets, across generations. The young lions take the stage this weekend, with the return of the monthly Youth Jazz Showcase opening the evening. This series started more than a decade ago at the Artists Quarter and has moved a few times, now settled at the Black Dog, and highlighting the bright talents of our (mostly) high school and early college level jazzers. “Kids” who have been featured on this series have gone on to headliner status—like Charlie Lincoln, Will Kjeer, Peter Goggin and tonight’s young headliner, Sophia Kickhofel. The showcase tonight features an ensemble led by tenor saxophonist Collin Roycraft, a recent high school graduate who performed with the top ensemble of the Experience Jazz project during his senior year. And then the headliner set features one of the youngest bands to fill that slot at the Black Dog, and after the first notes, you will understand why Steve Kenny booked them. Leader and alto saxophonist Sophia Kickhofel just graduated from Apple Valley High School in June, but already is a veteran of the Twin Cities jazz scene as well as the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and soon to be a freshman at Juilliard. (And you will see her on the bandstand with the Adam Meckler Orchestra if you’re at Crooners Friday night!) Sophia led bands on opening sets at the Black Dog in the past year or two, and already has performed with a long list of area bandleaders. She’s definitely one of the youngest jazz veterans in town. Her ensemble includes more young monsters –pianist Lasse Corson and trumpeter Cyrus Mackey– and area veterans, bassist Graydon Peterson and drummer Miguel Hurtado. Do catch Sophia before she leaves for New York! (Black Dog, 308 Prince Street, St Paul; saturdaynightjazzattheblackdog.info)
August 14 (Saturday), Jazz Women All Stars (Crooners Main Stage, 8 pm). Five years ago, vocalist/radio personality Patty Peterson organized the Jazz Women All Stars, an ensemble highlighting the very fine talents of area (and former area) jazz women. Since their Twin Cities Jazz Fest debut, the JWAS have performed throughout the area with a somewhat rotating cast of instrumentalists and vocalists. Tonight the group pays tribute to the late Jeanne Arland Peterson, saluting her 100th Jeanne is one of the true legends of Minnesota music, a long-time keyboardist for the Minnesota Twins, much-recorded as vocalist/pianists, and the matriarch of “Minnesota’s First Family of Music,” two of whom are on stage tonight—leader Patty and her sister, vocalist/pianist Linda Peterson. They are joined by long-time members of the JWAS: saxophonist Sue Orfield, pianist Mary Louise Knutson, bassist/guitarist Joan Griffith, and drummer Sheila Earley. In any gender, this is a band of all-stars. (Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, 6161 Hwy 65 NE, Fridley; www.croonersloungemn.com)
From the Listening Room
These days, my listening is mostly from the Subaru Forester’s mediocre CD player. But take note of a couple new releases from area musicians: The unique sounds of a trombone trio from JC Sanford—Imminent Standards Volume 1— is a pandemic effort from the trio that played regularly in Northfield at Imminent Brewing (JC on trombone, Jeff Bailey on bass, and Phil Hey on drums). The harmonies are incomparable and ear-pleasing on a set of standards that now sound like new compositions. Although Ben Webster’s rendition of Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose” will likely always be my favorite version, this trio’s rendition is now #2. So glad this is volume 1, that should mean there will be a volume 2. (Hopefully requiring no pandemic.) Other new and upcoming releases locally that I hope to check out soon—Zacc Harris Group (Small Wonders), Tall Tales (Taller Tales) and Framework (Cognitive Dissonance). And from the national scene, one that I have only heard via a radio few tracks, but loved the music they played in July at the Iowa City Jazz Festival: Jennifer Wharton’s Bonegasm ensemble’s new release, aptly titled Not a Novelty. Bonegasm is a septet with a front line of 4 trombones (Jennifer on bass bone with Nate Mayland, Alan Ferber, and Sara Jacovino). John Fedchock replaced Mayland in Iowa City. Adding piano, bass and drums, this was a mini-orchestra of full symphonic sound and pretty darn cool to watch as well.
Go out and hear live music.