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Bach’s birthday, and this week’s jazz picks

Johann Sebastian Bach was born 325 years ago this Sunday, and the Twin Cities are celebrating with a week-long musical offering.
The festivities began on Tuesday with a program at the Schubert Club and continued last night with a party at the Dakot

Johann Sebastian Bach was born 325 years ago this Sunday, and the Twin Cities are celebrating with a week-long musical offering.

The festivities began on Tuesday with a program at the Schubert Club and continued last night with a party at the Dakota featuring the Bach Society of Minnesota, area cello-and-percussion ensemble Jelloslave, and Matt Haimowitz, a brilliant young cellist who brings Bach (and Britten, Hindemith and Webern) to nontraditional performance spaces: bars, jazz clubs, rock clubs and taverns.

This weekend features more musical events (most of them free) including a live broadcast of MPR’s “Pipedreams” program with host Michael Barone and concerts at the First Unitarian Society, Central Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s Cathedral and other venues. For complete details, go here.

(Note to those consulting the brochure from the Bach Society: Julia Fischer’s recital at the Ted Mann on Monday has been canceled.)

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Bach has had a huge influence on all kinds of music, including jazz. Many jazz musicians grew up playing classical music; some still play it, whether straight or jazz-inflected. The great jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded many of Bach’s keyboard works; you can hear several examples on YouTube, including selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Goldberg Variations and French Suites.

For half a century, starting with the forming of his Play Bach Trio in 1959, French pianist Jacques Loussier has made a successful international career by bridging classical music and jazz. His Bach recordings are infused with improvisation and swing, and they’re delightful. YouTube has many examples including a performance of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. (Loussier discovered jazz through John Lewis, pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet, who recorded many improvisations on themes from Bach.)

Could someone — Orchestra Hall? Northrop? The Schubert Club? SPCO? The Dakota? — please, please bring Loussier to Minnesota? I may be wrong but I don’t believe he has ever performed here. He turns 76 this year. Let’s get a move on.

This week’s jazz picks are local and international:

Saturday, March 20: JazzMN Big Band: Composer of Our Time. Our very own big band continues its season with Grammy-nominated composer Fred Sturm and guest vocalists Voice Trek. Sturm’s jazz ensembles at Lawrence University and the Eastman School are among the finest in the land. Voice Trek features the Plaster sisters (Shelley, Vicki, and Rae), tenor Dennis Allaire and bass Kevin Smith. Excellent venue, lots of free parking. Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center, 2400 Lindbergh Drive, Minnetonka, 7:30 p.m. ($25-27 adults, $17 students, $10 student rush when available). Tickets at 1-866-811-4111 or online

Sunday, March 21: Anat Fort. One of several stellar Israeli musicians on today’s New York City jazz scene, Fort counts Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Elvis Costello, and John Coltrane among her influences. Before her early evening concert (with Adam Linz on bass and JT Bates on drums), she’ll give a two-hour workshop on the art of the piano trio. See and hear an excerpt from a recent performance in Hamburg. MacPhail Center for Music, 501 S. Second St., Minneapolis. Workshop (room 607): 3 to 5 p.m. (free). Concert (Antonello Hall): 6 p.m. ($10 adults/$5 youth at the door).

Monday and Tuesday, March 22 and 23: Arturo Sandoval. The Cuban trumpeter has been called “prodigious” but only for lack of a bigger word. (He also sings and plays piano and percussion.) Sandoval’s recording and film work have earned four Grammys, six Billboard Awards and an Emmy. Sandoval defected from Cuba in 1990 with help from Dizzy Gillespie, a tale told in the engaging Hollywood film “For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story” starring Andy Garcia. Here’s Sandoval’s sweet “Samba de Amore.”  Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, 7 and 9:30 p.m. ($45/$35). Tickets at 612-312-JAZZ (5299) or online.

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