Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


A summer Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Crooners; the SPCO to perform four outdoor concerts

ALSO: Nautilus Music-Theater presents Rough Cuts Online: “The Resurrection Project”; at the Humphrey School: “Saving Live Music: A Conversation With Dessa and Dayna Frank”; and more.

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will feature jazz vocalist Kurt Elling.
The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will feature jazz vocalist Kurt Elling.
Courtesy of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will return for a four-day summer weekend, June 24-27. Not to its usual home at Mears Park in St. Paul – we’re still in a pandemic – but to Crooners, in its newly remodeled and COVID-upgraded MainStage room and its brand-new, climate-controlled big top, the Belvedere.

The festival will begin Thursday night, June 24, with a performance by Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Ashley DuBose (“The Voice”), livestreamed from the Dakota’s stage. The Dakota doesn’t have the outdoor space Crooners does, but it’s the grand dame of Twin Cities jazz clubs, and it’s fitting that things start there. Over the past several months, the Dakota has hosted Jazz Fest Live, the Twin Cities Jazz festival’s weekly virtual concert series, now watched by thousands of jazz fans from all 50 states and several countries.

From there, the festival will move to Crooners for three nights of performances indoors and out. Out-of-town headliners are big names: jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, fresh from his second Grammy win (for “Secrets are the Best Stories”) and just voted Male Vocalist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and tenor sax titan Jerry Bergonzi and his award-winning quartet.

Pianist and longtime Jazz Fest stalwart Jon Weber will fly in from New York to host a jazz piano showcase and anchor a set with singers Connie Evingson and Dennis Spears. Patty Peterson and Ginger Commodore will perform with the Jazz Women All-Stars. Andrew Walesch Plus Nine will play Cole Porter.

Article continues after advertisement

Jamecia Bennett will revisit “The Evolution of Jazz and Blues” show with which she opened the Belvedere during its first sold-out weekend. The JazzMN Orchestra, led by JC Sanford, will perform with guests Ricky Peterson and Bob Mintzer of the Yellowjackets. We’ll also hear a line-up of youth bands, because Jazz Fest wouldn’t be Jazz Fest without youth bands.

The in-person events at Crooners will be ticketed. (Check back with the website for pricing and availability.) Performances in the Belvedere will also livestream for free.

And, just so you know and keep it in mind, Jazz Fest is wishing and hoping (and tentatively planning) for a mid-September 2021 return to Mears Park. 

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has added four outdoor concerts to the end of its 2020-21 season, which so far has been streaming live from the Ordway Concert Hall. All performances are free, family-friendly and open to the public.

On Thursday, June 3, at 6 p.m., members of the SPCO will play a program of music by Haydn, George Walker, Adolphus Hailstork, Alan Ridout, Viet Cuong and Valerie Coleman on the new outdoor plaza at the Capri Theater. On Friday, June 4, at 7 p.m., musicians will perform at Mears Park, with the music to include “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” Handel’s “Water Piece,” selections from Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat, and music by Walker, Hailstork and Cuong.

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has added four outdoor concerts to the end of its 2020-21 season.
Courtesy of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has added four outdoor concerts to the end of its 2020-21 season.
On Sunday, June 6, at 6 p.m., the musicians will be at Como Lakeside Pavilion, playing music by Vivaldi, Walker Handel, Cuong and Beethoven. On Sunday, June 13, will bring them to Lake Harriet Bandshell at 2 p.m. for a concert featuring Beethoven and Vivaldi, Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2, a new SPCO commission by Clarice Assad, “Jazz Montmartre for Clarinet and Bass,” and Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte.”

No tickets or registration required, but space is limited in some locations, so plan to arrive early.

For any public event you attend, check the organization or location website for the latest safety protocols and expectations.

