© Andrea Canter
For the past 140 weeks (or so), Steve Kenny has presented two sets of jazz on the Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series, usually starting the evening with a new configuration, a new project or a youth jazz ensemble, followed by a veteran, well-established band in the headliner slot. But so far, it’s been all instrumental jazz. That “glass ceiling” shatters this weekend when vocalist Maryann Sullivan and her Corner Jazz group open the night (April 8, 7 pm), followed by the Steve Kenny Quartet at 8:30 pm.
Maryann Sullivan and Corner Jazz (7 pm)
Former host of the Jazz Corner and Local Corner shows on KBEM Radio and a frequent “voice over” performer, Maryann Sullivan released her debut recording (Coffee Time) a few years ago to introduce the community to her “other voice.” And now, she’s half of Retro Swing Sister (with Rhonda Laurie), one-third of Jazz Alley (with Katia Cardenas and Sarah M. Greer), a frequent soloist with the Twin Cities 7, and leader of Corner Jazz. Simply, Corner Jazz is a very swinging ensemble with a repertoire of favorite standards and some less familiar tunes deserving wider recognition, with each musician reflecting Maryann’s enthusiasm — “When I’m up there singing, I’m just happy.” The joy will be shared on April 8 by saxophonist Doug Haining, pianist Ted Godbout, bassist Ted Olsen, and drummer Trevor Haining.
Steve Kenny Quartet (8:30 pm)
For many years, trumpeter Steve Kenny has led bands boasting as many young lions as elder statesmen. His “Bastids” had a five-year, weekly run at the Artists Quarter, followed by Group 47, starting out at the AQ before the club closed in late 2013. Steve Kenny’s Group 47 continues to be a popular ensemble on the local jazz scene. Steve also launched Central Standard Time, a cross-generational band that has performed at the Black Dog in St. Paul. In spring 2016, Steve launched yet another band featuring a younger generation of jazz standouts. With Javi Santiago on piano, Ted Olsen on bass and Rodney Ruckus on drums, this edition of the Steve Kenny Quartet has performed throughout the Midwest as well as at local venues.
Steve Kenny studied at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Among many projects, he has performed with Pete Whitman’s Departure Point, Dave Karr, The Five, What Would Monk Do, and the Cedar Avenue Big Band. He’s best known as co-founder of the Illicit Sextet, an ensemble popular in the 1990s before taking a long hiatus, and back in action since 2009, with a new CD released last week. Steve has received a Minnesota Music Award, West Bank School of Music Jazz Composer Award, a commission from Zeitgeist, and multiple honors as Best Jazz Trumpet at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. With support from state arts board grants, he’s curated the “All Originals” jazz series at Studio Z for the past three summers. In fall 2014 he launched the weekly Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series, and in spring 2015, brought a similar series (Friday Night Jazz) to The Nicollet, now on Thursdays at Reverie. And that instrument he plays? It’s a Flumpet™– a hybrid trumpet/flugelhorn. Kenny will release an album featuring several editions of his quartet in 2017.
Minneapolis native Javi Santiago comes by his musical bent honestly, the son of drummer Mac and vocalist Laurie Santiago, and grandson of Latin percussion master, the late Luis Santiago. Javi began studying piano at age 7, turning to jazz piano and trumpet at age 10, and playing with the bands in middle school and high school as well as the Minnesota Youth Jazz Band and the first edition of the Dakota Combo under the direction of Kelly Rossum. A former student of pianist Tanner Taylor, Javi was selected as a Fellow of the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific after completing high school, where he attended for the maximum two years. From Brubeck, Javi moved on to complete his college studies at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, graduating in 2011. After returning to the Twin Cities, Javi has become a significant voice on the local jazz scene as sideman and bandleader. In fall 2016, his trio paid tribute to the great Ahmad Jamal as part of the Jazz at Studio Z series, and he has recently returned from a series of gigs on the West Coast.
Ted Olsen studied bass with Travis Schilling and Adam Linz. He graduated from St. Paul’s Como Park High School and went on to study composition at Luther College in Decorah, IA, finishing college studies at the University of Northern Colorado in spring 2015. In the Twin Cities, Ted has taught at the Twin Cities Jazz Workshop and has performed as leader and sideman at various venues including the Artists Quarter, Jazz Central, Black Dog, Icehouse, Vieux Carré, and Twin Cities Jazz Festival. His quartet has also performed on the Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series.
Drummer Rodney Ruckus is truly a multi-instrumentalist who also plays piano and bass. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music where he attended on full scholarship, he was also 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 has traveled all over the world playing with Tia Fuller, Ralph Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Billy Childs, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Roy Hargrove, Wynton Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, and more. His ensembles have been featured at Jazz Central, Reverie, the Black Dog and beyond, and he has recently toured in the Midwest and West Coast. Unfortunately for Twin Cities audiences, his West Coast tour was so successful that he will be relocating to the Bay Area this spring!
Steve has also promised “special guests” on April 8!
Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog takes place weekly at 308 Prince Street in the Northern Warehouse in the heart of St. Paul’s Lowertown Arts District. No cover but donations to the tip jar ($10 suggested) are appreciated to support the series and the musicians. Saturday schedule at www.saturdaynightjazzattheblackdog.info; full music and event schedule for the Black Dog at www.blackdogstpaul.com