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A month of Great Black Music Mondays at Icehouse; ‘Six’ to open at the Ordway

When JT Bates stepped down last November from curating his weekly Jazz Implosion series at Icehouse, habitués of that late-night music scene mourned. In February, Icehouse owner Brian Liebeck launched a new series, Monday Night Jazz @ Icehouse. Each month was curated by a different local artist-in-residence. Musicians including Davu Seru, Zacc Harris, Bryan Nichols and George Cartwright all got their chance at a month of Mondays.

Mankwe Ndosi
Photo by S. Nixon
Mankwe Ndosi
A year after Bates’ announcement, Monday night at Icehouse is different than it was, but it carries the same spirit of freedom and invention.

December belongs to vocalist Mankwe Ndosi. A longtime creative associate of the Chicago-based AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Ndosi has close ties with the windy city and artists there. Working with Chicago-based producer and filmmaker Stacie Brudenell, she mapped out five nights she calls Great Black Music Mondays.

Each will start with a half-hour of recorded music by a black female composer. This will be followed by an ensemble of mostly Twin Cities musicians, different each night. Four out of five nights will end with what Ndosi calls an Open Arrangement Session. Musicians who show up and sign up to play will be grouped into trios and given time on stage.

“I’m interested in places where musicians can meet each other,” Ndosi said earlier this week. “But I wanted an alternative to a jam session. Sometimes those can stay the same, and it can get a little awkward in terms of how people take space and make room for others. This is an experiment. We’ll see what happens.”

Ndosi is also a culture worker and educator, and she sees her month at Icehouse as an opportunity.

“I want to dress it up a bit,” she said. “Giving it a theme – Great Black Music Mondays – gives it a presence. I want to lift up and focus on black women composers in jazz. Women are prominent in the series. There will be a focus on improvisation as well. Two of the ensembles will play some prewritten songs, but the other three will be completely improvised.”

Four of the ensembles — all but Give Get Sistet — will be making their debuts.

Here’s the plan:

Dec. 2: Music of Alice Coltrane, then the ensemble Sankofa Zone: hip hop pioneer Truth Maze, percussionist Babatunde Lea, trumpeter Ahmed Abdulkarim, keyboardist Ryan Bynum, drummer Brandon Johnson and Ndosi.

Dec. 9: Music of Geri Allen, then the ensemble M4D: poet Douglas Kearney, multi-instrumentalist Douglas R. Ewart, saxophonist Donald Washington, drummer Davu Seru and Ndosi.

Tomeka Reid
Courtesy of the artist
Tomeka Reid
Dec. 16: Music of Nicole Mitchell, then the ensemble Solar Sistren: cellist Michelle Kinney, flutist Faye Washington, violinist Laura Harada and Ndosi.

Dec. 23: Music of Betty Carter, then the ensemble Ocean Bottom Journeys: New York City-based cellist Tomeka Reid, spoken word artist Tish Jones, Ewart and Ndosi.

Dec. 30: Music of Abbey Lincoln, then the a cappella ensemble Give Get Sistet: Sarah M. Greer, Jayanthi Rajasa, Alicia Steele, Libby Turner and Ndosi.

Everyone is someone Ndosi has worked with or performed with. But they might not have performed with each other. “There are a lot of moving parts,” she said. “I’m floored by the trust these artists have placed in me in saying yes … It’s going to be a grand experiment and journey in honoring and trying to frame things, shape things in new ways and see what works. We’re all on a journey of making.”

Ndosi also sees the timing of her month as an opportunity.

“The environment we’d like to set up — especially at the end of the year — is one where we can connect, enjoy, and be stimulated by the music, and have the chance to dream a vision together.  This is a time when we need to be as creative, active and collaborative as we can possibly be. We have to come out of our individual worlds and connect with each other in profound and nourishing ways, so we can learn how to work together … We have to move forward together.”

Can music help? It’s worth a try.

All Great Black Music Mondays shows begin at 9 p.m., except Dec. 9, which starts at 7. FMI and tickets ($15 advance, $20 door).

Will Monday Night Jazz @ Icehouse continue? Looks that way. JC Sanford will curate January.

