The first Twin Cities Jazz Festival back in 1999 wasn’t even supposed to be a jazz festival, just an “event” to promote the music. Three hundred were expected on Peavy Plaza, 3,000 showed up. It became an annual jazz festival, held every year, ultimately settling in Lowertown St Paul around Mears Park. Every year until COVID scrapped plans for 2020, launching TCJF’s widely seen and heard Jazz Fest Live, weekly live streaming of local and national artists’ live performances sponsored by AARP Minnesota. Now, under the leadership of festival director Steve Heckler, the live fest from Mears Park returns this weekend, September 16-18, featuring headliners Kenny Barron, Delfeayo Marsalis, Emmet Cohen with Patrick Bartley, and local icon Moore by Four. Scaled down to two outdoor stages this year—the Hiway Credit Union Main Stage in Mears Park, and the adjacent XCEL Energy Jazz on 5th Street stage, the fest also features indoor music at the Black Dog (three nights of Steve Kenny’s “Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog”) and Episcopal Homes. It’s all free with main stage performances also available virtually via AARP Minnesota’s Jazz Fest Live.
Thursday, September 16 at the Black Dog
8 pm. Peter Goggin Trio with Charlie Lincoln and Phil Hey. Since graduating from the jazz program at the University of Michigan, alto saxophonist Peter Goggin has become a busy presence on the local jazz scene, often in the company of fellow Dakota Combo alum, bassist Charlie Lincoln, and veteran drummer/educator Phil Hey. A powerhouse trio to launch this special edition of “Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog.”
9:30 pm, Tall Tales (Zacc Harris, Dean Granros, Christ Bates, Jay Epstein). Four local favorites combine talents in the unusual configuration of a double guitar quartet. A gig in 2014 led to a recording session that ultimately yielded two CDs and additional performances. It’s hard to get this foursome together because they are each in high demand on stage and in the recording studio. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear their live storytelling!
Friday, September 17, Hiway Credit Union Main Stage at Mears Park
5 pm, Emmet Cohen Trio with Patrick Bartley. Since his first appearances in the Twin Cities about 5 years ago, Emmet Cohen has become a favorite, appearing at Jazz Central and Crooner’s Dunsmore Room as well as the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Winner of the 2019 American Pianists Awards and the Cole Porter Fellow of the American Pianists Association, Emmet was a finalist in the 2011 Monk Piano Competition and won the Phillips Piano Competition, and earned degrees from the University of Miami Frost School of Music and Manhattan School of Music. In addition to leading his acclaimed trio, Emmet leads a series of recordings, The Masters Legacy series, with Jimmy Heath, Ron Carter and more. During the pandemic, he broadcast a virtual series every Monday night from his New York apartment, featuring his trio and a long list of guest artists. Recently Emmet has featured Grammy nominated saxophonist, composer and bandleader Patrick Bartley, Jr. who joins the trio at Jazz Fest.
7:30 pm, Kenny Barron Trio With Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Johnathan Blake.
Nine-time Grammy nominee, multi-year winner of critics polls, and NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron returns to the Twin Cities, three years after his dazzling performance in the Dunsmore Room. The Philadelphia native launched his career with such notables as Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Buddy Rich and more, and led a long-standing trio with Buster Williams and Ben Riley. Another long-time associate, Japan native bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa has worked with Winard Harper, Andy Bey, Kenny Garrett, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis and Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet. Grammy nominated drummer and composer Johnathan Blake has worked with Russell Malone, Tom Harrell, David Sanchex and more, and leads his own bands.
Friday, September 17, XCEL Energy 5th Street Stage.
4 pm, Maryann and the Moneymakers. A long-time favorite voice of jazz radio, Maryann Sullivan has fronted the swinging Moneymakers in venues throughout the region. Expect vibrant takes on great standards as well as some lesser-known tunes.
6:30 pm, Selby Avenue Brass Band. The sounds of New Orleans brass bands mark this ensemble led by long-time educator and tuba player Tom Wells. Formerly known as the Dick and Jane Brass Band, Selby Ave Brass Band opens the annual Selby Avenue Jazz Fest and now makes their debut appearance at TCJF.
Friday, September 17, Episcopal Homes Stage.
2 pm, Travis Anderson Trio. Since Light Rail make it easy to travel up and down the University Avenue corridor, Jazz Fest has scheduled afternoon music at Episcopal Homes, where residents and fest fans gather in the large common area to hear some of the area’s best. The Travis Anderson Trio includes dazzling swinging pianist Travis with pals Steve Pikal on bass and Nathan Norman on drums, playing the same high energy tunes that enchant crowds at the Dakota and other venues.
Friday, September 17, Black Dog.
8 pm, Steve Kenny Quartet. Part trumpet master, part tech expert, part impresario, Steve Kenny well deserved his award of “Jazz Hero” from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2019. His weekly Saturday Night Jazz at the Black Dog is one of the area’s longest running jazz series, his 300+ shows to date interrupted only by COVID. Tonight he leads a quartet of young giants in the opening set – Levi Schwartzberg on vibes, Charlie Lincoln on bass, and Miguel Hurtado on drums.
