Strong lineup for June’s Jazz Fest; poetry contest is on

REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
Dr. John will perform Saturday, June 27 at the 7,000-seat CHS Field, and you will need a ticket, but tickets are free.

If you’re a music fan, and especially if you’re a jazz fan, the headliners for the 17th Annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival should make you very happy. Announced earlier this week, it’s a strong and diverse group of crowd-pleasers “from New Orleans to New York to the Caribbean and Latin America,” festival director Steve Heckler said. Any and all are good reasons to stay around St. Paul June 25-27 and catch as much of the festival as you can.

Let’s pause briefly to remember that our Jazz Fest got its start in 1999 on Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, nearly went under when sponsorship dried up, and is now thriving and sassy in St. Paul, with support from the Knight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the NEA and the city of St. Paul. Barring torrential downpours (which we had last year during Jazz Fest), nearly 30,000 people are expected to attend. We’d say “Get tickets now!” except once more, the festival is free.

We’re glad to learn that, because earlier we’d heard speculation that one or more big-name events might be scheduled for the new Saints stadium, and those might be paid shows. Multiple Grammy winner Dr. John and the Nite Trippers will perform Saturday, June 27 at the 7,000-seat CHS Field, and you will need a ticket, but tickets are free.

Other national and international artists on the schedule are Chicago-based trumpeter Marquis Hill, who recently won the prestigious 2014 Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition; the Araya Orta Latin Jazz Quartet with steel pan master Othello Molineaux; Cuban drummer (and the festival’s first artistic director) Francisco Mela with his group Jazz Machine and guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton; and the superstar-studded quartet of saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Dave Holland, guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Eric Harland.

As before, Jazz Fest will also include many area jazz musicians and will spread out through the city among several outdoor stages and indoor venues. FMI, and check back as more information is added.

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Did you see “The Color Purple” at the Park Square in January or February? If so, you helped set a new record for the 40-year-old St. Paul theater. With attendance over 11,000 and gross sales of more than $285,000, “Purple” surpassed 2012’s “Ragtime,” the previous record-holder and another big musical. It had the largest all-African American cast in Park Square’s history and drew an audience that was 35 percent people of color, an all-time high.

Poets, lapsed poets, aspiring poets and occasional poets (sorry, small joke), sharpen your pencils. The Common Good Books annual poetry contest is back, with more rewards (this year, Garrison Keillor is offering $5,000 in prize money) and fewer restrictions. Last year you had to write a love letter. This year you can write any kind of letter, as long as it’s to a real person. “ ‘Dear You’: The Third Annual Common Good Books Poetry Contest” will award three grand prizes of $1,000 each, and four more poets will receive $500 for “poems of particular merit.” That’s a lot of dough for a poem these days. Here are the rules. Note that “entries must be mailed to Common Good Books.” Deadline: April 4 postmark.

The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, March 4) at the Goldstein Museum of Design on the U’s St. Paul campus: “Shinola Detroit: A Good Design Story.” The small but mighty Goldstein continues to delight us with interesting shows and events. In conjunction with its current exhibition “Design Cycles: A Bike Show,” they’re bringing in Shinola president Jacques Panis and head of bicycle design Sky Yaeger to tell us about the Detroit-based brand. 6:30 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Bell Museum on the U’s Minneapolis campus: “Impact: Birds in the Human-Built World” gallery tour and talk. Artist Miranda Brandon’s large-scale, high-resolution photographs show birds at or just after the fatal moment of impact with a building. Joined by Joanna Eckles, Audubon Minnesota’s bird-friendly communities manager, she’ll lead a conversation about her work. 5:30 p.m. Free with museum admission. The show is on display through April 19. FMI.

Thursday at the Walker in Minneapolis: Sound Horizon: Douglas Ewart. The jazz musician, composer, improviser and intrepid sonic adventurer does whatever he pleases on what is likely to be a wide array of instruments, including some he made himself from found objects. Three sets in the Perlman Gallery: 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Free.

The weekend

Friday at the O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul: “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey.” A mixed-media, panoramic view of the cultural, social and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem during the 1920s, featuring actor/dancer/singer Jasmine Guy and the Avery Sharpe Trio. Period photos and videos, dramatic readings of poetry by Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson and others, excerpts of works from Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, and songs by Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith are accompanied by live music by bassist Sharpe and his trio. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-$55).

Friday through Sunday at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis: COLLIDE presents “Zoot Suit Riots.” Jazz and tap dance, a live band, vocals and theater combine in a brand-new, original production from COLLIDE, a company busy reviving the Broadway-style jazz musical (and three cheers for that). Set in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, one of the first integrated public spaces in the U.S., inspired by the Zoot Suit race riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1943, it looks to be a lively, swinging show. Here’s a preview video. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. FMI and tickets ($24/$32). Through March 15.

Friday at the Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative in St. Paul: Lowertown Classics #10: Special Edition. This series brings classical music to a relaxed and casual setting, tossing in some new music and jazz to sweeten the pot. Venezuelan cellist Tulio Rondón will play a Bach suite; an oboe/bass duo will perform music by Goplerud, Mann, Julie Johnson and Eric Hansen; and the trio Choro Borealis will bring music from Brazil. A wine reception will follow in one of the lofts. 255 East Kellogg Boulevard; enter on the alley side off Wall Street. 8 p.m. Donation at the door.

Saturday at Sundin Music Hall on Hamline University’s St. Paul campus: Lyra Baroque presents Esther: A Handel Oratorio. Based on the book of Esther, Handel’s shortest, most intimate oratorio features soprano Linh Kauffman and Lyra’s wind players: oboes, flutes, horns and trumpets. Also on the program: Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op. 3, No. 5 in D minor. 8 p.m. Come early for a pre-concert talk alluringly titled “The Book of Esther: Why It’s So Much Fun!” by Old Testament expert Diane Jacobson. 7:30 p.m., pre-concert talk at 6:30. FMI and tickets ($6-$23). Also Friday at Assisi Heights Church in Rochester.

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