Charmin Michelle

The Twins Cities, quiet as it’s kept, has a swinging jazz scene.  Fortunately for fans of songbirds, this gives premier chanteuse Charmin Michelle ( a home base.  From whic Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Gertrude Stein and a Companion

Founding artistic director Bain Boehlke’s enduring triumph in Twin Cities arts, The Jungle Theater, opens its 25th Anniversary season with its seventh production of the can’t miss ringer, Win Wells’Gertrude Stein and a Companion.Wells crafted a uniquely compelling portrait historic figures Stein and Alice B. Toklas as human beings, warts and all, devotedly in love, wending their way through a remarkable – if at times trying – existence together.  Boehlke skillfully directs Jungle mainstays Claudia Wilkens as Gertrude Stein and Barbara Kingsley as Alice B. Toklas.  All said, you have an excellent evening in the theatre.  Indeed, with the aim being to hit a target of theatrical brilliance, this amounts to shooting fish in a proverbial barrel.  The author deftly takes two eccentric characters whose lives and careers are marked by prominence among the intelligentsia, generally regarded as cerebral celebrities, and renders them warmly down-to-earth, as readily accessible anyone’s next door neighbors.  The director, as long has been his stock and trade, respects the text to subtly let the material’s beauty come to life rather than indulge some intrusive hand at interpreting it.  He has always respected actors the same way, eliciting and allowing their artistry to emerge in a given role rather constrict them with forced guidance.  It has never hurt, of course, that Boehlke has routinely enjoyed the advantage of working with some of the best talent in town and, accordingly, Wilkens and Kingsley strike not one false note in bringing Stein and Toklas richly to life.  Ironically, for all that these two women are famed as legends of academia and intellect, this is, when it comes down to it, a heartwarming love story.This production is a fine note on which to observe the company’s legacy.  Bain Boehlke has stepped down at the helm but audiences can be confident quality theatre will remain the order day. Particularly, if someone on the staff  succeeds him.  After all, he hasn’t done it in a vacuum but has a vision those around him has shared.  As long as there’s a Jungle Theater, the Twin Cities will be safe for premium artistic fare. Continue Reading

Mayda to play New Century Theatre

Home grown phenom, funk rocking vocalist-songsmith par excellence Mayda ( has star power stamped all over her in block letters. She has, in fact, ever since her debut Stereotype was released in 2008, continuing to consistently impress with The Interrogation, Tusks ‘N’ Fur and, now, Busy Signals. Her upcoming performance at the New Century Sessions series, smack dab in the middle of downtown Minneapolis, should go a respectable way toward sustaining momentum and establishing just the sort of next-step, high-profile traction she deserves around these parts.

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SOUNDING OFF ON SOUNDS | New Primitives at NYE’s

Pick a Thursday, any Thursday, and go over to NYE’s Polonaise Room for some New Primitives. The band that Stanley Kipper and Chico Perez built is there every week, keeping the world safe for kick-ass Afro-Cuban Rock. They get out every now and again to big-time, high profile spots like Minnesota Zoo, Fine Line and The Cabooze. But, you can catch them bar-hall up close and personal and, trust me, it’s one hell of a good time.For one, New Prims have a practically inexhaustible repertoire rich in a highly original sound that drawers on sources wide apart, ranging from reggae, country to fat-back funk. For good measure, they are a dyed-in-the-wool jam band, doing marathon sets full of wild and crazy solos, taking maybe fifteen minutes in between.The nucleus is Kipper on vocals and traps and Perez on congas with Brian “Snowman” Powers dropping in from time to time to blow sax. Continue Reading

What a difference

This time last year, there’d been Something I Said (Papyrus Publishing), Dues (Playscripts, Inc.), Shelter (Kindle/ and that’s about it aside from Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and Twin Cities Daily Planet. Not that things hadn’t gone reasonably well. Something I Said, a collection of controversial commentary, swiftly sold out in stores and at Shelter, which was a hit – complete with fantastic reviews all over the place – depicting harsh life in a homeless shelter is available on Kindle. So is the short play, Dues, about paying a professional price for being politically incorrect. Between the three of them, am looking forward to a respectable royalty check from Continue Reading

SOUNDING OFF ON SOUNDS | Selby Ave JazzFest plays the summer out with style

The Selby Ave JazzFest remains one of St. Paul’s funnest summer events. Historically a family friendly happening, it’s a chance to get outdoors while the weather’s still warm and enjoy a nice time in the community. There’s always a bunch of top shelf Twin Cities talent on-hand. This year, the lineup includes: long-time staple on the bill Dick and Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy’s Urban Legends of Jazz, Brio Brass, highly touted rising star, sax man Danny Kusz and the Jazz Heritage Showcase, a Selby Ave JazzFest tradition. Continue Reading