Musette at the Market

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Musette Cinq is the first CD from the ensemble Sidewalk Cafe, www.sidewalkcafemusic.com

We stumbled upon a local trio playing lively Parisian swing sounds recently at the Midtown Global Market (Lake St. and Chicago Ave.) and are pleased to let you know they will be performing there again this Saturday, March 22, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. — free! Or you can catch them tonight and next Wednesday at Cafe Vin (5555 Xerxes Ave. S.), with vocalist Rhonda Laurie, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Here’s how we “discovered” them a couple of weeks ago.

We were heading through the former Sears building, which we understand we’re not supposed to call that, on a February Saturday to seek out Brett Laidlaw and Mary Eckmeier, aka the Real Bread couple, who had set up temporary shop at Callisters’ Farm in the Market, to pick up our bread and be on our way. We are not fond of malls of any kind, even this charming variation on the theme that had, to its great credit, a notable absence of the canned musical mediocrity that the big-box palaces seemed to broadcast for the sole purpose of keeping the likes of us away, and we intended to pick up our bread and get out of there as efficiently as possible.

But the colorful variety of micro businesses that filled the Midtown Global Market combined with the fond recollection of buying our now-grown daughter’s first bicycle in this very spot — a cute little pink number with training wheels — relaxed us a little and we did find ourselves slowing down just a bit.

Still, we expected only to exchange a few friendly words with Brett and Mary before collecting our order of crusty artisan breads and sweet scones, and maybe, if we were lucky, to prompt Mary to say something in French, which she speaks fluently and with such girlish aplomb that it would surely lift the gray chill from the already too-long winter.

But something caught my eye as we crossed the open plaza in the center where we once bought a very nice oven, and as I watched a tall blond man with chiseled features lift a violin from its case, I said to my husband, “Isn’t that Gary Schulte, the Fiddle God?”

I forgot all about getting Mary to speak French as I realized we were about to be treated to the French-influenced musical acrobatics of not one but three of our very fine local musicians who dabble in the lively genre known as Gypsy jazz. For alongside Schulte were guitarist Reynold Philipsek and stand-up bassist Jeff Brueske.

So we gathered our bread, purchased some coffee, lifted Mary’s excellent scones out of the bag, and settled at one of the tables to tap our toes and bask in the live music.

Although I have heard these musicans perform before with others — with Glen Helgeson in the ensemble known as Gypsy Mania, on the Twin Cities Hot Club CD we often play in the kitchen — I had not yet heard any of them speak (it is instrumental music), and so when Philipsek, whose name and dark good looks oozed the very essence of Frenchness in my mind, or at least French Canadianness, spoke for the group after the first couple of sets, I was surprised that he sounded pretty much just like me or any other Minnesotan.

Despite that small disappointment, we delighted in the cheery skillfulness with which these three seasoned musicians filled the expansive former sales floor with the sounds of Parisian swing. Small children, caught up in the infectious rhythms, chased and danced around each other on the floor in front of the modest stage, and I found myself imagining the appliance salesmen tapping their toes alongside us.

The ensemble goes by the name Sidewalk Café and we were happy to purchase their first CD, Musette Cinq, before heading home again.

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