Now five years into her artistic and entrepreneurial work with her PipJazz organization, vocalist/songwriter/educator Pippi Ardennia will introduce a new band of young musicians–the VIP Sound Collective–as well as new music written with keyboardist/vocalist/arranger/composer Jo Schad at The Bedlam in Lowertown St. Paul on April 8, 9:30 pm. A portion of the proceeds ($20 ticket) will support the theater.
The PipJazz organization, which includes PipJazz Live, the nonprofit PipJazz Foundation, and its PipJazz Youth program, was conceived by Pippi Ardennia and drummer Glenn Swanson as a means to preserve and foster the art of jazz in our society by providing opportunities for students to perform and interact with professional musicians. For its first few years, PipJazz sponsored a concert season, pairing a guest artist with a “house band” of area professionals, along with a student guest artist from Twin Cities high schools and colleges. At least one “Youth Artist in Residence” was designated for each concert season. The Foundation later added a “Women in Jazz” workshop and performance event each season. Pippi and PipJazz Youth have also performed at special events, fundraisers, and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Over the past year, PipJazz has worked more often with “older” youth from McNally Smith College of Music and other young musicians working their way into the local jazz scene, with the focus of recent concerts on the young artists who serve as the PipJazz ensemble.
Pairing young musicians with seasoned professionals is a natural fit for Pippi Ardennia, whose own background includes performing as a teen with veteran Chicago musicians, as well as her recent work with students at Walker West and McNally Smith College of Music. The founder of PipJazz Live and the PipJazz Foundation, Pippi has been singing publically since she was 13 years old, and has performed at many of Chicago’s historic jazz venues, including the Burning Spear, High Chaparral, Capitol Theater, Mr. Kelly’s, Rosebud on Rush, Redhead, Green Dolphin, Tavern Club and Symphony Center, as well as the Taste of Chicago. In the Twin Cities, Pippi has performed at the Dakota Jazz Club, FACES Mears Park, Señor Wong, Bedlam Lowertown, and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. She’s sung for President Clinton, Chicago’s Mayor Daley, Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli, and shared the stage with Freddie Hubbard, George Freeman, Billy Branch, Johnny Taylor and more. “I used to think of myself as a ‘song stylist,’ rather than a jazz singer,” says Pippi. “I was a storyteller more than a technical singer. But after forty years, I think of myself as a real singer. But it’s about the emotion, the feeling.” Pippi has been featured on Town Square Television’s Girl Talk and WCCO’s Almanac; she was recently named a “Changemaker” by the staff of Minnesota Women’s Press magazine for her leadership of the PipJazz “Women in Jazz” workshop. Pippi released Love So Good in 2013, which features her original compositions and lyrics as well as a wide assortment of covers.
Jo Schad has served the PipJazz organization as an arranger, chart maker, and Artistic Assistant as well as frequent keyboardist, while also performing some of his own compositions. Jo attended Lawrence University and McNally Smith College of Music, studying Music Theory and Composition, Songwriting, and Piano Performance. His compositions were featured at a recent Zeitgeist New Music Cabaret.
The VIP Sound Collective
For her new band, Pippi pulled together some of the hottest talents among local (and Chicagoland) “young lions”:
- Ryan Nyther, trumpet. Based primarily in Chicago, Pippi’s cousin Ryan and his quartet play throughout Windy City jazz clubs. He’s appeared with Pippi on several gigs at the Bedlam in the past year.
- Jabari Powell, alto sax. Jabari recently relocated to the Twin Cities from Chicago, where he studied jazz at Columbia College. He’s a regular participant in “Solomon’s Sessions,” led by Solomon Parham at the Bedlam, as well as performing with Pippi.
- Joe Strachan, piano. One of the busiest young jazzers in the Twin Cities, Joe performs regularly with Chris Bates, Jake Baldwin, Adam Meckler, Miguel Hurtado, Ted Olsen and more. He’s a 2013 graduate of the University of Minnesota.
- Ted Olsen, bass. A 2015 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, Ted returned to his native Twin Cities where he has become a first-call sideman as well as leader of his own trio and quintet. His quintet performed on the Mears Park Main Stage of the 2015 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.
Rodney Ruckus, drums. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Rodney was selected as drummer for The Grammys in the School Foundation and received an Art Blakey Jazz Messengers Presidential Scholarship to the McNally Smith College of Music. He’s performed recently with Solomon Parham and Steve Kenny.
April 8 at The Bedlam
“I’m introducing the new group, VIP Sound Collective,” says Pippi of the April 8th show, “and an unplugged duet of new music written by Jo Schad and myself! This show is about creation and innovation!” The show (9:30-11:30 pm) will include an opening set from the Collective followed by Pippi and Jo, and no doubt there will be some music featuring all the musicians together. The $20 ticket (available at the door) will in part help support The Bedlam as well as the PipJazz Foundation.
The Bedlam is located at 213 E. 4th Street in St. Paul’s Lowertown, across from Union Depot. More about Pippi Ardennia and PipJazz at http://pipjazz.org