Hey everyone. How’s it going? Anything interesting happens while I was gone?
In all seriousness, this has been an incredibly trying time for our world, and I hope all of you have managed to persevere with minimum heartache and suffering. We at JazzMN have missed our audience terribly, so we are amped up and ready to start to engage with you once again. In our gradual return to performing again, like so many other ensembles, we’ve had to be relatively creative in the method we present live music since a 17-piece ensemble indoors with a live audience remains fraught with challenges.
You may have had a taste of this creativity with our first live-streamed show at the Dakota with the JazzMN Quintet as part of Jazz Fest Live back in March. We presented a set of classic jazz quintet arrangements that are a part of the canon of jazz history, and we had over 1000 online audience members from all over the world for that event. It was a really rewarding way for us to dip our toes back into the world of performing live jazz again. We followed that up with a second online show, this time featuring the JazzMN Sextet, which we performed on the main stage at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.
And once we finally reached a season that supports outdoor concerts (and more and more people are vaccinated against this horrible virus), the full JazzMN Orchestra made an energetic return to live performance, and we did so with a serious bang. On Sunday, June 27th, we appeared at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club as part of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, and joining us was legendary saxophonist/composer/arranger Bob Mintzer along with Minnesota native, organist, and singer, Ricky Peterson. Our guests also included Paul Peterson on bass, Joe Elliott on guitar, and Gene Lake on drums. This was an awesomely funky event and an incredibly special moment to come back together and share music with each other again. If you didn’t catch it in person, you can still watch the recording here.
To wrap up our summer season, we’ll be performing once again outdoors at Crooners on Sunday, August 29, this time presenting a show entitled “What Women Write,” featuring all-female composers, including legends like Mary Lou Williams, Melba Liston, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Minnesota’s own multi-Grammy award-winning Maria Schneider, as well as some newer artists.
Then, believe it or not, we will be engaging in an actual JazzMN season again, though with a slightly delayed start. Our first show of the 2021-22 season will be on December 13 as we return to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater for our holiday show with the full orchestra, and we’ll be joined by stellar vocalist Lila Ammons. Then after a seriously long wait (a 2-year postponement), we will finally be featuring Grammy-winning Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza on April 25, 2022. And stay tuned for other events that are in the works that may yet emerge.
Now while we’re all very excited about being able to be able to perform for you again in the coming months, we move forward over a backdrop of sorrow. Not only has the pandemic been responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 Americans (over 7,000 in Minnesota) and counting, but we are also still reeling from the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and others. We also are faced with the continued violence against Asians and Asian Americans across the country. Our community has been shaken to the bone, and we all need to work together to heal and to evolve, and address the systemic issues that have led us to where we are today. And our sadness hits even closer to home with the loss of both our beloved Debbie Duncan and Yolande Bruce, both featured artists with JazzMN in 2019. Their absence in the Twin Cities music community will long be felt, yet I feel so fortunate to have been able to work with them before they tragically left us. But we shall carry on and try to honor their legacy and that of this uniquely African American music that is jazz.
A big part of why we’ve been able to generate much of the recent programming for you has been due to several grant programs by the State of Minnesota. It is one of the aspects of Minnesota arts culture that I’ve found so impressive since returning here as an artist in New York City after so long. We are incredibly lucky to have a government and arts organizations that generally support the arts, but also who swept in to help individual artists and organizations when we all needed it most over this past year. Still, while we’ve been incredibly fortunate with these grant programs recently, a large part of our financial needs will always be met by your generous donations, so please stop by our website at JazzMN.org, and give if you can.
In the meantime, please stay as safe as you can, get your vaccine when/if you are able, and get ready to start swinging and grooving again with the JazzMN Orchestra very soon. I’m trying to build the callouses back up on my finger and thumb so I can start counting the band in again this year. 1, 2, 1-2-3-WE’RE BACK!