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Brad Mehldau rides into town, and other jazz picks

Friday-Saturday: Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. I’ve been listening to pianist Brad Mehldau  for a long time. To me, Mehldau and Fred Hersch are poets of the piano. Cerebral, lyrical, romantic, lush, delicate, moody (if occasionally noodly), Mehldau’s music always takes me places I want to go. His latest recording, the 11-piece suite “Highway Rider,” was a commission from Carnegie Hall, where Mehldau is the first jazz artist to hold the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair. It’s an intelligent, emotional conversation between jazz and classical music. For these world premiere live performances at the Walker, he’ll play with his trio (Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums), second drummer Matt Chamberlain, the great young saxophonist Joshua Redman (in whose band Mehldau played for two years), and our own St. Paul Chamber Orchestra,  directed by Scott Yoo. On Nov. 9 they’ll reconvene at Carnegie Hall, where the tickets are a lot more expensive. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video (with a little language at the start). Friday-Saturday, Nov. 5-6, 8 p.m., Walker Art Center, McGuire Theater ($25/$21 WAC members). Limited tickets available; call the box office at 612-375-7600.

Friday-Saturday: Dave King Trucking Company. There’s never a dull moment with drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Halloween Alaska, et cetera) and his fellow truckers Eric Fratzke on guitar, Adam Linz on bass, and Brandon Wozniak on saxophone. Between King’s surrealistic storytelling and the music — often surprisingly mellow and tuneful, given the iconoclastic bents of the players — these will be entertaining, satisfying shows with more than a little magic thrown in. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 5-6, 9 p.m., Artists’ Quarter, in the basement of the Hamm Building in St. Paul ($12).

Tuesday: Dean Magraw and Marcus Wise “How the Light Gets In” CD Release. Most Twin Cities music fans know that guitarist Dean Magraw has been out of the scene for the past year and a half, down with a serious illness. The good news is twofold: He’s recovering and he has a new CD with tabla player Marcus Wise. The CD release is not a performance but a listening party sponsored by the estimable Red House Records, with free appetizers, door prizes, and the opportunity to meet and greet the artists. Magraw is much loved and has been sorely missed, so expect a crowd and let’s all try not to hug him to pieces. Tuesday, Nov. 9, 9 p.m., Artists’ Quarter, in the basement of the Hamm Building in St. Paul. Sponsored by Red House Records; no cover. Mark your calendar for Feb. 5, when Magraw and Wise will perform at the Cedar.

Thursday: REEL Jazz: “The Last of the Blue Devils: The Kansas City Jazz Story.” KBEM’s jazz film series continues with Bruce Ricker’s take on KC jazz, featuring reunions and a concert performance by Count Basie and his band. Thursday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m., Trylon Microcinema, ($10). Reserve online.  Note: The Trylon is teensy, just 50 seats, so don’t wait until the last minute.

Plan ahead:

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

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