Feeling the vibe: Bridging the gap between styles

Bryan Nichols
Jazz pianist Bryan Nichols and his band the Bryan Nichols Quintet performs Monday at Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Photo courtesy Bryan Nichols

These days, musicians are fusing styles in ways that bridge the gaps between people who like different sounds.

Some of the latest invigorating combinations are on tap for Twin Cities venues in the next week or so, and MPR News editor David Cazares and bassist Chris Bates are talking about their favorite picks.

Stepping up to do his duty first is pianist Bryan Nichols, a versatile pianist with a distinct and imaginative approach who performs Friday with bassist Gordy Johnson at the Icehouse restaurant in Minneapolis. Given Johnson's consummate professionalism and great tone, it will be another great pairing of a young lion with a venerable performer.

On Saturday, saxophone player and Shifting Paradigm Records artist Aaron Hedenstrom releases his debut quintet CD "Moment of Clarity" at Studio Z in St. Paul. Joining Hedenstrom will be Nichols on piano, Zacc Harris on guitar, Brian Claxton on drums and Chris Bates on bass.

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Also Saturday, the highly regarded Fat Kid Wednesdays - which Chris Bates has just disclosed is probably his "favorite jazz band ever from Minneapolis" -- takes the stage at the Black Dog Cafe in St. Paul. The band features bassist Adam Linz, drummer J.T. Bates and saxophone player Michael Lewis.

Chris Bates says the band is "always different, always fresh -- organically intuitive with each other." High praise.

On Monday, Nichols is again booked at the Icehouse, with saxophonist Brandon Wozniak and J.T. Bates

Two of the most intriguing shows take place on Tuesday. That's when the Dakota Jazz Club will host The New Standards, featuring Chan Poling on piano and vocals, John Munson on bass and vocals and Steve Roehm on vibes and percussion. The three musicians have their feel for pop and rock and put them to tunes they call new standards.


Another group mining the connections between different genres of music is Nooky Jones, an R&B group made up of young jazz players. It includes vocalist Cameron Kinghorn, trumpeter Adam Meckler, trombonist Ryan Christianson, pianist Kevin Gastonguay, keyboards, bassist Andrew Foreman, bass and drummer Reid Kennedy.

They fuse R&B and soul sounds with the harmonic possibilities of jazz and the earthiness of funk - bridging the gap between people who like different kinds of music, different vibes.