Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Remembering Brubeck; Andrew Bird coming to the State

ALSO: Another ‘Wuthering Heights’; St. Paul’s new artists in residence; Wendy Lehr at ‘Jungle Kids’; and more.

“His impact on American music was huge. Jazz is American music, and Brubeck was one of the defining figures. He was instrumental in its evolution."

Most of us have heard by now that Dave Brubeck died last Wednesday, the day before his 92nd birthday. Ben Ratliff wrote a wonderful obituary for the New York Times, as did Howard Reich for the Chicago Tribune. We spoke with Lowell Pickett, founder and owner of the Dakota Jazz Club, where Brubeck performed for three nights in November 2009.

“That was shortly before he received his Kennedy Center honors,” Pickett recalls. “The Washington Post sent a reporter and hired a photographer.” You can read the article here describing “the intimate Dakota jazz club, five sold-out sets over three days, the audience jumping to its feet in ovation after every one, no set the same, ever, among four guys who have been playing together for years.” We were at the final set on Nov. 4. Osmo Vänskä was in the house. Brubeck later told the Post reporter they had played something that night for the first time: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” How sweet it was, how delightful, to hear the great Dave Brubeck play that little tune.

He was never able to return to the Twin Cities. “There were a couple of times when we had dates on hold for him,” Pickett says, “but medical reasons slowed him down. They had to be careful about flight distances because of his heart.” Pickett remembers Brubeck walking off the stage at the Dakota one night and saying, “That’s one of the best sets we’ve ever played.” Pickett still marvels at that. “What an extraordinary thing, to be that age [Brubeck was then 89] and still be able to say that. To have played at the highest level so many times, for so many years, all over the world, and to still have that magic, that excitement.

“His impact on American music was huge. Jazz is American music, and Brubeck was one of the defining figures. He was instrumental in its evolution. He did new things with time signatures and he expanded the audience, taking jazz into colleges and concert halls in a way that hadn’t been done before. And he was just so gracious.”

Article continues after advertisement

What was Pickett’s first thought upon hearing of Brubeck’s passing? “Sadness. People knew he was not doing well over the last year and a half. When he was here in 2009, everyone was very protective of him. Obviously, he was getting older. But then he sat down at the piano and the years melted away.”


Sunday’s snowstorm led to cancellations of at least two events we’ve mentioned here. The Capri Big Band’s free holiday concert will be moved to January, still at the Capri Theater. A new date will be announced soon. The St. Paul Firefighters calendar signing has been rescheduled for Thursday, Dec. 20, at Camp Bar.

Reid Anderson’s “The Rough Mixes,” part of Kate Nordstrum’s new Liquid Music series for the SPCO, has been rescheduled for June 18 and 19, 2013. Nothing to do with the snow or the weather, everything to do with the SPCO lockout. This show was originally slated for this weekend but was yanked when the lockout began; Anderson will perform with SPCO members Steven Copes, Ruggero Allifranchini and David Huckaby (and jazz drummer Jeff Ballard, who’s not affected by the lockout, except as one of many guest artists who have had to make other plans). Before June, you can see Anderson in his role as bassist for The Bad Plus when they come to the Dakota Dec. 27-29. FMI and tickets.

On the topic of the lockout, we learned late yesterday that the SPCO management has canceled all concerts through Feb. 8

Dean Magraw opens for Tim Sparks at the Guthrie on Wednesday, Dec. 12, playing a 40-minute set of his own transporting music. So now there are two reasons to get those tickets. Read Rick Mason’s interview with Sparks here.

Next Monday (Dec. 17), Andrew Bird comes to the State Theatre, touring behind his latest, “Hands of Glory.” A live Bird concert is a shimmering, immersive experience. Standing in stocking feet, he plays violin, sings, and whistles, combining folk, pop, rock, swing, bluegrass, country and Eastern European classical music with chewy, storytelling lyrics. Bird is from Chicago, but his band is from Minneapolis: Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar, Martin Dosh on drums. For a time, Michael Lewis was part of the band, but now Lewis tours mostly with Bon Iver. No worries, Mikey fans; Fat Kid Wednesdays (Lewis, Adam Linz, JT Bates) opens. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets. Visit Bird’s website for a video of “Three White Horses” from the new album.

