The annual three-day invasion of downtown St. Paul by the Twin Cities Jazz Festival again will be highlighted by a couple of free stages sporting first-tier jazz bands at Lowertown's Mears Park. Numerous downtown clubs will also be teeming with an eclectic array of local artists, running the gamut from pianists Scott Miller and Butch Thompson to guitarist Dean Magraw's Red Planet, Ticket to Brasil, and groups led by George Mauer, George Avaloz, and Zacc Harris. There'll also be a stage featuring student jazz ensembles, and the festival will coincide with Pianos on Parade, which scattered 10 pianos outside around downtown St. Paul for anyone to play when the fancy strikes.
Meanwhile, the main stage amid the leafy glades of Mears Park on Thursday will feature local singers Alicia Renee (joined by Chicago pianist Jon Weber) and Connie Evingson. The local Latin-oriented outfit Seven Steps to Havana will get things underway there Friday, followed by the multi-generational Peterson Family of local jazz stalwarts, and finally by the New Gary Burton Quartet. Burton (pictured), an innovative vibraphone icon with enduring ties to the likes of Chick Corea and Larry Coryell, now is heading up a quartet featuring guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Their lustrous new Common Ground is a masterpiece of sublime ensemble work, especially the effervescent interplay between Burton and Lage, exploring jazz subtly streaked with Spanish and blues elements via intricate originals and a handful of older tunes. Saturday evening on the main stage will begin with a surprising surfacing of keyboardist Eumir Deodato, the Brazilian pop-jazz phenom perhaps best known for his 1972 version of Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," the theme for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although much of his extensive output is bland, Deodato has also been an arranger and producer for everyone from Jobim and Sinatra to Kool and the Gang. His brand-new The Crossing is a more serious fusion escapade boasting the likes of Al Jarreau, Billy Cobham, and Airto Moreira. Veteran percussionist Gerardo Velez, who played with Hendrix at Woodstock, will help out.
Wrapping things up on the main stage will be the fabulous Panamanian pianist/composer Danilo Pérez in a trio setting with standout bassist John Patitucci and master percussionist Adam Cruz. A protégé of Dizzy Gillespie, Pérez conjures up a vivid mix of bop, pan-Latin American styles, and classical, playing with a remarkable blend of fire and lyricism. His latest album, the Grammy-nominated Providencia, has an expansive perspective, incorporating elements from many facets of jazz and world music. Check out the entire schedule at twincitiesjazzfestival.com.
Thu., June 23, 6 p.m.; Fri., June 24, 4:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, noon, 2011