BEST JAZZ CLUB Minneapolis 2003 - Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
How St. Paul, a medium-sized city in a predominantly white metropolitan area, came to be blessed with a trio of marvelous jazz joints is one of the more pleasant mysteries of modern times. Under the steady hand of musician-proprietors Kenny Horst and Billy Petersen, the Artists' Quarter has been a touchstone for stellar local jazz bands while mixing in the occasional national act--Eric Alexander or the Fred Hersch Trio, for instance. More recently, Brilliant Corners has emerged as a coffee shop by day, and a hip haunt hosting adventuresome stylists like the Matt Wilson Quartet and Carei Thomas by night. Better yet, the club's no-alcohol policy allows it to stay open after bar time, luring stars such as Roy Hargrove and his band into already legendary jams that linger on close to dawn. But the crown jewel of jazz in the Upper Midwest remains the Dakota Bar & Grill. Just last night, Dakota patrons could partake in a performance by the most acclaimed small ensemble in jazz today (the Dave Holland Quintet), in a setting so intimate you could see the beads of sweat, the quick eye contact, and the shared smiles among the band members. Holland and the suddenly hip Bad Plus are merely the latest among the stupendous array of acts--from mainstream crowd-pleasers like Harry Connick Jr. and Hargrove to avant-garde titans such as Steve Lacy, James Carter, and David Murray, to legends on the order of Ray Brown, Betty Carter, and McCoy Tyner--that have graced the Dakota stage in the prime of their careers. And for true jazz die-hards, the Dakota's booking of superb albeit commercially unheralded performers such as Ray Drummond, Harold Land, and Terrell Stafford represent manna from heaven. That's because owner Lowell Pickett shares our passion for the music and has established a reputation throughout the international jazz community for treating musicians with respect and marvelous, between-set repasts from a menu that has been praised in the New York Times for its quality.