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A summer of free jazz and fresh air

Saxophonist Kenny Garrett
Photo by John Whiting
Saxophonist Kenny Garrett performing at Mears Park in St. Paul during the 2007 Hot Summer Jazz Festival.

Though some scribes have opined that jazz in Minnesota is hard to find, all you need this summer is one of those pocket-sized fold-out city maps that cover Minneapolis and St. Paul. If you can make your way to a city park, the University of Minnesota and both downtowns, leave the map at home.

By “free jazz,” I don’t mean the avant-garde variety. I mean free as in gratis. No-cost, open-to-the-public, family-friendly performances that prove jazz is accessible, enjoyable — and abundant, at least in our towns. Tuesday, July 15 offers five different choices on the same day.

This is what I know so far about what the summer will bring. Plans are to update the calendar as you tell me what I missed.

In some cases, I haven’t been too strict about defining jazz. And I haven’t been a purist. I count salsa as jazz, and if Urban Cadence wants to play funk and R&B as well as jazz, that’s fine with me. It’s summer, it’s music, it’s free.

My apologies for not compiling this sooner. Some series have already started.

St. Anthony Main Live Music on the Riverfront, May 30-Aug. 24

The 27th year of free weekend concerts along the Mississippi River. Here’s the schedule.

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board 2008 Concert Season, June 1-Aug. 31
Say what you will about collapsing stone walls and weeds, but Park & Rec can throw a party. This summer they’re sponsoring 220 free concerts at four venues: the Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minnehaha Falls, Father Hennepin Bluffs and Bryant Square Park. Download PDFs of the schedules.

Summer at Northrop, June 11-July 24
The University of Minnesota will soon announce the 2008-09 Northrop Jazz Season, and this series of 25 outdoor concerts on Northrop Plaza includes nine jazz shows. Go Gophers! View the schedule.

Christopher E. Harrison

Twin Cities Jazz Festival, June 19-29
Now in its 10th year, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival (formerly the Hot Summer Jazz Festival) is a combination of free and paid events, as a good jazz festival should be. I’ve listed the free ones on our calendar but you might want to check out some of the paid events as well, including: Return to Forever (Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White) at the Orpheum on Thursday, June 19; the Jazz Festival Jams at the Artist’s Quarter on Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21; Stride Piano Night with Butch Thompson, Jon Weber, and Paul Asaro at the Dakota on June 24; and DownBeat’s Rising Stars at Orchestra Hall on Thursday, June 26. Download a PDF of the schedule. In the CURRENT SCHEDULES • START DATES box, scroll down to ALL SCHEDULES • PDF.

Mill City Live, June 19-Sept. 18
Music in the Mill City Museum’s dramatic open-air Ruin Courtyard. View the schedule.

Minnesota History Center: Nine Nights of Music, July 1-Aug. 26
Now in its 12th year, this annual summer series features the rhythms and sounds of Minnesota’s multicultural community. Co-sponsored by Tapestry Folkdance Center. Here’s the schedule.

One more: The Freedom Jazz Festival, held each summer at Minnehaha Falls Park, is probably the most diverse and community-oriented event of its kind. This year’s festival (the 10th) is still a bit tentative, but mark your calendar anyway for Saturday, Aug. 9. We’ll let you know as the time gets closer. Meanwhile, check with the website.

If you hear about a free outdoor jazz event you believe we should add to our calendar, please leave a comment below.

Free Summer Concert Schedule: Permalink | PDF

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