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Trombone Shorty, Chaka Khan in Music in the Zoo lineup; ‘Follies’ opens at Artistry

ALSO: “Trojan Women” at Urban Growler; Ariel Lawhon at Golden Valley Library for Club Book; Dog Day 2018 at the California Building; and more.

Trombone Shorty will be performing June 15-16 at Music in the Zoo.
Photo by Mathieu Bitton
Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan

Who knew a zoo could be a great concert venue? Never mind that you’re sitting outdoors on concrete bleachers, that it can get buggy, that you might hear a tiger as you make your way from the parking lot to the Weesner Family Amphitheater at the Minnesota Zoo. This whole Music in the Zoo thing has been working for more than a quarter of a century. This will be the 26th season. Long may it roar.

A moment to remember last year’s lineup, which included Herbie Hancock.

Here are some highlights of what this summer will bring.

Season openers Los Lonely Boys (June 2), reliably crowd-pleasing. Two nights (June 15-16) of Trombone Shorty, the NOLA-born singer, songwriter, horn-blower and now Blue Note recording artist. This will be Shorty’s fourth (and fifth) Zoo appearance since 2010. Blues great and four-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’ (June 23). Bluesman/rocker Jonny Lang (June 27), who released his first platinum record at 15 (that was 21 years ago). Blues great and Music in the Zoo regular Buddy Guy (June 28). R&B queen and 17-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan (June 29).

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And that’s just June. July brings Black Violin (July 2), the duo of Wil Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester, who last brought their signature mix of classical, hip-hop, rock, R&B and bluegrass – all played on violin – to the Ordway. Mary Chapin Carpenter returns (July 13). Rufus Wainwright, who made his Zoo debut in 2012 and made Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter Manny Laureano mad last December at Orchestra Hall, will also be back (July 28).

Music in the Zoo lasts all summer long. Moving into August, we’ll see Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Marc Cohn of “Walking in Memphis” fame (Aug. 10). Bring the kids for the Okee Dokee Brothers (Aug. 19). Michael Franti & Spearhead wowed a Jazz Fest crowd a couple years back (Aug. 25). And because summer and reggae just go together, Ziggy Marley will grace the Weesner stage again (Aug. 27).

See the whole lineup here. More concerts will be announced later. All shows begin t 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale Saturday, April 21 at 11 a.m.

The picks

Opens tonight at Urban Growler: “Trojan Women.” Euripides’ classic tragedy, staged in a brewery by Mission Theatre Company. The city of Troy has been sacked, the men have been killed, the women are looking at lives of slavery. Andy Browers directs a play that asks “When men make a mess of things, who suffers the cost? What happens when those in power dictate our fates?” Have we really been asking those questions for 2,433 years? 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-40 sliding scale, $10 students; Wednesdays are pay-what-you-can). Closes April 28.

Two new releases from our area jazz label Shifting Paradigm Records:

Fire Bell CD release concert Saturday at the Black Dog.
Fire Bell CD release concert Saturday at the Black Dog.

1. Saturday at the Black Dog: Fire Bell: “Incendios” CD Release. Park Evans (guitar), Graydon Peterson (bass) and Jay Epstein (drums and cymbals) have played together since 2009. Their first gorgeous CD, “Impossible Vacation,” came out in 2014 and was one of our Top 10 local picks that year. We’re loving “Incendios” for all the same reasons: their togetherness, their individual voices, the quality of the songwriting (all originals this time), Evans’ woozy guitar, Peterson’s rock-solid bass, Epstein’s plashy, shimmering cymbals. Good stuff. 8:30 p.m. FMI. Free (tip jar) or reserve a seat at a table near the stage ($20). 

2. Monday at Icehouse: Andrew Green’s Notet “Silent D” CD Release. The plan for the CD: no plan at all. No arrangements or rehearsals before, no edits after. Which doesn’t mean you won’t recognize anything. Andrew Green (guitar), Jeremy Udden (saxophone), JC Sanford (trombone) and Jorge Roeder (bass) gathered around a few standards (“Body and Soul,” “Alone Together,” “Along Came Betty,” “Stella by Starlight”), then added a couple of originals. All four are New York-based heavyweights on the jazz scene; Sanford recently moved back to Minnesota after 16 years in NYC. The CD release show will feature Green, Sanford, Chris Bates on bass and Chris Thomson on saxophone; the Notet will be followed by the Emerson Hunton Quartet. 9:30 p.m. FMI. $12 at the door.

Starts Saturday at Artistry: Sondheim’s “Follies.” Many Sondheim fans think “Follies” is his greatest work. With Bradley Greenwald as Benjamin Stone, one of the four leads (we saw him a minute ago in “Pirates of Penzance” at the Parkway), and Benjamin McGovern directing a cast of 15, this Artistry production could be unmissable. The year: 1971. The scene: a reunion of retired showgirls at an old Broadway theater set for demolition. The story: two soured marriages. For many songs, the singers are joined by their younger selves. Anita Ruth is music director; Myron Johnson is choreographer. 7:30 p.m. in the Schneider Theater. FMI and tickets ($41/36/12). Closes May 6.

Saturday at the California Building: Dog Day 2018. Dogs make everything better, even things that are already pretty good to begin with, like open studios, artists and their art. Bring your social dog, wander the building, meet local artists, buy some art, and make a paw print painting (your dog’s paw, pet-safe dye) to take home. 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. FMI. Free.

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Monday at Golden Valley Library: Club Book: Ariel Lawhon. Love historical fiction? Then you probably already know Lawhon’s “The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress” and “Flight of Dreams” about the Hindenburg disaster. She’s out with her latest, “I Was Anastasia,” about a woman who spent half a century insisting she was the lost Russian princess Anastasia Romanov. 6:30 p.m. FMI. Free. Can’t go in person? A podcast will be available a few days after the event.