New Places, New Faces
THE LEAVES AREN'T the only thing changing this time of year. The fall flurry of new music spots is creating more options for audiences and new possibilities for struggling artists. One new venue you may have heard about is The Quest (formerly Glam Slam), where I hear that percussionist Sheila E. has a hand in booking; and if the scheduled November 7 appearance of jazz trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard is any indication, she and the upscale hot spot are off to a good start.
Along with the renaming and remodeling of Glam Slam, the big news in venues is the comeback of the famous Artist's Quarter jazz club, which has been relocated to the basement of the McColl Building, which adjoins Galtier Plaza in downtown St. Paul. It will be known officially as The Artist's Quarter at Rudy's, because it's housed in a space owned by Rudy Garcia (owner of Garcia's Restaurant and McColl Steakhouse).
The ambitious (and expensive) dreams to bring back the AQ at its old space on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis came to a stop this summer, but this smaller, subterranean AQ bears some important similarities to its predecessor. Former Artist's Quarter owner/manager Jerry Kennelly is back behind the bar, part of a new ownership group that includes Minnesota music stars Billy and Ricky Peterson, and local drummer/booker Kenny Horst. Scott DeRudder's original silhouette mural has been recreated for the new AQ's interior, and the photo gallery featuring dozens of Minnesota Jazz Hall of Famers has been transplanted intact. Among the new touches is a sound system purchased from Paisley Park, and a Schimmel grand piano provided by Billy P.
This weekend, trumpeter and fluegelhornist Tom Harrell becomes the first national act to headline the new space. Harrell hasn't played Minneapolis since the days of the old AQ, and doesn't travel the country much at all due to health problems. But Horst used some friendly connections to lure the underrated Harrell--a former sideman for Phil Woods and Horace Silver--here to christen the new AQ. With bright, soft melodies that swing from the cool side without aping the minimalism of Miles Davis, Harrell will be backed by an exquisite trio comprised of Horst, bassist Keith Boyles and pianist Bob Peterson. Next weekend, Horst brings in old pal Mose Allison for two nights, and other AQ favorites such as Lew Tabackin and Bobby Rockwell are already on tap for November.
Beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, an all-night local-musicians gig will mark the club's official grand opening. Tickets for Tom Harrell ($12, $8 Sunday), as well as for upcoming shows, are available at the club or the Squire Barber Shop (622 Smith Ave., St. Paul; 221-9959/292-1359).
Just a few blocks from the new AQ there's Jazzville, a folksier and funkier blues/jazz joint. (Owner Leroy Daniels also runs Mr. D.'s Ribs right next door.) R&B band Ronnie Scott and Project 1 are the Saturday night specialists, featuring strong, old-school vocalists Kim Yarborough and Donald Thomas. Jazzville's a real kick for those who like live, danceable music in a friendly, unpretentious space. During the week, Morris Wilson hosts one of his many jazz jams on Tuesdays; Wednesday there's a blues and jazz jam; and reggae DJs throw the party on Thursdays (Ninth and Robert near Rumours, across from Pedro Luggage, St. Paul; 291-1767).
When you add the AQ and Jazzville to existing St. Paul jazz joints such as the Dakota and Chang O'Hara's, it's clear that the state capital is Minnesota's jazz capital as well. But Minneapolis still swings in some out-of-the-way places, and for no money down, believe it or not, Bryant-Lake Bowl has resumed its Monday night jazz series. On a good night, this is still one of the finest listening environments in either town, with dozens of ringside tables and a room so quiet you can hear a (bowling) pin drop. Up-and-coming altoist Brad Holden headlines this Monday; guitarist Ray Gehring of the New Vision Trio follows the week after (9:30 p.m. Mondays, 810 W. Lake St., Mpls.; 825-3737).
Pepito's Mexican restaurant in south Minneapolis hosts jazz in the Poco Loco Lounge on Sunday nights, with trumpeter Gene Adams helping to book well-known local boppers as well as some strong new talent. The late-autumn lineup includes Red Beans and Rice (October 22); Brad Holden Trio (October 29); Gene Adams Band (November 5); Ear Train (November 12); vocalist Sheila Moray (November 19); and The John Devine Quartet (November 26). (9 p.m. till midnight, 4820 Chicago Ave. S.; 822-2104.)
Adams can also be heard every week at the hip little northside hangout, Mighty Fine Coffeehouse and Deli as part of the Brad Bellows Sextet featuring Eddie Berger. Jazz alternates with folk-rock on the schedule, and Mondays are mostly devoted to Mighty Fine Ink, a gathering of novelists and poets for open readings (13th and University N.E., Mpls.; 331-5851).
Another restaurant with a music program in development is Tachio's in the former Living Room space in downtown Minneapolis. Soli Hughes, guitarist for Moore by Four and Sounds of Blackness, was a frequent feature at Kapoochi's on Nicollet Mall; as entertainment director at Tachio's, he'll be putting together some star-studded small bands featuring Cynthia Johnson, saxophonist Kathy Jensen, and conga man Lefty Medina, as well as booking local favorites such as Dennis Spears for an eclectic, offbeat musical program to match the unusual Mediterranean menu (Third St. and First Ave. N., Mpls.; 672-9977).
For the record, there's a new musical coffeehouse at 18th and Nicollet (behind the Laughing Cup) also called The Living Room, though it has no connection to the previous one. With no windows and wall-to-wall carpet, the place feels a little like a church rec room, but the sound is excellent and there's plenty of seating. This Thursday, don't miss the headline set by Thea Ennen and the Algorhythms, who've just released another fine collection of piano-based folk-pop, Hold Back the Sun (Atomic Theory). Sugar Marie opens. After this weekend, The Living Room will close for a month, and the name will be changed to avoid any further association with the old Living Room. Brad of local band The Unfinished is doing some of the booking: 870-7015.
Just down Nicollet at 14th Street, the Nicollet Grille is booking small groups and singer-songwriters as well. Loungy reggae seems to be a specialty on the music menu: Ipso Facto frontman Wain McFarlane has played a few Tuesdays, and new band One Drop was a Saturday fixture in October (1400 Nicollet Ave., Mpls.; 874-7285).
Is northeast Minneapolis the next Seattle? Well, local musicians and artists are moving there in droves, and it is now home to one of the hippest music venues anywhere. Mario's Keller Bar, below the famous Gasthof Restaurant on University Avenue, may be the first full-fledged polka/alternative venue in the state. Polka bands such as The Squires and Chuck Thiel still pack the spacious basement dance floor with young and old revelers on weekends. But after 9 p.m. on weeknights, the Keller (German for "cellar") welcomes all kinds of groovy alternative groups. Lamont Cranston drummer Jeff Rogers works there as full-time baker and part-time booker, though Todd is the main man to call for gig action. This Thursday it's Ex Animo--now featuring members of The Sea (2300 University Ave. NE; 781-3860)... however, Nye's Polonaise Room is not to be outdone in the Nordeast chic department, apparently: REV-105's Mary Lucia is now broadcasting her local music show Somethin' Else live from Nye's every Tuesday at 10 p.m.
I have a new venue too: send gig schedules, announcements etc. to my unforgettable e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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