by Erik Ritland
Rambling On is a seriously fun blog and podcast covering sports, music, culture, and more. Check us out on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.
What: The Twin Cities Jazz Festival
When: Thursday June 25 - Saturday June 27, 2015
Where: Lowertown St. Paul and surrounding area
Last year the Twin Cities Jazz Festival moved from Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul. This is one of the several events that are making the area more viable every year, from the acclaimed Music in Mears series on Thursday nights to the new Saints stadium. I love that my hometown, which I used to jokingly refer to as the “city that always sleeps,” is finally coming alive.
Unfortunately in 2014 the festival got mostly rained out. That was not a problem this year, as aside from a brief sunshower on Saturday afternoon it was a sunny, warm, classic Minnesota summer weekend.
Dozens of bands played at a staggering variety of locations across St. Paul. The main outdoor stage was in Mears Park, with secondary stages at the Union Depot, on 6th Street, and in Rice Park. Venues taking part in the event stretched from Lowertown (Bedlam Theater, Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar, the Hat Trick Lounge) to greater St. Paul (the Amsterdam, Underground Music Café, and Como Lakeside Pavilion), and even down the Green Line to University Avenue (Arnella’s, Big Daddy’s Barbecue, and the Ngon Bistro). And that only scratches the surface of places that participated.
Meanwhile at the Black Dog the cleverly named Illicit Sextet, a classic ‘80s/'90s band that reunited in 2009, kept the crowd entertained with their hard-hitting variety of jazz. Other highlights of the night included inspirational vocalist Patty Patterson at the Amsterdam, eclectic Erik Christianson at the Bulldog, and the enormous big band sound of the Bill Simenson Orchestra at the Como Lakeside Pavillion.
The evening wrapped up with a groove-oriented jam session at Bedlam facilitated by Detroit transplant Solomon Parham and led by students from St. Paul's McNally-Smith College of Music. The classic improvisational spirit, in addition to the players being largely from the area hosting the event, made it a fitting way to end the festival's first day.
Check out our coverage of the second and third days of the festival as well.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.