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Twin Cities

Andrea Canter By

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Welcome to the first in a series of Jazz Near You articles where we raise the awareness of advocacy and catalyst organizations whose efforts are making a positive impact on their local jazz communities.

This article was co-written by Don Berryman

The Jazz Police website launched in spring 2004, initially intending to promote the idea of "jazz and travel" throughout the U.S. and beyond. We are not journalists, musicians or marketing experts by training—we came to Jazz Police through our love of the music and concern for its survival. Don Berryman, a software engineer for over 20 years, took a sabbatical from work in 2004 to develop the Jazz Police website, motivated by his own quest to find jazz. Don, who travelled frequently for work, was anxious to discover the local jazz scene wherever he went, but because of the often 'underground' nature of the jazz scene, he was frustrated by the lack of information available and discovered that he had often missed hearing great music that was a stones throw away from where he was.  Another motivation was love for the local Twin Cities jazz scene and a desire to keep it vibrant by spurring local jazz fans to get out to the clubs. Having the good fortune to connect and partner with Andrea Canter at the beginning of the project help assure its survival. Andrea's background includes 30 years of practice as a school psychologist in the Minneapolis Schools (retiring at the same time that Jazz Police launched) as well as nearly as many years' experience in professional writing, editing and photography. Jazz Police grew from the perfect storm of our mutual interests in jazz and (at the time) some available time to turn our "appreciation" into promotion

The Evolution of Jazz Police

The plan was to create pages for each major metro area (starting with New York, Chicago, LA, Bay Area, Twin Cities) that would alert residents and travelers to jazz events in the area through calendar listings as well as featured articles, reviews of gigs, CD and festival reviews, etc. To make this work efficiently, we had hoped to identify "reporters" in each of these cities who could update calendars and provide articles to promote and review area jazz events; and we hoped to fund the site through advertising. Based in the Twin Cities, we had no problems creating a page that continually listed local events and were able to obtain information quickly in order to post articles highlighting several gigs or concerts every week. We were not so fortunate in finding a cadre of reporters in other cities. Over time Jazz Police has become more Twin Cities-centric, although we strive to maintain New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Bay Area pages that promote at least a few key events every month. We do have regular contributors (usually reviews) in Los Angeles (Glenn Mitchell) and San Francisco (Ken Vermes) who keep us current in those cities, and we are able to cover and promote some of the nation's major jazz festivals, with Sheila and Kevin Mason covering events on the East Coast. We also cover events of interest to jazz audiences in general, such as reports of the Monk Competition, Jazz Appreciation Month, obituaries of jazz luminaries, etc.

The focus of course is the Twin Cities jazz scene, and we are the only media outlet that offers comprehensive coverage of local jazz, save our jazz radio station, Jazz 88 KBEM 88.5 FM. Both KBEM and Jazz Police post jazz calendar listings on our sites, as does the blog, JazzINK, which is managed by Jazz Police Contributing Editor Andrea Canter. Due to varying contributions, these calendars overlap but do not really duplicate each other.

Jazz Police offers continuous updating of information and posting of articles to promote upcoming events, reviews of recent gigs, reviews of CDs from both local and national/international artists, promotions and reviews of local and major jazz festivals, and occasional interviews with local and national artists. We are widely ready locally by both audiences and musicians, and with our national coverage, we are also read widely by jazz community members coast to coast. We get far more requests for coverage than we can manage with a "staff" of three plus our few ad hoc contributors. In addition to text, Jazz Police provides pictorial promotion of (mostly) local jazz through performance photos (most from Andrea Canter).

Impact

We believe we have positively impacted the Twin Cities jazz scene by providing a "one-stop" site to learn what is happening in local jazz and find some in-depth information about specific bands, musicians, venues, recordings and events. During the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, we not only provide a preview months ahead and an overview of artists, but offer the full schedule each day as well as a wrap-up with photos and commentary shortly thereafter. Each month we highlight the jazz schedule at the primary jazz venues in the Twin Cities (Dakota, Jazz Central, Black Dog) and also regularly promote jazz series at Minnesota Orchestra Hall, the Walker Art Center and other concert presenting venues. Each week we highlight at least two or three gigs/concerts in the Twin Cities. Periodically we offer interviews with local artists as well as reviews of locally-produced recordings. We also highlight events and opportunities in jazz education, including annual summary of upcoming summer jazz camps and activities of such organizations as the Walker West Music Academy, MacPhail Center for Music, McNally Smith College of Music, PipJazz Foundation, and Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education.

