Saturday Night Jazz at kj's hideaway

EP April: Epilogue/Prologue (Replacing the Lead Sheet)

Featured TCJF Twin Cities
KBEM’s Jazz Legends of 2023 with Patty Peterson and supporting musicians (2024 Legends event at the Minnesota History Center, April 14)

As you may have noticed, this is not the Lead Sheet. When I started the Lead Sheet over a decade ago, there were far fewer venues for jazz in the Twin Cities. While we may have even fewer “pure jazz” venues now, there are more and more venues that offer jazz regularly, at least a couple nights per week. While that is great news for veteran and aspiring musicians, it has not been easy for part-time journalists. Simply, I can’t keep up with the options for jazz audiences each month, and while there are more places to listen, there are few venues that do a good job promoting their schedules well in advance. So I have decided to retire the Lead Sheet rather than drastically change its content.

In its place, I am offering a simpler, shorter monthly, more editorial column that sums up this one listener’s favorite gigs of the past month and a small peek at coming attractions, particularly looking for infrequently presented, unusual, and original music.

For all the rest, check out favorite venue or musician website calendars, sign up for mailing lists, scan social media, listen to our jazz radio station KBEM. And help spread the word yourself.

Epilogue—Looking back at March Music

March was a stellar month of jazz and modern improvised music, starting out with the Tomeka Reid Stringtet at the Walker (March 2). Cellist/composer Reid assembled a 15-piece orchestra featuring only strings plus 2 percussionists, combining her New York and Chicago-based ensembles into one glorious, mostly free improvising ensemble conducted by Taylor Ho Bynum.

JD Allen Trio at Jazz Central

New York Saxophonist JD Allen came to town to perform with a locally enhanced trio at Jazz Central (March 8) and planned night at kj’s hideaway with the Cody Steinman Trio. With kj’s sudden demise, the Saturday date moved to the Icehouse, but on Friday, Jazz Central hosted his high energy outing with Jeff Bailey and Abinnet Berhanu in front of an overflowing crowd. The fare was standards turned inside-out and Allen not only displayed energy to match his wide reaching tenor but eagerly egged on his partners. Berhanu must have left scorch marks on his kit.

A new partnership launched in February as the Schubert Club joined forces with Crooners for a series of classically oriented chamber sessions on the Main Stage, hosted by soprano Maria Jette. Their March 23rd concert featured an eclectic group of works including Reinaldo Moya’s trio setting of Ogden Nash’s “Two Dogs Have I.” Stunning work from Stephanie Arvado (violin), Sonja Thompson (piano), and Jette herself.

Certainly one of the hottest piano talents in town these days, Kavyesh Kaviraj paid homage to hero Ahmad Jamal at The Dakota (March 25). And as did Jamal, he assembled a sympathetic trio with Anthony Cox on bass and Kevin Washington on drums. Their obligatory encore “Poinciana” did justice to the original, but more exciting were other Jamal gems from his trio and final solo recordings, originals and arrangements including a stunning run through Bill Evans’ “Emily.”

Cyrille Aimee

But hands down, my favorite show of the month was the evening with multi-lingual vocalst/songwriter Cyrille Aimee, at The Dakota (March 19). I’ve heard her several times at The Dakota as well as (in her early career) at the Detroit Jazz Festival, and I have always enjoyed her light swinging style and engaging stage presence. But this show was not only the most enjoyable of any I’ve heard from her to date, it was one of the best vocal performances I’ve witnessed. Period. Cyrille doesn’t have a big voice but she fills the club space with a sincere high energy delivery. She excels as a storyteller both musically and in introducing her songs, particularly those she has written—and most of this show was original fare. Her stories were essential without overblown—everything in support of the music, personal details without self-indulgence. She’s reminiscent of Stacy Kent and even Nellie McKay (playing the ukulele, too), but more spontaneous than either. Her three supporting musicians were perfect foils. Unlike many standing ovations in Minnesota, this one was simply the least we could do after such an exhilarating evening.

Addendum. I knew I should have waited til Stanley Jordan’s gig at The Dakota before posting. His March 29th solo show went far beyond any I have witnessed, particularly his connection to the audience, and I have seen him a number of times over the years. He’s a virtuoso performer and inventive composer and improviser, always. But something special happened this night. Of course he shined on solo guitar, solo guitar with piano, solo guitar with piano and voice. But the energy was more contagious than ever; he offered an “Autumn Leaves” that morphed into a Jimi Hendrix extravaganza; he took Sting’s “Fragile” into another dimension. And when it was all over, it wasn’t. Jordan was having fun and he was no more ready to leave the stage than the audience was willing to let him go. We were then treated to a half-hour Q and A, with Stanley seeming happy to answer wide-ranging questions while providing us with off-the-cuff sincerity and insight into his music and personal history.


Prologue—Looking Ahead to April

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and in the Twin Cities we have plenty to appreciate! In particular:

Patrick Adkins

Patrick Adkins at Jazz Central (April 3).  If you weren’t already aware, Jazz Central Studios recently received the gift of a fabulous Steinway grand piano, previously owned by the late Art Resnick. Now, on the first Wednesday of each month, Jazz Central shows off the piano with a solo night. April features young pianist/composer/bandleader Patrick Adkins. I’ve known Patrick since he was in his mid teens and playing with other young musicians in the Dakota Combo. He went on to study at Lawrence Conservatory and has been composing and leading ensembles around the Twin Cities. This is a good opportunity to hear the future of jazz in the Twin Cities and well beyond, as well as what a young master can do with a fabulous instrument.