9 pm, Festival Jam. Steve Kenny hosts the perennial festival jam, and you never know who will show up from the day’s performers. But would it be cool to see Kenny Barron on the Black Dog’s little upright?? Cross your fingers.
Saturday September 18, Hiway Credit Union Man Stage at Mears Park
12:30. Youth Performances. In place of the usual youth stage, this year ensembles from MacPhail Center for Music and Walker West Music Academy share the main stage on Saturday afternoon (more youth ensembles at the Black Dog). This is a terrific opportunity to hear the young lions that will be leading bands at the festival just a few years from now!
3:00 pm. Twin Cities Seven. Saxophonist Doug Haining has led this ensemble for years, featuring the best swinging musicians and vocalist Charmin Michelle. Rick Carlson handles the keys. Swing is the thing!
5:00 pm, Moore by Four. One of the jazz treasures of the Twin Cities, Moore by Four–leader/pianist Sanford Moore with top regional vocalist Dennis Spears, Connie Evingson, Ginger Commodore, and Yolande Bruce– has dazzled audiences for over 30 years. With the untimely passing of Yolande, the group found a new vocalist “in the family”– Ginger’s daughter Ashley Commodore. This will be their jazzfest debut with the new configuration. Expect a lot of energy, amazing harmonies, and a great set of tunes.
7:30 pm, Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet. A past festival favorite returns. Trombonist/composer/producer/educator Delfeayo Marsalis grew up in jazz, son of Ellis, brother of Wynton and Jason. His early employers incldued Ray Charles, Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Slide Hampton, and he went on to lead both small ensembles and his Uptown Jazz Orchestra. he’s appeared in town at the Dakota, Crooners, and Mears Park during JazzFest, bringing the modern and joyful sounds of NOLA steeped in modern jazz.
Saturday September 18, XCEL Energy’s Jazz on 5th Street
2 pm, Jack Brass Band. The Twin Cities’ own New Orleans brass band, Jack Brass Band has been enthralling audiences since 1999. Mixing the Big Easy’s traditions with old-time blues, rock, hip-hop, pop, funk and reggae, they’ve impressed no less than Wynton Marsalis, who noted “If you like your gumbo spicy and your music hot, check out theJack Brass Band.” And they sing, too.
4 pm, Katia Cardenas. A fast-rising star on the vocal jazz scene, Katia recently starred at the new Granada Theater and was featured in the Pioneer Press. Her repertoire is broad and her bands always feature the best. On the 5th Street Stage, she fronts Dale Alexander on piano, Ted Olsen on bass, Beth Varela on drums, and special guest Sue Orfield on tenor sax.
6:30 pm, Salsa del Soul. This ensemble has a long-standing connection to Jazz Fest, and no matter which stage, they send their Latin sounds far and wide, with a guarantee that there will be dancing in the streets. The musicians represent a wide range of area bands and styles, but when they get together, they provide one big harmonious and joyful sound.
Saturday September 18, Episcopal Homes
2 pm, Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson. If you missed them Friday night at Citizen, come early on Saturday and catch this fabulous duo for your festival matinee. Together, Maud and Rick have presented songs of the great songwriters in intimate, decade-format shows, and this afternoon we can expect a round-up of favorites.
Saturday, September 18, Black Dog
1 pm, Minnesota Jazz Education Youth Showcase. Formerly the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education, MJE promotes jazz education throughout the region via workshops, scholarships, performance opportunities and instructor-led ensembles. This afternoon, MJE features three sets of outstanding high school artists– High School for Recording Arts ensembles (Rashad 502, Kyngyetta Brown, Izzy Melody) and bands led by saxophonist Jerome Treadwell, and pianist Zach Studdiford.
8 pm, Aaron Hedenstrom Trio. A graduate of the jazz programs at UW-Eau Claire and the University of North Texas, saxophonist/composer Aaron Hedenstrom has led small ensembles as well as his orchestra, and has received several national awards for composition.
9:30 pm, Cody Steinmann Band. Guitarist/bassist Cody Steinmann is a Milwaukee transplant and increasingly familiar face on the local jazz scene. His cohorts tonight include Kavyash Kaviraj on piano, Chris Smith on bass, and Abbinet Berhanu on drums.
The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will follow recommended COVID precautions–urging all attending live to wear masks and preferably to have been vaccinated. Hand sanitizers will be available throughout Mears Park. Of course a safe way to enjoy the main stage music is through live streaming — visit https://www.twincitiesjazzfestival.com/jazz-fest-live/. Sign up — it’s free, see the schedule of live-streamed shows from Mears Park.
See TCJF website for more information, ways to donate to the festival, venue maps, etc. www.twincitiesjazzfestival.com