Get ready for a carnival of musical delights.



JamesOnJazzsquareHeading into this weekend and the next, an assortment of upcoming jazz related shows are set to take place at the Dakota.

Get ready for a carnival of musical delights.

Actually, it was trumpeter Russell Gunn who was to help kick things off at the Dakota last night, along with his quartet and vocalist Dionne Farris, but the gig was postponed. Farris and Gunn have a new live album, Dionne Get Your Gunn, which Farris released on her independent label, Free and Clear Records.


One of my all-time Gunn favorites featuring him on electric trumpet and flugelhorn is his Live in Atlanta: Ethnomusicology, Vol. 4. Check him out at

Gregory Porter
Gregory Porter

The buzz surrounding vocalist Gregory Porter began well before the release of his debut Blue Note recording, Liquid Spirit six months ago. He’s already been described as “the next great jazz singer” and recently won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal album.

Upon accepting his award, Porter said that his mother always told him to sing with an understanding. And after listening to him sing a grand mixture of what he calls cousins (R&B, gospel, blues), you, too might find his impressive baritone, one that is naturally soulful and particularly knowing.

Did I mention Porter is also a songwriter? Well, he is; and his steady, calm, and measured vocals make him that much more of a standout. But go and see for yourself this Sunday, February 16 at the Dakota.

The small room intimacy combined with the largeness of Porter’s voice and presence should be enough to wow this Sunday dinner set only engagement, although it would be perhaps better suited with the makings of a late night vibe. Especially if he’s bringing along the same bandmates that accompanied him on Liquid Spirit.

Next up for the Dakota is the return of trumpeter Terence Blanchard (February 24-25) and saxophonist Bobby Watson & Horizon (February 26).

Blanchard was scheduled for a visit last year, but the gigs got cancelled as he was in the midst of promoting another project. His latest Blue Note offering is the 2013 album, Magnetic. He composed four of the album’s ten tracks. Saxophonist Brice Winston, drummer Kendrick Scott, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bassist Ron Carter, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joshua Crumbly, and guitarist Lionel Loueke appear on Magnetic.

His previous Blue Note albums, Bounce and Flow are both equally outstanding recordings and highly recommended. People call his music great post-bop jazz; I call it just good music.

What can I say about Mr. Watson? He continues to amaze. His band Horizon is widely admired all the way around. Watson co-founded the band with drummer Victor Lewis and modeled it after the Jazz Messengers. Now 30 years later, the band is still thriving having been joined by trumpeter Terell Stafford, bassist Essiet Essiet, and pianist Edward Simon.

CĂ©cile McLorin Salvant
CĂ©cile McLorin Salvant

Looking Further Ahead: The buzz surrounding another highly acclaimed jazz darling of the moment and 2013 breakout performer is 20-something year old French-American vocalist CĂ©cile McLorin Salvant. CĂ©cile’s album was also nominated for 2014 Grammy in same category as Porter’s. She has a way of selecting great material and a way of recalling the vocals of Sarah Vaughan. Yet Salvant has her own distinct originality. Research her humble beginnings and you’re likely to understand how she’s grown to become a celebrated young vocalist who holds an enormous amount of promise for the years ahead.

Her first album, WomanChild from Mack Avenue Records is a courageous, and fluently imaginative presentation of simply beautiful music with a true artistic vision. And might I add, the band is as tight as can be with pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Herlin Riley, and guitarist James Chirillo.

It’s been said that Salvant is capable of creating her own drama. Twin Cities music supporters will have their chance to find out or themselves when she makes her way to the Dakota stage on Sunday, March 9.


Robin James welcomes reader responses at