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The Original Edition: The Phil Aaron Trio at Vieux Carre’, June 15th

Twin Cities
Phil Aaron, © Andrea Canter
Phil Aaron, © Andrea Canter

Back in the 1990s, the Hotel Sofitel presented some of the metro’s best jazz on Friday nights. The Sofitel was home to the original edition of the Phil Aaron Trio with bassist Gary Raynor and drummer Jay Epstein. After a long hiatus, the “old” Phil Aaron Trio returned to action at Vieux Carré in downtown St. Paul last November, and are back again on Wednesday, June 15, at 8 pm.

Pianist Phil Aaron is a Chicago native who studied music at the Berklee College of Music and the University of Illinois.  After ten years in LA, he moved to Minneapolis in 1989, becoming fully immersed in the local jazz scene, and hosting a long-running trio gig at the Hotel Sofitel. By day,  Phil works as a composer of film and television scores winning an Emmy in 2007 for his scoring work on the PBS animated series, “Auto-B-Good.” As a performing jazz artist, Phil has shared the stage with Lee Konitz, Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, Jim Snidero, Byron Stripling, Barbara Morrison and Jackie Allen, among others, and has provided piano accompaniment to many local jazz singers and ensembles. An active recording artist as sideman and on five CDs of his own, Phil plays regularly with his own trio, Lucia Newell, the Phil Hey Quartet, Batunde Lea, Joyce Lyons and more. Drawing inspiration from Bill Evans, Cedar Walton, Tommy Flanagan, and Keith Jarrett, he “can swing hard or wax romantic at the keyboard” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

Gary Raynor, © Andrea Canter
Gary Raynor, © Andrea Canter

A Minnesota resident since 1977, Gary Raynor (bass) toured with Sammy Davis Jr., performed with the Count Basie Band, Rupert’s Orchestra, Richie Cole, Claudio Roditi, Herb Ellis, Mark Murphy, and Clark Terry, and has appeared with dozens of Broadway touring shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. A long-time performer with Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band on Prairie Home Companion, Raynor is featured on Janet Jackson’s hit single “Again” and the original Rio Nido album, I Like to Riff. Locally Gary has performed with Debbie Duncan, Bruce Henry, Dave Karr, Manfredo Fest, Laura Caviani, Pete Whitman, Reuben Ristrom, Tim Sparks, the JazzMN Orchestra, and more.

Jay Epstein, © Andrea Canter
Jay Epstein, © Andrea Canter

Of trapset master Jay Epstein, Cadence Magazine’s David Lewis noted that “his dazzling cymbal and snare work extends the lineage of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette.” In addition to his long run with the Phil Aaron Trio, Jay has more recently toured with Richie Cole and Five by Design. These days, Jay keeps busy with Red Planet, Framework, Counterclockwise, Firebell, Bronkow Vision, Off the Map, Dean Granros’ Tall Tales, and in support of a long list of area vocalists and instrumentalists. Jay released Long Ago on Igmod Records, has recorded with Bill Carrothers, and appears on each of Gordon Johnson’s Trios, among a long list of sideman credits.

The opening set on June 15th (6 pm)  features Pushing Chain, a “folky tonk” duo from the North Shore, featuring Boyd Blomberg on guitar and vocals and Adam Moe on fiddle and vocals.

Vieux Carré is located in the lower level of the Hamm Building (408 St. Peter Street) in downtown St. Paul, in the space formerly occupied by the Artists Quarter. No cover for the opening sets, $5 cover for the Phil Aaron Trio at 8 pm. Visit http://vieux-carre.com