Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here's That Rainy Day

A cold, breezy and drizzly Saturday is a great day to play jazz. Well, every day is a great day to play jazz but cold, breezy drizzly days reduce the chance of competing interests.

Here's a quick reminder about the Jazz Workshop schedule. The McRae Park building will be closed on Saturdays beginning Memorial Day weekend so the last Saturday workshop will be 5/22/10. We will resume Saturday workshops after Labor Day. Annie will be looking into the availability of a week night slot at the park building and I will update the blog as soon as we know something about this. Last summer we met on Monday evenings and the year before that on Tuesdays.

On June 5th the Jazz Workshop will be performing at the McRae Park Fun Day. This is an annual event. When the schedule is finalized, I'll post that to the blog. On August 7th is the Freedom Jazz Festival at Minnehaha Falls Park in South Minneapolis. This is an annual event started by Sam Favors, the founder of the Jazz Workshop. We hope to have a set at the FJF again this year and we're already working up some songs. Stay tuned for more information.

This week at McRae Park we had two new participants, Will (guitar) and Brett (guitar). Both of them are high school students interested in guitar and jazz. They joined Evan (bass) who's also in high school and has been to a few workshops now with his upright bass. Also returning to the workshop for an hour or so was Peter (baritone sax) joining the usual suspects: Sam (trumpet and trumpet synth) Wes (tenor sax), Gene (drums), Craig (guitar), Owen (accordion), Annie (vocals), Tim (guitar) and Toria (vocals). It is wonderful to have young folks turning up because they are the future of jazz.

The song list for today included "Blue Bossa," "Doxy," "The Nearness of You," "On The Sunny Side of the Street," "Ornithology," "Am I Blue," "There Will Never Be Another You," "Day By Day," "Now's the Time," "Autumn Leaves," "Take the 'A' Train," "Here's That Rainy Day," "Someone To Watch Over Me," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Inchworm," "Georgia On My Mind," "Dream," "Summertime," "East of the Sun," "Four On Six," and "Jordu."

That's it for this week. We'll be back at McRae Park next Saturday (5/1/10) at noon. Only four weeks of Saturday workshop sessions left unti fall- hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reminder: Ira's Jazz Quartet

Ira's Jazz Quartet will be playing at the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul this Saturday evening at 8:00 PM. Workshop regular Ira is the bandleader (hence the name). The Quartet is a sax-piano-drums-bass group but as an added attraction they will be joined by Workshop regular Steve on trumpet and flugelhorn. There's no cover charge.

The Coffee Grounds
1579 Hamline Avenue North
St Paul, MN 55108-2107
(651) 644-9959

Warning! Warning!

OK, it's not that dire. I just wanted to point out that the Saturday Jazz Workshops will be on hiatus starting the Saturday before Memorial Day and will start again on the Saturday after Labor Day. This is because the McRae Park building is not open on weekends in the summer (I am not sure why that is, it seems odd to me but there it is).

Most summers we switch to meeting on a week night because the park building is open until 9:00 PM, assuming there are people who have interest in this. Typically we meet from about 6:00 PM to 8:45, giving us 15 minutes to pack up and be out by 9:00. The schedule for the summer workshop has not yet been set for this year and no doubt will be a topic of conversation in the coming weeks.

I just wanted to put out a heads-up about this. When the summer schedule is settled, I'll post that too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nontraditional jazz combo

One of the things about the Jazz Workshop is that you never know who's going to show up or what the instrumentation is going to be. Today we had a "nontraditional" combo of alto sax, three guitars, accordion, drums and vocalists. And the alto sax had to leave after about an hour, changing things to three guitars, accordion, drums and vocalists. Despite that we still played jazz and some of it sounded pretty good, too.

At the Workshop today were Ira (alto sax), Owen (accordion), Gene (drums) and guitarists Bob, Craig and Tim. Vocalists were Annie, Toria and Matt.

The set list included "Crystal Tears," "The More I See You," "Peri's Scope," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "There Will Never Be Another You," "You Took Advantage of Me," "Harlem Nocturne" (with each of the vocalists taking a stab at it), "Blue Room," "East of the Sun," "Lover Man," "Ain't Misbehavin'," ""Cheek to Cheek," "Day by Day," "Flintstones," "Satin Doll," "Moonlight In Vermont," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Don't Go To Strangers," "As Time Goes By," "That Old Feeling," "Am I Blue" and "Makin' Whoopee."

The Jazz Workshop will be back next Saturday 4/24/10, at noon with the instrumentalists and from 1:00-3:45 with vocalists. The Saturday Workshops will be ending for the summer in May because the park building is not open on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We may be continuing on a weeknight from 6:00-9:00 during the summer, depending on interest and the availability of a room at the park. So, if you want to come out to one of the Saturday sessions, don't delay!

In the photos: at the top we have Annie (vocals and Jazz Workshop Coordinator) and Matt; next we have Bob with his beautiful flame-top Les Paul; below that are Craig and a former workshop attendee who dropped in for a visit (unfortunately I didn't catch his name); at at the bottom are Owen on accordion and Gene on drums.

Don't forget that Ira's Jazz Quartet with guest Steve Hillson will be playing on 4/24/10 at the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul. See the links below.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Workshop regulars play at Barbette for Minnesota Literacy Council

Trumpeter and workshop regular Steve Hillson and his band, Parallel Text, played a benefit at Barbette on April 13th. The gig was great. Says Steve, "We raised over $900 for the Minnesota Literacy Council, the venue was terrific, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Special thanks to Rachel Wandrei at Barbette for hosting this event." The band includes Norman Andersen (keyboard), Chip Minor (bass), Steven Dwyer (drums) and Peter Skjervold (sax and flute). Check out their website at

Norman and Chip have also been regulars at the Jazz Workshop over the years

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gig alerts

On Tuesday 4/13/10, Steve Hillson's band Parallel Text will be playing 7:00-9:00 PM at a benefit for the Minnesota Literacy Council. The gig will be at Barbette on Lake Street a few blocks west of Hennepin Avenue.