The Twin Cities Jazz Scene

In 2015, jazz in the Twin Cities is alive and well but challenged daily. A year ago, the one remaining full-time jazz club in the area, the Artists Quarter, closed due to rising rent and dwindling revenues. The Dakota Jazz Club, frequently cited as one of the best in the world, has (like many others) moved from full-time jazz programming to more eclectic music schedules, still offering gigs from upper echelon and popular jazz artists at least a few times per month and often weekly, but also offering fewer opportunities for local, and particularly instrumental, jazz artists. Despite these major changes, however, there are perhaps more opportunities for local artists now than in the past two decades, due largely to the entrepreneurship of several local jazz musicians and grants from state arts organizations.

A few years ago, local musicians launched a performance/recording/education space dubbed Jazz Central Studios, a nonprofit that now schedules live jazz at least five nights per week, running on donations for performers and to maintain the venue. There are now five distinct jazz series each week, ranging from spotlight gigs with veterans and new artists to big band nights to vocal jazz night to improvised music night, along with at least monthly jams for students and occasional clinics and master classes. Now and then a nationally acclaimed artist performs as well. In fall 2014, one of our eclectic music venues, The Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, initiated a Saturday Night series curated by local jazz musician Steve Kenny, booking top jazz ensembles weekly with opening sets from up-and-comers. Kenny also curated a 10-week "all originals" jazz series in summer 2014 which will hopefully return in 2015, and will start a Friday night series in March 2015 at a coffee/wine bar in Minneapolis, The Nicollet.

A performance space managed by the new music ensemble Zeitgeist holds monthly jazz concerts and master classes, curated by another local artist, Zacc Harris. Another eclectic venue, the Icehouse in Minneapolis, hosts a Monday night "Jazz Implosion" series curated by drummer JT Bates, bringing the area's top improvising musicians to the stage in varying configurations; visiting artists also perform on the series—Tom Rainey, Ingrid Laubrock, Matt Otto, Steve Davis, Chris Speed. These new series are pulling in strong audiences; many of the artists were formerly regular performers at the Artists Quarter.

Another bright newcomer to the Twin Cities jazz scene is the Jazz in the Target Atrium series at Minnesota Orchestra Hall. Curated by local musician Jeremy Walker, this series launched in December 2014 with members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and continues this winter and spring with nationally acclaimed guest artists working with a local ensemble and performing in the intimate, 100-seat Target Atrium. The series will continue and expand next season. Orchestra Hall otherwise also brings major jazz artists as part of its concert season—this year featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Cecile McLorin Salvant, Doc Severinsen, Ann Hampton Calloway and more.

Jazz is heard regularly as part of the arts seasons at several suburban centers, both local ensembles and national headliners. The Walker Art Center annually features several top modern artists such as Jack DeJohnette, Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, John Zorn, Jason Moran and more. And a number of bars and restaurants feature jazz artists regularly, such as the Friday and Saturday shows at the Parma 8200 restaurant, twice or more weekly gigs at Hell's Kitchen, a Thursday night improv series at the Khyber Pass restaurant, and a vocal/accordion duo twice per week at Fireside Pizza.

The biggest jazz event in the Twin Cities each year is the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. In addition to three full afternoon and evening schedules in and around Mears Park in downtown St. Paul, the festival partners with area libraries and parks to bring some "preview" shows to other parts of the city. The festival brings in 4-5 nationally acclaimed headliners as well as over 100 local musicians who perform on four outdoor stages and 20+ small indoor venues. Last year's featured artists included Branford Marsalis and Dianne Reeves, drawing an audience of about 25,000 to a totally free event.

Jazz Education

Jazz Police is a small part of jazz education in the Twin Cities. In addition to educating through promotion of live jazz, we currently sponsor a Youth Jazz Showcase, held about every two months now at Jazz Central Studios. We give high school and college ensembles an opportunity to perform in a bonafide jazz club setting. But there is a much larger jazz education community in the Twin Cities. Despite cutbacks in arts funding, many area high schools and some middle schools have active jazz programs and send bands to jazz festivals and workshops throughout the upper Midwest each year. Community schools—MacPhail Center for Music, Walker West Music Academy—offer instruction and ensemble opportunities for jazz students. Jazz camps and projects like the Minnesota Youth Jazz Bands and Dakota Combo offer community-wide, after-school and summer opportunities for more advanced study. Several venues and organizations offer performance opportunities for students in professional contexts. And local college and university programs often offer programs for younger students as well as comprehensive college programs in jazz (U of Minnesota, St Olaf College, Augsberg College, St Thomas University, Macalester College, McNally Smith College of Music, and more).

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