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My favorite things in 2014: reminiscing on the year in jazz

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Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for 2015!
Through the years, I’ve always admired the special loyalty and relentless commitment that artists apply to their craft. With this idea in mind, I sat myself down and wrote this column about what I found to be some of the most fascinating songs/albums/artists/concerts of 2014. Continue Reading →

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The Color Purple musical features Twin Cities stars

(l-r) Regina Marie Williams and Aimee K. Bryant as Shug and Celie in Park Square Theatre’s staging of The Color Purple

Aimee K. Bryant, T. Mychael Rambo, Regina Marie Williams, Gary Hines a few of the local greats in new production at Park Square Theatre

Easily one of the best known and most beloved titles in American lit, Alice Walker’s famed, historic novel The Color Purple dominated the best-seller list, was made into a hit movie and bowed as a Broadway musical in 2005 with a book by Pulitzer Prize winning White playwright Marsha Norman (’Night Mother, The Secret Garden). It’ll receive nothing short of top-shelf in a new production of the musical at St. Paul’s renowned Park Square Theatre with ace actor Aimee K. Bryant starring as Celie, the cruelly abused child bride whose arduous ordeal on her way to fully realized womanhood is, a word, heartrending. Ironically, Bryant, whose broad range has marked a strong career (Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Penumbra Theatre), didn’t even think she’d be cast — except maybe in the ensemble: “I thought I’d be in the Trio, one of the background members.” Had it not been for determination, she wouldn’t be in the show at all. “I couldn’t get any appointment to audition. Continue Reading →

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Detroit Jazz Festival showcases Motor City and American music history

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Jazz is an important part of America’s musical history. Or, as saxophonist Joshua Redman aptly notes, it is “America’s classical music.”

“Jazz music is America’s original art form,” states Jason Tinsley, a board member for the Detroit Jazz Festival (DJF), held annually on Labor Day weekend. The four-day jazz fest, which takes over the city’s downtown riverfront area and annually features such big names on stage as Ramsey Lewis and Wayne Shorter among others, fits nicely in “the time-honored tradition of passing the jazz vocabulary from one generation to the next.”

Fans also get up close to hear and speak to artists in the “Jazz Talk Tent” as well as attend post-event late night jam sessions — all free to the public. “A lot of hard working individuals have put their money up to make sure we do this

festival free,” adds Tinsley, a DTE Energy executive — his company is among the festival’s key corporate sponsors. “The jazz fest is a unique brand that sometimes comes under the radar compared to pop music. Continue Reading →

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Keith holds out against Helen

Keith-&-Lesli

Helen’s play was fortified by her full court press, appealing to Scott’s first and last concern, turning a dollar. And this promised to, indeed, pull in a handsome buck. Keith was hardly averse to making a sweet living and, accordingly, heard his agent out. If Scott got him to sign on, Helen would sign with Scott and so would the kid. That would mean representing heavy-hitting clients. Continue Reading →

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Dessa: Acclaimed local musician speaks on hip hop, sexism and ‘moral responsibility’

Minneapolis-based rapper, singer and essayist Dessa recently had 
an album that charted in the Billboard Top 100.
Photo by Charles Hallman

 Minneapolis-based rapper, singer and essayist Dessa recently had an album that charted in the Billboard Top 100. Photo by Charles Hallman

Dessa’s remixed Parts of Speech debuted  in May, nearly a year after its original release, in Billboard’s Top 100. The Minneapolis rapper, singer and essayist, and Doomtree collective member easily displayed “her writerly sensibility, wit and honesty” in a MSR one-on-one interview after a scheduled appearance with Russell Simmons at the University of Minnesota. “I do what I love. I got plenty of friends. Continue Reading →

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Helen plans a big splash

Keith-&-Lesli

“By all means, baby, eat in peace,” Helen St. James said when Keith complained about the interruption. “By all means.” And whisked everybody out of the dining room. Keith thought on it a hot minute, then shelved the idea of singing, polishing off what was left of his breakfast. Then, went to the hotel, packed, and caught a puddle-jumper back to Minneapolis. For a brief meet with Jeff Christensen, who lived in Stillwater, was recording there, and had called and asked Keith to back him up. Continue Reading →

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Selma: Timely civil rights saga revisits historic marches

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I was born in the early 1950s, which means the Civil Rights Movement unfolded over the course of my formative years. And like the average Black kid growing up in that tumultuous era, I can distinctly recall having a very visceral reaction to the nightly news coverage, since I had such a personal stake in the outcome of the events. One of the most consequential flashpoints in memory was when a trio of voting rights marches were staged in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Launched by locals with the help of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the first demonstration came to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the way the police viciously attacked the 500-plus participants with teargas and billy clubs, all at the direction of a racist sheriff named Jim Clark (Stan Houston). Fallout from the shocking media coverage garnered the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) who agreed to get involved. Continue Reading →

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