On April 4/24/10, Ira's Jazz Quartet will be playing at The Coffee Grounds in St.Paul at 8:00 PM. Ira is a regular at the Jazz Workshop, playing alto sax usually and tenor sax sometimes. Steve Hillson (trumpet and flugelhorn) will be guest soloist.

Please come out and support good causes and good music, not to mention the fine establishments willing to support jazz music in the Twin Cities.

A Sunny Day In Minneapolis Town

Jeez, hasn't the weather been astonishingly, unseasonably warm and sunny and mild? It's like we are four to six weeks ahead of the normal patterns. I'm sure there's a downside to it (drought, for example) but in the short term it sure is pleasant. Despite this, jazzers keep spending part of their Saturdays with us at McRae Park rather than raking, mowing, gardening, painting, etc. Today we had twelve people at the workshop, including Matt (vocals) returning for his second workshop and Evan (bass) joining us for his first. After the workshop, Evan remarked "where else can you get this kind of experience?" He's right, the Jazz Workshop is a unique tradition in Twin Cities jazz- a place where people can come and learn to play jazz by playing jazz. The rest of the group today included Annie, Dick and Toria (vocals), Max (bass), Gene (drums), Ira (alto sax), Steve (trumpet and flugelhorn), Wes (tenor sax), Craig (guitar), Owen (accordion) and Tim (guitar).

The set list for the day included "Moanin'" and "It Could Happen To You," neither of which came off well. So then we tried "Blue Monk" which was a much better "starter tune" with which to get warmed up. From there we went on to play "Hot 'Lanta," "How Insensitive" (instrumental), "Blue Room," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "I'm Old Fashioned," "How Insensitive" (vocal), "Let's Get Lost," "Nature Boy," "Moanin'" (a second try which went somewhat better), "Centerpiece," "Mood Indigo," "How Deep Is The Ocean," "Why Aren't You My Love" (an original by Dick Jacques), "Willow Weep For Me," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Here's That Rainy Day," "Again," "Lullaby of Birdland." That's 21 songs in about 3 1/2 hours.

I didn't bring my camera today so the photos are courtesy of Don Lehnhoff (bass and trombone) who took these a few weeks ago and sent them to me. Thanks, Don! At the top we have Wes on tenor sax; Wes has been a regular at the Jazz Workshop for a couple of years and is a self-taught sax player. In the next photo is Steve, on trumpet and flugelhorn, who has been coming to the Jazz Workshop for quite a few years and has been one of the people responsible for keeping it going through some times of sparse attendance. Continuing further down today's blog post we have Tim (guitar) and Max (bass); Tim has been coming for a bit over two years and writes the weekly blog and the Craigslist ads and otherwise tries to shirk responsibility for everything else. Max is new to playing jazz and has been coming regularly for a couple of months, making great srides in getting comfortable with the music. A few weeks ago he'd be looking somewhat baffled at the charts and now just plays through the changes. The last picture is Annie, who is the workshop coordinator. Her husband, the late Sam Favors, was the founder of the Jazz Workshop over 30 years ago with the vision of providing an opportunity for people to learn to appreciate and play jazz music. Over the decades many of the Twin Cities jazz musicians learned to play jazz at the Workshop under Sam's tutelage. Sam also founded the Freedom Jazz Festival, now being carried on by a dedicated group of former Workshop members.

The Workshop will meet again next Saturday at McRae Park from noon to 3:45. If you're interested in playing jazz, come on out and give it a try! As Evan said after the session, there is just nowhere else in the Twin Cities- and few places in the entire country- where someone can so easily get this experience. Thanks to the vision of Sam Favors and the dedication of Annie and others, we still have this wonderful resource. We need you to help keep it alive!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunny Saturday Jazz

On the Saturday before Easter there was a bit of a miscommunication and it took a while to get into the park building, so the workshop didn't get started until almost 12:30. Horrors! But get started we did and ten of us spent a pleasant few hours playing jazz.

Joining us today for the first time was Matt, a vocalist, who needed just a little cajoling to sing and sounded fine. There is a whole set of skills for jazz singers besides knowing the words and the melody- there is also an element of directing the band on the fly and communicating one's intentions. It's interesting, as an accompanist, to watch singers develop those abilities. Also at the workshop today were vocalists Annie, Toria and Dick and Gene (drums), Max (bass), Bob (guitar), Tim (guitar), Wes (tenor sax), Jack (trumpet and drums) and Bronco (tenor sax). Getting eleven people to come out for the afternoon on a beautiful Saturday in the spring is a compliment to the music.

The set list today included "Blue Bossa," "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas," ""Pretend," "Don't Blame Me," "L-O-V-E," "My Romance," "The Very Thought Of You," "I Don't Know Why," "Makin' Whoopee," "Ornithology," "Day By Day," "Honeysuckle Rose," "I'm Beginning To See The Light," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "If You Never Come To Me," "Don't Explain," "On The Street Where You Live," "Dream," "What More Can I Say" (an original written by Dick), "Freddie The Freeloader," "Down Home Blues," "Sentimental Journey," and "I Remember You."

The photos today were taken hurriedly towards the end during "Sentimental Journey." At the top is Bob on his Les Paul guitar. In the middle is Matt, the new vocalist. And at the bottom are Dick, Wes and Bronco from left to right.