Although Minneapolis jazz pianist and composer Mary Louise Knutson maintains a busy schedule playing with the likes of Connie Evingson, Debbie Duncan, and the JazzMN Orchestra, her charming new album, In the Bubble, is her first in 10 years. Its release will be celebrated at the AQ this week and at the Dakota on Wednesday, November 30, with performances by her trio, which includes Twin Cities jazz heavyweights Gordy Johnson on bass and Phil Hey on drums. Bubble has been well worth the wait. Her straight-ahead approach to a collection almost evenly split between jazz standards and her own smart compositions spotlights her luminous work on the ivories, which is endearingly lyrical, sprightly, and rife with inventive nuances. She's been accurately compared to Bill Evans and Marian McPartland, with maybe the playful spirit of Vince Guaraldi thrown in. "Luminous," incidentally, is what Knutson calls a jaunty, adventurous bridge she wrote for a striking, gospel-like version of the pop nugget "You Are My Sunshine." Other highlights are her shimmery, emotionally rich arrangement of Toots Thielemans's "Bluesette," the subtly swinging "Bernie's Tune," and her rambunctious McCoy Tyner-influenced original "Can You Hear Me Now?" 18+.
Wed., Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m., 2011