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The state of jazz, and this week's jazz picks

Earlier this week, I read yet another gloom-and-doom piece about the state of jazz today. Author Kurt Ellenberger, a jazz pianist, composer and educator, cited the death of the International Association of Jazz Educators, the cancellation of major jazz festivals, the closing of clubs, the demise of several jazz magazines, the difficulty of making a living as a jazz musician, and the irony that jazz education has become, in a sense, a dragon eating its own tail (if you get a degree in jazz, chances are you’ll end up getting paid to teach, not play.)

“Music is a cultural artifact,” Ellenberger wrote, “and the culture has moved on.”

Later that night, I went to see the Dave Holland Quintet at the Dakota, where bassist Holland and his group of superb musicians played some pretty great jazz for an attentive and appreciative crowd. A friend told me of her plans to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer. Another friend wanted to know which night of the upcoming Twin Cities Jazz Festival was best to attend. (If I had to choose, I’d say Friday.) As long as people who come to our jazz festival don’t go mad trying to find parking amid the LRT construction currently under way in St. Paul (you’ve been warned), Lowertown will be full of people out to hear jazz.

So, jazz could be more popular, but it isn’t. And it won’t ever be as popular again as it was during the Big Band Era. But it’s alive in many forms and places, some of which we list here every Friday, and thanks very much for reading.

Jazz worth seeing this weekend and into next week:

Friday, June 4: Debbie Duncan and the Great American Songbook. Debbie Duncan closes the Capri Theater’s “Legends” season by spotlighting composer and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Here’s a preview of the show from Duncan’s recent appearance on TPT’s “Almanac.” She’s a consummate performer we sometimes take for granted because she lives in the Twin Cities. That’s a mistake. She’ll be joined on stage by Mary Louise Knutson (piano), Jay Young (bass), and Nathan Norman (drums). Capri Theater, 2207 West Broadway, Minneapolis, Friday, 7 p.m. ($25). Tickets online or by phone (866-811-4111) until 4 p.m. Friday. As of Thursday morning, there were very few tickets left.

Saturday, June 5: Glacier Jazz Festival. This is listed in the calendar of free outdoor jazz published late last week, but without much description (“local jazz artist showcase”). Thanks to David Henning of Glacier Studios, who’s hosting and organizing the event, here’s the scoop. The Zacc Harris Quartet will play at 3:30 p.m., followed by The Willie August Project at 5 and Hanson, Ren & Roessler at 6:30. The Zacc Harris Quartet is Zacc Harris on guitar, Jay Epstein on drums, Chris Bates on bass, and Bryan Nichols on keys. Hear Harris on his MySpace page. The Willie August Project is guitarist Ben Siems, drummer Jeremy Hauer, and bassist Scott Hornick. Listen here. Hanson, Ren & Roessler is saxophonist Nathan Hanson, pianist Rahjta Ren and bassist Brian Roessler. I haven’t heard this trio, but I have heard the endlessly inventive Hanson and Roessler. Guitarist Henning says he’ll probably sit in. This will be a good day of music. Lake Harriet Bandshell, 43rd Street West and East Lake Harriet Parkway, Minneapolis, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Free.

Monday and Tuesday, June 7-8: Stacey Kent. Born in the USA, Stacey Kent went to Europe to study French, Italian and German, met a tenor saxophone player named Jim Tomlinson, fell in love, started singing in a jazz club, and has since won a bootful of British jazz awards. She’s blessed with an instantly recognizable voice — a sweet, sexy whisper in your ear — and she knows how to use it. Her brand-new CD on Blue Note, “Raconte-Moi” (Tell Me), is sung entirely in French, the language of love. Here’s “La Venus du Mélo.” Kent will perform with Tomlinson (who does a “puh-puh-puh” thing on his sax that makes me swoon), Art Hirahara on piano, Gordy Johnson on bass, and Phil Hey on drums. Area musicians Johnson and Hey are part of Kent’s touring band when she performs in North America. They’re all spending this week at Birdland in New York City. Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Monday-Tuesday, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ($35/$25). Tickets at the door or online.

Pamela Espeland keeps a Twin Cities live jazz calendar, blogs about jazz at Bebopified  and tweets about jazz on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Thanks for helping keep jazz vital in the Twin Cities.