Five nights of hometown jazz, heavy on the singers

Carole Martin
Photo by Pamela Espeland
Carole Martin will sing tonight and Saturday at the Artists’ Quarter.

Sometimes I play a mental game called (for lack of something punchier) “If I were in New York right now, what jazz would I go see?” I check The New Yorker and club websites and suffer pangs of Big Apple envy. Then I learn what’s happening here and realize how glad I am to stay put.

If you like singers, these five nights are for you, too.

Friday: Carole Martin

Martin is an old-school torch singer. Luminous on stage, she imbues every song with emotion, class and the wisdom that comes from experience.

She supported her family by singing through the 1960s and 1970s and stopped making a career of it in the early 1980s. Her comeback CD, “Pieces of Dreams,” was released in 2004 and widely praised; “Songs from My Heart” came out in 2005.

Martin performs three or four times a year at the Artists’ Quarter, the St. Paul jazz club owned by her son-in-law, Kenny Horst. It’s always a special occasion and usually packed. See and hear her sing “Blame It on My Youth” below.

This time she’ll be joined by Gary Berg on saxophones and chromatic harmonica (the one with the Stevie Wonder sound), Phil Aaron on piano, Tom Lewis on bass, and Horst on drums. In her rich, expressive, utterly genuine alto voice, she’ll sing about beautiful friendships, Canadian sunsets, and waiting at a bar named Joe’s for a lover who never shows. Your heart will break and you’ll go home happy.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, March 21 (also Saturday, March 22)
Where: Artists’ Quarter, St. Paul
How much: $10

Saturday: JazzMN Big Band with Kevin Mahogany
When I interviewed Mahogany recently, he told me he likes it when people approach him after a show to say hi, so don’t be shy. He also confessed to a weakness for the TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.” Read a preview here.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22
Where: Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center
How much: $25/$27 (adult), $10 (student rush)

J.D. Steele
J.D. Steele

Sunday: J.D. Steele
Save Easter evening for the Steeles, Minnesota’s first family of soul.

The Dakota show is billed as a CD release event for J.D. Steele, the eldest sibling, with “special guests.” When I ask him to define “special guests,” he says, “My whole family will be there. All of my sisters and brothers.” Expect Jearlyn and Jevetta, Fred and Billy.

The band will include Peter Schimke on piano, Serge Akou on bass, percussionist Daryl Boudreaux and Larry Robinson on drums. “A couple of other people might show up,” J.D. hints.

His CD features songs he has written in the past 10 years, all originals. What kind of music is it? “When people ask me to describe it, I just say soul music — music for the soul.”

He’s releasing the CD now to celebrate his 25th year in the music business. Those years have been fruitful: commissions for 10 original musicals including “Two Queens, One Castle,” a collaboration with Jevetta, and “Snapshots: Life in the City;” a starring role in last year’s “Get Ready” at the Penumbra; a 2003 Bush Artist Composer Fellowship; and 1,217 performances around the world of “Gospel at Colonus.” The PBS version earned him an Emmy nomination.

Recently he’s been working with Shangilia, a performing arts group made up of former street kids from Kenya. Last fall they toured the East Coast with Odetta and Hugh Masakela.

“This is the most impassioned and important project of my life right now,” J.D. says. “To see these kids with their heads held high has really been a special thing. … I’m having a blast.” More than 200 children who once had no hope are now being housed and educated by the nonprofit organization Friends of Shangilia. J.D. will show a short film about the group at his CD release.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, March 23
Where: Dakota
How much: $25

Christine Rosholt and Graydon Peterson
Photo by John Whiting
Christine Rosholt and Graydon Peterson

Monday: Christine Rosholt
The “winsome retro pleaser” (to borrow Tom Surowicz’s words) is becoming a regular at the Dakota. On Monday, she’ll try out a bunch of new songs: “Something Cool,” “Better than Anything,” Billy Strayhorn’s complex and bitter “Lush Life.” She promises “a lot of spring-related songs.”

She’ll bring her amazing regular band: pianist Tanner Taylor (who just turned 27), bassist Graydon Peterson (who just earned his black belt in Kung Fu), drummer Jay Epstein, and Dave Karr on saxophones and flute.

New to the mix will be guitarist Vinnie Rose. “He went to college in Eau Claire with Graydon,” Rosholt says, “and he’s really good. I’m going to have him do some Brazilian-type tunes with us for a little change-up.”

Where: Dakota
When: 7 p.m. Monday, March 24
How much: $5

Tuesday: The Tuesday Night Band with special guest Bruce Henry

Fans of the AQ’s Tuesday Night Band are in for more than the usual number of surprises when singer Bruce Henry takes the stage.

A beloved AQ weekly tradition, the Tuesday Night Band is “Downtown” Bill Brown on the Hammond B-3, Billy Franze on guitar and Horst on drums.

I’d love to know who came up with the idea of pairing Henry’s soulful, powerful voice with a B-3 or, for that matter, with the wild and woolly TNB. See and hear them do “Shotgun” below.

Arrive early for a pre-show by young musicians Zach W. Schmidt, Cory J. Wong, Cassie Meier and Dan M. Musselman. Stay to hear what happens when Henry starts to sing. I’ve heard he’ll move to Chicago soon, and we’ll all wish we’d seen him more when we had the chance.

Where: Artists’ Quarter
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 25
How much: $5

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Don Berryman on 03/22/2008 - 05:38 pm.

    Great photo of Carole.

    BTW, she was quite marvelous at the Artists Quarter last night.

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