There’s a lot of great music, including hot jazz, around the metro this week but I need to specifically salute Jazz Central Studios and founder/director/veteran drummer Mac Santiago. Operating the basement space on a shoestring since 2010, Mac is more than a survivor on the jazz scene—he is a promoter of talent, particularly young and new talents, a mentor to many of these fledgling artists, and a determined “keeper of the flame” of modern jazz. When COVID shut down live music, Mac found a way to present “live” jazz through streaming from the Jazz Central stage as well as promoting donations to support musicians struggling with unemployment. And he has been cautious in reopening the club to live music, limiting seating via reservations for those fully vaccinated, while continuing the live streams. Now Jazz Central typically has three nights of live music each week, Thursday-Saturday, and this week reflects the nature of the JC line-ups: Last night featured internationally acclaimed bassist Anthony Cox with drummer Craig Hill and percussionist Ron Coulter; tonight (Friday) features the eclectic sounds of the famed Four Freshmen, with local trumpet master Jake Baldwin; Saturday night brings in a trio of young lions, recent college grads Fake Fashion led by drummer/future aerospace engineer Luke Peterson.
Just a little background on Jake and Luke, whom I’ve followed since their high school days performing with the Dakota Combo—about eight years apart. Jake Baldwin graduated from Minnetonka High School before heading to the New England Conservatory in Boston. He placed third in the 2010 International Trumpet Guild’s Jazz Trumpet Competition, 2nd in the 2013 National Trumpet Competition’s Jazz division, and was a finalist in the 2019 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet competition. Since returning to Minnesota after completing studies at NEC, Jake has performed with a who’s who list of area musicians, led his own ensembles, and now tours with the Four Freshman. Nothing Jake does with a trumpet surprises me, but singing too? I still recall his response more than a decade ago when I asked him why he chose the trumpet. “I started playing the trumpet in sixth grade because it was between that and choir and if you’ve ever heard me sing, well, be glad I play trumpet.” Now we can be glad he sings too!
Saturday’s featured Fake Fashion reunites three more Dakota Combo alums—Luke Peterson (drums), Alma Engebretson (cello and bass), and Patrick Adkins (piano). Patrick studied at Lawrence Conservatory and recently relocated to Chicago; Alma earned a degree in classical cello from the University of Denver (but is known locally for her jazz and pop chops); Luke studied math and engineering as well as jazz at Northwestern University and is now pursuing graduate studies in aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado. In varying combinations, all have performed at Twin Cities venues since high school graduation, and two years ago, Luke curated a three-night “Our Jazz Festival” at Studio Z, with a number of ensembles featuring the younger generation of area jazz artists. On Saturday, this trio will convene to play some original music as well as personal favorites. I am hoping Luke sneaks in a tune or two playing piano—he’s studied with Bryan Nichols and I’ve heard a few solo pieces. Like drummer Dave King, his piano chops are his secret weapon.
If you want to hear either night live, check the Jazz Central website (www.jazzcentralstsudios.org) for availability of tickets or instructions for viewing the live stream; view the calendar for upcoming music. And if you are online or in person, add a donation to Jazz Central! It’s tax deductible and one of the best arts investments in town.