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Northrop announces 2009-10 music and jazz season(s)

Reflecting the realities of the current music economy, the Northrop Jazz Season, launched in 1993 by Dale Schatzlein, has now become the “Northrop 09//10 Music and Jazz Seasons.”

No jazz festival, series or season is exclusively jazz anymore; the 2009 Montreal Jazz Festival opened with Stevie Wonder and heavily promoted such non-jazz acts as Jeff Beck, Mos Def, and Burning Spear. Many jazz clubs, including the Dakota in Minneapolis and Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., are featuring other types of music in addition to jazz.

The use of "seasons" (plural) to describe Northrop’s program may be a way of communicating the separate-but-equal nature of the new blend. The double slash separating 09 and 10 is kind of an equal sign turned sideways.

In a nutshell, the new season (we’ll simplify to the singular) includes six events, four of which fall under the jazz umbrella. Purists may, if they wish, subscribe only to the jazz. But Northrop’s Director of Concerts and Lectures, Ben Jonson, hopes subscribers will take a chance on all six. In fact, a common theme runs through the new season: This is world music, not limited to a particular country, history or tradition.

Thursday, Oct. 8: The season opens, courageously, with the Larry Ochs Sax & Drumming Core. Led by saxophonist Ochs, it’s a journey through free jazz, American blues, Eastern European sounds, and traditional Asian and African chant. Their latest CD, "Stone Shift," due out in September 2009, was recorded live at the Teatro Fondamenta Nuove in Venice. How cool is that? Here they will perform at the Whole Music Club in Coffman Union.

Saturday, Nov. 21: Young Cuban drummer and composer Dafnis Prieto brings his sextet to the McGuire Theater at the Walker Art Center. Think Latin jazz meets 21st-century postbop. Prieto is all over the jazz press these days; he has won two Grammy nominations, composed the title track of a Grammy-winning album, and received commissions from Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others. His trumpeter is Ralph Alessi, recently seen at the Walker with Jason Moran’s "Monk at Town Hall" project.

Friday, Feb. 26: The 32-member Swedish Radio Choir brings its unique brand of contemporary, baroque, gospel, and folk a cappella choral music to the Ted Mann Concert Hall. If you’re keeping score, this is a Northrop Music event, not a Northrop Jazz event. And a smart choice for a city with a lot of Scandinavians. Will they perform only Scandinavian music? Not on your meatball. The program includes works by Mahler, Ned Rorem and Frank Martin, as well as by Swedish composers David Wikander and Lars Johan Werle.

Monday, March 15: Violinist and MacArthur Genius Grant winner Regina Carter performed with her quintet as part of the 2003-04 Northrop Jazz Season. She returns to the Ted Mann with her "Reverse Thread" project, an intermingling of folk melodies from the African Diaspora with music from throughout her career including selections from "Paganini: After a Dream," the recording on which she played Paganini’s violin (under heavy guard). She’s bringing Malian kora player Yacouba Sissoko.

Saturday, April 10: Panamanian jazz pianist and composer Danilo Perez pays tribute to Dizzy Gillespie with "Things to Come — 21st Century Dizzy," performed by a diverse band including David Sanchez, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Amir ElSaffar and Jamey George Haddad. At the Ted Mann.

Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2: Get happy with “The Happiness Project.” Indie rocker Charles Spearin, founder of the Toronto-based bands Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think, combines music and spoken word in an exploration of the subject of happiness. Not part of the jazz season, this event will be presented at the Southern Theater.

Also in the plans for the 09/10 season: a collaboration with the Twin Cities-based jazz collective Jazz is NOW!, led by Jeremy Walker. We’re not quite sure what that means, but neither Northrop’s Ben Jonson nor Walker is short on imagination so this presents intriguing possibilities. (You can hear the Jazz is NOW! NOWnet well in advance of the new Northrop season. The composers’ ensemble performs at the Dakota this Thursday, July 23, at 7 p.m.)

Season tickets to the Northrop music and jazz events are on sale now through the Northrop Ticket office at 612-624-2345. You can also download the order form from Prices for the four jazz events range from $40 (U of M student) to $109; for all six events, $60 (U of M student) to $170. Individual tickets go on sale Aug. 3.

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

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