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MacPhail names Adam Linz to lead jazz program

Jazz may seem like an endangered species these days, with festivals being downsized or canceled, venues closing, and “JazzTimes” in trouble, but jazz education is thriving.

Jazz may seem like an endangered species these days, with festivals being downsized or canceled, venues closing, and “JazzTimes” in trouble, but jazz education is thriving. Colleges, universities, and conservatories like Juilliard, Berklee and the University of North Texas have robust jazz programs and top artists on their faculties.

In the Twin Cities, if you want jazz lessons for your children or yourself, you’re likely to turn to MacPhail Center for Music, where Adam Linz was recently named to head the jazz program.

Long respected as a resource for education and performance experiences, MacPhail has a history of strong community support and a higher-than-ever profile in its spectacular new home, the James Dayton-designed building up the street from the Guthrie.

Linz has deep local roots and musical connections around the world. He attended Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park, studied with Peter Olson at MacPhail, and earned his bachelor of music degree from William Paterson University in New Jersey. He has taught at Music Tech, Mars Music and the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth, and currently teaches at both MacPhail and Augsburg.

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Like most Twin Cities musicians, Linz plays with many people and bands, but he’s probably best known as the bassist for Fat Kid Wednesdays, his trio with saxophonist Michael Lewis and drummer J.T. Bates. When they’re not touring France, where they’re hugely popular, FKW can usually be found at the Clown Lounge in the basement of the Turf Club on Monday nights.

Writing for “The New Yorker,” Richard Brody dubbed FKW “one of the best working jazz bands of the day.”

Linz takes over from trumpeter Kelly Rossum, who is moving to New York at the end of the summer. Rossum leaves big footprints. During his tenure, he took MacPhail’s jazz program from emerging to established and healthy. He became a major presence in the Twin Cities jazz community, playing with various groups and bands (including his own quintet) and releasing several CDs.

Rossum gives the thumbs-up to Linz’s appointment.

“I am extremely pleased to find out that the Twin Cities’ own Adam Linz was selected as my successor to lead the jazz program at MacPhail,” Rossum told MinnPost in a prepared statement. “Not only is Mr. Linz one of the premier jazz musicians in the Midwest (and possibly the entire country), he’s also a MacPhail alumni. … He has that combination of talent, dedication and warmth that fits MacPhail perfectly.”

MinnPost spoke with Linz about his plans and his past.

MinnPost: What led you to apply for this position?

Adam Linz: When I heard it was open, I thought, “This is meant to be.” A small program, which is awesome; working with the Dakota Combo [an elite group of high-school jazz musicians], which is what I do best. … I’m in a good place in my life right now where this is the right thing.

MP: What are you most looking forward to doing?

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AL: Continuing with the program, trying to expand on it; I would like to get more kids in there, especially from rural areas. Making the jazz program better known so when people think of Minneapolis and the jazz scene, they’ll think of MacPhail.

MP: What do you want people to know about you?

AL: Practicing is good! [He laughs.] I don’t know. … I always felt like an underdog. I was taking musical risks with my so-called career and still am. … Growing up, my favorite players were guys who did a lot of different things, as opposed to guys who did one thing well. I started visiting New York when I was a young kid; my uncle is the bassist Tom Hubbard. He wasn’t just into one thing. I would raid his record collection. There was so much stuff in there. That gave me a good foundation for the fact that there isn’t just one way to play this music, or just one way to present this music. … You have to take chances to find your own identity.

MP: This is probably premature, but are there any new ideas you want to try at MacPhail?

AL: I just want to make sure it continues to grow and flourish. Given the times we’re living in, it’s getting harder to say that. But I have faith in MacPhail and the community. … As visible as MacPhail is, I want to make it more visible.

MP: You’re going to have to get yourself a website.

AL: Why?

Pamela Espeland keeps a Twin Cities live jazz calendar and blogs about jazz at Bebopified.  She throws out the occasional jazz-related tweet. Find more Twin Cities jazz calendars and news online at Jazz Police.