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Northrop’s next jazz season: four powerhouse concerts

Earlier this year, Steven Rosenstone, the University of Minnesota’s vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs, told MinnPost that the Northrop Jazz Season would continue into 2008-09 and beyond.

Area jazz fans had wondered if the prestigious series would survive the passing of its visionary founder, Northrop Auditorium director Dale Schatzlein, who died unexpectedly in August 2006.

As of June 19, the 2008-09 Northrop Jazz Season is officially a go. It is somewhat abbreviated from preceding years; the 2007-08 series featured six concerts, 2005-06 had five. The 2008-09 series offers four concerts (three co-presented with the Walker Art Center), but each is a powerhouse.

Season packages are on sale now. Individual concert tickets go on sale Monday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m.

Here’s what we have to look forward to.

Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra with Special Guest Carla Bley
Saturday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m., Ted Mann Concert Hall
Co-presented with Walker Art Center

Bass player, composer, and bandleader Haden formed the Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969 as an artistic statement against the Vietnam War. He reassembles it for key political/historical moments. This year it’s all about our presidential elections. Pianist and composer Bley was a member of the original group.

The LMO’s most recent recording, “Not in Our Name” (2004), made with Bley, is Haden’s response to the disaffection many people in America and around the world feel about how the Bush administration is conducting its affairs at home and in the global arena.

Historical notes: Bley has appeared in the Northrop lineup just once before, in July 2003, when she brought her big band to town. The Liberation Music Orchestra was the first concert Schatzlein scheduled for the first Northrop Jazz Season (1993-94). Bringing them back is a nice touch.

Yusef Lateef with Douglas Ewart, Roscoe Mitchell and Adam Rudolph
Saturday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m., Walker Art Center, McGuire Theater
Co-presented with Walker Art Center

Grammy-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Lateef was playing world music before anyone called it that. He is a virtuoso on many instruments: tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, Taiwan koto. Lateef and his longtime collaborator/percussionist Adam Rudolph will be joined by Twin Cities-based musician and instrument builder Douglas Ewart and longtime Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell. This will be one for the books.

Historical notes: Lateef hasn’t performed in the Twin Cities for more than a decade, and he’s new to the Northrop Jazz Season. Ewart brought his Inventions Clarinet Choir to the McGuire in March 2006 and it was amazing.

Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling sings Coltrane/Hartman featuring Ernie Watts, the Ethel String Quartet, and the Laurence Hobgood Trio
Friday, Feb. 20, 8 p.m., Ted Mann Concert Hall

Elling is arguably the top male jazz singer of our time. He and pianist Hobgood (whom Elling always introduces as “my collaborator”) share a communication equivalent to a Vulcan mind-meld. They’ll be touring with their creative re-imagining of “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman” (1963), one of the most romantic recordings ever released.

Two-time Grammy winning saxophonist Watts has been described as playing in “a virtuosic post-Coltrane style” by JazzTimes magazine. The Ethel String Quartet wants you to call them ETHEL. All are Juilliard alumni.

Put Valentine’s Day off a few days and make this your celebration.

Historical notes: Elling’s most recent Twin Cities dates were at the Dakota in March 2007.

Jason Moran: In my mind: Monk at Town Hall
Saturday, May 9, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Walker Art Center, McGuire Theater

The Walker likes Moran. He first performed there in 2001 and spent his rehearsal breaks looking at the museum’s collection. This did not go unnoticed by performing arts curator Philip Bither, who commissioned Moran to create a new work to mark the opening of the Walker expansion. The multimedia production premiered in May 2005; selections are included on Moran’s latest CD, “Artist in Residence” (2006).

Moran returned to the Walker in February 2007 for a public conversation with Bither that remains for me a highlight of the year. You can see it on the Walker Channel.

The Northrop Jazz event will be a multimedia performance built around a legendary 1959 recording, “The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall.” Moran has said that Monk is the reason he started playing piano. He’ll integrate samples of Monk’s music, conversations and photos with his own interpretations of Monk tunes. More than a tribute, this event will bring Monk into the 21st century.

Historical notes: Moran appeared with his small ensemble, the Bandwagon, in the 2004-05 Northrop Jazz Season.

Ticket information
Tickets to individual performances are $40 and available starting Monday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. Season packages are $128 and available now; in addition to discounted pricing, subscribers enjoy priority seating and invitations to special events. Call 612-624-2345.

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