Music Notes

OF ALL THE musical traditions that have taken root in Minnesota, the Vietnamese is the least understood, mainly because it receives such scant exposure. The month-long World of Vietnamese Music Festival, coordinated by American Composers Forum Director Philip Blackburn, should go a way toward remedying that. Blackburn recently released Stilling Time (innova), an entrancing set of field recordings made during a recent trip across Vietnam (he has also released a four-CD set of rare recordings connected with the late American renegade composer Harry Partch). The festival's programming spotlights a wide array of traditions. Notable are the Paris-based husband-and-wife duo of Tran Quang Hai and Bach Yen, highly regarded as interpreters of traditional Vietnamese music (Thursday at noon, Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.); and Phu Dong, a new music group from Vietnam made up of six brothers and one sister-in-law who update Hmong and other folk and classical styles (Feb. 13 and 16). There's much more at various venues throughout the month; call 228-1407 for information.

Three Minnesota-does-Minnesota cover versions we'd like to see: 1) Cows do the Suburbs.
2) The Hang Ups interpret Babes in Toyland.
3) TAFKAP returns the favor and covers Slim Dunlap. Probably none of these will transpire at Minnesota Music Does Minnesota Music, this Thursday's Minnesota Music Academy membership drive showcase, but there should be plenty of song-swapping going around on two stages. The Electric Stage lineup will consist of 3 Chords of Love, Medium, Carp 18, TV Baby, February, the Wonsers, good ol' Slim Dunlap himself, and more. The Acoustic Stage features Trunk Show, the Immigrants, Crown Victoria, King's Machine, National Dynamite, the Dustbunnies, and the Rembrandts' Phil Solem. The door price also gets you a one-year MMA membership. 8 p.m. $6 (free for current MMA members). Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8100.

They may not have won the Grammy for Best Polka Band, but no matter--that intrepid dance band from Denton, Texas, Brave Combo, was always about more than polkas anyway. If you doubt it, check Hokey Pokey: Music For Organized Group Dancing (Rounder), one of two upcoming CDs from this tireless crew. It features two takes on the title track (a hip-hop and a death-metal version), "The Bunny Hop," "The Hustle," and of course, their now-legendary version of "The Chicken Dance," which last year had a circle of a couple hundred people making glorious fools of themselves in the Mainroom. Their other new album is a mind-melting collaboration with the Twin Cities' own Tiny Tim. The band hadn't planned a live collaboration at press time, but anything's possible. Auto Body Experience and Steamin' Karl's Swamp Sextet open. ($8. Doors at 8 p.m. 7th Street Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8388.)

One of the underrated jazz greats of our time is pianist Joanne Brackeen, whose recent live set Power Talk (Turnipseed) shows a player at the height of her power. Having served time as as band member with Stan Getz, Art Blakey, and Joe Henderson, Brackeen is a versatile player--agile, inventive, and thrillingly rhythmic. She's an impressive composer, too, as you'll no doubt hear tonight (request her marvellous Spanish abstraction, "Picasso"). Sax thoroughbred Ravi Coltrane, along with bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Tony Redus (both Brackeen regulars) will share the stage. Two sets nightly this Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 12 & 13; $20 for the 7:30 p.m. show, $12 for the 10 p.m., at the Dakota, Bandana Square in St. Paul. Call 642-1442 for more info). And don't forget to mark your calendar for a rare gig by Havana jazz piano master Gonzalo Rubalcaba and his Cuban Quartet, March 18-20.

What is The Scott Price Project, you ask? It's actually two longtime southside soul brothers who've just released the eclectically funky Sample This (JRS). George Scott and Kenny Price are old running buddies with Mark "Brownmark" Brown, and their debut glows with old school beauty, echoing the days when Flyte Tyme was just lifting off with S.O.S. Band. Vocalist Janice Hale and keyboardist Alan Mure complete the group. ($5. 7 p.m. Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8100)

The equinox is approaching, UFO sightings are up, and The Vibro Champs have a new record out. Our hometown's unrivaled (well, slightly rivaled) rockabilly rookies are back with Stranger Than You Think (Ultramodern), which fine-tunes the hot-rod musicianship and songsmithing of their debut The Stimulating Sounds of.... Highlights include "Mule Skinner's Blues" (the early Minnesota hit from '50s heroes The Fendermen), an unlisted monologue on the Roswell UFO crashes (what is the rockabilly/alien connection, anyway?), 11 scorching originals and three more stylish covers. The Champs are no aliens to throwing gigantic hoedowns, and their record-release party Thursday at First Avenue will be no exception. The Slim Dunlap Band, Marlee MacLeod, old-time gospel singer Sam Butler, and The Delstars. will support. ($4/$6 at the door; 7 p.m. doors.)

Once upon a time there was an indie label called 7-10 Split that specialized in releasing these little lo-fi cassette compilations of the area's strangest, not-necessarily-accessible bands. These tapes were cool enough on their own, but lacked a strong distribution and promo arm. So the folks from Amphetamine Reptile intervened. The result is Operation: Break Even, a 15-band hodgepodge of the most threatening, obtuse and/or absurd local bands you've never heard of. You can check out the entire Break Even posse during a two-night, 12-band blowout this weekend at the 7th St. Entry. Saturday night's lineup is Rough Housers, the punk/R&B Thee Viceroys, Venison, The Wahinis, Los Diablos Del Sol, and Bong Ritual. Sunday's all-age lineup includes airport crash rappers Better Off Airport with The Pins, Powerful Star Drag, Density Bomb, Peasants, and Acid Pure Hi-Fi. Operation: Break Even indeed.

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