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Article continues after advertisement

V Tonight (Friday, May 14), 8 p.m.: Minnesota Orchestra: “Disarmed and Unfinished.” “Disarmed” is American composer Yaz Lancaster’s “dis[armed] for Percussion Duo and Fixed Media,” a work responding to mass shootings and the killings of unarmed Black Americans by police, featuring orchestra percussionists Erich Rieppel and Kevin Watkins. “Unfinished” is Schubert’s Symphony in B minor. Also on this standout program: Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1947 revision) and Penderecki’s “Chaconne in Memory of John Paul II” for String Orchestra, both conducted by Osmo Vänskä. Brian Newhouse will host. Watch on the orchestra’s website, listen on Classical MPR or view on TPT Life.

V Starts Saturday, May 15, 8 a.m.: The Current: Rock the Cradle video series. We can’t have Rock the Cradle live this year, but we can have a Saturday-morning video series that starts May 15 and ends June 19. The kids will be up anyway so you might as well have a dance party. Performers include Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Nur-D and Gaelynn Lee. Tune in on the Current’s YouTube channel or Facebook page. FMI.

V Monday, May 17, 7:30 p.m.: Nautilus Music-Theater: Rough Cuts Online: “The Resurrection Project.” Music-theater is born and nurtured at Nautilus, the black box down from the Black Dog and across from CHS Field. If you’ve never been there, this will have to do until we can return: three short operatic music videos on the theme of renewal, created by artists from Nautilus, Film North and Milwaukee Opera Theater. Filmmaker Liam Barnett will screen a mini-documentary about how the artists have been working together, and the creative teams will be available live for comments and questions. Free with a reservation; email and they’ll send you a link.

David Mura
Courtesy of TPT
David Mura
V Monday, May 17, 8 p.m. on TPT 2: Minnesota Experience: “Armed With Language.” During World War II, a little-known military intelligence school in Minnesota trained more than 6,000 Japanese Americans to be translators, interrogators and Japanese military specialists. Most had family members in internment camps. Award-winning Twin Cities memoirist and poet David Mura wrote the film; his uncle, Tadashi Nakauchi, served as one of the MIS Nisei linguists. Released for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month. If you can’t watch Monday, you can catch it online.

Deborah Archer
Photo by Philip Greenberg
Deborah Archer is a professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law and faculty director of its Center on Race, Inequality and the Law.
V Tuesday, May 18, 12 noon: Westminster Town Hall Forum: Deborah Archer: “Race, Civil Rights, and the Law.” Third in a series of four weekly talks called “The Arc Toward Justice: Taking Stock One Year After George Floyd’s Death.” The eighth president of the ACLU and the first person of color to lead it, Archer is a professor of clinical law at the New York University School of Law and faculty director of its Center on Race, Inequality and the Law. She has twice chaired the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the nation’s oldest and largest police oversight agency. Watch here or on the Forum’s Facebook page. (Like all Forums, this will also be archived for future viewing.) Tune in early to hear Thomasina Petrus sing songs in keeping with Archer’s theme.

V Tuesday, May 18, 7 p.m.: Giving Voice Chorus: “A Place in the Choir” Virtual Concert. The importance and value of singing together is triple-underscored by Giving Voice, which brings people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners together to sing. Imagine how challenging this is under normal circumstances, then add the pandemic and what that required: even more social isolation and the use of technology. This event will feature all three Twin Cities-based Giving Voice choruses. Tuesday is the premiere, with on-demand streaming after. Free with registration.

Dessa and Dayna Frank
Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance
Dessa and Dayna Frank
V Wednesday, May 19, 12 noon: Humphrey School of Public Affairs: Center for the Study of Politics and Governance: “Saving Live Music: A Conversation with Dessa and Dayna Frank.” The wonky-sounding CSPG, which earlier hosted a thoroughly engaging conversation between Kate DiCamillo and John Schumacher, is back with Dessa, musician, writer, and rapper, and Dayna Frank, First Avenue owner and president/co-founder of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). MPR’s Euan Kerr will moderate. Free with registration.