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Free jazz at the Fair: From big band to Brasil

We won’t see Sonny Rollins in Heritage Square or The Bad Plus at Leinie’s Lodge, but this year’s Minnesota State Fair will feature jazz along with fried food and seed art, tractors and politicians, Ferris wheels, golden retrievers, a haunted house, and the occasional escaped pig making a futile run for freedom followed by men carrying planks and boards.

Looking through this year’s entertainment schedule, I see a preponderance of polka, plenty of men in cowboy hats, and a dummy. (The latter appears with ventriloquist James Wedgewood.) In the Grandstand, perhaps Donald Fagen will bring some of his Steely Dan jazz harmonies into play when he performs with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in the “Dukes of September Rhythm Revue,” but it will cost you to find out.

All of the shows listed here are free with Fair admission. Most happen in the International Bazaar, a nice stage with lots of seating and beer nearby.

Here’s your guide to jazz at the Fair, day by day and hour by hour.

Thursday, Aug. 26 and Friday, Aug. 27: International Bazaar: Sisters of Swing. Raymond Berg leads a musical tribute to the Andrews Sisters (“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”). 3:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 29: Ramberg Senior Center: Pig’s Eye Jass Band. The oldest continuous trad jazz band in the Twin Cities — so old they spell it “jass.” Music by King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory, Bessie Smith, and more. Aug. 28: 3:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m. Aug. 29: 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 1:00 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 30 and Tuesday, Aug. 31: International Bazaar: Café Accordion Orchestra. The Twin Cities-based quintet just released a splendid new CD, “Berets & Bongos,” and I’m guessing they’ll dip into this tasty mix of music from nine countries with vocals in six languages — including a French waltz version of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing.” 3:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 5:45 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 30, and Tuesday, Aug. 31: Leinie Lodge Bandshell: Bellagalla Big Band. Russ Peterson leads a band made up of many of the Twin Cities’ best jazz musicians. Whether playing songs by Sinatra or Setzer, they’re tight. 10:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m.

Monday, Aug. 30 and Tuesday, Aug. 31: Heritage Square: Billy McLaughlin and the Eclectric String Quartet.  McLaughlin’s personal story is compelling: a 20-year career, an incurable neuromuscular disease that left him unable to play his own music, an astonishing comeback. Expect a mélange of acoustic, jazz and pop, fingerstyle guitar , violins, viola and cello. 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 1 and Thursday, Sept. 2: Heritage Square: Galactic Cowboy Orchestra. The Galactic Cowboys meld electric sounds and jazz with traditional bluegrass. Garrison Keillor liked them enough to invite them to “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2008. 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 1 and Thursday, Sept. 2: International Bazaar: Jack Brass Band. New Orleans comes to Minnesota when this young, exciting, we’ll-play-anything band takes the stage (or, as often happens, leads a parade). Dixieland jazz meets blues, rock, hip-hop, and more, all powered by a lot of horns. 10:45 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:15 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 3, and Saturday, Sept. 4: International Bazaar: Ticket to Brasil. Travel to Rio with guitarist Pavel Jany and his Brazilian jazz combo. Swing your hips (oh yes you will) to the rhythms of the boss nova and samba. 10:45 p.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:15 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 5, and Monday, Sept. 6: International Bazaar: Charanga Tropical. The hot sounds of Cuban jazz, played by area Latin jazz musicians and led by saxophonist Doug Little. Stop by Manny’s Tortas on the way. 3:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m.

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

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