Andrew Bird: Fever Year
Courtesy Wegawam Music Co.
Still from “Andrew Bird: Fever Year”

This Wednesday (Dec. 12) at the Trylon Microcinema, Sound Unseen screens the award-winning documentary “Andrew Bird: Fever Year.” If you missed it at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in April, here’s your chance to see it at the intimate Trylon. Xan Aranda’s film is part concert, part road trip, part look at Bird’s life and working process over a year of  nonstop touring during which he literally ran a fever most of the time. The heat of creativity or sheer exhaustion? We get to know Bird (a little), visit his farm in Illinois where he goes to recharge but never stays long enough, glimpse his history, join him on stage, and hear a lot of music, including parts of a rehearsal and performance with St. Vincent (Annie Davis). Near the end of the film, he says, “I started playing at age 4. Music swallowed me whole.” By then, you know what he means. Trailer here. FMI and tickets. 

Article continues after advertisement

Do we really need yet another film version of “Wuthering Heights”? Of course we do, says someone who sees every new film or miniseries based on a novel by a Brontë sister or Jane Austen. (Though I might draw the line at “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”) Through next Thursday (Dec. 18), the Film Society is showing Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold’s take on Emily Brontë’s tale of doomed love on the moors. Virtually unknown actors, minimal dialogue, oodles of weather. Colin Covert warns, “If you insist on word-for-word fidelity, stay far, far away.” That sounds intriguing. FMI and tickets.

Attention, arts nonprofits: Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) has scheduled an Arts Partnership Speed Dating networking event for Monday, Dec. 17. Discuss partnerships possibilities and exchange information with like-minded groups in five-minute meetings. Renae Oswald-Anderson of ReDesign Services will host; Melinda Ludwiczak from MELSA and Emily Murphy of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will speak briefly about working with libraries and county fairs. 4 p.m. – 6 p.m., Wellstone Center – Neighborhood House, 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul. Register here.

Attention, friends and fans of emerging designers: the Goldstein Museum of Design has announced a new award, the Margot Siegel Design Award. It will be presented annually to a designer who represents innovation in his or her field and has yet to receive major recognition. The winner will receive $2,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Twin Cities to speak at the College of Design. Nominate a designer you know through Dec. 30.

Attention, composers: the American Composers Forum has announced the 2013 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Composers. Application deadline: March 8, 2013. The fellowships provide recognition and financial support for mid-career composers working in any musical genre. Four fellowships of $25,000 in unrestricted funds will be awarded. Fellows also have an opportunity to devote up to one month of concentrated time to work in an artistic residency setting of their choice. Past fellows include Spencer Wirth-Davis, Ann Millikan, Peter O’Gorman, Mankwe Ndosi, Douglas Ewart, Mary Ellen Childs, and Viv Corringham. FMI and application.

Marianne Combs reports that the city of St. Paul has added two artists in residence, bringing the grand total to three. Amanda Lovelee has been named “City Artist in Residence for Temporal Work and Public Engagement” and Sarah West is now “City Artist in Residence for Streets and Open Space.” Lovelee and West join Marcus Young, who has brought poetry to the city’s sidewalks.

You might want to plan ahead to spend a little money on good causes. On Friday, Dec. 14 at the Aster Café, Mother Banjo and Ben Cook-Feltz present the 4th Annual Holiday Shindig Benefiting Open Arms of Minnesota. Some of the Twin Cities’ top songwriters including Martin Devaney, Brianna Lane, and Steve Kaul will sing seasonal originals and holiday faves. Stay for the sing-along and raffle prizes. Open Arms cooks and delivers free meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, MS, ALS, breast cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. 9 p.m, $5 at the door. Reserve a table at 612-379-3138.

On Saturday, Dec. 15 at Patrick’s Cabaret: “The Art of Ending Homelessness,” a benefit for St. Stephen’s Human Services. Homelessness is at a five-year high in Hennepin County, and winter makes homelessness especially cruel. Hear music by Spider John Koerner, Charlie Parr and Colin Monette and readings by Ethna McKiernan, Lawrence Daniels, and more. 7:30 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, $15 at the door. 7 p.m. pre-show reception with the artists, signed poster, and preferred seating, $25 at the door.

Take the kids to the Jungle Theater on Saturday, Dec. 15. One of the Twin Cities’ favorite actors, Wendy Lehr, stars as Mrs. Peterson in “Saturdays for Jungle Kids,” bringing children’s books to life with her friend Doc (Jungle founder and director Bain Boehlke), her piano-playing neighbor Amelia, larger-than-life visuals and special guest appearances. Shows at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Ages 4 and up. Tickets here.