It’s shaping up to be an interesting 2011-12 for jazz in the Twin Cities. There’s good news, not-so-good news, and brand-new news about the music we’ll hear.
First, the good news: Jazz will remain an integral part of programming at Orchestra Hall. Its jazz season includes three events:
• Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Arguably the nation’s best big band, JLCO fills the house whenever it comes to town. No clue to the program yet, but its repertoire is bottomless and its members are composers and arrangers as well as performers, so there’s always something new.
• Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012: “Be My Valentine” with Lizz Wright and Kurt Elling. One night, two distinct voices. Wright (I’m guessing) will perform first, followed by intermission, followed by Elling. They may sing a song or two together. If they do, it’s more likely that Elling will meet Wright on her turf (soul/jazz/gospel/R&B) than the other way around.
• Friday, April 6, 2012: “A Love Letter to New Orleans” with Irvin Mayfield, hosted by Soledad O’Brien. Grammy-winning New Orleans trumpeter/composer Mayfield, who continues in his role as artistic director of jazz at Orchestra Hall, has written a book called “A Love Letter to New Orleans” about musicians who have influenced him. The concert will celebrate the book, for which CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien wrote the introduction. Mayfield will perform with his quintet; special guests Bill Summers and Jason Marsalis have been confirmed and others may be added.
That’s Orchestra Hall’s official jazz season, but a glance at the 2011-12 pops season reveals more jazz and jazz-flavored events: Chris Botti (Dec. 2), Jingle Bell Doc (with Doc Severinsen; Dec. 9 and 11), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Apr. 7).
The hall closes for renovations in June 2012, and the final jazz concert in the old space will be a New Orleans jazz funeral on Saturday, May 26. Following performances by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (led by Mayfield), the musicians will lead the audience in a traditional “second line” out the door and onto Peavey Plaza, where more live music will be waiting.
Now, the not-so-good news: The 2011-12 Northrop Jazz Season has been postponed. The faithful already know that, except for last October’s Somi/Thomasina event at the Campus Club, the 2010-11 season never happened.
What did we miss? Three enticing twofers: vocalists Sachal Vasandani and Nancy Harms; hot young pianist Vijay Iyer (performing “Historicity”) and Fat Kid Wednesdays; saxophonist Tia Fuller and a new venture by drummer JT Bates. All were scheduled but had to be canceled because of a lack of funding.
Many people aren’t aware that the Northrop seasons (both jazz and dance) are largely subsidized by rentals of Northrop Auditorium for graduations, corporate events, rock concerts, and conferences. Now that Northrop has closed for renovations, that funding has gone away. The dance season remains strong and will continue during the renovations in a yet-to-be-announced location. But we won’t see any new jazz events until 2012-13.
It’s not for lack of trying on Ben Johnson’s part. The director of Northrop Concerts and Lectures, Johnson has actively sought other sources of funding, thrown parties, reached out to area musicians, and changed venues, moving out of the Ted Mann into the Campus Club.
“We asked everyone for money and applied for three major grants, but none came through,” Johnson told MinnPost earlier this week. “I’m not giving up on jazz programming, but it is postponed until we have our ducks in a row. Meanwhile, we’re asking questions about what a jazz series on the campus should be and how to integrate it more within the university experience.”
On to brand-new news: The Loring Theater, formerly the Music Box Theater (home of “Triple Espresso”), doesn’t have an actual jazz season, but it is programming jazz. So far, jazz journalist Tad Hendrickson (formerly of Minneapolis, now living in Jersey City) has brought in the Dave King Trucking Company (Jan. 15) and avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp (Feb. 4).
This isn’t yet on the Loring Theater’s website, but MinnPost has the go-ahead to announce an upcoming event that should make waves. Duke University has commissioned The Bad Plus to create a “reappraisal and rearrangement” of Stravinsky’s iconic, riot-inducing “Rite of Spring.” The multimedia event will have its world premiere March 26 at Duke and come to the Loring May 20 and 21.
Finally: The Walker won’t announce its 2011-12 performing arts season until the third week of May, but I’m hearing some enticing rumors. We’re also waiting to learn what MacPhail has planned. This year’s series on the music of Charles Mingus has been a winner. It continues Thursday, March 24, at 8 p.m. with a concert called “Meditations on Integration.” I’ll be doing a preconcert Q&A with the musicians at 7 p.m.