Anat Cohen

Anat Cohen and Marcello Goncalves at The Dakota (April 4). I can’t count the number of times I have heard Anat Cohen live in the past decade. She’s as prolific as a performer as she is as a composer, bandleader and recording artist, primarily renowned as a virtuosic clarinetist but also a skilled saxophonist. From classical jazz to Brazilian to original music, she has played frequently in the Twin Cities at The Dakota and Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Now she is back with seven-string guitarist Marcello Concalves celebrating the compositions of Brazilian composer Moacir Santos that they recorded on their Grammy-nominated Outra Coisa. Said Downbeat.  “Outra Coisa is a duo album that achieves something very rare: It reduces the big band arrangements of the great Brazilian jazz composer Santos down to just two musicians… The mastery of the two musicians is such as to render additional instruments superfluous.”

Herbie Hancock at The State Theater (April 4). We have an embarrassment of riches on April 4 with piano legend Herbie Hancock in town the same night as Anat Cohen. It’s a much more expensive ticket but, hey, it’s Herbie Hancock. Do I need to say anything about one of the most iconic figures in jazz? The winner of 14 Grammies and an Academy Award, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Kennedy Center Honoree, NEA Jazz Master, and host of International Jazz Day, Hancock rose to fame in the bands of Miles Davis and his own Headhunters. For his State Theater performance, he is joined by Terence Blanchard (trumpet), Devin Douglas (sax), James Genus (bass), Trevor Lawrence Jr (drums) and Lionel Loueke (guitar).

Steve Kenny

Steve Kenny Quintet and 60th Birthday Celebration at The Berlin (April 6). I have yet to get over to the new acclaimed music club, The Berlin, in Minneapolis’s North Loop. I am hearing raves about the music, the sound, and generally the club’s atmosphere. With the closing of kj’s last month, Saturday Night Jazz curator Steve Kenny is looking for alternative digs, and at least for this one night, he brings that long-running Saturday Night Jazz vibe to The Berlin with a hot quintet (with Kavyesh Kaviraj, Dave Brattain, Dan Carpel and Abinnet Berhanu) and “special guests.” Oh yes, it’s also Steve’s 60th birthday so fun as well as great music is guaranteed.

Aaron Diehl

Aaron Diehl at Sundin Hall (April 7). Presented by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, this stellar and eclectic  pianist presents a solo program of Gershwin, Art Tatum and original compositions in the intimate setting of Hamline’s Sundin Hall. Diehl will be familiar to fans of Cecile McLorin Salvant, with whom he has appeared at The Dakota and on recordings. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that “there’s an entire world of jazz in Aaron Diehl’s playing…he makes the case that jazz is not one style or genre but many, gliding gorgeously among decades of artistic influences.”

KBEM’s Jazz Legends at Minnesota History Center (April 14).  For ten years, vocalist, radio personality, and the 2023 Jazz Journalists Association’s “Jazz Hero Minnesota” Patty Peterson has produced and hosted KBEM’s Jazz Legends, an annual event celebrating the region’s icons of jazz. Held at the Minnesota History Center Theater, the celebration includes an afternoon of live music and interviews with the Legends.  This year’s honorees are saxophonist/clarinetist and music educator, Brian Grivnapianist/arranger Mikkel Romstad, internationally known cardiologist, saxophonist, clarinetist and practitioner of New Orleans Jazz, Dr. Henry Blackburn, and award-winning jazz vocalist and educator, the late Roberta Davis. The Jazz Legends will perform music they love and talk with Patty about their journeys and becoming part of Minnesota’s jazz history.  The trio of Phil Aaron, Graydon Peterson and Phil Hey will accompany the legends. (This event will be recorded for broadcast on KBEM.)

Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso

Jim Caruso’s Cast Party With Billy Stritch at Crooners (April 12). Yes, I am recommending an Open Mic Night! I might have never known what fun (and what talent) awaits the audience at this now-annual show had I not been invited to come and take photos a few years ago when Cast Party first hit the Main Stage at Crooners. Now I will be sure to go every year. The original Cast Party hosted by Jim Caruso is a mainstay on the New York music scene, a weekly event at Birdland for more than 20 years. Caruso and pianist Billy Stritch bring that same award-winning “Broadway wit and urbane glitz” to Fridley. It’s not exactly a jazz event but many of the vocalists who sign on for the night are among our best known singers, joined by an array of talents from young teens to “mature” performers. It’s a night of wild variety, great talents, and a lot of fun.


Heads Up: Early May Alert!

Think ahead, early May includes:

  • Dan Weiss

    Dan Weiss Trio with Miguel Zenon and Matt Mitchell at the Icehouse (May 2-3);

  • Jenny Klukken’s Mirimbista at Crooners (May 3);
  • Lynn Arriale, gala and fundraiser at the Metronome (May 4-5);
  • John Pizzarelli at The Dakota (with JazzMN May 11, Trio May 12);