St. Paul’s Café Loto has a very good idea on its hands.
The swanky eatery and watering hole recently instituted its biweekly draw “The Swingset,” showcasing a smooth Monday evening groove between the hours of 5 and 8 (the band starts at 5:30, so there’s a little breathing room between clocking out at the job and slipping in for some end-of-the-day relaxation, which includes food and drink specials until 6). The place is stylish, with prices that don’t go through the roof and customer service you can’t beat with a stick: personably courteous and professionally competent.
Café Loto is in the Mears Park mall complex at 380 Jackson St. in downtown St. Paul. Supreme Privacy are there next on Monday, October 20th. You can keep tabs on them at myspace.com/supremeprivacy.
The music is executed by world-class jazz trio Supreme Privacy, musicians who must be heard to be believed. An obnoxious tendency among jazz cats of even the finest caliber is to overblow—as in look-how-great-I-can-play—stretching solos beyond the realm of reason into such determined self-adulation as to make plain old narcissism look like modesty. With Supreme Privacy (Sean McPherson on bass, Andy Blessing on traps, deVon Gray on piano), the approach is taste, the watchword economy. It’s about simply putting the right notes in the right places and letting the material account for itself—which, of course, is the essence of true expression, be it interpreting classics or offering originals: you don’t grandstand, getting in the way of what you’re supposed to be saying. You merely voice your take on the composer’s creation.
I caught the group on September 22nd. Bussing in from Minneapolis, I missed guest vocalist Aja Pridgen (as I arrived, she’d already sat in and was on her way out), but did get to enjoy a fine set.
Now, you’ve got different forms of jazz: bebop, swing, avant garde, so on and so forth. The best way to describe what Supreme Privacy bring is to call it just plain old regular jazz—though there is by no means anything plain about how what these guys do. Think Cecil McBee, Elvin Jones, Dave Brubeck—like that. McPherson, Blessing, and Gray played a casually energized session that was the epitome of cool, executing some of the most complicated music this side of a classical score but making it look simple, creating a mood nothing short of serene. Most fascinating was how each would venture into spacey, freewheeling improvisation and—often changing time signatures on a dime—they’d fall back in together with seemingly telepathic precision.
If you spent that Monday grumpy over how fast the weekend went by and waiting for Friday to arrive, if you spent it grudgingly dragging your feet through the day, stopping in at Café Loto’s “Swingset” showcasing Supreme Privacy was a very welcome relief, just what the doctor ordered. Try it sometime. It’ll start your evening off in a splendid fashion and, at the very least, give you good news to share at the job come Tuesday morning.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.