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Jazz on Halloween: These treats should do the trick

<strong>Dennis Spears</strong>
Photo by Ann Marsden
Dennis Spears

Halloween has become the second-biggest holiday of the year, after Christmas. This Halloween falls on a Friday, a night when jazz clubs and concert halls normally leave their porch lights on. Expect a few tricks but mostly treats.

Dennis Spears Halloween Gala
The Dakota, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. ($10)

Dennis Spears is a multi-talented showman with a gorgeous baritone voice and serious acting skills. We’ve seen him with Moore by Four and most recently at the Penumbra in “Get Ready.”

He’s also a lot of fun. Here’s a clip from the 2008 Oregon Shakespeare Festival of Spears singing “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

His Dakota show will take shape moments before it starts, when Spears walks through the club to greet the crowd. “Some people can plan their set list before the gig,” he says. “I can’t do that. I literally have to go from table to table and get a feel for the room. Then I can decide what to do.”

He’ll be there with his “dream band”: Chris Lomheim on keyboards, Chris Bates on bass, Greg Schutte on drums, Darryl Boudreaux on percussion.

Will he dress for the occasion? “I’m trying to resist the temptation to go hog-wild and pack a couple of suitcases. But I will definitely have at least two, maybe three different outfits with me.”

Does he expect members of the audience to show up in costume? “I would hope so.”

Rick Germanson Trio
The Artists’ Quarter, 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31-Saturday, Nov. 1. ($15)

When we go to New York City, we usually spend an evening in the bar at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Manhattan. Pianist/composer Rick Germanson has a regular gig there when he’s not touring Europe with the Cannonball Legacy Band or guitarist Pat Martino.

At least once each year, he crosses the Hudson River to visit family in Wisconsin and perform at the AQ.

If you have vocalist Carole Martin’s fine “Songs from My Heart” CD, that’s Germanson on piano. He has recorded two CDs as a leader and more than 20 as a sideman; he recently signed with the Owl Studios label in Indianapolis and will release a new CD next spring. He plays swinging, straight-ahead standards and originals full of big block chords and inventive solos. Here’s a tune from last year’s visit to the AQ.

Germanson is not one to chatter or mug; he mainly gets down to business on the keys. But he and his trio — Jay Young on bass, Kenny Horst on piano — might spring a surprise or two on Halloween. “We’ll see what happens,” he says. “It’ll be off the cuff.”

If you can’t make the AQ on Friday, Germanson also performs on Saturday, Nov. 1. Same time, same cover.

Maud Hixson
Photo by Travis Anderson
Maud Hixson

Maud Hixson
Cue at the Guthrie, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. (No cover.)

Lately, when we’re out with friends on a weekend night and it’s still too early to go home, someone says, “Let’s go to Cue.” It’s one of the Twin Cities’ most beautiful rooms, with live jazz every Friday and Saturday.

On Halloween, the cool and elegant singer Maud Hixson will perform with husband Rick Carlson on keyboards, Steve Pikal on bass, and Nathan Norman on drums. See and hear Hixson and Carlson here.

“We’ll pay tribute to the holiday in our own little way,” Hixson says. The set list will include “Witchcraft” and the trio’s version of “One O’Clock Jump,” arranged like “The Munsters” TV theme.

“I’ll bring a kitty-cat mask,” Hixson promises. “Rick has a glow-in-the-dark Hannibal Lecter mask. It’s horrible.”

Atlantis Quartet
Late Night at the Dakota, 11:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31. ($5)

The adventurous modern jazz group Atlantis Quartet has chosen Halloween night to perform John Coltrane’s iconic, profoundly influential four-part suite “A Love Supreme.”

On the original 1964 recording, saxophone legend Coltrane was joined by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.

Atlantis is Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, Zacc Harris on guitar, Chris Bates on bass and Pete Hennig on drums. No piano.

“A Love Supreme” is a jazz peak not many bands attempt to scale. “It was my idea,” Harris says. “I used to play every Halloween with an old group of mine in Illinois, and we’d do some fun covers in the spirit of the night. I always wanted to perform an album of this stature in its entirety and I thought this was the perfect opportunity.”

For Bates, the biggest challenge is “paying homage to the original while trying to keep a fresh approach.” For Harris, “it’s realizing that I can only play six notes at a time, unlike the piano. Trying to achieve Tyner’s sound and vibe with a different instrument.” For Hennig, it’s “to do the music justice and still keep my own voice. It’s easy to second-guess yourself when you start comparing to Elvin Jones.”

Wozniak will be in the catbird seat but says he’s not nervous. “We’re not trying to re-create what Coltrane did on that record. We will use the music that’s there, try to keep in mind the spiritual aspect … but in the end we have to be ourselves.”

What about costumes? “We are in essence musically ‘dressing up’ for the night by playing ‘A Love Supreme,’ ” Harris says. “But I heard that Pete might be dressed as a member of KISS.”

Upcoming picks

The four gigs above all happen next Friday. Here’s what to see this weekend and into next week.

416 Club Featuring Orange Mighty Trio and Friends: Orange Mighty Trio hosts a pile-up of area talent including Japhlet Attias on Chapman stick with “guest tuba” (wild guess: Stefan Kac), the jazz trio Badlands, and Poutums (Chris Thomson, Adam Linz, Alden Ikeda). Each group will play one set; jams are a foregone conclusion. The Cedar, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24. ($10)

Branford Marsalis in Marsalis Brasilianos with Members of the Filharmonia Brasileira: The great saxophonist interprets the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and French composer Darius Milhaud. Like his brother Wynton, Branford is an accomplished classical performer. This will be a whole different show from his jazz quartet, more like the lovely “Romances for Saxophone” (1986). Orchestra Hall, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. ($25-$49, $65 VIP)

Eldar: Pianist Eldar Djangirov came to the States from Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union when he was 9, a child prodigy with a passion for jazz. Now 21, he has recorded five CDs including the Grammy-nominated “Re-Imagination.” He’s incredible. Take a look. One night only. The Dakota, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29 ($30/$20).

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