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JT Bates ends Jazz Implosion; SPCO names new artistic partner

photo of drummer playing
Photo by John Whiting
JT Bates performs at Icehouse

Drummer JT Bates chose Thanksgiving weekend to drop some bittersweet news. After decades of programming a sizable chunk of the new and innovative jazz music heard in the Twin Cities – first at the Clown Lounge in the basement of the Turf Club in St. Paul, then at Icehouse in Minneapolis – Bates is hanging up his booker’s hat.

On Friday afternoon, Bates posted on Facebook:

After 20ish years of booking a music series, I’m ready for a change. Starting in 2019, JT’s Jazz Implosion will discontinue its Monday residency.

The music that Mondays have featured will continue at Icehouse, including the touring shows that you all have helped make so incredible. Some parts of this transition remain undefined at this moment, but we know that music is a part of the DNA of Icehouse, so I am not worried, only excited to see how it can grow and change, and also be able to happen at other times and days besides late Mondays.

5 shows remain. [Note: As of today, three shows remain.] I will be around for all the shows in December, please come on through and say hello! Please keep your eyes on the Icehouse calendar for shows!

Later that day, Icehouse posted:

All good things come to an end unfortunately. A bittersweet announcement here that JT’s Jazz Implosion will come to an end at the new year. There is not enough gratitude and love in the world to give JT for the years of hard work and time he put into the Monday nights at the Clown Lounge and the last 6+ years here at Icehouse. The idea for opening a venue (and what became Icehouse) started over the course of many, very late nights at the Clown Lounge and thru tons of conversation with JT, Dave [Weigert] and too many others to mention. To this day, hands down the best nights of live music we’ve experienced occurred during many many Monday nights. The scene he cultivated with so much love, thought and care for the music and everyone involved will never be replicated and we are so grateful he allowed us along for the ride. As a result, we are excited to maybe shuffle the deck some and begin hosting more jazz during other nights of the week as well with earlier start times. Stay tuuunnnneddd.

Bates is a drummer and a composer. He wants to do more playing and composing. We get that. (Bates released his first and so far only solo album, “Open Relationships,” in December 2016.) He also wouldn’t mind having Monday nights free. We get that, too. And for some music fans with day jobs, those late-night shows were too late. Jazz Implosion seldom got under way until 10 p.m., and when it was so good you didn’t want to leave until it was over, and then you hung around to talk about how good it had been and maybe chat up the musicians, who also hung around, you walked out the door around 1 a.m. On a school night.

Bates accomplished something a lot of bookers wish they could: He built a scene. People paid attention. We trusted his knowledge and his taste. As thanks and praise piled up in the comments on his Facebook post, themes emerged: “End of an era.” “Changed my life.” “Somewhere around 9 of my top 10 shows I’ve ever seen were Implosion shows.” “Highlights of my musical life.” “Thinking of all the opportunities and all the times the only place to be was at the Implosion.” “Full of gratitude for not only the music but what you as a human being brought to it.”

Speaking of gratitude, Bates made his first national TV appearance last week on “Late Night With Stephen Colbert” with Big Red Machine, Justin Vernon’s new group with Aaron Dessner. The song they performed was “Gratitude.” You can catch it here.

And here’s a profile of Bates that Britt Robson wrote for the Star Tribune in 2016.

If you want to catch the final nights of JT’s Jazz Implosion – and a lot of people will, once the news gets out, because that’s what people do – these are the last three shows: Dec. 3: Jim Campilongo Trio with Chris Morrissey and Josh Dion. Dec. 10: Chris Bates Red 5. Dec. 17: JC Sanford Quartet. FMI.

SPCO announces newest artistic partner

British early music expert Richard Egarr will be the SPCO’s next artistic partner, the orchestra announced today.

The mostly conductorless ensemble hasn’t had a music director since 2004. Instead, it’s had an international series of artistic partners, starting in 2004 with Joshua Bell, Stephen Prutsman and Nicholas McGegan and continuing through today.

Egarr, a conductor and keyboardist, will join a stellar list of current artistic partners that includes British conductor and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Cohen; American pianist and MacArthur Fellow Jeremy Denk; Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst; Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja; and Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

Photo by Marco Borggreve
Richard Egarr
Egarr is music director of the Academy of Ancient Music, based in Cambridge, England (and founded by former SPCO Music Director Christopher Hogwood). He is also principal guest conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague. He has conducted major symphonic orchestras and performed often with leading Baroque ensembles. He regularly gives solo harpsichord recitals at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere.