The picks

James Rodriguez as Mr. Darcy and Sun Mee Chomet as Elizabeth Darcy in “Miss Bennet.”
Photo by Dan Norman
James Rodriguez as Mr. Darcy and Sun Mee Chomet as Elizabeth Darcy in “Miss Bennet.”
Now at the Park Square and the Jungle: Jane Austen. Indulge your love of romance, Regency England, the Bennet sisters and high-waisted dresses. It’s rare that two Jane Austen-inspired plays – one an adaptation, the other a continuation – are available at the same time. Park Square’s production of Kate Hamill’s “Pride and Prejudice” is winning raves for its modern sensibilities and outrageous staging. Many of the actors play multiple roles, some switching genders. FMI and tickets ($40-60). Closes Dec. 22. Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” was a sold-out holiday hit for the Jungle in 2017. No reason at all not to bring it back. Gunderson and Melcon imagined the Bennets two years after P&P ends. This time, the spotlight is on bookish Mary and her chance at love. FMI and tickets ($40-50). Closes Dec. 29.

Thursday at the Parkway: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” A Thanksgiving-night-only screening of John Hughes’ 1987 comedy/drama about unlikely buddies (Steve Martin and John Candy) thrown together by a freak snowstorm in the insanity of holiday travel. Martin’s wife is played by Laila Robins, who often appears on Twin Cities stages, but not often enough. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($9 advance/$11 door).

Photo by Liz Lauren/Courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Six” remixes 500 years of history into a celebration of 21st-century female empowerment.
Starts Friday at the Ordway: “Six.” Like “Hamilton,” this may be a musical where audience members sing along. The cast recording is a global phenomenon. Written by two Cambridge University undergrads for the Edinburgh Fringe, this pop-concert spectacle about the wives of Henry VIII remixes 500 years of history into a celebration of 21st-century female empowerment. The all-women cast is backed by an all-women band, “Ladies in Waiting.” A hit everywhere it goes, “Six” moves to Broadway after its Ordway run. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($40.50-$81.50). Closes Dec. 22.

Friday through Sunday at the Ordway Concert Hall: Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” The SPCO celebrates Thanksgiving with a whole program of music by American composers. Conducted by Chia-Hsuan Lin, featuring SPCO principal clarinet Sang Yoon Kim and flutist Alicia McQuerrey, it includes Copland’s Suite from “Appalachian Spring,” Clarinet Concerto and Short Symphony (arranged by former SPCO music director Dennis Russell Davies), John Corigliano’s “Voyage” for Flute and Strings, and former artistic partner Steven Prutsman’s Color Preludes for String Orchestra, a world premiere and SPCO commission,. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($12-50 for adults, free for kids and students).

Saturday at the Walker: Choreographers’ Evening 2019: Curated by SuperGroup. This will be the 47th year the Walker has devoted an evening to dance here and now. It’s a reminder of how amazing our dance community is, a peek at choreographers we haven’t seen before (some making their first appearance on the Walker stage) and a look at others we haven’t seen often enough. Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson and Jeffrey Wells are SuperGroup, and they compiled this year’s list of dancemakers: Emily Gastineau, Erika Hansen, Mathew Janczewski, Cecil Neal, Leah Nelson, Margaret Ogas, Sharon Picasso, Eva Reed and Piper Rolfes, Kayla Schiltgen, Judith H. Shui Xiān, Deja Stowers, Shanann Tolzin and Kristina de Sacramento, and Julia Warder. Shows at 4 and 7 p.m., pre-show performances at 3:30 and 6:30. FMI and tickets ($25/20).

Saturday at the Black Dog: Inatnas Orchestra. Following an opening set by the Steve Kenny Trio — Kenny being the man behind the long-running Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog series — Asuka Kakitani’s 17-piece big band will present an evening of original compositions. Some will be by Kakitani, some by her husband, trombonist JC Sanford, who plays in the orchestra. Both are McKnight composer fellows. They’re writing tuneful, intelligent music, Inatnas is tight and full of excellent musicians, and the whole thing feels fresh, new and now, with deep roots in the past. It’s exciting to hear it live. Steve Kenny Trio at 7 p.m., Inatnas at 8:30. No cover, but a tip jar will be passed.  Reserved seating available for $20. Note: Due to the size of the band, this show will be held in the banquet room

Holiday pick

Kevin Kling’s “Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log” is a night of brilliant, hilarious, touching stories, filled with details large and small and moments that will make you catch your breath. One of our greatest storytellers, Kling will be joined by the Brass Messengers, Simone Perrin and Dan Chouinard on the Guthrie’s thrust stage. We’ve seen this show, and it’s the opposite of big and splashy. It’s warm, intimate, and full of meaning and feeling. 7:30 Monday, Dec. 9. FMI and tickets ($23-28).

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