In announcing Egarr’s appointment, SPCO Artistic Director and Principal Violinist Kyu-Young Kim praised Egarr’s “sense of adventure and boundless curiosity.” Egarr called the SPCO an “amazing bunch of musicians” with “brilliance, vision and commitment, open musical borders and the ability to inspire and communicate their passion to the public.”

Egarr made his debut with the SPCO in March 2017. His tenure as artistic partner won’t begin until September 2019, but he’ll return this week for a series of four concerts to include Handel’s “Water Music.” The concerts will take place Thursday at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, Friday at Humboldt High School in St. Paul, Saturday at the Ordway Concert Hall and Sunday at the Ted Mann. FMI and tickets.

Each artistic partner makes at least one visit every season. Denk was here for the 2018-19 opening weekend in September. Cohen led Bach’s “Saint John Passion” in November. Kuusisto was here last weekend, playing and conducting a concert of music by four American composers, most still living. He’ll be back in January for seven performances that include a highly anticipated set of improvisations with American composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey.

Up next (after Egarr), Kopatchinskaja will return in early December, this time with her longtime duo partner, Russian pianist Polina Leschenko. Cohen will conduct Haydn in late January and again in May. Fröst will be here in June to play Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet and lead the SPCO’s season finale.

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 27) and tomorrow at Vieux Carré: Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road: Celebrating the New Orleans Tricentennial. Christopher is simply one of the most exciting clarinetists we’ve ever seen and heard. He takes the authentic sound and spirit of traditional New Orleans clarinet – Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard – and brings it into the present. Not by changing it, but by fully committing to its worthiness and aliveness. And there’s not an ounce of nostalgia, throwback or old-timeyness in what he does. Christopher has made several recordings and composed original music including “Treat It Gentle Suite” (2010), commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra. On Dec. 9, he’ll give the world premiere of another new work, “The Faubourg Variations,” at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. He’s one of a kind and worth your time. 8 p.m. both nights. FMI and tickets ($35 table/$30 bar).

Wednesday at Merriam Park Library: Minnesota’s Wanda Gág: Reinventing the Picture Book. “Hundreds of cats/Thousands of cats/Millions and billions and trillions of cats.” Sound familiar? Then you know something of children’s book author and illustrator Wanda Gág, whose “Millions of Cats” (1928) is the oldest American picture book still in print. Professor Jill Zahniser will talk about Gág’s work and “Roaring ’20s” personal life in this talk for the St. Paul Public Library’s Women’s History Lecture Series. 7 p.m. Free.

Wednesdays through Sundays at the Children’s Theatre Company: Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Grinch is so much fun that someone should stop it from coming! Too late for that – it’s already in full swing at CTC and winning raves. Again. Last year’s production was the highest-grossing show in the company’s history, selling 64,000 tickets and playing to nearly 100 percent capacity. This year’s “Grinch” is here through Jan. 6, but you might want to get your tickets now. Reed Sigmund is back as the big green meanie, Dean Holt as Old Max, Max Wojtanowicz as Grandpa Who, and Autumn Ness as Mama Who. Young Audrey Mojica is the new Cindy-Lou Who. FMI and tickets. Prices vary, and CTC uses dynamic pricing.

image of book cover for metropolitan dreamsThursday at Common Good Books: Larry Millett reads from “Metropolitan Dreams: The Scandalous Rise and Stunning Fall of a Minneapolis Masterpiece.” The first skyscraper in Minneapolis, the Metropolitan was demolished in 1961, a decision that forever labeled the Mill City dumber than St. Paul, at least when it comes to historic preservation. The former architecture critic for the Pioneer Press, Millett has been the esteemed chronicler of our regional architecture since “The Curve of the Arch: The Story of Louis Sullivan’s Owatonna Bank” (1985) and “Lost Twin Cities” (1992). Just out, “Metropolitan Dreams” is his latest from the University of Minnesota Press. Millett also writes Sherlock Holmes mysteries set in Minnesota. He’s annoyingly prolific. 7 p.m. Free.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Britter Ritter on 11/27/2018 - 06:48 pm.

    I hardly think an original-instruments type musician is appropriate for the SPCO, which is a traditional instruments group. Enforcing an artificial, academic style of performing on them will go just about as well as forcing the Academy of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields to go original instruments. This multiple-personality disorder leading the orchestra shows a lack of coherence.

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